Girly Tote

A recently-finished cute tote

A recently-finished cute tote

Ages ago I posted about some fabric I picked up and a tote I’d seen in Essentials in Invermere, and I wanted to show that not ALL of my fabric goes straight into ‘the stash’.. some of it actually DOES get made up!

The original


First off I really liked the use of pattern and colour in the original tote I’d seen – I also liked the vaguely vintage feel to the curved corners too.  I remembered a purse/bag designer that I had really liked some of the patterns of – Lazy Girl Designs as well.  I really like the functionality of the Margo bag, but the two ideas seem really different. The original is actually a lot more like an Amy Butler pattern I later realized.

Lazy Girl’s Margo handbag

So, I looked around some more for design inspiration…  Basically my criteria:

  • A zippered tote that doesn’t need to be zippered to retain it’s shape
  • Outside pockets for fast-store things like water bottles or pens that I wouldn’t worry about if I lost them (either due to pick pockets or having the bag turned upside-down)
  • Inside zippered pockets for hidden important things
  • Inside key clip
  • Inside patch-type pockets to keep things organized
  • Sturdy, fairly wide handles, long enough to hook over my shoulder, but short enough to generally just be held in my hand
  • Big enough to carry my lunch, paper work, tea, etc to work – plus my purse in a pinch.
  • Small enough so I don’t over-load it and hurt myself carrying it, instead of shifting things into a backpack!
  • Potentially washable.  (Not as big of a deal, but a nice-to-have.)

I selected this photo of the Margo purse for inspiration because the person who made it added the zipper, and if you follow the links – some cool interior pockets for organization – a lot of the other photos of the Margo don’t really show the zipper option.

Studio Kat’s Quattro handbag

In my design-inspiration search, I also found the Quattro Pattern from Studio Kat designs – which I also really liked (the style at least.. the colours in this example are a bit much for my muted tastes!) This one doesn’t zip closed though, but I thought between the three examples, I could design something that would work for me. (Lots of other inspiration photos on my Pinterest board – created after I started this project.)


I would love to say that I totally thought this one through, drafted patterns and all of the rest for the bag before I made it up – but no.  I just opened Adobe Illustrator on my laptop, and started drawing out shapes.  I don’t have a printer upstairs (and the basement was still renovation-hell) so I went straight to fabric for this one. I had the fabrics I picked up at Essentials, along with a few others from Freckles, and then it was just a matter of figuring out which ones I really wanted to use for this project!


I had 1m of the fashion fabric, 1m of the pocket fabric, and .5m of the top band fabric.


So, if you want to make one too, here’s what I did.

Fashion fabric & lining

I used the same fabric for both – a pink and tan stripe.

  1. Cut 4 rectangles as tall as the bag (plus the base) and twice as wide, PLUS seam allowances on all sides.
  2. Interface the fashion fabric.
  3. Sew the side seams of the lining and the fashion fabric.
  4. I added a twill tape reinforcement along the seams, and top stitched the seams to hold the twill tape in place.

Outer pocket & lining

I used the great corset & dressmaking tan fabric for both.

  1. Cut 4 rectangles as tall and just slightly wider than the above rectangles, plus seam allowance on all sides.
  2. Cut the bottom of the purse pockets to equal the base fabric (for the base of the bag), cut out the curves and taper the side seams.
  3. Sew the side seams together for the pocket and the pocket lining.  (I actually did this later, and should have done it at this stage…)

the trim on the “curve” after being top stitched

Curve trim

I used some remaining striped fabric for this. This is totally optional, and you could also do it as bias trim if you wanted.

  1. Cut some strips of bias from the fabric, sew them together, fold, and stitch with the raw edges together to the curves of just the outer pocket fabric, within the seam allowance.
  2. Sew the pockets together, right sides together, along the curves.
  3. You don’t need to stitch the top or bottom – they’ll be handled later.
  4. Turn the pocket right-side-out, and top stitch the curves.

Top band

I used a darker pink fabric for this.

  1. Cut a long rectangle that is twice the height of the finished band, twice as long as the top of the purse, plus seam allowances.
  2. Interface
  3. Sew the side-seam

Shoulder straps

I used the striped fabric for this.

  1. From some of the remaining fashion fabric, cut two very long rectangles to make the straps.  Length and width your choice.
  2. Sew tubes with the fabric, turn inside out, press flat and pull through wide twill tape.
  3. Top stitch straps to hold twill tape in place.

