I’m so excited to be contributing a review for Fall 2014’s Purse-Palooza — I love making bags, and this gave me an excuse to buy yet another bag pattern!
I’ve been sighing wistfully at U-Handbag‘s It’s a Cinch! Tote ever since it was released — I love both its boxy and cinched shapes, and its simple but smart-looking straps just make me happy. The only reason I’d held off on trying it out was that it’s not explicitly designed to be cross-body (important when chasing small kiddos, hehe). It would be easy just to clip on a cross-body strap to the cinching hooks at the end, although I’m not sure if that would pull the bag out of shape. Anyway, on to the review!
I really love the bag I made from this pattern; its simple and classy design is fantastic! Bags with completely closed top zippers are my favorite — even though I tend to leave them open all the time, it’s nice knowing that I could secure my things if I wanted to. ;D Since the single external pocket is an inset zipper one, this bag is perfect for featuring a large, fun print because you don’t have to worry about pattern-matching an open pocket. Also, this is actually pretty simple to sew… if you can understand the instructions. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend this for raw beginners, not because the bag itself is hard to make, but because I feel like the way the pattern is written would not give a completely newnewnew sewer a pleasant experience.
A note about supplies
The pattern calls for 1 yard each of the exterior and lining fabrics; however, I was able to make my bag using just half a yard of each. The only reason you’d need more than 1/2 a yard of the lining fabric is if you reeeeeally care about having your pockets match (which I don’t, as you’ll see). The pattern also neglects to call for some elastic, which is necessary if you want to make the included elasticated internal pocket.
Roadmap to the pattern steps
I’ve made a good number of bags, so I often don’t read instructions very thoroughly since I pretty much know what to do once I have a general idea of what’s going on. For this pattern review, though, I did make sure to read each step… and then I generally ended up more confused than if I’d skimmed. In case it’s helpful for anyone (it would have been for me), here’s a summary of what the sets of steps are meant to explain:
- 5-8: sew fabric tabs to the ends of the main zipper (the one on the top of the bag)
- 9-16: make the inset zipper pocket on one of the exterior panels
- 17: baste fleece to exterior panels
- 18-20: make and attach the four straight straps to the exterior panels
- 21-24: make the elasticated patch pocket and attach it to one lining panel
- 25-27: sew the main zipper to the tops of the exterior and lining panels
- 28: sew the side and bottom edges of the exterior and lining panels, but not the corners
- 29-31: insert cinch loops and box the corners
- 32-33: turn and finish bag, make and attach shoulder straps
About the pattern
I want to stress again that the It’s a Cinch tote comes out adorable! Unless this is the very first bag you’ll be sewing, I don’t want to dissuade people from trying this out because it gives you a really cute bag. But here I go with the specific comments I have about the pattern…
Pattern formatting and other stuff
Pro: The pattern comes with a coupon code for 10% off your first order at U-Handbag! I’m not quite sure how this works since this pattern may have been your first purchase there (I haven’t tried using the discount), but still: coupon code!
Pro: there are both metric and imperial measurements!
Pro: it sure doesn’t take a lot of paper to print the instructions! The whole thing, including the template diagram, is only 7 pages long. Also, there are (mostly) helpful pictures to accompany almost every step. However, the low page count is possible because of the odd formatting — the pictures are never next to the written step they illustrate, and they are almost always on a different page! This is the largest flaw with the pattern; I would have preferred to print out a couple more pages in order to have written instructions and their relevant pictures next to each other.
Pro: the instructions are written in a conversational tone that some might find pleasant.
Con: this is sometimes used to excuse pictures that should have been retaken (Figures 1, 2, and 8, I’m looking at you). Also, this is not great for people who prefer terse instructions for skimmable clarity.
The cutting instructions were not presented in an order or format that made it easy to glance over and see what to cut next. One was:
2 x 7 1/2″ (W) x 9″ (H) (19cm x 23cm) lining fabric for the exterior pocket
I would have found it much easier to read as:
- (2) 7 1/2″ W x 9″ H (19cm x 23cm) – exterior pocket lining
Other stuff: As designed, the main zipper’s raw edges are exposed inside the bag. I’m sure that this is intentional since you already have to sew through a lot of layers at the corners, but I just wanted to point it out.
- Step 5: The first sentence is, “Take the zip and fully close it.” There are two zippers used in this bag, and the instructions don’t specify which zipper we should be using. Step 5 refers to the main zipper.
- Step 10: I suspect that the pattern designer might be the kind of person who folds bag pieces to find the center, and I do that too! However, not everyone sews like that, so I think patterns should include both down-from-top and in-from-side measurements for pockets and the like; this pattern neglects to include some in-from-side measurements. The pocket lining in step 10 should be placed 6 1/2″ in from the sides.
- Step 19: Similar to step 10, the in-from-sides measurement is omitted; the bag straps can be placed 6 1/8″ in from the side.
Despite my issues with the instructions, I love the design of this bag and am planning to make more (once I get more swivel clips, heh). The It’s a Cinch tote makes a nice medium-sized bag with not too much fabric, and it’s actually a quick and satisfying sew. Also, now I can apply the box-the-corners zipper end finish to other bags in order to convert open totes to zippered ones — that alone makes this pattern worth it! 🙂