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Gardening tote

This post was on Sara’s blog exactly a year go  http://www.sewsweetness.com/2013/10/purse-palooza-pattern-review-lotta.html.  I reposting it here for posterity.

Purse Palooza :: Pattern Review : Lotta Jansdotter’s Gardening Tote

Gardening Tote Finished

While I’m usually a quilter and not a bag-maker or garment-sewer, I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of Purse Palooza this year because I’ve been wanting to make the Gardening Tote from Lotta Jansdotter’s book Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing for quite some time. In fact, when I took the pattern peices out of the envelope at the back of my book, I discovered that I had already cut out the pieces for this bag.

There is just something so pleasing about this simple tote!

Gardening Tote Finished

First off, let me say that if I were to make this bag again, I would definitely use interfacing so that the bag stands up on it’s own.  I really wanted this bag to be more of a bucket/basket and not a floppy thing.

I’ve stuffed it for most of these pictures so that it has shape.  It’s a bit pathetic when empty.

Gardening Tote is floppy

Overall impression of the pattern:  I like the bag that this pattern produces (I’d love it with some interfacing), but the instructions need some work.

Gardening Tote Pattern is in this book

What fabric and supplies are needed to make the bag?
The pattern calls for 2 yards of heavyweight cotton fabric.  This is actually a bit weird because it assumes you are going to line the bag with the same fabric you’re using for the exterior.  This is not what is shown in the picture for the bag, however, which clearly has a brown exterior and a red/white interior.  The pattern really should list the yardages separately.

Gardening Tote Pattern

You need 1.75 yards of 1″ twill tape.  This is what goes around the tops of the exterior pockets.  It would be helpful if the pattern said what the twill tape was for because I had assumed the twill tape would be inside the handles, so I wasn’t concerned about the color.  Since it actually goes on the exterior, the color matters.  I ended up just binding the top of my pockets like a quilt, using quilting fabrics.

My fabric selections: I’ve used fabric from my stash–Ikea upholstery fabric for the exterior, a Kaffe Fassett print called “paperweight” for the interior, a Carolyn Friedlander print called “blueprint” to bind the top of the pockets, and an unknown print for the handles.

Impressions of the instructions and illustrations:

The instructions are flawed.  
(a) fabric cutting confusion.
In STEP 1: B:  There are two separate lists of what to cut from your fabric.
When making my bag, I thought for a minute that I had lost my place and was rereading an old section,  eventually I figured out that in the first section you are cutting fabric using the paper pattern pieces and in the second section, you are cutting fabric without using pattern pieces (because they are simple rectangles.)  At least it does point out which pieces are for the interior of the bag.

(b) the pleats
I honestly have no idea what my pleats were supposed to look like.  The illustration was not helpful because it didn’t seem to correspond in any way to the location of the pleats which I had copied from the pattern piece.  I did my best to follow the directions, and ended up with a pocket panel that was way too wide.  I just ended up putting extra pleats in in order to get the Front Pocket piece to be the same width as the Front Panel pattern piece.  It worked in the end, but I was very confused and not sure it would turn out well.

(c) incomplete instructions for side panels
In STEP 4, you attach the pockets to the exterior of the tote.  However the instructions only have you sew the pieces together (the sides to the front, etc).  The front and back pockets should be subdivided by running some addional seams up them.  This isn’t mentioned in the instructions (though the markings are on the pattern pieces and the picture of the finished project makes those seams obvious.)

My modifications:
As mentioned above, I used a quilting fabric to bind the top of the exterior pockets rather than twill tape.  The fabric I used for the lining was also lighter than the pattern calls for, which probably didn’t help with my floppiness problem!

Difficulty level: 
Given the flaws in the instructions, I don’t think this is a beginner bag.  I think that if the pattern were better written, it could be a good bag for beginners as it comes together fairly quickly and you’re rarely wrestling with more than two layers of fabric.

As it stands, however, I think having made a few bags before would help the sewist power through the weird and missing bits in the instructions.

Overall, I do think it produced a nice-looking and useful bag (even more so if you were to attach interfacing to the exterior fabric when making the bag.)
Gardening Tote
I plan on using mine to tote my hand-sewing to and from friends’ houses!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. This was one of my very first sewing books… and I still own it! 🙂 I have not yet made this bag but good to know about the flaws in the instructions. I love how yours turned out, in spite of the lack of instruction clarity.

  2. Thanks for an astute review. I hate the on-line trend of EVERYTHING being all sunshine and lollipops and let's be friends. It is therefore refreshing to see an honest assessment of what works and doesn't. Thanks! And nice bag, even with troubles making it.

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