Purse Palooza :: Pattern Review: Noodlehead 241 Tote

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

Hi there, I’m Katy and I blog over at The Littlest Thistle where you can see an eclectic selection of makes from teddy bears to bags, from clothes to quilts and even fabric printing recently!  The lovely Anna at Noodlehead must have some of the most popular bag patterns in the blogosphere, and there was a bit of a fight over who was getting to review the 241 tote (all I can say is, you snooze in the wrong time zone, you lose ;o) ), but I won, and here’s my review (apologies for the lack of cute model to show these off, my options were the door or my hairy male flatmate…)

Trio Of 241 Totes

So to the pattern:

Pattern Name: 241 Tote

Designer:  Anna Graham from Noodlehead

Pattern Type: Downloadable PDF, available here

Can bags made from this pattern be sold?: Yes, with credit to Anna as stated in the pattern, on a home-based production scale

Different views?: There are two options, one with zipped outer pockets, and one with side outer pockets

Difficulty level: The option with the side pockets would be easy enough for a confident beginner, and the zip pocket option would suit a more advanced beginner/intermediate bag maker

Fabrics needed:
1 1/2 yards total for the outer and lining –  you can, with some judicious cutting, get the co-ordinating pieces out of fat quarters of non-directional prints, other than the strap piece.  To do this, you need to flip the pattern piece over and overlap them as shown below:

241 Tote Possible Cutting Layout

I would really only recommend quilting weight cotton for this bag if you are using interfacing too, although you could get away with a home decor weight non-interfaced outer as well I think.  If you are intending to use much heavier weight fabric, be concious of what your machine is capable of sewing through – if you are using the side pocket option, when attaching the sides to the main piece, you are going through 4 layers of fabric, and when top stitching you will be going through 5 layers.  If you just saw your machine quake at the prospect, stick with the quilting cotton!

Interfacings needed:
1 1/2 yards woven fusible interfacing – the pattern calls for Pellon, which is most common in the US, however I found the packaged Pellon (which was kindly sent to me by Sara for a project some time ago) was much narrower than the rolls of Vilene that I get in my local fabric shop, so if you are buying off the roll you could get away with about 1/2 yard.

Now if I can make one plea, it’s that for the love of god you don’t skimp on the interfacing!  Interfacing is what gives a bag structure, and the many types available have very different effects on the finished product.  Sara has a good overview here  but basically if you want your bag to have nice flexible sides like this one should, then use woven interfacing, which is basically cotton with adhesive on one side.  The other interfacing types which are more of a papery texture are generally used for more rigid structures, or in dressmaking for hard wearing areas.  Woven interfacing is slightly more expensive than similar weights of non-woven, but really, it’s worth it, as it gives a much nicer finish! 

Notions needed: 

  • Magnetic snap – for all views
  • 2 zips – for the zipped pocket view
  • small squares of heavy interfacing and batting for the magnetic snaps – these are not mentioned in the requirements, but are shown in photos and mentioned in the pattern body

Pattern pieces: 
On the last 3 pages of the pattern (ensure you print single sided!) The 2 larger pieces are in 2 sections, stuck together along a dotted line.  Make sure when printing that you have NOT got the ‘scale to fit’ option set, and don’t worry, it fits fine on A4 paper if you are outside North America.


