Thursday, January 17, 2013

Kwik Sew 3597 Small Tote Bag

Kwik Sew's pattern photo for 3597
My first version of Kwik Sew's easy to sew tote bag pattern in the largest size has seen a fair amount of use, despite its floppy fabric. 

A lovely and super-generous friend gave me a whole stash of glorious upholstery fabrics last year. This woven houndstooth check is from that haul, made for my friend's Christmas present.

This version is the smallest size for the pattern. The strap attachment is intended to dress the bag up a little. The patch and rivets were installed after inserting the bag lining but before the top facing. First the leather patch (with its center slit already cut) was glue-basted and then topstitched into place. Then the strap was inserted into the slit and holes were punched with my much-used 1/8" leather hole punch. 

Without claiming expert knowledge, I would nonetheless humbly suggest that you use a barrel-style punch for making these types of holes, rather than the plier-style punch with rotating heads. Who in the world has the hand strength for that plier arrangement? Furthermore, I recommend avoiding the siren song of the very well-priced sets of barrel punches in a variety of sizes that come from China. I can tell you from experience that they are so poorly machined that they don't work.

Tandy barrel-style hole punch. Used with a hammer. Punches a clean hole through leather, fabric, cardboard, plastic and anything else that gets in its way.

The Tandy punch works.

When it comes to setting the rivets, I use a Tandy rivet-setting tool and Tandy snap rivets. If money and space were not limited, I would love to own a rivet, grommet and snap setting press. Anything less is always going to involve misfires and swearing. But it's worth it to be able to use rivets.

This time out I lined the thing. The lining is a Marc Jacobs raincoat fabric (now sold out) from FabricMart. It makes a nice bag lining because the fabric is double-sided and coated with a water resistant laminate. These features give it a nice stiffness without much weight. Even though the outer fabric is pretty heavy, it isn't very stiff. Using a crispy lining meant that I didn't need to interface the outer pieces.

I added a magnetic snap to hold the top edges together. Nicole Mallalieu's great tutorial changed the way I put in these snaps, much for the better. Another tiny change from the pattern was to add a little key lanyard made from a piece of ribbon and a small snap clasp from my box of metal notions. Even though I cringe when doing it, I now cut up any bags or satchels my family is discarding rather than giving the potentially-still-useful item to Goodwill. I save all that lovely hardware for just such uses as this. Buying snaps and rings and buckles is crazy expensive!

Between the lining and the outer fabric I inserted a bag bottom made from thin acrylic sheeting. I have several sheets of this nice material, which I think came from my husband's architecture school/model building days. It cuts easily enough with strong scissors but is nonetheless more rigid than what I find sold for this purpose in fabric stores. Wrapping the edges in masking tape eliminates the possibility of a sharp spot working its way through the outer or lining fabric, particularly at the corners. Kwik Sew considerately provides the dimensions for the bag bottom piece, which is a nice convenience some other bag patterns do not supply.

Bag feet would have been a nice addition to this project, but after attaching the straps I was done with punching holes!

Unlike its unlined, uninterfaced predecessor, this bag holds its shape and stands up on its own. I cannot abide a floppy handbag. That's a big part of the reason I love vintage Coach bags.

My friend was thrilled with the bag. She said her 20-something daughter was eyeing it enviously, but she refused to give it up. Now that was a great compliment!


  1. That is a really great bag! The leather patch under the handles is a really nice touch--I never would have thought of it, but it really ups the prestige factor.

  2. I know this is an older blog post.. But how much did you adjust the Kwik sew pattern to make it a lined bag?