A seven-hour layover on the way home from Ithaca prompted me to try my hand at drawing again. Using photos from my summer backpacking trip and Ithaca adventures as references. Conclusion is that procreate is fun and I should do more!
Quick project to get me back into sewing, after a long break during the semester. I missed it so much!
Made a Cal inspired chalk bag as a late birthday/holiday gift for my climbing friend. Experimented with a triangle design that required a bit of trial and error bc I forgot to take out seam allowance the first time, but I got it to work perfectly eventually! Really really pleased with the result. I kept the blue and green prototype for myself and it’s a joy to use at the climbing wall!
Really enjoyed this project, more details on my Portfolio page!
I was chosen to test the Drawstring Bucket Backpack pattern from Wholecloth Patterns. Kristi was so kind and also sent along a hardware kit for the bag, so all I had to do was source the fabric. I ended up getting a funky orange patterned jacquard from the sale section at Joann’s and some orange piping. Not sure why, but I was feeling a little rebellious from my normal muted blue color palette. The pattern itself was wonderful, very simple and easy to follow. I made life harder for myself by choosing a difficult fabric to work with, and I will not be doing that again. I also had to deal with sewing this backpack in my dorm room. I borrowed my friend’s sewing machine and used the iron in the laundry room four stories down, which was an experience. All for me to decide, in the end, at no fault to the lovely pattern, that bucket bags weren’t really my style and I probably wouldn’t use this one. Hoping I meet someone in the near future who’s favorite color is orange so I can gift it to them. But just want to say a huge thank you to Kristi for letting me test this pattern! It was a fun make and good break from schoolwork.
BT gave me full creative freedom on the chalk bag I made for her. I probed for her favorite colors/patterns and the criteria I got was: make it somewhat blue/green/colorful and unique (different from all the other chalk bags out there). So with these incredibly broad directions, I dove into my scrap bin and found a color combination I liked. I’ve been super into piecing together waves lately, so I hacked my pattern and created a wavy outer panel. I used two layers of medium weight interfacing for structure, since the outer layer was pieced from quilting cotton weight material. I was a bit sloppy when cutting out my waves, and they didn’t line up at the back seam. Sad. So I modified the pattern a bit and made the seam side the back of the chalk bag. I covered up the uneven connections with webbing, creating an extra loop to potentially attach a waistbelt on if BT wants. Then on the new front of the bag, I hammered on an eyelet instead. In the end, my little mistake actually resulted in a more “professional” looking chalk bag because of the hardware. I was proud of this chalk bag design, but the nerve wracking bit would be if BT liked it. I got so nervous before showing her a picture! Which is silly because I don’t think she was that invested in the design (hence the vague directions). Well, she was grateful and said it looked great, so I’ll call it a success.
The inspiration: ever since I was a kid, I have loved making bags. This tote design holds a special place in my heart because it was inspired by one of the first bags I ever sewed. I took an after school embroidery class throughout elementary school, which I loved, and the same teacher offered machine sewing classes during the summer. The teacher let us design our own projects and would then help us make the projects (which was so cool! she could’ve just walked us through set projects like a normal sewing class would, but took the time and effort to help 10 year olds make something from scratch instead). I became obsessed with sewing tote bags and spent most of my time in class working on that. Tote bags were a great project to become obsessed with, because I was introduced to many techniques as I started getting more ambitious with the various features added to the bag: zippers, invisible zippers, pockets, flaps, straps, etc. Given, my teacher had to walk me through those additions and I never felt comfortable doing it on my own until I was much older, but I had so much fun making and using my tote bags that my bag making obsession has only grown over the years. This tote bag pattern is based off one of those original tote bags, one that I’ve used immensely for the past 10 years. I made the dimensions slightly larger and added better pockets, but the overall shape is the same.
A note about the shape: though I’ve seen many bag patterns out on the internet, I haven’t seen much of this rectangular bottom construction; I’ve noticed that most tote bag patterns use boxed corners instead. Boxed corners are great, but I like the rectangular bottom better because it makes it easier to add pockets to the bag. Side pockets are possible, and you don’t have to worry about weird slanted side proportions when deciding where to place a patch pocket. Because I want everyone to get the chance to experience the thrill of designing a bag and choosing where and what pockets to add, I kept the main tote pattern very simple and have written up a pocket guide to use as a building block for a customized result.
The overall tote bag is zero waste (made up entirely of rectangles) and reversible. There are so so many possibilities and I can’t wait to see what people make of it. I’ve already had so much fun making more tote bags for myself, friends, and family. This size is perfect; big enough to hold quite a lot of stuff and small enough that it can be made from fabric scraps or upcycled material. Please enjoy this pattern as much as I do!!
Here are some of the tote bags that I’ve made. I normally don’t make this many samples of a pattern, but this design is really quick and enjoyable to make. The variations on this design are truly infinite; you can see that none of my tote bags are exactly the same. I love that depending on the fabric and handles you choose, the tote bag can either be sophisticated or a great way to use up fabric scraps. I got many compliments on my natural canvas/quilted pocket tote bag in my first year of college and it was a great conversation starter when I told people I made it myself 🙂
I wanted to experiment with a new bag construction, featuring a welt zipper installation and boxy shape. I’ve been playing around with the concept in my mind for a while, and decided to make a mini prototype before scaling up. I used a 4″ (tiny!) zipper, and bound the inner seams with bias tape. The outer material is a nice tangerine suede sample that my friend’s mom who works in real estate gave me years ago. I used some leather scraps for the side tabs as well and added one of my tags for some extra interest. Next steps are to make a bigger version and hopefully develop a pattern for that!
