When I posted last week about doing the 241 tote review, I asked if anyone had any questions or any points that they particularly wanted me to look at, so following on from yesterday’s review over on Sew Sweetness, I’m going to go over both the questions asked, and the modified strap option I did.

The main thing that had people scared was the zip option, so I’ll walk you through that first.

Here are the 2 bags I did with zips.  as you can see on the 100% one I did the 2 zips as per the pattern, but on the 75% I only added one.  The great thing about patterns is that provided the pieces don’t conflict, you can mix and match looks :o)


My first tip would be to add the outer pockets before you sew the 2 main pieces together at the bottom, as you’ve then got less fabric to try and wrestle with when sewing.  Also, cut the pocket pieces 7″ x 6″ for them to fit best, keeping the 7″ edges parallel with the zip, as I found that leaving them at 7″ square put them rather close to the other edge of the bag.

On the interfaced pocket pieces, measure 1″ down from the top of a 7″ edge, then draw the top of your 5 1/4″x 1/2″ rectangle opening in the centre of the piece, then the rest of the rectangle below that:

Mark out a line halfway up the rectangle and diagonal lines in from the corners for cutting later:

Use a couple of long pins to align the top corners of your rectangle with the markings on the bag outer for the opening:

Then pin in place.  Note that I put my pins at right angles to my stitching line, which prevents fabric slippage during stitching.

Sew all the way round the rectangle, backstitching at each end, then cut up that centre line between the diagonal lines, followed by cutting along the diagonals out to the corners.  Make sure you use very sharp scissors to do this, but don’t cut your stitching!

Now turn through, finger press, pin and press with an iron to get a nice clean opening to apply the zip to:

Take your zip and place it under the opening to check that it fits well, and at the open end sew a few stitches which will be hidden just under the body of the bag to hold it closed.  Don’t skip this, it will make it much eaier to sew the zip in!

Close your zip and pin in place, then stitch round the outside of the rectangle about 1/8″ from the edge.  Start at the end away from the zipper pull, and sew up towards it.  When you’ve nearly reached it leave your needle in the down position and lift your foot, turn the piece through 90 degrees and then pull the zipper pull past the needle a good couple of inches.  Turn the piece back to its original position, lower your foot and continue stitching, repeating the exercise on the other side as you reach the zip again:

Now take your remaining non-interfaced pocket piece and place it face down onto the pocket piece with the zip.  Pin all the way round and stitch in place, backstitching at either end for security.

Repeat for the other side, pinning the first pocket out of the way for ease of stitching.  You’re done :o)

Now for the adjustable strap:

You will need an additional 2 6″ squares of strap fabric for the end pieces, plus a set of bag hardware consisting of 1 slide with a 1 1/2″ opening, and 2 rings – D rings, rectangular or any other shape you like as long as they are also with a 1 1/2″ opening.  I get my hardware here and have had very good service from them, also for purse frames and magnetic snaps.

For the strap ends, fold in half and press, then fold the sides into the centre fold line and press again, in the same way as the instructions in the pattern for the main strap, then top stitch all the way round, starting at the open edge.

Take one of the strap end pieces and one of the rings, then thread it on.  Fold in half to match the two short ends, and baste in place, then repeat for the other strap end.

Pin to the bag as per the instruction to attach the main strap, and baste in place – to find the centre point of the side piece and the strap end piece, fold in half and finger press a small crease in at the top, then match these together.

For the main strap, follow the instructions in the pattern for folding, then open out and fold the raw ends in about 1/2″ at each end before refolding and pressing prior to sewing, since these ends will now be visible.  Top stitch all the way round as directed in the pattern, then take your slide piece and slide over one end, threading 2 1/2″ through and pinning to the main strap piece.  Stitch a small rectangle to hold it in place as pictured:

Take the strap and thread through the ring on one side of your bag then bring it back through the slide and over to the other ring, threading it through, ensuring you go from the outer side to the inner side, until you have threaded 2″ through, then pin and sew in place as pictured below

You may now continue with your pattern as before.

I also had some trouble shooting questions, first from Sheila who asked:

I have the pattern, but not made it yet as I want to do the zipper version, but what I really erally want is to know if it is easy (I am a beginner – ish) to put a zipper along the top, for extra security.

I have addressed the zip pockets above, but unfortunately I don’t think this is suitable for a zip at the top.  The top of the bag is curved, which, combined with the lack of a traditional side seam and the bulk of the handle ends would render direct application pretty much impossible.  Although there is a floating bridge type zip option possible, again, there isn’t anything to attach it to – normally these are applied on bags with a band at the top, which allows the ends of the bridge to be caught in the lining.  With a complete redesign of the top of the pattern for the lining pieces it would theoretically be possible, but maybe a couple of extra snaps at either end might do just as well.

Laurie in Maine said:

I won this pattern for Purse Palooza and made one yesterday! I wimped out on the zipper version – next time!! 

TOP STITCHING – esp the curved sides. Wimped out on that as well 🙂 Didn’t know how I could get down and around without making a mess of it – so I just pressed well. (I up-cycled black denim jeans and it seemed too bulky to try but – do you need to take the machine out of the cabinet and use the narrow sewing surface I wonder?)
(Also I wished afterwards I’d top stitched closer to the edge around the top of the bag.)

EASING IN CURVED SIDE WITH POCKET – I wanted it pucker-free and happily exterior came out pretty well. Lining was diff story …luckily it’s inside – was getting antsy to finish I guess! 

Okay first off the top stitching – this serves several purposes, one for a professional finish, and the second to hold the bulk of the seam out of the way of the lining in the case of the sides, and at the top it will actually hold the lining in place.  Without it, the lining will wander off, and you will end up with a rather misshapen bag fairly soon (I have been that beginner bag maker, I know these things ;o) ).  Upcycled jeans are, unfortunately, rather too heavy for this bag, especially if you interfaced them, maybe try again with quilting weight cotton.  Also, when top stitching, I usually go about 1/8″ from the edge or seam of whatever I’m stitching.

I’m assuming by the ‘cabinet’ you’re referring to one of those tables that your machine can sink into?  If so, then yes, for both bag and dress making it needs to be out of there, and you will need your free arm ‘exposed’ as well.  Your free arm allows you to rotate circular pieces round it (like the top of the bag for topstitching).  For manoeuvring the side pieces round for the top stitching, it’s handy to have the free arm option too,and just take it slowly, trust me, if I can top stitch a 50% one, you can manage a full sized one (and probably with less colourful language ;o) )  Here’s what my machine looks like with the free arm hidden and then revealed:


For the side with the pocket, you shouldn’t need to do any easing providing you’ve cut it out well and used the correct seam allowance, so I’m trouble shooting a number of options here:

In the review I suggested you use pattern weights and a rotary cutter for cutting out, as this will be truest to the paper pattern shapes – with pins, especially on heavier fabric, you can end up with pieces quite a bit bigger than the paper pattern, and sometimes a rather different outline as the pattern and fabric are both twisted out of shape with the pins (painful experience here).  Alternatively, you can draw round the pattern pieces and cut out with dress making scissors.

The seam allowance is 3/8″, which is not particularly common, so you may need to measure exactly where that is on your machine – I usually use a combination of the edge of the foot I’m using (which 95% of the time is my walking foot) and the needle position rather than relying on the lines on the bed of the sewing machine, as when sewing curves, those lines are particularly difficult to see (which took me years to work out!).

You will need to clip your curves, cutting little notches all the way round the curves right up to the stitching line (but not through it!)  This will allow your fabric to relax when turned right side out, and shouldn’t show puckers.

I hope that’s helped everyone!