Totes Amazeballs

Sometimes in my world, things get a little bit crazy and unpredictable and I feel like making something totally different. Not clothing, but something else – something that has a different construction, and uses different materials. Just to, y’know, mix things up a bit. Keep things fresh.

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That something different for me – on this occasion – is the Noodlehead Makers Tote, and it stemmed from the current scene of my knitting stuff strewn all over the living room. Yarn tails had unravelled and escaped their bag, and I knew it was only a matter of time before the dog tried to eat said yarn or chew up a needle. Or I sat on a needle and broke it (in fact, that has already happened. The one downside to wooden needles is that they apparently snap under the weight of my backside). So when I was choosing projects for my next Minerva Blogger Network posts, the Makers Tote pattern caught my eye, and the idea was born.

For the fabrics, I chose an Art Gallery Half Yard Pack in the theme called ‘geometric’. It saved me the time of choosing enough coordinating fabrics myself and instead delivered them in one nicely packaged bundle – win! 🙌🏻

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One thing I’ve discovered – much to my annoyance – is that when you are making a bag or pouch or similar storage-accessory-type-thing, you don’t actually get pattern pieces the same way that you do with clothing patterns. Instead you’re instructed to ‘cut rectangles 11 x 9 inches and 7 x 8 inches and 3 x 5.5 inches’… which puts me off like THAT. Who wants to faff around with a ruler getting those measurements correct and making sure that it’s level and square and even on both sides? Not me, that’s FOR SURE. Life’s too short for that. I can’t bear to stick A4 pdf sheets together so you know I ain’t gonna be sapping my soul measuring out squares. So what do you do when you want the finished item, but don’t want to put in that level of work?

Which – by the way – is what I call being ‘efficient’; finding the path of least resistance between A and B – rather than being ‘lazy’ 😬 PLUS, Bill Gates legit said the following sentence:

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So we’re cool? 

Cool. 

Let’s continue. 

Well, I did some Google research on how quilters cut their pieces, because I thought that surely there must be an easier and quicker way to cut these rectangles, and if anyone’s gonna know it, it’ll be the quilters. There’s no way on this earth that those guys sit there with their ruler measuring out dimensions for hundreds of rectangles. This research led me to discover a thing called a quilters ruler. I had to read up on how to use it, like what it was actually for – would it be useful? Turns out, it is. In a big way. My mind has officially been blown 🤯

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It helped me cut all the different size rectangles with minimal fuss. And I’m not over exaggerating in the slightest when I say minimal. My tolerance for faff is slim at the best of times, and this marvellous bit of clear plastic with lines on it made the process actually quite pain-free. I bought this one off Amazon, if you’re interested – they come in different sizes, but I bought the biggest one because I had some longer edges to cut (and go big or go home, amirite?)

So out comes the cutting board, this amazeballs new ruler, and my Art Gallery fabrics. I think I may have had a crazy look in my eye, because the husbeast eyed me suspiciously as I wielded the rotary cutter in my excitement. You get ten half yards in the Art Gallery pack, and I used all of them bar one (as it was white and grey and just a *little* bit too boring for me).

The quilting ruler’s only requirement is that you already have two straight edges at a ninety degree angle – so if your piece of fabric doesn’t have this, you can easily use the ruler to sort it out so it does. Then, you simply use the grid on the ruler to cut your required size. SIMPLES.

(It genuinely is. It didn’t take me long AT ALL to cut all the pieces needed for the tote).

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I really had fun deciding which fabric to use on which part of the bag, and I’m happy with my choices. The lining is meant to be all the same fabric, but a half yard cut wasn’t enough to do the entire lining so it’s a bit mix and match – it’s all orange, so you can’t really tell that it’s not the same fabric unless you want to look real close. And there’s worse things in life, let’s be real.

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This pattern had me using foam interfacing for the first time – but it’s just as you would imagine it to be, a sheet of squishy foam a few millimetres thick. You can buy fusible foam as well as sew in, but that makes me a little nervous – I tend to melt stuff with heat sources (hence why we have silicon kitchen utensils that are un-meltable) so I went with the sew in foam instead. To be fair, fusing interfacing takes a bloody long time anyway – and I always miss a bit, guaranteed – so I think the sew in actually saved some time because all I had to do was whiz round each edge with a 5mm basting stitch on the machine. (My previous sewing machine, which I used for 16 years, didn’t actually have a long basting stitch, and I hand-basted interfacing on everything I made. I vividly remember doing this on about 25 pieces of wool for the husbeast’s coat, and it genuinely took me many hours. Yay for the new machine!)

