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Saturday, 28 October 2017

See It — Like It — Make It!

Draw diagrams and make notes!
This topic was first introduced in my series of posts about the MyTie Makeover Mini Bag. How do you go from seeing something (that can be sewed) and liking it, to recreating it?

Sometimes the challenge is a significant one (like the tie bag was). Sometimes, it's sort of in the middle in terms of complexity, like the Diva Envelope Clutch. Today's target project probably fits on the easy end of the spectrum. Easy in that if you have the aptitude to do this sort of thing, this one's not that hard at all.

What is it? It's called the Desktop Tote, from Everything Mary. You can find it on Craftsy here.

Everything Mary Desktop Tote
Desktop Tote... image courtesy of Everything Mary

And this is my knock-off, roughly the same size. (I've had no access to the original item; just seen the photos.)

Sewing Caddy by eSheep Designs
My own version of the Everything Mary Desktop Tote...

From the description, the original is made out of some sort of laminated poly. Mine was made with quilting cottons and some stabilizer.

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Here it is filled to the brim. There are two bellows pockets on the front and back, and a divided slip pocket on each side. The interior is just one big open space.

Sewing Caddy by eSheep Designs
A handy organizer for all sorts of crafting or hobby supplies...

I replicated the look of the pockets for the most part, with two exceptions. There's no flap since it seemed an absolutely useless embellishment to me (the same me who typically dislikes flaps) and might actually limit what could be put in that pocket, and the full-width pocket across the back — front? — was split into two.

The original item sells for as little as ten bucks USD, so it's not expensive. You'll have no reason not to buy it if you like it. But sometimes it's the challenge that motivates, and an exercise like this is good for the brain cells every now and again.

Sewing Caddy by eSheep Designs
It's not that big but holds quite a lot...

The fact is, I don't need this thing. (Or so I thought. Since writing up the majority of this post many weeks ago, this organizer has slowly been put to use and has actually become a handy addition to my sewing table.) My multi-zip organizer is currently doing its job and I never take my sewing "on the road". But for some reason, from the first moment that I saw this, I knew I had to make it.

In case you're ever in that same mindset, let me run through the process.

Establish Size & Fabric Requirements

The first step was to take whatever measurements I could find about the original and work "backwards" from there. Luckily, the overall dimensions were readily available. The unit is 7.75" long x 5" wide x 8.75" high, with a 5" x 7" main interior. To keep things simple, I decided on 8" wide x 9" high.

Once you have the dimensions, it's usually not too hard to figure out the size and fabric requirements of each piece.

We usually have to account for seam allowances, but since this item has bound edges, the main body panels are essentially 8" wide x 9" high. How many pieces of fabric are needed in total? Four: two exterior pieces and two interior pieces.

Sewing Caddy by eSheep Designs
It's collapsible!

The main compartment of this thing is formed by a gusset between the two body panels. Since it was noted that the interior is 5" x 7", I assumed the gusset would be 5" wide by 7" (high right) + 8" (bottom) + 7" (high left) = 22" long, plus two seam allowances. The fabric — one piece for the exterior and one for the interior — had to have a non-directional print, or would need to be split into two pieces, with a seam at the bottom (which means adding another seam allowance).

That accounts for the main body.

Oh, mustn't forget about the binding. Just add up the perimeter and include another 2" to spare: i.e., 8" + 9" + 8" + 9" + 2" = 36" long. Two strips (up to 2" wide) are needed, one for each main panel.

The next step was to figure out the pockets.

The slip pockets on the side were easy. They are the same width as the gusset (5") and are bound along the sides. They need to be seamed at the top and bottom (i.e., add two seam allowances), attached to the exterior gusset piece along the bottom, and then divided in half. I think I decided on a finished height of 5".

The bellows pockets were more complicated. Here's how I started... with a scrap of wrapping paper that just happened to be on the counter at the time. (Sometimes trial and error is the easiest way to a solution!)

Figuring out how much fabric is needed to make a double bellows pocket...

I folded until I got a double bellows assembly about 7" wide, to fit on the 8" wide front/back panel. When I unfolded the sheet, it gave me the exact width of fabric that I needed, not including two seam allowances. My guess on the pocket height was 5" to 6" (plus a seam allowance).

This pocket requires an exterior and interior piece of fabric, and is seamed along three sides (the bottom edge is bound along with the panel on which the pocket sits). It must also be attached to the exterior main panel in three places, along the outside edges and right in the middle.

By the way, I changed the size of the pockets for the reverse side of this; one is narrower than the other (shown above where you can see my glasses case and a box of pins).

