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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Totes Ma Tote Bag

My favorite bag designer, Janelle from Emmaline Bags, has just released her newest pattern:  The Totes Ma Tote Bag!  I was thrilled when Janelle asked me to test out the pattern for her.  I already had the perfect Echino fabrics on hand to make up this bee lovers version for my husband's aunt, Jeannie, who is an apiarist (aka beekeeper).  

That's right folks!  I'm giving away this beautiful bag as a gift! I hope Jeannie will love it as much as I do, but don't worry, I already have plans to make myself my own Totes Ma Tote bag as soon as I can make time!  Now I just need to come up with something just as good to make her husband, Terry!  They are both so good to us and our children and give us all the free honey we can eat!  They sell their honey here, at Queen Bee Gifts.

Now, back to the Totes Ma Tote bag.

This bag is so professionally designed, and the pattern and instructions are extremely thorough and detailed.  I think this design is my favorite of hers so far, but that could change since I haven't sewn up the Butterfly Sling Bag pattern yet!

The Totes Ma Tote has lots of features that make it difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish from a commercially manufactured bag.  Here's a quick run down of those awesome details:

1. Grommets--Instead of just sewing the straps directly into the top seam of the bag, metal grommets are installed through the exterior and lining fabrics.

2.  Buckles and Eyelets--After the purse straps are fed through the grommets, they are then secured with a metal buckle.  The length of the straps can be adjusted just like a belt by positioning the buckle prong into one of the tiny eyelets installed along the strap.

3. Purse Feet--Although the pattern calls for 6 feet, I only had 5 matching ones to use.  I think this configuration works well.  Purse feet help keep the bottom of the bag up off of surfaces when you aren't wearing the bag.

4. Recessed Zipper Opening--The Totes Ma Tote bag is a medium sized tote with finished measurements of roughly 17" wide at the top, 13" wide at the bottom, 12" high, and 4" thick.  For a bag this size, it's definitely nice to have the added security that a recessed zipper opening offers.

This is only my second time to sew a recessed zipper, and Janelle's pattern instructions made it so easy and produce such professional quality results!  I love how the tail of the zipper extends past the fabric and a matching fabric zipper tab is added to make closing the zipper a cinch!

I recycled the zippers I used in this bag from a purse I found at the thrift store.  It was the perfect color and length that I needed, plus, it has this nice large metal circle as a zipper pull!  I never would have been able to find such a nice, fancy zipper pull at any of my local stores.

Since I made this bag, Janelle has started selling purse zippers in addition to grommets, metal rings, twist locks, and magnetic snaps in her online shop.  I can't wait to order some!  The purse zippers offered in her shop have a few different decorative zipper pulls to choose from.

5.  Side Seam Detailing--Janelle's Totes Ma Tote design includes more than just hardware detailing. Check out the side seam of the bag!  This small feature is a great way to add a coordinating fabric or leather accent to your bag.

6. Interior Pockets--This bag has no shortage of interior storage or organization.  The Totes Ma Tote pattern provides you with step-by-step instructions including pictures on how to sew an interior zippered pocket, slip pocket, and large pocket with a magnetic tab that is suitable for a small tablet or just a place to organize all your receipts or bills.

It was difficult to get a decent picture of the inside of the bag, especially the zippered pocket. That's the zipper pull poking out just above the slip pocket on the left!

Here's a shot of the large slip pocket with a magnetic tab closure.  I don't own a tablet, so once I make my own bag, I'll be storing receipts in there!

Besides all these wonderful features, Janelle has done an outstanding job giving this bag design structure. Following her instructions, I used Pellon Shape Flex 101 on all my exterior fabrics and interior pockets.  To provide extra support on the sides, I used automotive headliner fabric instead of the Annie's Soft n Stable. I'm very pleased with the results.

I absolutely love Janelle's method for making this very structured bag bottom.  You'll have to buy the pattern to see how!

Hardware: Grommets purchased from Emmaline Bags while all other pieces were salvaged using my

Difficulty:  Challenging but not difficult.  Best for an intermediate sewer.
Would I Sew This Pattern Again:  You Betcha!  Definitely before Fall!

Have fun sewing!


  1. If I saw you walking down the street with this bad I would have never guessed it was handmade! It looks sooo cool!

  2. I noticed your bag and the great picture with the honey jar and everything since the pattern release. I'm sure it will be loved. You did a great job! It looks fantastic.


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