The patch pocket on the fashion fabric. I matched the stripes so it would blend in nicely, but left the fabric label (selvage) on because I thought it would be cute. The way the pocket is aligned, only the top right hand corner will show – I’ll only see the label if I go looking for it.

Outside pen-pocket

I used some left-over striped fabric for this.

  1. Construct a pocket by folding fabric in half, and sewing and turning.  Press.
  2. Lay the outer pocket on top of the fashion fabric (the interfaced one) with the side seams of the fashion fabric moved to the middle (so that there wont’ actually be side seams).  Mark pocket placement.
  3. Top-stitch pocket in place.

Trimming off the triangle on the bottom of the bag

Bag base

  1. Layer the outer pocket around the fashion fabric, with the seams of the fashion fabric in the middle of the pocket (so they won’t be seen).
  2. Turn the bag (as one unit) inside-out.
  3. Sew the bottom seam.
  4. You could theoretically just leave it at this point, but I like  rectangular base so the bag will stand up a bit on it’s own.  To do so, turn one side of the bag so that the side seam lines up with the bottom seam, and sew across – basically sewing a triangle into the bottom of the bag.  Trim this off, and repeat for the other side.

The outside of the bottom of the bag

Inner pockets

Since I hate wasting fabric, I used the fabric left over from the curved cut outs.  You can make basic patch pockets however you want, but here’s what I did.

  1. Along the straight edges of the 8 curved pieces, sew them together in four pairs, sewing all the way down on two, and leaving a hole in the middle of the other two. Press seam allowances open.
  2. Sew right sides together, turn through the hole, press.
  3. Hand-stitch the hole closed.  If you aren’t’ fussy about how this looks, you can also just top-stitch it closed.

Curved pockets. The example on the right has a topstitched opening, while the example on the left is hand stitched. (Just to show you options)

Attaching the inner pockets

For this I layered them to get a better use of space within the bag.  Plus I think it’s cute.  Mostly I did it because it’s cute.

  1. Just like the outside pen pocket, these were just sewn on patch-pocket style.  Put the one on top FIRST, and watch out that where the second one sits the stitching wont interfere with the pocket below it.

curved patch pockets

Zippered inner pocket

  1. These were assembled first, the zipper ends were covered with self-fabric, and then they were sewn on patch-pocket style too.

two zippered pockets with the zippers mirroring one another

Zipper gusset

I cut the gusset extra-long so that the tails can sit inside the bag for extra security.

I cut out four of a long rectangle with a small flange on the rectangle.  The ‘tails’ are finished on all edges, while the flange will sit inside the seam allowance to insert the gusset into the bag.

Zipper Gusset

Key clip

I made two key clips using spring retract clips and a narrow turned and stitched band of the fabric, inserted between the top band and the top of the purse under the zipper gusset.

Finishing steps

I ended up pausing on this bag, and actually kind of forgot about it. Over the winter holiday break I got inspired to pick up a few of my older projects (like the quilts I showed off not too long ago) and finish them off.  I put the zipper gusset to the top of the bag, along with the straps, and topped off the bag with the top band. This was carefully stitched down, and then I also did a line of top-stitching to secure the straps to the top of the bag.


That  cute little side pen-pocket in action. (It's big enough for more than a pen of course!)

That cute little side pen-pocket in action. (It’s big enough for more than a pen of course!)

So here’s the completed version! It’s super cute, and very girly.  It fits all of my criteria too – I can use the big outer pockets for quick things, leaving the bag zipped closed, or open up the zipper and access all of the inside pockets too.

Pink tote ready to go!

Pink tote ready to go!


Enlarging an oval

Use a math compass to quickly add an extension to an oval

Use a math compass to quickly add an extension to an oval

When I was working on my Mad Hatter’s Tea Party hat, I needed to come up with a way of easily adding a significant allowance to an oval shape. On Pinterest I’ve seen the “tie an elastic band around two pencils to add seam allowance” photo (which I’m sure works great!) but I needed a bigger allowance than that.

Normally I’d just use a ruler and measure out the extension at a variety of points and then join up the points, but I wanted a quicker method because I needed to do it a few times, so I pulled out my high school math geometry set, and used the compass to add the extension. Of course I checked the depth of the extension at a few points just to double-check, but it worked great!

I just wanted to share this tip for anyone else who might be working on drafting millinery patterns! Let me know if it comes in handy!

A (twisted) Mad Hatter’s Hat Pattern

Quick concept sketch for my twisted mad hatter's hat.

