Purse Palooza :: Pattern Review : The Social Tote

This post is part of Purse Palooza 2013.
For full schedule of guest post pattern reviews and prizes, click here!
Kerry of verykerryberry is the co-author of 500 Quilt Blocks, which was just released on October 1st. I saw some of the sneak peaks on Kerry’s blog, and the book looks amazing (and I can’t believe how many items the girls sewed for this one!). It appears to be the ultimate reference on quilt blocks!

I loved Purse Palooza the first time round: reviews of some of the most popular bag and purse patterns around and an introduction to some new ones, so I leapt at the chance when Sara got in touch with details of Purse Palooza 2.  I took part in a The Sewing Room Swap a few months back and The Social Tote made it on to a huge number of inspiration mosiacs, including mine, so I got myself on to Etsy, tracked the pattern down (it can be tricky to find) and got to work.

This pattern uses Soft and Stable to create the structure of the tote.  It is a caddy style project so it needs form.  Soft and Stable is just becoming available in UK and it is pricey but  it does give great shaping as I found when I made Sara’s Aeroplane Bag. I bought enough to make 2 maybe 3 from here and here and you can read more about it as a product here.  There are no pattern pieces with this pattern, instead there are detailed cutting instructions and diagrams.    The pattern is all about precision as a lot of the seams are sewn from dot to dot to create the 3D structure so you would need some sewing experience to produce a decent tote.  In all honesty, I would have preferred this pattern as a PDF download.  For those of us outside  USA, buying patterns is costly with high postage charges and this pattern is hard to find at the moment wherever you are.   I bought it from this Etsy seller.
The cutting instructions are very detailed and it is best cut and labelled all in one go so you don’t lose track of which part is which- there are a lot of pieces.  I starched the linen before I cut it to make it easier to handle.  Labelling is essential, trust me, don’t skip it!   I made two Social Totes simultaneously so I had one to swap and one to keep. The pattern is very systematic and I followed the same approach working through the instructions and doing everything twice to make both totes.  I tried to time the project so each time I worked on it I could finish a complete step without a break.  The pattern is black and white with labelled diagrams plus a web link to additional online photos which help you through the inner section construction process.  It is very clever and there is an ‘aha!’ moment when the different parts fit together but I did have to look at the diagrams and photos a lot of times to get my head round it.  Persist, it is worth it!
I used the Horizon 7700 accufeed foot (which is a walking foot) throughout.  As with any bag, there are lots of layers to deal with the the accufeed is wonderful on projects like this.  Lee has a very helpful post on this foot and related feet here.  I had a breakthrough moment when quilting the outer side panel sections and realised I could chain quilt.  This saved a lot of time and gave me more consistent quilting than I usually produce!

For the handles, I used a little basting glue to hold the layers together before top stitching  I changed the width slightly to fit in the fabric prints.

The outer pocket is shaped and this is the only pattern piece that you need to reproduce from the instructions so I traced it on to freezer paper so I could iron it on and sew round it.

The hardest part of the project for me for me was attaching the binding.  Fitting the large Horizon foot into and around the internal sections was too hard but my Featherweight and its narrow foot fitted in perfectly.
The finished tote needed a few hand stitches to secure the lining and pockets to the outer panels and make it look neat and tidy.
Another option at this stage is to either add a line of top stitching at the pockets or pinch the corners together with a few stitches.

This is the version I did for my swap partner, complete with a pincushion that fits snuggly in one of the pockets (instructions for this included with the pattern).

It is a great tote, really useful.  I have this version below which I use to keep my most used items to hand and another version that I received in the same swap from Sil and use as my hand sewing basket and carry round the house.

It is the sort of pattern that I am grateful for someone else designing as there is a lot to think about just following the instructions, never mind working out all the dimensions, and the finished result did make me punch the air.

Enjoy the rest of Purse Palooza 2013, it is a great resource when you want to try a new pattern but want an idea of what you are getting yourself into.   Thank you to Sara for organizing and for inviting me to be a part of it, check out Tiffany’s blog for the Palooza giveaways and thank you to the sponsors for their generous prizes.  Happy sewing for those of you linking up!
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