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The zip for the outer pocket gave me a little jip – well, I say the zip, but really it was the foam interfacing.

Welt pockets are bad enough on coats, but when you try doing it on a thick sheet of foam it’s a whole new ball game. I tried really hard to pull the lining to the back of the zip opening in that foam, but it just kept popping to the front due to the weight of the foam pushing it. I even hand basted it in place while I installed the zip, but it still worked its way to the front a little. Looking (very closely) at photos on Instagram at totes that others have made, theirs look the same – so it’s not just me at least. But something to bear in mind if you’re using an uber-contrasting lining fabric for the pocket compared to the outside fabric – you’re gonna see a little sliver on the outside. But hey. It’s alright.

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A slightly wuss-out option would be to leave off the outer pocket – which is actually kind of appealing because the metal zip is a little bit scratchy on your hand when you’re trying to fish stuff out of the pocket anyway 😒 To be honest, I haven’t actually used that outer pocket… so perhaps it’s not a bad idea after all to leave it off. Maybe I’ll do some Instagram stalking of finished totes to see whether others generally leave the pocket off or include it 🧐

I used fusible interfacing for the side gussets – the good Vilene stuff as well, not a cheap unbranded eBay job – and it’s wrinkled. Boo hiss. It always does this to me. When things get turned the right way out, it always creases. And sometimes it’s not possible to give it a little iron because of the shape of the thing, so you just have to leave it looking all disheveled. I guess we could say that it bears the scars of its journey so far in life. It has a history. Depth.

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It is a tad annoying, though. Maybe sew-in interfacing next time around.

I even made the binding that is all around the edges too, which took a bit of a long time but was kind of enjoyable, in a nerdy and slow-sewing kind of way. And yes, I used my new best friend the quilting ruler to cut the strips – but I’ll admit I did eyeball the bias, rather than precisely measure it… 😂🤷🏻‍♀️

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A word of warning, if you’re thinking of making this tote – you’re gonna be HAND STITCHING that binding on. Yep, you heard me. HAND. STITCHING. You do the inside pass with the machine, but then you hand stitch the edge that’s on the front. Clipping the binding in place, stitching and then hand stitching took me WELL over an hour. Maybe even two. I lost track of time. And it’s proper fiddly getting it around the corners, too. Some parts of the corners I machine stitched three or four times, because layers were getting tangled, or the line of stitching was way off from where it needed to be, or the whole thing was just basically a sloppy mess. But it’s oh-so-satisfying to hand stitch that pretty binding down over the chaos underneath 😂 No one will ever know!

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Oh! You guys. How have I not discovered these little plastic clips before?! I bought a pack off Amazon especially for this project (these ones), because ain’t nobody gonna be getting pins through that foam interfacing. BUT – they are also amazing for holding binding in place! And I used like the whole packet on the binding strip, but they are SO MUCH BETTER THAN PINS. Okay, so they’re not as quick to remove while you’re sewing as pins, and more than once I’ve had a mini-panic that I’m not gonna get the clip out in time before the needle goes down in that spot (I know, I live dangerously 😂) but they are so good at holding layers in place. They’d be awesome on things you can’t pin as well, like leather. I feel like these clips, coupled with the quilting ruler I also bought, have been good additions to my sewing arsenal 💪🏻

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The slip pocket on the front is a little bit useless (I really have something against pockets on this bag, don’t I 🤔) and I realised too late that I’d forgotten to install the snap to keep it closed, but I don’t actually use it anyway because it’s too thin to really put anything in. In hindsight, I would have preferred to leave the pocket off (you’ll especially want to do this if your main fabric has an interesting scene or pattern on it) as it covers up most of the front of the bag.

I actually really, really enjoyed making this tote, more than I thought I would. And its super useful too – it’s currently holding all my knitting needles and a few balls of yarn, plus a few pdf knitting patterns that I’ve printed but haven’t yet found a home for. The pockets on the inside are really roomy, and definitely more useful than the pockets on the outside. To me, it’s easier to put everything inside of the tote, and be able to see it all together, rather than having to search through ten pockets spread across the interior and exterior of the tote just to find where I put my tape measure.

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I liked making this tote so much, you might even see more of them coming to an Etsy shop near you 😜

If you look on instagram at the finished Makers Totes that are kicking around, some of them are totally amazeballs. I already feel the urge to make another (maybe even a couple 😱) however I’m not sure I 100% (or even 50%) need them… but we’ll see 😜

It’s more fun to have something that you want rather than something you need, though – right? 🤔

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It’s opened the door to a whole lot of non-clothing makes for me, including a wallet that you might have seen in progress on my Instagram! I also want to make myself a holder for my knitting needles, becasue the bag that they came in is SO dull… plus I’ve seen this under-machine-pocket-thing that I have an inexplicable urge to make:

(without the hanging basket thing at the end because that’s just gonna annoy me and get in the way).

