Purse Palooza :: Pattern Review: Lisa Lam For Pleat’s Sake! Tote Bag

This post is part of Purse Palooza 2012.
For full schedule of guest post pattern reviews and prizes, click here!

Bianca from Sweet Diesel Designs is a *fabulous* girl that I melt at Quilt Market…she’s just awesome!  She just wrapped up the Prism Patchwork Quilt Along on her blog, and if you missed that, I’m sure she’ll be cooking up something super-fun again soon! Check it out!!

Hello there! I am Bianca from Sweet Diesel Designs. I am thrilled that Sara asked me to join in on Purse Palooza! I just love to have any excuse to sew and what girl doesn’t like a new purse? 🙂

Today I am reviewing the free tutorial “For Pleats Sake! Tote Bag” by Lisa Lam at U-handbag. When I saw this bag in Amy Butler’s marketing pictures at Spring Quilt Market, I knew that I had to make this bag. So here we go…

Materials Needed:
I chose to use quilting cotton for my bag. I went through my stash and wanted to use a fabric that screamed summer…the winner was a combination of Art Gallery’s Rhapsodia and Blender fabric.

Interfacing is a very important step in this pattern. I used Pellon SF-101 Shape Flex, Pellon Midweight to Heavyweight Fusible Interfacing and Fusible Fleece. {And if you haven’t checked out Sara’s post on Bag Interfacing…it is extremely helpful.}

I used the same bag straps that the pattern recommends. Lisa Lamm has a wonderful shop but she did not carry the color of straps that I wanted, so I ordered them from etsy. I also needed a thimble to help push the needle through so many layers so that I did not ruin my fingertips, and yes, they were still sore afterwards.
Two other things that I found to be very helpful was Pilot Frixion Pen and a ruler!

Pattern Pieces:
This pattern is a free tutorial download. The pattern pieces are not included but are a simple landscape rectangle. I was able to easily measure and cut the pattern with a rotary cutter, ruler and mat.

I was extremely impressed and thankful for the illustrations and instructions. There are 25 steps and 16 pictures that coincide with the instructions. I have made other tutorial and designer patterns and have had to make changes quite often. So I was actually shocked that I didn’t have to make any adjustments. There was only one thing that I would have liked to have seen explained with clearer instructions. The pattern gave the term “concertina” {similar to an accordian fold…think old timey plastic lampshade} to explain the pleats. Even though I read the instructions before making the first cut, I don’t want to have to go and look up a term. I want it to be explained in the instructions. So if you make the pattern, know that the inner most mark for the pleat is where the fold needs to be and it will be 3/4″ deep.

I did make a couple of changes to the bag. I carry everything and the kitchen sink in my purse. Soooo…I changed my interfacing to accommodate my need of a sturdy bag. I used 1 layer of Shape Flex 101 and 1 layer of Midweight to Heavyweight Fusible Interfacing on the exterior pieces of fabric and 1 layer of Fusible Fleece on the interior fabric. I like for my bags to be able “stand up.”
The other thing that I changed was the direction of the pleats. The pattern calls for all of the pleats to go in the same direction. I changed the pleats to face the center…3 pleats faced right and 3 pleats faced left. Having the pleats face the center is a personal preference.
I did use the same leather bag straps that the pattern recommends. However, it called to use tapestry thread to sew them onto the bag. I chose to use #8 perle cotton because I could not find tapestry thread. I also chose to backstitch through the straps twice to make sure that they would hold up to the normal daily use that this bag will get.

I originally thought that I would like to have an interior pocket and a magnetic closure. However, once I began the construction of the bag, I realized that a pocket would interfere with the pleats. Also, I saw that a magnetic closure was not needed.

I would say that this pattern is for an intermediate sewist. The pleats may be a little tricky for the beginner sewist. But sewing the “v” on the side edges are difficult to put together making sure that the seams match. I would never discourage a confident beginner from trying this bag. It would be a challenge and the new techniques learned, would be good to have in your back pocket.

I loved this pattern! Truly…I have already begun thinking that I will make another for the Fall. The pattern describes this bag as a “perfect bag for all of your day trips” and I totally agree. It is extremely roomy and I have already loaded it down with quite a few items and it is really sturdy. Though I would have loved to have an interior pocket for my cell phone, it is not a deal breaker. The straps are the perfect length to where I can get it over my shoulder just by using one arm. The straps are time consuming when you have to hand-sew them and your finger tips might be sore after it is all said and done. But totally worth it!

One thing that I found to be extremely important is to take the time needed to prepare your exterior and interior fabrics before the actual bag construction begins. Once everything is prepared, the bag went together smoothly.

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