So those of you that happened by yesterday will have noticed that I mentioned these totes that were ALL Rhonda’s fault…  You see it started like this – Rhonda is currently hosting quarter 2 of her Finish Along, which I signed up for the other day.  One of my commitments for this quarter was to use up the orphaned blocks from FPPFTT, so I was casting around for a purpose for block #2.  I’d had in mind for some time to somehow add it to a market bag/book bag/tote but hadn’t pinned down exactly how, and then the Zakka Style Sew Along came up.  I was looking through the book for it and debating about pattern #1, the Zig Zag Tote, when I realised that the zig zags are actually only on one side.  Hmm, maybe scope to pop a co-ordinating block on the back then?  And of course I need something for my Fat Quarterly Retreat sample swap, so 4 of them it was…

I will confess now I changed a few lot of things, in fact it might be easier to just tell you what I kept!  

I kept:

  • The external dimensions 
  • The zig zags, including construction 
  • The quilting (kinda) 

After that I:

  • Changed the quilting base – I didn’t have enough of the single sided fusible fleece I usually use for bags, so I used a slightly thinner double sided fusible fleece that I have tons of, and used an Ikea muslin for the other side 
  • Reduced the dimensions on the fusible fleece by 1″ in both height and width to leave bulk-free seam allowances
  • Added a back pocket on the outside for the block.  For this I determined how big I wanted my pocket to be, and pieced on a top, bottom and sides in linen to bring it up to size, including the 1/2″ seam allowance.  I had to add another round of the fusible fleece set up, and a lining piece too. 
  • Got rid of the inner pocket as I now had an outer one anyway 
  • Changed the strap construction – I’m not a fan of tube turning at the best of times, but anyway, I didn’t have enough of the feature fabrics to be able to do the linen one side and cotton the other.  With linen being so friable I ended up cutting a 6″ x WOF strip and halving it to get the 2 handles for each bag.  Each piece was folded in half and pressed, then opened out and the sides folded in to the crease, and pressed again.  I then stitched down the open side and on the opposite side to make it come out even. 
  • Changed up the lining – I didn’t have yards of lovely co-ordinating fabric, so  I just went with a kind of natural cotton that I got in Ikea.  I also cut the lining pieces 1/4″ shorter on each side so that it  fit nicely inside the body given all the bulk from the fusible fleece on the outside, and I didn’t add any interfacing to these pieces as the bag was sturdy enough already. 
  • Got rid of the magnetic snap – the ones I had were pretty heavy duty, and I felt rather worried that even with my usual backing of squares of heavy duty interfacing and fusible fleece, there was a possibility of it  pulling through the lining fabric quite easily (I think I would have skipped this step even if I had used interfacing on the lining).  I briefly contemplated other potential closures, like elastic and a button, or a small strap and a button, but then thought that in a bag that size, it probably didn’t really need a closure anyway! 
  • Changed the entire assembly of the bag!  Firstly I securely tacked the handles to the outer body pieces, then sewed the lining and outer body pieces together at the top of the bag and pressed the seams open.  I then pinned the 2 sets of body pieces together, RST, and sewed all the way round the outer bag, then from the top to the bottom and round a few inches on each side of the lining, so that I left a turning hole in the middle of the bottom.  Next I boxed the corners and trimmed the excess fabric at the top of both the inner and outer bags, turned the whole thing through, and top stitched round the top to hold everything neatly in place 


  • The yardage requirements seem rather excessive for me, especially as you won’t necessarily even be adding an outside pocket like I did.  The pattern calls for 1 yard of linen – now even setting aside the fact that the linen I buy off the bolt in my local fabric shop is wider than 44″ (it’s about 55″) With a 44″ wide half yard, you could happily cut all your pieces by having your 16 1/2″ sides running across the way, albeit with very little left over.  Even if you wanted to do the straps the way I did, you could still get away with 3/4 of a yard of the outer fabric.  Bizarrely the lining, which uses more big pieces, requires less yardage… 
  • If you follow the cutting instructions in the book for the front panels, you’ll end up with an overall front panel that is 14 1/2″ wide, which is 1″ too big, but don’t start off cutting smaller, bear with me to the next point… 
  • Your pieced zig zag will be longer than the 16 1/2″ that the pattern calls for.  Line your side pieces up and sew them on, then trim the entire thing down to the 13 1/2″ x 16 1/2″ it’s meant to be.  I found that because linen can so easily be distorted and the zig zag panel may not be perfectly straight, this was the easiest way to ensure your overall body panel was the optimum size. 
  • It might just have been the thickness of my outer bag with the pocket added in, but I found it easier to use scissors rather than a rotary cutter to trim the boxed corners. 
  • Assembling the bag the way I did rather than the way in the book allowed for the slightly smaller lining to fit snugly, whereas trying to fit a smaller lining over a larger body will result in some bunching of the body fabric.  If you use the same size for the lining and outer, you’ll end up with annoying extra wee folds of fabric inside I tend to find. 

So all in all, that ticked off a Finish for the FAL, and one of my 3 for April – yay!