I went backpacking for the first time last week and it was incredible. I tagged along with J and her dad on their Sierra High Route adventure. This was definitely an ambitious route for a beginner backpacker like me, but I improved so much, gained a lot of confidence over those seven days, and had the best time. It was a great reminder of how much I enjoy living simply and camping and being away from my phone and all the little problems in my normal life. I also loved the challenge of walking all day and making it over passes! The Sierra landscape is absolutely amazing and inspiring– I feel so lucky to have been able to go on this trip.
I did some last minute sewing before the trip, making a stuff sack and a small pouch to hold my driver’s license, medical info, and other little things. The stuff sack was really helpful for organizing my gear in my backpack, and really easy to make too. Hoping to turn that one into a pattern. I think my version is much easier to make than other ones because it doesn’t have a circular bottom and only three seams need to be sewn to create it. Proud of that one. Also featured is a cosmetics bag (recognize the Lululemon fabric?) that I made a few years ago before my horsepacking trip. I’ve gotten great use out of that bag too. The small pouch was great. I’m a bit unhappy with how the zipper turned out; it’s a bit sloppy on the ends, and I would add zipper tabs next time for a cleaner finish. But that’s if I’m being picky. Function-wise, the pouch was great. Small enough to fit in the top pocket of my backpack, bright colors to make it easy to spot, and water-resistant fabric for ease of mind. And isn’t that view from Dusy Basin gorgeous? Got to love Sierra granite!
Just a useful pattern to have & perfect for adventures! I’m using mine on hot hikes to carry my phone, some snacks, and extra doggo poop bags. If you find any problems/mistakes with the pattern, please let me know! I’m still learning the pattern-making process so any feedback would be much appreciated.
** Update: Realized I didn’t include the dimensions anywhere. The finished dimensions are 7.5″L x 4″H x 2″W. Another consideration is that the pattern is not fully lined, but you can easily add the full lining by cutting out two more main body pieces and basting them WST to the exterior main body pieces before assembling (step 7). Thank you all so much for your interest in this pattern!!
This is an especially great pattern for using up old fabric scraps. I made my versions using nylon bits leftover from other projects and reusable bags that I took apart and I’m really loving the color blocked look.
Now that it’s summer and I’ve got more time, I’ve decided to turn my scrap paper patterns into digital patterns with written instructions. Up first is my chalk bag pattern. I’ve been using this pattern a lot to make gifts for climbing friends. It’s simple and quick, but also easily customizable. Would love to see if anyone makes it – tag me @mtlmakes or use #mtlchalkbag. Hope you find it useful!
For my version, I hand-painted the fabric with some poppy motifs. I used yellow canvas for the bottom and also added a yellow triangle near the cord opening for contrast. I painted some grey grossgrain ribbon I had saved from a package in the past (save everything! you never know when it might be useful!) because I was feeling artsy and wanted something other than boring black for the binding. This particular chalk bag uses simple ribbon loops to attach the belt to the bag. In the instructions, I explain how to use a webbing system instead. Both should work well; it’s just based on personal preference and what’s available. If you’ve got a grommet, I recommend using that for the cord opening too, just to make things more sturdy and professional. If you don’t, like me, then follow the instructions to leave an opening in the seams instead. Play around, have fun with it!
my aunt saw a picture of my yellow raspberry rucksack and requested one for herself. it took me a long time, but i finally made one for her! i used grey waxed canvas for the exterior and some teal blue quilting cotton i got over 8 years ago for the interior. i wasn’t quite sure about using such a bright fabric for the interior – my natural instincts wanted to use a natural cotton canvas instead – but i gave it a try and it’s not half bad. my aunt liked it, which is all that really matters, and i enjoy the teal blue zipper because it contrasts nicely with the simple grey exterior.
she’s got three kids, so i included lots of pockets on the inside and two water bottle pockets on the side. one of my complaints about the fjallraven kanken design that sarah kirsten mimicked with this pattern is that there is a lack of side pockets that can really fit a water bottle. in my previous blue raspberry rucksack, i added a plain side pocket, which was very useful, but still couldn’t fit my largest nalgene bottle. this time, i tried a pleated pocket instead. it worked pretty well; the fit is good, though i goofed on the placement (1.5″ was too high from the bottom, next time i’ll go for 0.5″) and the pocket stays expanded, sticking off of the bag a little awkwardly when there’s nothing inside. arg. maybe fourth time will be the charm with this project? my next modification would be to include a drawcord across the top of the pocket to synch it shut. though honestly, i’m not the biggest fan of this bag design. i don’t like the front flap opening, because it’s difficult to reach items stashed towards the back and i feel like backpack falls apart when i open the front flap all the way. although i really want to nail the water bottle pocket, i will probably end up designing a different bag instead.
THE PROCESS NOTES
my long bag zipper became uneven at the ends because the zipper shifted when i sewed it in place, so i would recommend finding the middle and sewing outwards from there towards the bottom of the front flap piece. i think the evenness is worth the extra seconds of repositioning the bag to start from the middle both times. i finally put together the straps correctly on this bag – turns out i’ve been doing it wrong this whole time and that’s why my straps have always twisted. i did it right this time, and then went and fixed the straps on my other backpacks as well. it was very satisfying to get this right! and i really have no clue how/why i misinterpreted the instructions on my previous backpacks.