A couple of months ago, I wrote about a special Canadian themed blog tour that I was asked to be part of, and it’s finally happening! This tour brings together a group of talented bloggers, bag makers, pattern designers, and of course fabric purveyors, from coast to coast. It’s been a great way to learn about the sewing scene in Canada as well as about Canada itself, as we celebrate her 150th Birthday!
My Canada story starts like many others, as an immigrant. I moved to Canada in 2012, and became a permanent resident in 2014. The process took me three years and I was so relieved when it was finally over! I live in Montreal with my husband (a native Montrealer), and Quebec definitely has its own unique culture and history. In fact, Montreal used to be the textile hub of Canada, as it’s location on the St. Lawrence river lent itself nicely to the construction of mills and allowed for easy exportation of goods. While it’s textile center status has diminished, there are still reminders of the Garment District if you know where to look.
As a newcomer to Canada five years ago, I was legally unable to work (don’t worry, I’m legit now), so I got back into sewing, and, as many of us do, turned to online groups to find like minded people to communicate with. Sewing bags became my ‘thing’, and long story short, here I am! I’m really excited to be included in this tour, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know other sewers and designers.
In the bag making community, Emmaline Bags is a household name for patterns and hardware. I will admit, here and now, that although I own one or two Emmaline patterns, I had never sewn one before. So I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to jump in and try one. The Totes Ma Tote is the quintessential Emmaline bag, and deceptively quick and easy to sew. The large exterior surface area also allows for showcasing larger print fabrics. Janelle was easy to work with, and she immediately sent me a set of hardware for my special bag. The quality of the hardware is beyond compare, so I highly encourage you to purchase from her even if you’re not making an Emmaline pattern. (And if you’re in the US, then you MUST purchase from her since prices are in CAD and the exchange rate is definitely in your favor). And at the end of this post, you’ll have the chance to enter to win a copy of the Totes Ma Tote Pattern!! What?!?!
OK, pattern was picked, now it came down to the insurmountable task of choosing the right fabric. This was a special Canada 150 bag, so I wanted something that would be unique and meaningful. There are a few lines out there that have been designed for Canada 150, but they were difficult to source, and we don’t have any local fabric stores, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find anything in time. There was discussion in our blog tour group about using tartans that represent our respective provinces, and I loved this suggestion! Did you know that each province (and territory) has it’s own tartan? I had no idea!
Quebec hasn’t officially adopted their tartan weave, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it anyway. It was too dark for a summer bag, and I have always been drawn to bright colors. I did a little more research, and as soon as I saw the Yukon Tartan, I knew I’d found my fabric. I did some Googling, and ended up at yukontartan.ca, (derp), where I connected with Lois. She created the website, and when I asked her for assistance on purchasing some, she was beyond helpful and friendly. And in very Canadian fashion, when I explained why I needed the fabric, she offered to send me some for free. She even threw in some sew-in labels!
Lois has the tartan woven in Scotland, and then she sells it on her website. The colors represent different aspects of the Yukon, which is Canada’s westernmost territory, and really, they represent Canada to me too. Blue for water and sky, green for its forests, white for snow, magenta for fireweed, yellow for gold (remember the Gold Rush?), and purple for mountains. As far as I can tell, Lois is the only person you can contact to get your hands on some, so give her a shout!
My lining fabric had me a little more worried. I desperately wanted to use the Discover Canada fabric from Robert Kaufman, but the price and needing to have it shipped was a concern. So I went through my stash a few times and dug out this amazing moose fabric. (Of course I have moose fabric, I used to live in Minnesota). In the end, it fit perfectly with this bag project. How Canadian is moose fabric? And the green matched the tartan so well.
We’ve made it to the actual bag making, are you still with me? 🙂 There really isn’t a whole lot to say, since the pattern was great! I’ve been making bags for a few years now, so I sometimes forget that there are new things I can learn from a new pattern. Like, why have I never used purse feet before? I can tell you why; because I’m generally lazy and I feel like it’s an extra step. (It is an extra step). But I wanted to stay pretty close to the pattern this time since I was also reviewing the pattern. And I can tell you, that the feet are a really nice added touch.