  • There are no cutting layout instructions, so you have to decide for yourself how to do this.  Just remember that if you need to get a strap piece out of a particular fabric, cut that first to remove any temptation to carry on slicing up the fabric from the top of the pattern pieces (ask me how I know this ;o) ) .  I would also suggest you use ‘pattern weights’ rather than pins to hold the pattern pieces down.  A pattern weight is basically just something small and heavy to hold the paper down as you cut round it with a rotary cutter following the edges of the paper, and using this method ensures you get fabric pieces closest to the paper originals – pins can distort the fabric and pattern pieces quite badly, especially when using printer paper rather than tissue paper patterns.
241 Tote Possible Cutting Layout
Ghetto pattern weights, which handily double up as storage thingummies!
  • Fusing the interfacing is ‘as per manufacturers instructions’ – this is standard pattern speak, but if you’ve bought off a roll you may not actually have obvious instructions with it!  Usually there is a guide printed along one edge with an iron symbol, the heat setting on the iron (like with clothing labels) and a time next to it, such as ‘ + 10 secs’.  It’s also a good idea to use a damp cloth when pressing it, and this is sometimes, but not always, mentioned too.
Photo courtesy of Nicole Mallalieu
  • Sewing the darts as marked on the pattern – if you’ve never sewn darts before, the rule of thumb is start at the fabric edge, with a couple of backstitches to hold it, and work to the point, where you tie off the thread rather than backstitching (as that creates additional bulk on the seam)

241 Tote Dart

For the rest of the steps there are plenty of photos to keep you going, but here are a few notes:

  • I use a walking foot when sewing bags to ensure the pieces don’t slip, especially on curve bits.  On the curved bits you need to go hedgehog like with the pins

241 Tote Pinned Side Piece

  • On the side pockets, you’re sewing an outer and lining piece together each time (which may seem obvious, but just wanted to say ;o) ).  I would suggest after topstitching the side pockets, that you baste the 2 pieces together before you baste them to the side pieces, to have less pieces wandering around.  When basting you’ll also want to turn it into a bit of a hedgehog:

241 Tote Pinned Side Pocket
241 Tote Basted Side Pocket

  • Don’t skimp on any of the topstitching, it gives the bag a nice professional finish – I usually go for about 1/8″ from the edge or seam that I am topstitching
  • If doing the zippered pockets, use very sharp scissors to cut the opening to ensure nice clean corners when the pocket is turned through.
  • Don’t skip clipping any of your curves, which involves cutting small V shaped notches into the seam allowance round curved seams, keeping them fairly close together, and which will give you a nice smooth curve when you turn your piece right side out.

241 Tote Side Clipped Seams

  • I would suggest adding the slip pocket before assembling the lining, which Anna suggests as an option after the description of stitching it on, also, clip the corners before turning.  To place it on the body piece, fold it in half along the fold line from the pattern, and fold the pocket in half, matching sides, then line up the fold marks.

Modifications I made:
Well I decided to try a variety of different options, so I made bags at 100%, 75% and 50% of the original size.  Here’s what I did to each of them:

  • On the 100% one, I decided to go with both the zippered and side pockets and made the strap longer and adjustable (thanks to Mary for that idea).  For this I needed an additional strap hardware – slide and 2 rings, and 2 6″ squares of fabric for the strap ends

Reunion 241 Tote

  • On the 75% one, I went with one zippered pocket only, made the strap at 100% length with the 75% width and used a regular sized, thin magnetic snap

Little Girl's 241 Tote

  • On the 50% one, I went with the side pockets only and used a small thin magnetic snap (thanks to Hadley for the idea of making different sizes, and from whom I knicked borrowed the main fabric choice)

Baby Prince Charming 241 Tote

** Don’t forget if you’re trying different sizes that the seam allowance will chance accordingly!  For the 50% one I did just go from 3/8″ down to 1/4″ however.

Reader questions: 
I asked my blog readers if there was anything they particularly wanted me to look at, and the zip option seemed to have some of them circling the ceiling, so over on my blog tomorrow I’ve done step by step photos and instructions of how I added one of the zips, and how I did the adjustable straps, plus another couple of questions for trouble shooting.

Like the many other satisfied customers, I do like this bag, and might be using the pattern to create my PIF gifts later in the year.  It’s a good size, and with an adjustable strap can be worn cross body as well as over the shoulder.  It has a good number of pockets, and if you combine the two options and widen it a bit you could have enough pockets to turn it into a trendy diaper bag like Bree did. Thank you Sara for finally giving me a reason to have to make up this pattern!

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