Hope everyone is safe and dry this morning. I’m working from home today as it’s a long walk from the office if the subway loses power. It’s just as well; sounds like the neighbourhood I work in is a sh*t show this morning with downed power lines, outages, a fire investigation and suspended streetcar service.

So I’m taking this opportunity before I start work to blog about the bag I made recently.

Now that it’s fall and approaching winter, shoulder bags tend to slide off my shoulder due to slippery trenchcoats and puffy down vests. (I know. More first world problems.) So I shopped around for a cross-body bag but couldn’t find anything I liked. I wanted something light, simple, large enough for all my stuff but not too large, and made from canvas. I don’t eat meat and thus try to avoid leather, and I’ve found that synthetic materials eventually tear at the seams under the weight of all my crap. (Matt&Nat bags being the exception.)

Then I realized that I could easily make my own.


This bag is a mashup of Bag’n-telle’s Utility Tote and Not So Fancy Nancy’s Very Easy Tote Bag. I’ve always liked the design of the Utility Tote, but I wanted it to be lined. Not So Fancy Nancy explains how to do it pretty well in her tutorial.


I had a pet rabbit for about ten years. I had two, in fact, but one lived in the bedroom. (They didn’t get along.) This pink fabric is from an IKEA cotton jersey duvet cover that Otis put one too many holes in. He liked to jump on the bed and dig. Because of his claws of fury, I have a ton of fabric that had once been IKEA duvet covers.

Here you see where I’ve pinned down an inside pocket, as well as my makeshift pincushion. I have no idea where my regular pincushion is. It should be at my parents’ house, but I haven’t been able to find it.


Attaching the facing to the lining. The skull-and-crossbones fabric is a canvas I found in a store on Queen West. I’d had my eye on it for a while but couldn’t justify buying a yard without having a project in mind. I actually searched Queen for a military-style green canvas first–I have way too many things with skulls on them–but couldn’t find any I liked.


I’ve had these magnetic snaps for years, but had never tried using them until now. It was easier than I’d thought. I should have done a better job at centering them vertically, though. At the time I thought, “What’s an extra 1/16th of an inch?” 1/16th of an inch is a visible difference.


Sew external pieces and interior pieces together. I cut a shorter rectangle of the exterior fabric and sandwiched it in to create an outside pocket. I left a gap in the bottom of the lining for turning. I could have turned it at the top of the bag instead (like Not So Fancy Nancy shows) and created a seamless product, but I figured it would be more of a pain in the ass. The cotton jersey is stretchy and resilient and could hold up well to all the straps and hardware passing through.


Mitering the corners.


Getting ready to baste the bag handles to the exterior piece. The webbing was too thick for pins, so I used masking tape.


Creating the shoulder strap. (I referenced a laptop bag to figure out how to put it through the slide buckle.)


The exterior bag with handles and strap basted on.


Slide lining over exterior bag, with right sides together. Line up seams and sew all along the top.


Reinforce all handles and straps by sewing boxes with X’s in them, and sew up the gap in the lining. And it is done. At the time I thought that topstitching with pink thread would be a nice accent…only my topstitching is pretty wobbly. I eventually figured out that my thread tension was off, but it’s still not perfect. This is why I can never sell on Etsy, or work in a sweatshop.

Now that it’s too late to fix anything, I can see all the things I should have done: install a magnetic snap in the external pocket or stitch down the middle so it doesn’t gape; shorten the shoulder strap (although it’s adjustable, it’s much longer than it needs to be); center the main bag compartment’s snaps; sew the lining together with a larger seam allowance (it’s a little baggy inside the exterior fabric); and topstitch with black thread to hide my sloppy sewing.

All-in-all, though, I’m very happy with the bag, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to make a mark 2.0 soon.