Making accessories and bags is a bit like crack. Proper addictive. I’ve also delved into the world of clear vinyl, which I learned super fast that you don’t take the iron ANYWHERE NEAR 😂 I’m currently making myself a nice little bag to keep my knitting notions in:

Don’t worry though, I still have some uber-cool dressmaking projects lined up, including this amazeballs mushroom fabric that is currently being turned into a Deer and Doe Melillot shirt 😍 🍄

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This Maker’s Tote was a Minerva Blogger Network make, so you can head on over to the post on their blog here to get links to all the supplies used to make this bad boy!

This week was the first full week back at work, and man was it a killer. The gym classes that I started in December are back in full swing now, which is just as well given last weekend I ate a whole bread and butter pudding that ‘served six’ 😂 (for the record: it defo would NOT have served six). My midweek run this week went far better than last week’s run, so I’m taking that as a win (even though my improved time might have come from the decline in the number of tourists along Westminster bridge, rather than my fitness level).

I’m making good progress on the scarf that I’m knitting for the husbeast with some of the yarn I bought in New York (more on that sooooon!) and it’s not *too* many more weeks until we have a week off work in Surrey with the doggos. There’s gonna be lots of walking, and lots of sitting by the fire in the evenings. I can’t WAIT.

I kinda feel a bit scatty atm, having about five projects on the go at once (and about three more lurking at the very front of my mind which are at risk of getting started at any moment 😂), but it’s sort of nice at the same time because it means I can do a bit of this, then a bit of that, and then I can procrastinate and scroll on Instagram and bookmark about another five projects to add to the list which is already too long to complete in my lifetime. Ah, chaos. But it’s just how I like it 🤪

Which projects have you kicked off your 2019 with? Do you like to make just one thing at a time, or have several on the go at once?

Next week on the Wanderstitch blog… I’m talking about the ‘worth of sewing’ ✂️ Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out! 👇🏻

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26 Comments

  1. Liz
    January 13, 2019 / 9:08 am

    Thank you for making me laugh 🙂 I was very much with you re the “six serves” debacle.

    I tend to sew clothes these days but I cut my teeth on bag making – the cutting of the rectangles always fills me with fear that I haven’t layed them out well enough. I like being able to move my pattern pieces around. Fussy cutting is a thing in the bag making community but they don’t seem to be fond of printing rectangular pattern pieces. I made the By Annie yoga bag for my mum and it was frustrating to cut out. I am a big fan of Noodlehead’s aesthetics, bought a few of her patterns over the years. I am happy you are enjoying your new bag 🙂

    • Sarah
      Author
      January 14, 2019 / 6:26 pm

      Haha you’re welcome Liz… and there’s just NO WAY that bread and butter pudding would serve six!!! 😂 six kittens, maybe…
      I know exactly what you mean about being able to move your pieces around… I want to make another tote but with a design on the central front panel – I’ve kind of been putting it off because I’m not sure how I’m going to make sure that I get it central. Other than drawing out a template. Which kind of defeats the point of buying the ruler 🤷🏻‍♀️😂
      The new bag is SO useful! I love it 😍
      Definitely addictive!!

  2. January 13, 2019 / 10:05 am

    Glad to see a bit of quilter coming out in you!!! Pleased to see you bought the large ruler you would have regretted the small one !!

    • Sarah
      Author
      January 14, 2019 / 6:28 pm

      Haha – I *never* would have had myself down as a quilter! (And I’m still not sure I could accurately piece fiddly little shapes…) but it was quite fun. I’m not sure I’m ready for a full on quilt yet, but baby steps ☺️
      The long edge of the ruler still isn’t long enough to do the longest edge that I wanted, but it’s close enough I suppose 🤔 I guess I could buy two and use them side by side…

  3. January 13, 2019 / 10:45 am

    Excellent baggery madame! [And I ain’t much for bags]. Bravo for the hand sewing, imagine trying those curves on the machine? No thanks lol. I also bought some wonderclips recently but haven’t yet used them…I’m in need of some zipped up storage for all sorts of goodies though, and these bags look very useful.
    Question- are you supposed to buy someone else’s pattern then make it up to sell? I thought not…maybe if you ensure full credit is given to the designer on your labelling?
    Keep ’em coming kid, your crazy colours and patterns brighten my day. [Oh, yes- you see mushrooms, I see alien dildoes. Must be my age]