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Account For What You Can't See

Even if you can get your hands on the original item, there are always some things that you just won't be able to see. If all you have to go on is photos, well then, it's a game of "best guess". In this case, I obviously needed to account for the stabilizers to make this able to stand up on its own.

I decided that a medium weight fusible would be needed for the pocket exterior pieces, cut just shy of the seam allowance. The two body panel exteriors were similarly treated. I also thought that it would be a good idea to add a 2" slice at the top edges of the gusset exterior (the part above the slip pockets that's topstitched).

Peltex was my choice of stabilizer to provide firm structure in three areas. The first two are obvious: something sturdy is needed between the interior and exterior of the two body panels. (I cut them a full inch smaller than the panels to ensure that they wouldn't get in the way of the binding.) The third place would be at the bottom of the main compartment.

Figure Out the "How"

After figuring out the "what", it's time to consider the "how". As in, how best to construct it so that it looks like the original.

For example, did you notice how the top edges of the pockets in the original item are bound? In the interests of saving time and resources, I used a method to replicate this look without binding.

My idea was to feature the interior fabric — which was already destined to be used for the binding — along the top edge of the pocket, by cutting it an inch bigger/taller than the exterior fabric. (That is, if the pocket is meant to be 6" high, the exterior fabric would be 5.5" and the interior would be 6.5", plus whatever seam allowance is used.) Once sewn together and folded in half, the top edge would show a half inch of the interior fabric on the outside.

Doing it that way — for all of the pockets — was super easy!

Sewing Caddy by eSheep Designs
I did a horrible job on some parts of the binding...!

The part that wasn't super easy? Attaching the binding, of course. Since I did round off the corners, the binding had to curve around those areas. Also, with all the layers, the bottom ended up being especially tricky to sew. In hindsight, I probably should have gone with a narrower binding (I used a half inch, made up of 2" wide strips of fabric), but that was one of the great unknowns.

On the matter of the Peltex piece on the bottom, I had to keep in mind that the whole thing was meant to be collapsible, so the Peltex couldn't just be fused onto the gusset. My solution was to make a support piece that could be flipped up out of the way.

Sewing Caddy by eSheep Designs
A fold-down support piece is sewn into the bottom of this thing...

I folded a piece of matching interior fabric, seamed it on both sides, flipped it right side out, and inserted the piece of Peltex into it. This piece was then ultimately added into the mix when it came time to attach the binding.

After debating with myself over whether I wanted to incorporate a built in "handle", at the very end, I decided to use up these last two silver-toned oval grommets that were rescued from an old purse (and last seen on my customized market tote). Of course, since I left it to the end, I had to cut through the fabric and Peltex, which wasn't fun. So you might want to note that if you intend to make the handle, measure and cut the hole in the Peltex before you insert it.

So do you think this will help you to see something, like something and make something in future?


  1. Good job. To me this is what sewing is about.To be able to recreate and add your own personal touch to any project.

    1. That's a great summary of a sewing hobby! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  2. Funny thing is that I just made a bag I saw online without a pattern. Okay I did get help from someone doing a tutorial online, but I didn't have the measurements. I had read reviews of this pattern which all said the pattern needed more diagrams because it was too difficult to understand. So I guess someone got permission to write a tutorial on their blog and even one reviewer said to buy the pattern for the measurements and then follow the tutorial online. Well at $12 for a poorly written pattern, I don't think so! So I figured out the sizes myself. I made 4 zippered pockets in my first bag, but decided 3 was better, so made 4 more of these bags and they turned out great! What I found puzzling is with all the reviews out there that were negative about the lack of diagrams in the pattern, why didnt the designer update the pattern? Especially when she is charging more for that pattern than the top bag designers online? Sure doesn't make me want to purchase any future patterns from her! If her pattern received rave reviews, I would have spent the money on the pattern, but I refuse to buy poorly written patterns. I have done that too many times in the past on paper patterns when there was no reviews you could write or read.
    Even with patterns, I make changes all the time in bags and quilts.

  3. So creative, you make me want to branch out and experiment.

    1. Well then, Karen, my work here is done and I can retire knowing I've inspired at least one person! Seriously, I hope you do "experiment" and I wish you well with it.

  4. I use pieces of paper when I'm working out how something goes together, too. Helps me get my head around things I can't visualise. I really, really like your desktop tidy. I'm guessing it'll get lots of use.

  5. What a great post about being creative and using our brains. You make so many good points as to what we should think about in how we make our own designs. Thanks much

    1. Most welcome, Lorena, and many thanks in return for sharing such complimentary thoughts!

  6. Great inspiration just what I was looking for thank you

    1. Glad to have been of assistance, Jan. Thanks for commenting!


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