Friday, March 1, 2013

Making the Sweet Harmony Tote

I'm squinting, as I approach daylight, out from under my pile of projects, orders and miscellaneous stuff-to-do.  One of those pressing projects was making a diaper bag a dear friend of mine.  I wanted to share a few hard lessons tips I learned while making this bag, plus how I added a zipper closure to the tote.  My post on The Zipper will appear tomorrow.  It was just too, too much for one little post.  :)

First, the bag. . . .

My dear friend chose the Amy Butler Sweet Harmony Tote as a base for her diaper bag, and I planned to add lots of pockets to the interior.  (The original pattern only had two to four pockets!)  My friend chose this gorgeous AB fabric. . . .

Morning Glory Linen and Full Moon Polka Dot Cherry
image source (and purchased from) -- BellaFabrics on Etsy

I used the lovely floral Morning Glory fabric for the exterior, and the dots for the interior.  I was able to match up the prints on the main bag and exterior pockets (remember: extra fabric!)

And because this bag was to be used as a diaper bag, I added lots of extra pockets.  I made a sippy cup / bottle pocket. . .

. . . a  zipper pocket. . .

. . . and several slide pockets in different sizes. . . .

There are many, many patterns and tutorials on the web for adding pockets, so you have many, many options for customizing your own tote.

I also added a paneled zipper closure, as the tote option had no closure at all.  I'll detail that process in tomorrow's post.

Now, some helpful tips for making the Sweet Harmony Tote. . . .

* Purchase extra fabric, especially if you want to match prints.  I bought extra, and ended up using most of it.  Thank goodness I bought it!

* Prepare to spend an evening reading through the pattern and cutting out your pattern pieces.

* Then, prepare to spend an entire day cutting out your fabric pieces.  Seriously.  Or several days, if you have a busy toddler that demands your attention every 20 minutes.

* Measure and cut carefully.  It takes forEVer, but it all comes together quickly once the cutting and pressing is done if your cutting is accurate.

* Be ready to spend a LOT of time at your ironing board.  I spent about 4 hours or so just ironing and fusing pieces.  And a clean iron and board cover will make this job so much easier!  I also kept a bottle of water nearby for refilling the iron, as I used steam profusely on this bag.

* As there are many, many pieces to keep track of, I used a highlighter to tick off each piece and each step as I cut, fused or sewed each piece.  Maybe not really necessary, but I didn't want to overlook anything, or leave anything off.

* Although the pattern gives details on how to make bias tape, HERE is a video showing a super-easy method for making your own continuous bias tape, made by my lovely friend, Erin, of Erin Compton Design. I had never made bias tape in my life, and Erin's video made it clear and SO EASY to make.

look!  handmade bias tape turned into piping!  easy!

* BUY and USE a Hump Jumper.  (Or Jean-A-Ma-Jig.)  It will save you many minutes, much stress, and a few needles.

* I couldn't find the Peltex #70 sew-in interfacing for the bag bottom, so I bought the heaviest non-woven fusible interfacing I could find.  I cut out about 7 or 8 pieces of that interfacing for the bag bottom piece, and fused them to each other.  I then basted the layers together with a long stitch, round and round in a concentric pattern.  That piece was SO sturdy!  You might want to try that option if you can't find the Peltex #70.

* Sew s l o o o w l y y y, especially when you start sewing through several layers, and bulkier parts.

* Trim / grade your seams.  I don't know why the pattern doesn't call for that, but once you see how bulky some of the seams are, you'll see why I did.  (Some seams are 10+ thicknesses!)

Overall, this pattern was easy to follow, although I think some of the instructions wandered off into the over-designed, over-wordy territory.  (Kind of like some of my tutorials, huh?)  I felt that some instructions made simple things, like placing the cell phone pocket inside the exterior pocket, waaaayyyy too complicated, with all sorts of markings and measurings.  Just stick it inside the pocket, for Pete's sake!  I would not say this is a pattern for beginners, but intermediate sewists will find it totally doable, and accomplished sewists and experts will of course find this a breeze.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment!
See you tomorrow!

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