    • Sarah
      Author
      January 15, 2019 / 7:25 am

      Haha, ok I’ll admit defeat on that one – I NEVER would have got those curves through the machine. And the hand-sewing, although long, was kind of satisfying.
      Honestly, the bag is FABULOUS and really useful – I want more!!!
      And yep, you have to check each individual pattern, but the Noodlehead patterns are okay for selling on a homemade scale (ie, you can’t be hiring a factory in China to mass produce ☺️) And as you say, credit the designer and the pattern as well 👍🏻
      Defo needing those bright colours and patterns in this grey January! ☁️

  4. Bren Holmes
    January 13, 2019 / 11:07 am

    Oh, you temptress, showing me another couple of bags I just HAVE to make. I lurrrve bag making. I also adore Art Gallery fabrics.
    I have four projects on the go atm. The largest of these is my first Bargello quilt, then there’s an embroidered quilt, a charity project for African girls and a UFO from four and a half years ago. My only New Year’s resolution was to complete a UFO every month this year. Yes, I have that many! Later this month I am starting a large Mystery Quilt, Simply Dreaming, by Sarah Vedeler. I haven’t done a mystery quilt before; unsurprising as I’m not really a quilter, although reading this you’d probably find that a bit odd. Next month I have a 4 day sewing retreat booked, I do two a year, so should make mucho progress then. Until next week …

    • Sarah
      Author
      January 15, 2019 / 6:18 pm

      Haha, I make no apologies Bren 😜 Bag making is new to me… Art Gallery fabrics I’ve used before but not their quilting fabrics. I really enjoyed making this bag! There will certainly be more in my future!
      You’re right, from the sounds of all that lot it does sound like you’re really in to quilting! There’s a few quilts that I’ve seen where I realllly like the pattern used, but I just don’t think I’m quite up to that standard yet 😂 I’m going to look up the ‘simply dreaming’ quilt 👀
      The sewing retreat sounds amaaaaazing – very jealous! Do you have to travel far for them?

  5. Theresa Jackson
    January 13, 2019 / 11:49 am

    Bag looks amazing Sarah!
    It’s not so long since I discovered the benifits of using some quilting equipment in my sewing. Like yourself, the rulers and quilting clips. What a revelation! Also had to overcome my nervousness of the rotary cutter lol!
    Keep up the good work x

    • Sarah
      Author
      January 15, 2019 / 6:19 pm

      Thanks Theresa! I really enjoyed making it!
      Yeah that ruler, and those clips too, are really something! Can’t believe I went this long without them in my life 😂

  6. January 13, 2019 / 2:29 pm

    All of the Maker‘s Totes are beautiful and your‘s is no exception. There are some sewing friends who have made one ore more for carrying their projects for sewing bees. What a good idea to use a fabric pack! Your binding looks immaculate and beautiful!
    I am glad you discovered the quilter‘s ruler. I couldn‘t be without. It is great for determining the grainline when cutting out, too. The wonder clips are indispensable to me. I use them for all my knit projects. This way, I am sure that no needle would break my blades. They don‘t glide out like needles easily would do.
    There are other favorite bags within our sewing bee community. Do you know the Bionic Gear Bag? It‘s really useful when going somewhere to sew. Or the bags by Patterns by Annie? She has excellent bluprint lessons.
    Your lovely bag makes me want to sew one, too. I have begun knitting my old UFO to finish it. For a new project, I should sew me a bag like your‘s, I guess! Can‘t wait seeing your next bag!

    • Sarah
      Author
      January 15, 2019 / 6:24 pm

      Thanks Sasa ☺️ They are realllly useful! I’m definitely going to make more! That binding was really time consuming, but I’m pleased with the end result 🙌🏻
      I don’t think I could live without my ruler now! And I wonder how I ever went for so long without it! 🤷🏻‍♀️
      And you’re right, it’s MUCH easier to use those clips on fabrics where the pins might get buried and hidden – been there, done that lol.
      I’ve heard about the Bionic Gear bag – but read bad things about the instructions? A lot of people seem to prefer the Sew Together bag…?
      And its funny you should mention Patterns By Annie – just yesterday I bought her needle case pattern and I’m SO excited to make it!! 🙌🏻
      And yes, I DEFINTELY recommend you sew yourself a new bag for your knitting project 😜

  7. Victoria Saunders
    January 13, 2019 / 3:16 pm

    I know what you mean about bags being addictive. I thought I’d make two make-up bags as Chrimbo prezzies for friends. Working out how big to cut those darn rectangles was a nightmare! I ended up making 3 that weren’t the right amount of boxiness before cracking it! Good skills practice though 🙂

