It’s no surprise to anyone who’s been reading here for a while that I like to make things. While making stuff just for fun is all well and good, I especially love it when my hands-on time is spent making something useful as well as nice to look at. And even though a lot of my handmade projects are intended for others, every now and then I will make something for myself, too. Which is why I was more than happy to take a look at Totes Amaze! 25 bags to make for every occasion by Amanda McKittrick.
A tote is, at its most basic, a simple rectangle of fabric folded in half, sewn on two sides and with handles attached. But why stop there when you can add linings, pockets, gussets for bags to sit flat, draw strings, zippers, and curved bottoms instead of square? That’s where Totes Amaze! comes in handy with creative combinations of the basic elements, many of which you don’t even need a pattern for.
When something outside of an easily-measured square or rectangle is needed, there is a sheet of pattern pieces tucked into a pocket on the inside back cover.
[box type=”tick” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Tip #1 Even though the pattern pieces are printed on heavy-weight paper, reinforcing your patterns before you use them will help them last longer. I suggest clear shelf paper (such as the Con-Tact brand) adhered to one or both sides before cutting out the paper patterns. This way, when your friend sees you with your new tote, you’ll be able to whip up another one without worrying that your pattern might be too tattered for the job.[/box]
Alas, I have yet to clear the time in my schedule to actually make one of the bags, myself, but I have several marked for as soon as I can. I’m desperately in need of a new overnight bag with all these back-and-forths to the Dollhouse so the Classic Carryall Tote on page 50 is top of the list. After that, you know I couldn’t possible resist the Wine Bottle Tote on page 66, and the Six-Pocket Gardening Tote on page 38 will be perfect for crafting on the go (you guys know I can’t keep plants alive to save my life). With a simple lengthening of the main pattern piece, I think The Man Tote (page 114) would be the perfect custom answer to my widescreen laptop-carrying needs!
If you’re still a novice with needle and thread, McKittrick’s got you covered with some basic techniques in the beginning of the book and even a list of basic Sewing Kit items you’ll need to make anything in the book. After that it’s just a quick trip to your local fabric store and you’ll be all set! Each of the projects in Totes Amaze! feature detailed instructions and plenty of helpful illustrations to help you understand how things should look along the way. The book is full of bright colors and patterns that make it fun to flip through for inspiration.
[box type=”tick” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Tip #2 Even though the enjoyment is in the making, if you’re like me you still want to feel like you’re getting a bargain by making your own anything instead of buying it ready-made. Good fabric is the key to a great tote, especially the simpler the pattern design, but good fabric can cost a mint. Since totes don’t need a lot of yardage, check out the remnants bin each time you’re in the shop. Frequently these end-of-bolt pieces are marked down 50% or more, making it easier to splurge on a good handle for the same bag and still come in well under retail.[/box]
I picked up a full yard of caramel-colored faux suede for less than $10 that will make an amazing overnight bag and some sturdy, striped canvas on my last trip to JoAnn Fabrics that are set aside especially for the projects in this book. I also found a smaller cut of lighter-colored faux suede that I’ll use to make my own handles for this one (there are instructions in the book for that, too) and save the webbing for more heavy-duty projects.
I was provided a copy of Totes Amaze! for purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.