Sunday, September 15, 2013

I Needed a New Purse. So I made an It's a Cinch Tote.

I have been wanting a new laptop bag/purse. You know something classy with a touch of whimsy, something I could travel with and feel cool. I have been eyeing patterns for a bit now, just looking for the perfect thing.

Also, it needed to have leather, because leather makes everything look more grown up and I have been hoarding this big bag of leather scraps.

I was thinking about the Super Tote, but it seemed just not quite right for my purposes (still want to make one though, lots of love for Noodlehead patterns). Then I saw this challenge in the Sew Mama Sew Super Online Sewing Match (whew, mouthful!).


The "It's a Cinch Tote" by U-Handbags (not a sponsored post).

I was in love. I just knew from looking at the entries that I could adapt this pattern for my very own self.

The pattern was also on sale (still has a coupon code active, check it).

I don't know about everyone else out there, but when Sarah makes a bag, she devotes herself to it.

Seriously, I cleared my schedule, bought the fabric online a couple of days ahead of time, cleaned my sewing room, trekked to Joann's for notions (hate that store), and sat down to do it. I put on a Spotify playlist and went for it. It only took me from Friday evening to Saturday evening (with sleeping, one happy hour, and a trip to the grocery store and farmer's market in between). I finished some little details on Sunday morning.

You are going to roll your eyes, but it really was a cinch. Some reviews online complained about the photos being located away from the directions. I guess this is a little annoying, but I am used to referencing photos from figure numbers, so it did not bother me. I would not read this one on a computer. Print it out.

I am going to run through my modifications really quick in case someone else wants to make it this way, but the pattern itself is really good. No head scratching moments at all, which is saying something because I nearly always have a moment or two. These will not make a ton of sense unless you are looking at the pattern. Also, they may just not make a ton of sense.

My mods to the It's a Cinch Pattern by U-Handbags:

- Measurements for two color bag. 10.5" for top print, 5.5" for bottom (when I joined these I used a half inch seam allowance, which made sense to me for stability). You need to cut the interfacings separately too.

- Bag straps (the ones on the bag) I cut 10.5" long.

- Here is the order you have to do everything to get this to work. Iron on interfacing, outside pocket (with zip), sew in interfacing/Thermolan (on all four pieces), straps onto top part of the purse, base, top-stitch base.

- Leather was cut to 1.25" wide in all places, which made sense with my hardware.

- The base meant that the zip pocket was about a half an inch shorter than the pattern called for, this did not bother me.

- Using leather for this is not for the faint of heart, it is extremely unforgiving. My sewing machine handled it sort of okay. I used a leather needle, a walking foot, and lengthened my stitch a little. This was also not my first time sewing with leather... The pattern calls for webbing handles, which would probably be cute. If you want to sew in fabric liner onto the leather (like I did with the polka dots), cut the fabric 1/4" wider than the leather (that would be 1.75" for a 1.25" wide handle). Then cut a 1.25" x length desired bit of woven interfacing. I think I use craft fuse. Fuse that to the center of the wrong side of your fabric, then fold the raw edges in 0.25 inches on both sides. Then topstitch the fabric to the leather wrong sides together, using clips to hold it in place. The interfacing is very important! Without the interfacing the bulk is too different between the fabric and the leather and the fabric will get caught in your feed dogs (at least mine did on some test pieces).

- I "basted" my leather to the bag outside using a basting tape and ironing it on the reverse of the bag, though the fabric. This helped make the top stitching easy.

- Remember how I said my machine handled it sort of okay? I had to hand stitch the leather cinch tabs on all four corner because they were too thick for my machine. The bobbin was literally not making its way up through all of those layers. To do this hand stitching, I machine stitched through the leather a couple of times to make holes so I could get the hand sewing needle through the layers. I broke hand sewing needles doing this. (PSA - use a thimble).

If I forgot something and you need to know it, just send me a little note in the comments.

Consider yourself purse bombed.

Heart you all.


Materials List:
Outside - Feathers by Alison Glass in Indigo (I think), Essex Yarn-Died Linen, Coats and Clark metal zippers, Robert Kaufman Neon dots, leather from a scrap bin (bought by the pound, no good source)
Inside - Heather Ross Briar Rose Strawberries and some random Japanese (can't remember the designer or manufacturer)
Hardware - Joann's
Thread - Aurifil
Dimensions - 18" x 12" x 4"


  1. Woah! That looks amazing. Love all the little details.

  2. This bag is fierce! I love the fabrics, the leather, the everything. Yay! :)

  3. Your bag looks awesome! Great job! (And thanks for your tips/modifications!)

  4. Seriously, I would like to steal that little piece of beauty from you! It is so pretty and perfect! Maybe that will have to be my diaperbag downgrade once the littlest gets bigger...hmm...anyway, thank you for at least telling exactly how you did that so I can shamelessly copy you at some point in the future :)

  5. You really did a fab job on this and it does, indeed look very grown up! I'm a little in awe of the fact that you hand stitched those leather tabs in!

  6. You are da bomb! It looks fab, sista!

  7. This looks amazing. And your photo shoot in C-boro is perfection!

  8. Wow. That looks all fancy and stuff. :)

  9. I am in love with this bag! I seen it on IG and just now made it to the blog but it is awesome! Off to check out the pattern and oh yess! A bit grown up and oh so chic! with that leather trim


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