September 11, 2014

One of the things on my “to sew” list for fall was a large bag / tote.  I have had this fabric for over two years now, hoarding it for the perfect project, and finally decided it was time.  I have fallen in love with the look of the Nena and Co. bags and wanted to make something that had a similar feel.  My bag really doesn’t look anything like theirs, but it was a good jumping off point.

The main fabric is a linen from Graylines Linen in the NYC garment district.  It isn’t super sturdy so I had to fuse it to interfacing.  I lined it with some left over red twill from my stash.  The leather came from on Peggy Sue Also on etsy.  I’ve bought scraps from them before to make leather moccs for my kids, but this was my first time to ever buy a hide.  The quality was great, and so was the service.  I always get my leather within a couple of days.  The only downside I can say is that the leather is dyed in a way that you don’t see the imperfections of the leather.  I’m hoping that it will break in a bit and get better with age, but for now the leather almost looks faux.

The pattern is the Senna Tote as part of the Willow and Co. pattern collective.  I thought the pattern was great.  Any problems that I had were due to the fact that I made a ton of “design” changes which made my life harder than it had to be.  The instructions and diagrams were really professional and easy to follow.  I do recommend making sure that you have a really thick needle because you do sew through a lot of layers at once.  I could see some less sturdy machines having a hard time handling it.

I obviously made a lot of changes.  The main bag pieces and lining are made according to the pattern instructions.  For the outside of the bag I changed the pocket so that it does not extend all of the way to the side seams.  I also created the large v notch just for a visual effect.  For the base, instead of having the leather wrap around the corners I just had it wrap around the middle of the bag and tuck inside of the pocket.  The reason for this is that I wanted to avoid having to create a seam with the leather.  Without an industrial machine I find it really hard to made a corner look professional with leather.

In the end I am just OK with the way this turned out.  I like it and I plan on using it a lot.  I just think it looks a little homemade and I am frustrated after using some of my favorite fabric and buying a hide which was not cheap.  I should mention again that this is not because of the pattern, but because I had a hard time sewing the leather.  In the end maybe I should have just bought a Nena and Co. bag.  Oh well, the process is half the fun.

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  • Reply Ann September 11, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    Oh my gosh, this bag looks totally professional to me! When I first saw the photos, I wondered why you were posting about this bag you had bought, haha. Anyway, it’s gorgeous, great job.

    • Reply True Bias September 11, 2014 at 3:50 PM

      thanks ann. im feeling better about seeing the blog photos. i am so glad that you thought it was store bought!

  • Reply lisa g September 11, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    okay you’re definitely way too hard on yourself… this bag looks great! i love the fabric and leather combo, they go together so well! i hadn’t seen this bag pattern before but it looks really cute!

    • Reply True Bias September 11, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      thanks lisa. the problems are really once you get up close. i think that i need to get proper leather sewing tools if i want to sew with leather again. it was just not feeding well which was super frustrating.

  • Reply Rona September 11, 2014 at 4:37 PM

    If you had said you’d bought this in a shop, I wouldn’t have been surprised. It looks great. I especially love the unusual zipper section-the way it folds over!

    • Reply True Bias September 12, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      thanks. i like that fold over feature too. it is a cool design.

  • Reply crab&bee September 11, 2014 at 4:41 PM

    I think you did a great job and bag looks fantastic. I love that V detail. Maybe you should hide the bag from yourself for a week and re-discover it!

    Did you happen to try a walking foot for the leather? I found it helped me out with some of the issues I had when I was sewing a pouch.

    • Reply True Bias September 12, 2014 at 1:47 PM

      i really need a walking foot. the bernina ones are just so expensive! maybe christmas.

  • Reply Stephanie September 11, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    That bag doesn’t look homemade at all! But I know how much of a perfectionist we can be with our own sewing 🙂

    • Reply True Bias September 12, 2014 at 1:47 PM

      yes im my own worst critic for sure.

  • Reply Sage September 11, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    I think it looks super professional too! I actually really like the way the leather looks on the bottom of the bag. If you ever tire of it, I will happily buy it from you! 🙂

  • Reply Heather September 11, 2014 at 5:24 PM

    It’s absolutely gorgeous! I’m sure the leather will look better after it’s worn in a bit. From these photos, it does not look homemade at all! I would happily buy it in a store.

    • Reply True Bias September 14, 2014 at 10:05 AM

      thanks heather. yeah, im excited for the leather to look a little more worn in.

  • Reply Andrea B September 11, 2014 at 5:40 PM

    I like yours much better than the ones on the Nena & Co site, actually. The fabric’s really great! I’m sure once you wear it around town and get a million compliments and shocked gasps when strangers hear it’s handmade, you’ll have a change a heart. I hope so anyway, because it’s a beautiful bag!

    • Reply True Bias September 14, 2014 at 10:05 AM

      its true. compliments from strangers are always that best way to make me feel better 🙂 thanks andrea

  • Reply Lauren September 11, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    It’s gorgeous! I think you’re being a little critical of yourself. It looks very professional and I think it’s one of those bags that will only get better with age. I actually want to try it myself. 🙂

  • Reply Kay September 11, 2014 at 8:18 PM

    The bag looks great

  • Reply Sophie September 11, 2014 at 8:21 PM

    This is very fabulous! The shape at the top is especially nice + the combination of fabric and leather. Well done YOU!