The pattern can be wordy at times, but don’t fret, there are quite a lot of pictures as well for those of you who are more visual learners (like me). Sometimes you need both to make it stick. One thing I was concerned about was the corners on the exterior and lining. Normally patterns use a boxing technique to get those nice corners, but the Totes Ma Tote actually has you sew the rectangular base to the oval shape bag sides. I was really impressed with how this worked out, and the bottom corners are very sturdy. Here’s what I’m talking about:
I only made a few other minor changes; I skipped the inside pocket with the magnetic closure, simply because I didn’t need one. I only used 4 purse feet instead of 6, and if you do the math, you can get 3 bags out of 2 sets of purse feet this way. Just sayin’. In terms of future changes, I will most definitely use a different method for the straps. That was the part that gave me the most trouble. As in, I finished the entire bag and then let it sit for a month before I out the straps on. As in, I struggled with the grommets and eyelets so much that I may have thrown them across the room. I’d also had a rough day, so your results may vary.
The upside is that this bag only calls for 12 eyelets, but you get a pack of 50 from Emmaline, so you can literally do them each 4 times! Which I almost did! My tip for the grommets is that if you’re struggling with cutting out the circle/oval/square enough for your grommet, then just shoot for good enough. You can try and trim the excess afterwards, or in the case of the grommets from Emmaline, I used a seam ripper to tuck in the bits that were sticking out.
Another tip is I used a separating zipper, which I highly recommend. It makes sewing the zipper gusset much easier, and also allows you to open the purse wider when you separate the zipper. And here’s one last tip. As much as fusible foam would have you believe it’s fusible, it’s not. I’ve never been able to successfully fuse it to my exterior fabric; it always peels away at some point, usually while I’m handling it and sewing it. So just skip it and get non-fusible, it’s cheaper anyway.
The Totes Ma Tote is just the right size as well. Easy enough to wear over the shoulder or hold at arms length, and it carries a TON of stuff. We just went out of town for a wedding and I can’t even begin tell you all the things I crammed in there. I like large bags though, and this fits the bill. Did you notice too that I made 2 bags? I wanted to make a test bag first before cutting my nice tartan, and really, it’s not as though I had 87 other things I needed to be doing. So without further ado, (you hung in there, didn’t you?), here she is, the final product!
Friends, we’ve made it! I really appreciate you stopping by and reading about my bag making adventures. There are some major giveaways happening, from Soca Sewing and some Blog Tour prizes, so read on a little further to see what they are!
Each blog has an exclusive giveaway, so be sure to visit them all.
- 10% off!
Tangled Blossoms Design is offering 10% off anything in stock for the duration of the tour. Offer expires June 10, 2017. Use discount code HAPPYBIRTHDAYCANADA
- 15% off!
Bringberry Handbag Hardware and Design is offering 15% off anything in stock for the duration of the tour. Offer expires June 10, 2017. Use discount code LOVECANADA150
(These links will be active on and after the day they are scheduled.)
Giveaway ends at midnight EDT (North America)
CANADA TURNS 150!!
- Grand Prize: 2 PDF patterns from Blue Calla Patterns, $50 voucher from Bringberry Handbag Hardware and Design, $40 voucher from Fabric Please
- Second Prize: 2 PDF patterns from Blue Calla Patterns, $35 voucher from Emmaline Bags, $25 voucher from MM Cork Supply
- Third Prize: $50 voucher from Blackbird Fabrics
- $30 voucher to spend on any in stock fabrics from Tangled Blossoms Design, 1 Pattern from Thread Riding Hood
- $25 voucher from Fabric Please, 1 Pattern, plus hardware kit from Emmaline Bags
- $25 voucher from Fabric Please, 1 PDF Pattern from Thread Riding Hood
- $25 voucher from Fabric Please, 1 PDF Pattern from FABulous Home Sewn
- $25 voucher from Fabric Please, 1 PDF Pattern from FABulous Home Sewn
- $30 voucher from Sitka Fabrics
- $25 voucher from MM Cork Supply
- Ooh La La Jewellery* bag pattern & hardware kit from Among Brenda’s Quilts (Includes shipping within Canada & USA.)
- A selection of items for bag making from Flare Fabrics (Includes shipping within Canada.)
- $25 voucher from Stay Home Fabrics
- $25 voucher from Funky Monkey Fabrics
- Store credit for 1 yard of custom knit from Crookshanks Custom Textiles
- Store credit equal to one meter of custom knit plus one meter of solid from Midnight Mountain Fabrics
And we have these amazing sponsors to thank for their generosity in donating prizes: