Well, I once again jumped on an internet bandwagon and purchased Anna of Noodlehead‘s 241 Tote. I’d been seeing the bag in various ways all over the blog0sphere and on Flickr, and I’ve been contemplating buying the bag pattern. So I took the plunge at the very end of December and purchased it. And of course, I didn’t jump right on it and make it. After two purchases of fabric, I finally decided this weekend it was time. So the first step was to select my fabrics. After looking and pulling and putting back fabrics, I finally decided to use these fabrics.
I didn’t mention it before, but about 2 weeks ago, I scored this MASSIVE eBay auction that was nothing but OOP fabrics; all but 4.25 yds of 23 yds of it was fabric from Heather Ross; and 9.25 yds were from her Mendocino line (the rest of the Heather Ross fabrics were from her Lightning Bug and other Mysteries line, in very large cuts)
Anyway, the mermaid fabric is part of the Mendocino line, and the purple fabric is actually from Lizzy House’s 1001 Peeps; I purchased this sometime last fall, and set it aside, waiting for a good project to use it with. And the last fabric is Robert Kaufman Essex linen in natural; just recently purchased from Fabricworm along with several other cuts of Essex linen in various colorways. I LOVE this stuff. It’s got a sort of rough texture to it unwashed, but it really softens up every time it’s washed. Out of all the colors I purchased, natural is my absolute favorite; I’d love nothing more than to buy myself a bolt of this stuff!
Onto the bag and pattern. At first glance, it looks very intimidating; which is probably why I put off purchasing it for so long.. silly me! Anna writes VERY clear instructions, and if you purchase the pattern, you’ll see that she really does deliver with color photos and clear instructions; there’s 15 pages of instructions with the last two pages that are the pattern pieces; it’s all in a PDF format. Instead of printing out all of the pages, I would recommend just printing out the pattern pieces, and then just viewing the instructions on your computer (or laptop); or in my case I used my Nook! I’m not sure if any of the other e-readers have PDF reading capabilities, but if they do and you have one, it’s an excellent and handy way to have the instructions nearby. And of course, if you have some type of tablet, I’m sure it will work fine as well. It’s possible you could get away with doing it on a smartphone, but then the pictures would be really small. Do what works for you! I just know I like to save ink, and printer paper.
Cutting out the fabric took me longer than it would probably take other people; mostly because I was trying to line up the front panels just so, to showcase the beauty of the mermaids; there had to be a balance between getting the mermaids lined up just so, and also conserving fabrics. Luckily the repeat on the fabrics allowed fabric conservation. Then of course, I was attempting to fussy cut the bracelets for the outside pockets, which mostly worked but they aren’t exactly 100% matchy; which is fine with me. I really didn’t worry about matching up the inside though; which is also from the pearl bracelets. I ended up with a nice pile of scraps and very little fabric waste; Anna in my opinion really thought things out with this pattern; especially since it only takes 3 half yard cuts of fabrics, or yardage equaling 1.5 yards.
The actual sewing of the bag went smoothly; I had a project first and didn’t need to rip out any seams! It did take me longer than I anticipated; mostly due to it being my first time making the bag, and I’ve also got 3 children that seem to need me every time I sit down to sew. It’s one of those patterns that once you go through it once or twice, you can easily get the hang of it and finish the pattern relatively quickly.
Here are some of my observations and tips, of course without giving the whole pattern away, because that’s not cool to do.
- The pattern calls for darting at the bottom of the bag on the front panels to give shape; Anna helpfully puts the darts onto the pattern piece in a V shape. Now, I’m not entirely sure if it’s just me or what, but I had a difficult time getting the dart lines to match up properly. I ended up just marking the two spots on the edge of the bag, and then just sewing a line roughly the same length as the legs of the V. This ended up working out very well, and the darts matched up flawlessly. both on the outside and the inside.
- The pattern did not call to do this, but I ended up opening the bottom seam and sewing it open when attaching the side panels; I did this so the stitches would lay a little flatter and more evenly; however the rest of the seam was left alone. Next time I make the bag I plan on opening up the seam and adding stitching to keep the seam flat to give it that extra finished touch and of course to add reinforcement.
- Anna mentions the importance of pinning with the side panels, and I cannot stress the importance of doing this. When I was attaching the side panels; they lined up perfectly on one side, but then on the other side the edges were off by about 1.5″. I had to undo my pinning on that side, and manipulate and stretch the fabric to match up. It was worth using about 30 pins total per side, because I was able to get the fabrics to match up PERFECTLY which to be truthful is a rarity for me.
- I made the strap length to the full width of fabric. She gives a recommended length for the strap; but she did mention you could make it as short or as long as you want to meet your personal preference. Considering I’m under 5′ and petite, the WOF length strap allows me to wear it cross-body, and then by adding a small knot to the strap I can also wear it to sling over one shoulder; For some reason, I like how the knot looks; in the past when I’ve had bags that did not have the traditional sliding toggle mechanism for adjusting the strap length I’ve always done this as a means to adjust the strap length; kind of a necessity.
- I like the options she gives for the bag; there’s an exterior pocket option for the beginners, and then exterior zippers for the more advanced sewist. I’ve got the skill set to do the zipper; however I decided because of the fabrics I used; I did not want to take away from the fabric design. I was planning on adding a zipper inside of the bag along with the interior pocket, but I changed my mind and just did a pocket. No biggie there of course.
- One last thing; If you are using different weight fabrics, I highly recommend interfacing all your exterior fabrics unless you’re using exclusively home decor weight fabric. Depending on personal taste, you can use a very lightweight interfacing, or a medium weight interfacing depending on how slouchy you like your bag. I used Pellon SF101 All-Purpose 100% cotton fusible interfacing. My honest recommendation is to buy a bolt of interfacing, instead of buying it by the yard. (I got mine from Overstock at a super reasonable price, and be sure to try and find a free/low cost shipping code before completing your purchase.) I LOVE the weight of this particular interfacing.
In addition, there are many possibilities for adding extra touches to suit your personal tastes. It called for a magnetic snap; I had one on hand to use; but truthfully I’m not a huge fan of them, and the one I had is gold tone; I’m a silver tone kind of gal. There are various options you can employ; such as not using any type of closure; the bag is quite deep so your items will still stay secure. You can also do a button/button loop closure, a twist turn lock -which comes in metal and plastic- or a hidden magnetic snap closure; or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even do a set in zipper! Great, I’m giving away all of my ideas. You really can do lots of things with the exterior, like including piping on the edges and patchwork for the center panels. You can also create an adjustable strap to allow you to wear it either cross-body or just slung over one shoulder like I did. The possibilities are endless!
I highly recommend purchasing this pattern! You will not regret it. And of course, here’s a closeup of the mermaids.. so beautiful.