Melbourne Tote

Like the rest of the world when I had my annual leave in September I couldn’t go travelling. I decided to do what a lot of people in the sewing community are doing in 2020 and travel through my fabric making a bag using fabric from my Melbourne trip last year. I needed a new tote bag as the bag I had been using for work was falling apart but I’m not calling this my work bag as I don’t want to think of it as that.


The 2 fabrics I used I purchased from Clear It. I brought them for dressmaking as they are both cotton and pretty much because they were cheap. Who doesn’t want to buy fabric that is only $2-$5 per metre? It’s a bargain right, you need to buy it. Upon getting home and thinking about the fabrics I knew I wouldn’t actually wear them in clothing as they were very stiff. I’m really fussy when it comes to clothing, if it isn’t soft or comfortable I won’t wear it. In terms of bag making these fabrics were perfect. They are both lighter weight fabrics but they don’t have much drape so have more structure to them.

I wanted a basic shaped tote bag. Looking at McCalls 6338 which is the pattern I use for my charity bags. I read that view E would be slightly bigger than what I had in mind but it would be ok. For my charity bags I make view D which is a good size for a handbag but too small for me to put my lunch bag and whatever else I carry in it. One of the other reasons for using this pattern is that I know it off by heart and don’t need to read instructions. View E is just a larger version of view D. To use my favourite quote from the cheesy 90’s tv show Diagnostic Murder “I just modified a McCalls” I decided my bag needed pockets on the outside. I carry a couple of sets of keys, my phone, face mask. I want them easily accessible without having to hunt to the bottom of my bag. The pattern actually does have you make both sides of the front with pockets but I don’t like how they have it. I just like a singular area with a pocket not around all of the bag. For handbags they are too uncomfortable if you are holding them close to your body with items in the pockets and they aren’t secure.

Originally I was only going to do one pocket on the front and that was a patch zipper pocket. I could see it in my head but coming sewing wise big failure. I tried sewing different layers together but I couldn’t get my raw edge seams to turn so they would be enclosed on the inside. The reality is I probably should have read the instructions on the Zip and Go bag which I’ve made several times which is like a giant patch pocket. I will go over the raw edges of this pouch with a zig zag stitch and give it to Mr StitchNSew to use as he likes little projects like this that I have made to store bits of his things in. It was sad as I had actually done a really good zipper on this pocket.

Plan B was a patch pocket towards the bottom of the bag like I did in my charity bags this year and for the first time ever an inserted zipper pocket near the top section. In the end I think this was the better option. The patch pocket has the contrast fabric I used for the handles and in the inside of the bag. I didn’t have enough scraps left to use for the inserted pocket so I used the outside fabric. These pockets are great. I can carry my 2 sets of keys in the zipper pocket and I know they are secure. The patch pocket fits my phone and a face mask.

I followed a Youtube clip to make the inserted zip pocket. It was a bit nerve racking trying a new technique but I am really pleased with my first attempt. Once I inserted the zip and turned the fabric to the inside of the bag I discovered my fabric wasn’t going to be long enough for the pocket bag so I did have to add on an extension piece. I’m not bothered as you can’t tell when looking at it or using it. Next time I know to use a longer piece of fabric so when you fold it over the pocket is deep enough.

I mentioned the fabric used for the handles and inside of the bag. I’m glad I never used this fabric for a top like I thought I was going to. The dots do play with my eyes a little as I have trouble focusing on small and busy prints such as dots. In this project they work great It is hard to tell but they are navy dots. I’m not looking at them a great deal so its ok.

Construction wise I used the pattern pieces of the outer bag for both the inside and outside of this bag. Once I had stitched each bag I put them inside each other right sides facing and turned them out through a gap on the top seam. I didn’t want a drawstring top. When it was finished I thought oh wow it is really big! Using it I found out it isn’t that big. The top of the bag does fold down a bit to wear the handles are joined to the front. The handles do slip off my should a bit so I need to hold on to the tops of the handles as I walk. I have problems with all bags falling off my shoulders. I think it is the way I stand and walk with the crutch that my shoulders slant. I can’t wear backpacks that don’t have a clip at the front to hold the shoulders together. I don’t mind that I have to hold this bag as I walk. I have a habit of needing to hold something in my right hand when I have the crutch in the left hand as my right hand naturally curls like it should be gripping an item at the same time.

I love this bag. I had adventures buying the fabric on my fabric crawl in Melbourne. I had adventures making this bag. It is a bag with a story. I like projects that have a story behind them.



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