  • Reply The Nerdy Seamstress September 11, 2014 at 8:40 PM

    This bag is amazing! I love it! I love the colors and everything. I get how you’re feeling, though. We’re our own worse critics.

  • Reply Ginger September 11, 2014 at 8:45 PM

    Oh, Kelli, this is great! I love it! BUT… I’m kind of mad at you for introducing me to Nena and Co! So cool!

  • Reply Kristin P September 11, 2014 at 11:59 PM

    Were you using a leather needle? Those really do make a difference, as the tips are shaped like a tiny sword, so they pierce the hide very easily. Also, a Teflon foot will usually glide over leather more easily, and I’ve found that sometimes using strips of tissue paper over the seam lines will help with feed on leather, as well as minimizing any scarring that might result from your machine’s feed dogs. (It does mean that you have to go back and tear away little bits of paper, which can be tedious.). I don’t claim to be a leather guru, but I’ve made several corsets for major operatic theatre performance, and even working on industrial machines, these tips are necessary and have worked well for me. I hope I’m not just telling you things you already know. Your bag really looks beautiful in the photos, and your photos themselves are beautiful too! I am inspired to add a tote to my sewing list now!

  • Reply Nicki September 12, 2014 at 12:45 AM

    I had noticed this bag pattern before and yours is my favourite version so far :). To echo everyone else, it’s wonderful!

  • Reply joelle September 12, 2014 at 1:37 AM

    i think it looks fabulous! sometimes you need to step back a bit and get perspective on a project. i bet all the little imperfections you are annoyed about are invisible to a non-seamstress!

  • Reply Mady September 12, 2014 at 3:19 AM

    The bag looks amazing! It doesn’t seem homemade to me at all! I seriously thought this was a store bought bag! I love your fabric choice and the changes you made!

  • Reply Nancy September 12, 2014 at 3:46 AM

    Your tote looks amazing and no way handmade (I know we tend to be our own worst critic). I have this pattern and really want to sew one up I just haven’t found the right fabric yet. Love your version.

  • Reply Adrienne September 12, 2014 at 3:51 AM

    I totally love your bag and, from here, I dont see the “handmade” to it at all! You did an amazing job. I really love your modifications as well, and the V in the pocket. You’ve inspired me to give bags another try!

  • Reply Clio September 12, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    Too bad you don’t love it! It’s so very fun and cute. I wonder if, once you are a little further away from sewing it, you’ll like it more, since it’s really great – and the fabric is wonderful!

  • Reply Liliana September 12, 2014 at 2:43 PM

    Wow, I think the bag looks really good – so professional! And I love the design changes you made, they add so much to whole bag.

  • Reply Suzanne September 12, 2014 at 8:59 PM

    MY sewing machine would DIE if I tried to feed it leather. I love your bag though. The fabric and the leather and your v-shaped notch are all awesome.

  • Reply Kelly September 13, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    Well, add me to the list of people who think this bag is all kinds of awesome! I love that fabric in combination with the leather, so cool. I really want to make a bag with leather but I am using waxed canvas instead…it has a similar look to leather but it is easy to sew! You did great on yours though- I think it will grow on you after using it for a while 🙂

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  • Reply Kerry September 16, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    This is so stylish, I hope you enjoy using and stop focussing on any flaws you think are there – it looks great. I wonder if you bought the fabric on the sewing meet up I was at in 2012? I bought some linen from the same shop in the same design as the black with ikat style print jacket you made. Mine was in the red colour way but I have yet to make it up, I can’t decide what to make!

    • Reply True Bias September 16, 2014 at 4:42 PM

      yep that it totally when I got it. I had just moved to nyc a couple of weeks before. good memory! cant wait to see what you make with your linen. i think that Sonja has that one too.

  • Reply kristin September 18, 2014 at 1:06 AM

    yeah i’m with everyone else – i LOVE this bag and think it doesn’t look homemade, but i respect your feelings too. i do think a walking foot + topstitching/heavy duty thread (i used it on my grainline portside duffel and it went a long way toward making it look “official”) + leather needle would definitely help going forward. i almost never take my bernina walking foot off! i bought it along with my machine though…rolled it right on into their free financing program, haha.

    • Reply True Bias September 18, 2014 at 8:04 AM

      i really need to get a walking foot. what are bernina feet so freakin expensive?! on the lookout for one on ebay.

  • Reply Gail September 29, 2014 at 2:57 AM

    I LOVE this bag. I’ve reread your post a few times and can’t find any reference to the pattern used. Did you self draft?

    • Reply True Bias October 2, 2014 at 11:50 AM

      no its the senna tote pattern. i did make a lot of changes though.

  • Reply shaena October 22, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    Your bag turned out gorgeous, whether it looks “homemade” or not! Love what you did and think it’s awesome!

  • Reply Ashlee Schnell February 15, 2015 at 1:18 AM

    Hey ran across your bag on Pinterest when looking at the senna tote. Love what you did with the pattern. The pocket that you have shown with the v cut, is that the front or back pocket? Do you have any tips or tricks on how to make and finish the pocket? Thanks!

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