Hi readers! I’m popping in for a quick post before Quilt Con to share the bag I made to take to Austin and offer a few thoughts on the pattern and construction. Please excuse the iphone photos, but I thought sooner and done is better than waiting another week to get this posted, especially since I know a few of you are waiting on this post!
I want to offer a couple of disclaimers:
1. I have not been paid/reimbursed for my opinions–I just wanted to make a bag and this is the pattern I chose!
2. I use a basic domestic sewing machine. It’s definitely a starter machine and not anything an average beginning quilter/seamstress wouldn’t have at home.
So, that being said, let’s get to the Senna Tote!
This bag, by Willow and Co., is constructed of quilting cotton (Doe by Carolyn Friedlander on the outside and Kona solids on the inside), and is lined with interfacing, canvas (to give it shape), and leather (although the pattern calls for quilting cotton for the bottom).
The pattern is written for a “adventurous beginner” and as a first time bag sewer I found the instructions clear and well-written. The diagrams were easy to understand, though a few photos would have been helpful in places, I still managed to sew up the bag with no major mistakes. You will definitely want to read through the pattern at least once before you start sewing! The only major issue I had was that as a confident beginner I was using a basic machine, and it didn’t have the mechanical gusto to sew through all of the leather.
The bag is definitely solid and has a nice weight to it, but I feel like you could choose a thicker interfacing and skip the canvas interlining altogether. The interfacing suggested is a little pricier (just under $6 a yard at my local Joanne’s) and you need 4.5 yards of it. That is a pretty substantial cost for interfacing, and then needing close to $10 of canvas on top of that seemed kind of redundant. Next time I want to try it without the canvas.
First, while the top of the bag is meant the fold over, it only folds a couple of inches because of how high the straps are sewn. The next time I make this bag I will sew the straps across lower, even if it’s only by 3/4 of an inch I think it would help.
Second, the straps according to the instructions will be four layers thick where you sew seams. Originally I was planing on using a vinyl faux leather but figured out pretty quickly that my domestic machine had no chance of sewing through 4 very thick layers. My solution was to switch to a nice soft leather, and instead of cutting a single wide piece for each handle, I created mine by cutting two straps the length noted in the pattern, and sewing them with a quarter inch seam down each long side with wrong sides together. The straps aren’t as thick as the original pattern called for, but the leather is durable enough that I don’t anticipate it being a problem.
This bag has a TON of layers–when sewing these seams in particular I was working with 4 layers of leather, 4 layers of canvas, 4 layers of interfacing, and 2 layers of quilting cotton. My machine was NOT happy about this and I had to resort to using my 20 year old Singer 9941 machine–a beast of a machine that STILL had a hard time with the layers. In fact I fought so much with this seam, that I finally resorted to staggering them. The side seams don’t match up perfectly, but it was the best that my machine could manage. I don’t think this would be a problem if using quilting cotton on the contrasting bottom section, but it is something to think about if you are using leather or possibly home decor weight.
Altogether I am very happy with the Senna Tote! It’s a solid pattern, and I love that it is large enough to accommodate toting around my class supplies and regular purse odds and ends, but it’s stylish enough that I will be using it as my regular purse after the convention!