Back-to-School Senna Tote + A Life Update

August 20, 2014

I'm kinda a sucker for a canvas tote; they are classic and practical, perfect for the beach or school and everywhere in between. So when I came across the Senna Tote pattern by LBG Studios with its fun, fold-over design twist, I knew I would have to have one, and now I do!
Senna Tote by Hey, It's SJ
I actually really enjoying sewing bags. They are usually just made up of a bunch of rectangles and you don't have to worry about anything fitting onto a body, which for me is absolutely the hardest part of sewing clothes. But if you have never sewn a bag before, here's what you need to know: 1. They might only be made up of rectangles, but there are usually A LOT of them, and 2. The materials can get pretty expensive pretty quickly. Both of these facts come from one thing: interfacing. Now, interfacing and I have a love/hate relationship. I hate buying it because it's expensive, it usually only comes in 20 inch widths so I need ridiculous amounts of it, I have to cut all of the pieces out AGAIN as if just cutting all the fabric and lining pieces wasn't bad enough, and then I have to sit there and fuse all of the interfacing to the aforementioned fabric and lining pieces. Ugh. But it is an absolute necessity when making any type of bag, and I do love the structure and weight it gives to the fabric. Once you get past the whole cutting and interfacing process, the sewing part of the bag making process is so much fun, it totally makes it worth it. Plus you end up with a brand new bag you can sport around town everyday (unlike a self-made top or bottom that people might look at you funny for wearing to work 5 days in a row).
Senna Tote by Hey, It's SJ
But anyway, let's talk specifically about this AMAZING pattern. I was super impressed by the thoroughness of the pattern in general. The instructions were well thought out and easy to follow, the cutting layouts were spot on in minimizing waste, and the construction was exactly in the order of how I would have done it sans-pattern. One of the only major things it was missing for me was lining for the outside pockets. If you follow the pattern instructions, the inside of the exterior pockets would have just been the canvas interlining. Maybe it was designed that way to reduce some of the bulk in the seams, but to me that is too unfinished of a look, especially on the back outside pocket where you would see the stitching from the handles. Unfortunately I didn't realize this until I had already purchased my fabric, and and I didn't have nearly enough of the lining which is what I would have preferred to use. Instead, I used the main fabric to line the front pocket, and I pieced together some of the lining and main fabric for the back pocket. For next time, I know to get a little bit more lining fabric than the pattern calls for.
Senna Tote inside back pocket by Hey, It's SJ
Speaking of next time, I will definitely keep the lining on the back pocket free when sewing on the handles. I kind of hate that I didn't think about this until after I had already sewn on both handles, but you live and you learn. I am probably one of the few people who will actually see the inside of that pocket, still annoys me, though.
Senna Tote by Hey, It's SJ Senna Tote close up zipper closed by Hey, It's SJ
For me the most challenging part of making this bag was sewing through the multiple layers of thick fabric. Each exterior piece is fabric, interfacing, and canvas interlining, as well as the pockets and handles. Needless to say the seam where the bottom meets the main piece, as well as the side seams, were more than a little tricky to get through. I had a whole new sewing machine debacle that started in the middle of sewing the handles on that I don't even want to get into because it makes me so upset (sad face), but my little Brother machine ended up saving the day and I somehow managed to get all the pieces together without breaking a needle (I used a size 16 jeans needle that helped tremendously). Some of the topstitching isn't anything to write home about, but I'm still proud of my machine nonetheless.
Senna Tote by Hey, It's SJ
The only change I made to the pattern was adding the lining to the exterior pockets. I also used a bottomweight cotton twill for the bottom and handles rather than a quilting cotton. These are the parts of the bag that will get the most wear, so I figured something more heavy duty than a quilting cotton, even with interfacing, would hold up better. Because of this, I omitted the extra interfacing the pattern says to add to the canvas interlining for the bag bottom. For the interlining throughout the entire bag I used duck cloth canvas from Joann's, the same stuff used to make cornhole bags. I think it is a little thicker than the weight that the pattern recommends, but I had about a yard of the white on hand so I used that up. It definitely adds some great structure to the bag, but it probably made everything a little harder to sew through and next time I will probably try something a little lighter weight. Other than that I did everything as directed.
Senna Tote by Hey, It's SJ
Speaking of fabrics, the main fabric is a print by Alison Glass for Andover Fabrics from her Sun Print collection. I used the Feathers print in charcoal, purchased from Quilting Adventures. The bottom is a navy bottomweight cotton twill that I got from Joann's, and the lining is a Country Classic solid also from Joann's, I believe the color is called spray green.
Senna Tote zipper close up open by Hey, It's SJ
I finished the zipper pull with a split ring and some suede leather lace from Michael's (yay for finally using up some birthday/Christmas gift cards!).
Senna Tote and Miss Kitty by Hey, It's SJ
That's my mom's cat, Miss Kitty, and I think she likes this tote, too! I have to give a little shout out to my lovely and talented mother for snapping these pictures for me with her fancy-pants camera. I know you're reading, so thanks, Momma!

So, you might have noticed that I dubbed this my "back-to-school" Senna tote, and that's because I'm going back to school!!! Actually I've been in school part-time for about a year now, and I finished my Certificate in Accounting (34 credit hours) at the local community college in May. I was studying accounting when I was in Asheville, so I figured I might as well have something to show for it, and I only had to take 4 more classes. But this fall (actually next week, eek!) I will be taking a full course load while working part-time and sewing and blogging. I will be working on my Associates in Information Systems Technology, again from the local community college. I still haven't decided if I want to concentrate in Programming or Web Design, so I'm gonna take some different classes before I decide, and who knows, maybe I will end up doing both!

Now as if all that wasn't enough to keep me busy, I have also joined the local Junior League! If you are not familiar with the Junior League, you can check out the Richmond chapter's website here. Basically it is an organization of women committed to volunteerism and service in the local community. The year hasn't officially started yet, but all of the women I've met so far have been amazing and I can't wait to start really getting involved in the upcoming months.

So lots of new and exciting things going around here. Now that the summer is getting closer and closer to turning into fall, do you have anything new or exciting happening? Have you started making plans for your fall/winter sewing? I'm in denial that summer is ever going to end so I've been putting mine off!