Quick concept sketch for my twisted mad hatter’s hat.

Inspired by the figures of polymer clay artist Nicole West, I started off with this hat with a concept sketch. Honestly, the sketch wasn’t much at all – just something to keep me on track. I wanted to do a top-hat, but without a proper block this wouldn’t really work, so instead I would go with a Wellington design – similar to the classic Mad Hatter’s hat.

The Wellington is one of several kinds of top hats, but lacks the hourglass shape – instead it has a “V” shape, having a larger tip than the headband. You might remember the miniature Wellington I made a while back – before I took the millinery class.

The pattern

With the open tip, I knew that this hat would lack some integrity, plus if I wanted to have something sitting inside the hat (I was thinking of either making my own March Hare or White Rabbit, or perhaps buying one of the Cheshire Cats from the Disney store) I would need to have it sit on something other than my head.  With this in mind, I decided to have an internal Pillbox hat inside the Wellington. This would give the hat the structure it would need, would let it sit properly on my head, and would give the critter inside somewhere to sit.

This means I’d need:

  • A Pillbox band
  • A Pillbox tip
  • A Wellington band
  • A Wellington tip
  • A Wellington brim

I’ve sketched up a quick illustration kind of what the pattern pieces look like. This is so TOTALLY not to scale, so if you want to make your own, you’ll need to draft the pattern yourself, based on your measurements, the desired height of your hat, and the desired width of the top of your Wellington, along with the width of your brim.

Open Tip Wellington hat pattern

Open Tip Wellington hat pattern

In the above illustration, the first oval is the Pillbox tip. The second is the Wellington tip, and the open oval is the brim of the Wellington.  The long rectangle is the Pillbox band, while the curved shape represents the band for the Wellington.

The letters indicate which areas are going to match up with others, so, A-B is half the head size, C-D is half the size of the Wellington tip. The Pillbox and Wellington band heights are your choice – I originally made the pattern for the Wellington band about 4″ taller, tried on the paper pattern, and then trimmed it down.

Stay tuned, soon I’ll show you some of the construction details for this hat. Keep following the Mad Hatter`s Tea Party category for all of the upcoming posts!


June 2014 update

This post has been getting a LOT of attention from my friends over at Pinterest – but I’ve noticed a few people have pinned the pattern as a top-hat pattern… Just to clarify, if you use the bottom curved piece, plus the middle large oval, plus the brim, you’ll get a Wellington-style top hat – if you want one with straight sides, you’ll use the straight band, smaller oval tip, and the same brim. If you use the pattern – please post a comment and share your results!

Kiss-frame coin purse

Kiss-frames or kiss-clasps have a cute name for a simple, commonly-used item. It’s that clasp most commonly used on coin purses or larger hand-held purses, where the two sides are pressed apart with a bit of a twist, and pushed back together again. The two sides fit together (like lovers perhaps…?) in an inter-connected way when the frame is closed.

completed kiss-frame coin purse

completed kiss-frame coin purse

You can purchase kiss-frames in two styles, the glue-in and the sew-on style. (Read Sew Make Believe to see an example of the glue-in frame.) With the sew on style (as shown above) you finish the top edge, and then hand-sew the fabric to the frame through the series of punched holes.  This style feels very secure, and if your stitching is neat, looks very clean.

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A Steampunk in Tokyo

When I started thinking about my “Mysterious Sub-continent Steampunk” costume, I couldn’t help also think about an Asian-inspired Steampunk costume as well.  I thought about doing a bit of research to start off to see a) if there are interesting things already being done b) if anything appeals to me, and c) if there’s anything I really want to do…

From Fragile Whispers - click for original

To start off – one of the images that first got me thinking about this was from Fragile Whispers on Deviant Art.  I agree – I think this would be a sweet costume to make – though if I were going to make something like this, I’d make some significant changes for myself and my own body-type.  I like the colours (for Steampunk that is) with the golds/browns/creams/etc contrasting with the small touches of blue.  I like the corset and the bodice top, along with the bustle-like overskirt.  The front panel really does make it more Asian, along with the closures on the bodice, however beyond those touches it really requires the styling for the “Asian” element to come through. Still, what a great inspirational image!