    My 2019 project is a whole wardrobe. I have all the fabric and patterns, I have the sewing order worked out (in theory). I’m now just doing FBAs and other pattern adjustments before actually starting. Scary – I don’t have a great track record as a completer-finisher lol

    • Sarah
      Author
      January 15, 2019 / 6:26 pm

      Like you say – good practice! And I’m sure they were totally loved by the recipients 😍 And yes – TOTALLY ADDICTIVE 😂 Like I really need more projects to add to my list lol.
      That’s a massive goal for 2019 😱 But I know you can do it! You’re so organised to have all the fabrics and patterns lined up as well! Just think of how awesome it will be when everything is finished 🙌🏻

  8. Inge
    January 13, 2019 / 7:35 pm

    Thanks for the laugh! Love the tote! Amazing work as always!

    • Sarah
      Author
      January 15, 2019 / 6:28 pm

      Thanks Inge! So glad to hear that you enjoyed the blog post ☺️☺️☺️

  9. January 13, 2019 / 9:55 pm

    Ooh I love this make!! I’ve got a few drawstring type bags for smaller knitting projects but I’ve been on the hunt for a pattern that could handle a whole jumper or blankets worth of yarn & notions (and I’ve been amassing FQs and half metre cuts for this purpose lol), so I reckon I’ll give this one a go. Minus the zips though, for me zips and knitting projects only have a sad violent history together! 😱

    • Sarah
      Author
      January 15, 2019 / 6:31 pm

      Thanks Jess! I’m actually in the process of making some drawstring project bags for my knitting… I’ve got one that’s big enough for the scarf I’m making but I’d like a few smaller ones for socks. And also a bigger one for jumpers 😂
      I really do recommend the bag, it’s fab! And you could leave off the inside pockets if you prefer a big bucket to chuck everything in 🤔 It’s funny you should mention about the zip… I made mine with a zip but I haven’t actually closed it since I made it 😂 (It’s way too full for that lol)

  10. January 14, 2019 / 8:55 am

    I’ve been promising my mum a knitting bag for ages… thanks for the inspiration! 👍🙏😃

    • Sarah
      Author
      January 15, 2019 / 6:32 pm

      I think this is definitely the one! It’s really fab and you could totally use up leftovers to make it 🙌🏻

  11. Cathy
    January 14, 2019 / 5:33 pm

    Loved reading this. You manage to make me laugh whilst educating me. It would never occur to me to use a bundle of different fabrics for a tote, i would spend ages looking for 2 fabrics, one interior and one exterior. Mine would have looked really boring next to yours and to be honest I made a huge one like that years ago and it does look boring! Colour is the way to go.

    • Sarah
      Author
      January 15, 2019 / 6:34 pm

      Ahhh thanks Cathy! So glad that you enjoyed the post ☺️
      I’m so glad that I’ve inspired your colour selection – less isn’t more, MORE is more when it comes to colour and patterns! 🤪 ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

  12. Emma Langhorne
    January 16, 2019 / 6:58 am

    Wow I love the fabric of your bag, great choice. I really want to make a bag cause you can never have too many right? I have some vinyl oilcloth type panda fabric that is in my stash waiting for the day I find the right pattern….
    I made a beach bag years ago with IKEA fabric just by cutting out massive oblongs of fabric, it came out ok, I still use it…
    I enjoy reading your blog, very amusing!
    Keep up the amazing sewing!
    Oh and that hand sewing…. Nope…..not for me.. lol

    • Sarah
      Author
      January 21, 2019 / 5:57 pm

      Well that’s what I was thinking… you can NEVER have too many bags!! I’m already planning the next one(s) 😂 Ooh panda fabric sounds amazing… I bet it would make a fab backpack! I don’t actually mind hand sewing… kind of reminds me of my cross stitching days.
      So glad that you enjoy the blog 🙌🏻 😘

  13. PoundCake
    January 21, 2019 / 7:54 pm

    Ooooh so sturdy and capacious. Would wouldn’t want those things in our bags and in ourselves?! ; ) That hand sewing actually sounds relaxing and you can’t beat the finish, so tidy!

    • Sarah
      Author
      January 23, 2019 / 6:19 pm

      The hand sewing actually WAS relaxing! Well it would have been had I have taken a seat on the sofa rather than stand at the ironing board doing it… didn’t realise it would take SO long 😂 Next time though, I’ll be parking my squishy butt on an even squishier chair and chilling out with that needle and thread 🧵
      It’s actually not a bad finish, is it 🧐💪🏻❤️

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