Here's a thing about living in Manhattan - I'm always schlepping a ton of things around as I walk from one destination to another around the city. Gym clothes. Groceries. Compost (I dump bags of it at Union Square every week). Purchases. Returns. Sewing box and fabric. Everything, really. You name it, I'm hauling it at some point in the week.
All that stuff I'm dragging around gets real heavy. Not to mention awkward if I end up with multiple bags.
I've been on a quest to find the perfect spacious, lightweight, durable workhorse of a tote for ages. Got a bunch of bags on rotation but I had a gripe against all of them. Straps too long. Straps too short. Bag too small to be functional. Bag big enough but made of such heavy material, my back hurts when I carry it empty. Nice lightweight tote but.... no zipper pocket to throw keys/phone into... or maybe just plain ugly...
Even though I have a plethora of fancy totes, the one bag I found myself using the most was this free Lululemon shopping bag. Super light weight and durable with a great boxy shape. But of course... I had some issues with it as well...
...like...I'd prefer a plain bag that didn't turn me into a walking advertisement for their store...
I also needed something big enough to handle my sewing box and a pile of fabric...
Then it dawned on me...
I am taking sewing lessons... I could make my own tote bag... duh!
I drew up my list of must haves and discussed it with my awesome sewing instructor, Nasya (from The Sewing Studio).
- Rich grey color. In wool felt or suiting material?
- Rectangular base.
- Big and strong enough to hold a weighty sewing box and a selection of fabric (that's the bulkiest set of stuff I need to travel around with at one time each week).
- The bag itself would have to be light weight.
- Flexibility to either attach handles the standard tote bag way to be carried on my shoulder or across the bag opening to be carried on the crook of my arm like a picnic basket.
- Zipper pocket inside the bag to hold keys, phone & metrocard
Since this bag is not one of my salvage projects, Nasya next gave me a list of stores where I could buy the necessary fabric, notions and hardware. Before we could make, I went on an exploring adventure through a myriad of little shops in the garment district. So much fun.... but I think I'll wax eloquent on that another time...
Finally, we measured out, cut and sewed my dream giant tote bag.
Here's a question... could I have made this tote without all the sewing lessons?
Well... I most definitely could have put something together. But it wouldn't have been nearly as good. Yes, I could figure out how to cut out the right dimensions. I could have sewn on simple handles, but I wouldn't have been bold enough to work with the hardware we used. Nor would I have attempted a zippered pocket on my own. Nothing would have been as neat or as precise. Having someone who knew what she was doing guiding me through the details made all the difference between hacker job and a product that... dare I say... looks store bought?!
Had an incredibly proud moment the first time I used my new tote. I went straight from sewing to picking up my kids from school. As I entered the school, another mom (whom I've always admired as quite fashionable) took one look at me and then exclaimed, "Great bag! I love it!" I felt like a million bucks as I flashed a big goofy grin at her and answered, "Thanks! I made it."