This post checks another item off of my sewing for fall list and fills a very important need in my life: my grad school bag! I've been using my largish leather purse for the past two months, which works well for books, but is just a tiny bit too small to comfortably carry my laptop in.
I spent a long time picking out a pattern to make my bag. I knew I wanted a tote-style bag with zipper closure and leather bottom but couldn't find quite the right pattern. This is the Senna Tote by Willow & Co. It was on my short list of patterns, but SewCaroline's version with leather bottom and straps sealed the deal for me.
I deviated a few times from the pattern's instructions. First of all, I didn't really follow their fabric recommendations. The pattern recommends quilting cotton for the outside of the bag, which is then interfaced and then interlined with canvas. The patterned fabric that I chose for the outside of the bag is an indoor-outdoor upholstery fabric. Because the fabric was already heftier than quilting cotton, I skipped the lining and only interlined the outside fabric with canvas. For the contrast bottom and handles, I used a taupe-colored faux-leather vinyl that is very soft to the touch. It was quite expensive for me at $35/yard (I had a coupon of course and I didn't pay full price), so fortunately I was able to eek everything I needed out of 1/4 yard. I had to slightly narrow the straps, but no one would ever know. For the lining, I found a linen remnant, which I did interface as instructed. Almost all of the many different fabrics for this bag came out of the remnant bin at Joann's. Still, I think this is my most expensive make to date, coming in at $35 for materials.
My other deviation from the pattern was to not include any closures on the outside pockets. I didn't have any appropriate snaps, and didn't think that I would use them, so I just omitted them. There are two pockets, a small one on the front, and a large one on the back. Well, it's supposed to be one large, open pocket. I accidentally sewed the straps through the pockets, so I really have three small pockets. That seems more useful to me, anyways. The inside of the bag also has a pocket. I like the fun pop of pattern from the outside fabric against the plain off-white linen lining. Pockets galore!
This was a fun, very satisfying project. It was my first time working with multiple thick fabrics, which proved to be a little tricky on my not-so-heavy-duty machine. I made sure to use a heavy-duty needle to power through the thick layers but I still had some trouble, particularly around the zipper tabs. Top-stitching the leather straps was also an adventure. They're certainly not perfect, but I think the contrast top-stitching adds some nice character to the bag.
The instructions to the pattern include a lot of illustrations, and were easy to follow. I really like the little added luxuries from using (faux) leather on the straps and bottom. Hopefully this will make the bag more durable. I also used the faux leather for tabs on each end of the zipper. These little touches make the bag look more professional, IMO. Sorry I don't have any close-ups on the zipper!
The only negative I've found about this bag so far, is that it doesn't really match my laptop case. That's okay, though. The bag zips, so you don't really see them together, and I can always make another!
Pattern: Senna Tote by Willow & Co
Fabric: 9/10 yard patterned indoor/outdoor fabric for the outside, 1/4 yard vinyl contrast fabric, 7/8 yard linen for lining, and duck cloth from remnant bins at Joann's
Cost: $7.55 outer fabric + $5.25 yard vinyl contrast fabric + $5.69 lining + $3.99 duck cloth canvas underlining + $6.41 interfacing + $1.25 22" zipper + $1.65 tan thread + $1.65 taupe thread + $1.65 heavy duty needles = $35.09 ($45.09 if you include the cost of the pattern)
Time: ~10 hours