From Laui Lashire - click for original

Next up, another image from Deviant Art, this time from an artist Laui Lashire.  I don’t think the art in this piece is as successful, though I really do like some of the elements she’s captured.  I love the kimono sleeves (with the banded top), the harness, the bustled overskirt/apron, and the wrap-front top.  This definitely feels more ‘modern’ steampunk vs. Victorian steampunk though, and I think I’m leaning more to the Victorian side of things…

This next one I LOVE.  It’s very much comic/graphic novel/illustration style though – more about the ‘story’ than what she’s actually wearing (which means that it’s often hard to interpret). This is from Mongrel’s Sister on Deviant Art. I think it’s the details in the image below that really work for me – the extra-large brass grommets on her tall boots with the embellished heel – along with the little peacock knot covers… the neck collar with the bow and cameo, the smoking headpiece with cogs and clock hands…  and despite the intense colour (which the artist says is slightly different from the expected Steampunk colour scheme) I adore the colours as well – the red looks so lush and ornate…  (I don’t totally dig the mis-matched eyeshadow or the bow tied in the front for the obi, but I digress…)

From Mongrels Sister on Deviant Art - click for original

Also from Deviant Art I thought I’d share a photo of a costume – I think this one is a little more on the nose than I’d like to go for, but I can appreciate the thought behind it. This is the Steampunk Kimono from Tanya.  Another that I found, but didn’t love enough to post an image (but still wanted to include for reference sake) is by artist Pooling Waters, and his Steampunk Geisha.

From O.F.A - click for original

Another image like the one above – where it’s more cartoon-y and less realistic is from the “Opium Fashion Agency” which appears to be clothing for computer game characters.  I only understand this in theory, having never played these games nor had any interest in playing… but nonetheless – cool costume!  I can’t say that I love the British flag use – though I can see this becoming a beautiful contrasting fabric instead. (Click here for a super-large version.)  There are some really cool details in this costume too – the little tiny hat, the tiny ‘Chinese lantern’ hair sticks, the neck corset, the gears/chain/keys embellished corset, the bustle…  There are also some elements I don’t care for as much – the bustle doesn’t seem to go anywhere -there are red bows at the sides for all of the pleating – but it’s nowhere to be seen in the front, and I don’t like the tiers of ruffles on the sleeves.  Still I think it’s a really interesting interpretation of the theme.

From Nerf Gun Bobbins - click for original

Next up… now this is really interesting!  From Nerf Gun Bobbins, a geisha costume from a contest.  I think it’s the strapping that really makes this one work… using a traditional kimono shape, with kimono fabric, and then adding the strapping and buckles to connect pieces and transform the overall structure into something quite different.  On the downside, as a Steampunk costume I don’t love the colour combination, but like the overall effect.  This too is a bit more modern than I think I would want to do – though I can definitely see how this could be adapted by making the length longer (my heart dreams of floor length, but the part of me that hates having my dress stepped on will settle for ankle-length), adding a bustle, perhaps doing something in the neckline area.. etc…

On Craftster there’s a costume (top) taking a straight jacket, cut in Asian-inspired brocade, and with a small bustle added into the ‘tail’ of the jacket.  It’s not what I want to do, but I thought it was interesting enough to include as well.

DragonFly Designs - click for original version

I would be foolish to try to put together any inspiration post for Asian-inspired Steampunk without including a photo from DragonFly Design’s Steampunk Geisha.  I adore pretty much everything she’s done here from the colour scheme (although I can’t say I’d be able to wear that golden-green shot dupioni silk corset!) to the cut, to the accessories.  It seems like a beautiful fusion of Victorian Steampunk and Asian.  With this outfit, it really is the accessories that sell it – though the costume itself is wonderful too.  Click the link to see more photos in-progress as well as lots of up-close photos of the accessories and back views with a beautiful bustle.

Years ago I found a post and some photos by a woman who made a Victorian Polonaise out of sushi-print fabric, and although this isn’t what I actually want to make, it certainly has some of the flavor of what I have in mind.  I hunted and hunted over the web, thinking I remembered it from the Great Pattern Review Truly Victorian page, but after not finding it there, and being curious about the other patterns, I finally found it on the Past Patterns page instead. The #904 – 1880’s Polonaise and Walking Skirt is near the bottom of the page – click the link for a photo.

So – jumping off from there, I think that Truly Victorian TV410 – 1873 Polonaise would be a good start for a pattern, and I love 1880 Split Pannier Overskirt… though I don’t know how it would look on me.  Ah.. I think sketching needs to come before patterns!

So… do you have any other ideas – cool photos or interesting links to share?  Please send them via the comments at the bottom of this post!