Photo by Alisa TheilSince Alisa bought the patterns for this tote for me, I thought it was only fair to make one for her birthday present. I fell in love with the Ghastlie Family Reunion fabric from The Alexander Henry Fabrics Collection, 2011, especially the gray color option shown here. The bag is lined with Ghastlie Bramble, also in the gray color option -- seen above as the back of two large pockets inset in the front of the bag. I purchased my fabric from Creative Quilt Kits in Brighton, Michigan. The "ghastlie" series is available for $10.90 a yard from their online store at http://www.creativequiltkits.com/quilt-fabrics/manufacturer/alexander-henry-1.html. The SKU for the fabric I used is SKU: AH-7596B.
Alisa purchased the tote patterns for me from Geta Grama's Romanian Quilt Studio website. She bought the "Amalie" and "Belle" patterns, and the "Nicole" pattern was included as a bonus (total cost $19). I received the patterns via e-mail as PDF files that I had printed on good quality paper at my local Staples copy center (about $8 for all three patterns). Then I punched the sheets with a three-hole punch and put them in a three-ring binder. The binder I bought has a clear insert so that you can put the cover of the pattern on the front and the binder has a pocket inside where I put my cut-out pattern pieces.
Geta Grama also has an interesting web-log called Geta's Quilting Studio that features gorgeous photography of her projects. I like her work very much and her pattern directions are superior. She has a book published this year called Shadow Trapunto Quilts available from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Trapunto-Quilts-Remarkable-Projects/dp/1607052695.
I liked the "Amalie" style tote, but initially wanted a larger tote as a diaper bag for a baby shower, so I used the larger "Nicole" pattern adapted to the "Amalie" style. Grama provides instructions on how to resize any of her patterns and I could have simply resized the "Amalie" but the Nicole pattern pieces were already the size I needed, so I used them. The resulting bag is not exactly like the "Amalie" resized, it's more like an adaptation of the "Nicole" but the original "Nicole" had a different style inset pocket on the front of the bag that I didn't think would be convenient for a diaper bag. Alisa liked the large size and so I made her "ghastlie" bag with the same adapted pattern.
I used quarter-inch seams and my bag came out to 18-inches wide by 14-inches high by 4.5-inches deep. The directions were beautifully written and very complete. The only difficulty I had was the direction for sewing the front pockets, but since it was clear what had to be done (two pocket pieces had to be sewn together to make the pocket), that glitch didn't cause any difficulty.
The directions called for iron-on interfacing which is not my favorite material, but after pre-washing my fabric, and getting advice from Karen at The Stitchery in Howell to use Pellon's Decor Bond Firm Iron-On Backing with Extra Crispness, the interfacing worked very well. I also used this interfacing in the straps and the pocket as well as the bag pieces, with the exception of the lining.
Although the pattern didn't specifically call for it, I purchased Pellon's Peltex Single-Sided Fusible Ultra Firm Stabilizer to make a firm bottom for the base of the bag. This material is about 3/8-inch thick, but can be cut with scissors. I cut the Peltex to a size to fit the tote bottom and stitched it into the interior of the bag before sewing in the lining. I hand-tacked the Peltex into the bag, then made a single line of machine stitching along the bottom seam to hold the Peltex in firmly. This wasn't very easy. An alternative would be to cut the Peltex to fit, iron on a piece of lining fabric and just insert the Peltex into the bottom of the finished bag.
The pattern also called for an inserted zippered pocket on the back of the bag. I'd never done this before, and was afraid of ruining my carefully chosen, fussy-cut, bag back -- so I tried inserting the zippered pocket into one of the lining pieces; if I made a mess, I'd just cut a new lining piece. But it worked out perfectly, and now Alisa's bag has a zippered interior pocket as well as a large, two-division, patch pocket inside; in addition to the two large pockets inserted in the front of the bag.
I used a size 16 machine sewing needle throughout because I was stitching through multiple layers of fabric for most of the bag construction. For the top-stitching that is a feature of most of the construction of this bag, I used my Janome's double straight-stitch.
This was a lot of fun, interesting, intricate and I learned a lot. I think that pocket detail on the front of the tote is very clever and good looking and it was fun to learn how to do that. I learned how to insert a zippered pocket -- a cool thing to know! I learned how to use iron-on interfacing without making a mess and I learned that I should always use interfacing in my bag handles to make them really nice. I learned that Peltex makes a great bag bottom that you can cut any size to fit. And I learned that I need to use a size 16 needle for tote construction. I discovered a new designer and blogger -- Geta Grama -- and I had a lot of fun playing with that ghastlie fabric. Also on my way out of the Creative Quilt Kits shop, I couldn't resist purchasing a cute wallet pattern called "BB Bags" from Brookshier Design Studio so I made Alisa a matching wallet for her "Ghastlie" tote. (Maybe she'll put up a photo : )
Update from A: here's a pic of the sweet (or should I say Ghastlie) coordinating wallet.
Photo by Alisa Theil