Wool + Wax Tote / Notes & Tips
For the main fabric, I was so excited to use our Fray Print Fabric from Making No 6. Black & White. The Fray Print Fabric is a very sturdy canvas; I used it previously for the Tool Rool and Making Backpack, but was interested to see how it felt when shaped into a bag, and it doesn't disappoint.
For the contrast bottom, I used Purl Soho's Natural 10-ounce Canvas. The piece need for the contrast bottom isn't large, so I was able to use a scrap from another project, the Wood Holder Tote Hack, which was a bonus.
Between the two canvas fabrics I used, this is a substantial bag, one that feels like it'll take a lot of wear and tear well, and one that will be loved for years to come, which is always really encouraging to me when it comes to my handmade items. Since I put a lot of love and effort into each thing I create, I hope that they'll be in my life for many years in the future. This is also why I believe it's worthwhile to invest in quality fabrics for my projects like the Fray Print Fabric. Not only is it beautiful, but it will stand the test of time.
One of the most helpful tools I've come to love for bag making is sewing clips. I originally shared them in the Tool Roll post, and have used them on my bag projects ever since. They especially came in handy for attaching the leather handles on this project.
Additionally, one of my other favorite tools is a seam gauge, which comes in handy often during bag making.
Since the fabrics I used for this bag are pretty thick, when it came to finishing the bag and topstitching over the side seams, a thick area, I wanted to help my sewing machine as much as possible. So, I pushed the lining seam allowance to one side, and the exterior seam allowance to the other. This is a simple trick that can make a huge difference when it comes to sewing thick fabrics.
One of the reasons this bag comes together so quickly is because the interior pocket doesn't have a zipper; it's a separate pocket that's topstitched to the lining. Creating a pocket this way also gives you lots of options for making a pocket that's the most functional for your needs.
I wanted to be able to slip my cell phone into one section of the pocket, so I used that as a guide for sewing the two lines of stitching that create the separation. Additionally, I added a second line of stitching 1/4" in from the original stitching for a little extra strength.
Getting Crisp Pocket Corners
In my early sewing days, I remember dreading the thought of sewing anything with sharp, square corners because I wasn't ever satisfied with the way mine turned out. Then, one day, my grandma showed me a little trick that changed my view of them forever. Between her trick and one of my own, I'm much more satisfied with the corners I make these days and no longer dread projects that have them.
The first step is sewing a near-perfect corner. I like to use the edge of my sewing machine foot as a guide whenever possible, so I usually move the needle to create the seam allowance that's required. When it comes to sewing a square corner, it can sometimes be challenging to know when to stop and turn the fabric. So, before I begin sewing, I use my seam gauge and a removable pen to mark the stitching line so that I know precisely when to turn my fabric for the corner.
Next, I clipped off a little of each corner to remove some of the bulk there. Then, the part that really does the trick for me is ironing the corner into position before turning it inside out. First, fold in one seam allowance at the corner, then fold the other on top and steam with an iron. Repeat for the remaining three corners. Then, turn the pocket inside out one corner at a time by pressing your thumb onto the folded/ironed seam allowance at the corner, holding it in place while turning the fabric. If your corner still isn't quite as sharp as you'd like, a point turner may be helpful.
If you'd like to see a few other options for corners, I shared some in my Tool Roll post.
Adding handles to this bag is one of the later steps, which admittedly, I was thankful for since this is the first time I've ever sewn leather. The leather handles I used were purchased from the Noodlehead shop in the natural color and worked perfectly with the fabrics I used. If you're going to use leather handles, I'd recommend pairing them with a pretty sturdy fabric like canvas, denim, or waxed canvas so that the stability of the material is similar to the stability of the handles. I made a second version of this bag out of mid-weight linen and had initially wanted to use leather handles again but realized that cloth handles would mesh better with the fabric since there was more drape, and it was an overall softer bag.
One thing to keep in mind when sewing leather is that if you make a mistake, it will show since the needle punctures a hole in the leather. I did make a mistake and had to reattach the handles again after they'd initially be sewn, so I decided to use a larger seam allowance when attaching the bag lining to the exterior the second time. If you make a mistake, another option is to be sure to have the same stitch length as the first time you sewed the handles and align the needle by hand into the first hole where you originally started stitching.
The Wool + Wax Tote is a beautiful bag with endless possibilities for creativity, one that can be sewn over and over with joy. I even have a few more ideas of my own that I hope to try eventually. Happy sewing! - Emily