Emily Hallman : it’s in the bag
the TÉLIO project: it’s in the bag / by Emily Hallman Designs
When this project with TÉLIO came up a few months ago, I immediately had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted it to look like. That’s partly because we knew the apple print sateen was our anchor fabric so that helped when it came to choosing other colors, etc., but I also wanted to keep an eye on the practicality of each piece. I wanted a group of separates that could be mixed and matched within the group, but I also gave some thought to incorporating pieces that work well for the season (hey, cardigan and pants) or items that add a pop of color to a fall wardrobe we might already have (looking at you, gorgeous goldenrod). The idea initially was a “back to school” inspired collection (there’s those apples being all inspiring and cute again), but a lot of things that work for a school environment work for other things too, like traveling or working in an office or just running errands.
And what I realized is that all of those things – work, travel, school, errands – have something in common that gets overlooked sometimes, and that is the thing that we always have on our arm or over our shoulder: a bag. Whether it’s a delicate pearl-embellished clutch for date night that only needs to be big enough for a lipstick and a phone or a sturdy leather weekend bag you can carry on a plane and toss around without worrying about it falling apart, the thing that holds our things is important too. And if I was going to put a collection together that was focused on doing and being and living, then it had to include a bag. So when it came time to select the fabrics for this fall collaboration, I made sure to choose something that would make a killer tote bag.
Enter, the hemp canvas. I knew it would work well with leather (it does) and it would be easy to work with (it was), and it would be pretty to boot (obviously). There’s so much I could say about this project (it’s the first bag on the blog!), but in the interest of not writing a novel and boring you stiff, I’ll be as succinct as I can.
- This is a cream colored hemp canvas (just like other “canvas” fabrics, just a different fabrication), and it’s 55% hemp/45% cotton. It is available at Stone Mountain Fabrics, and I cannot more highly recommend it for projects like this. This fabric isn’t appropriate for apparel projects, but it makes for beautiful accessories and home dec projects. It’s substantial but not stiff, and it was wonderful to work with.
- I designed the pattern for this bag myself, but you could easily copy it. Just do a quick search for “tote bag patterns” and lots of blog with tutorials will pop up. I made the pattern years ago using basic instructions as my guide and I’ve adjusted it as needed. I designed a taller, striped version a while back that I’d like to make again soon.
- This may be the first bag on my blog, but it’s definitely not my first rodeo with handbags. I made a lot of bags (totes, crossbody bags, clutches, makeup pouches, etc) a few years ago when I had my business. It started when we had scraps of sequin fabric leftover from making maxi skirts, and small clutch bags were a great way to use that fabric. They’re pretty quick and inexpensive to make, and they were really popular gift items. Eventually, I got into other materials like suede and canvas so I have a little experience under my belt with bags. (I will dedicate a post with some of those bags later this fall to show you, but today is all about this tote bag.) I am, however, very out of practice! I’m also not an expert in this area, so don’t expect a tutorial anytime soon. I have plenty of tips to share, but telling you exactly how to do this probably isn’t something I have any business doing.
- The bottom of the bag and the handles are leather. I have two or three hides in my handbag supplies stash, and I’ve been waiting for a good project to come along so that I could use some of this particular color. I got it at Tandy’s, and that’s also where I got all of the hardware (rivets, concho, snap closure). JoAnn and Hobby Lobby sell quite a bit of hardware and bag making supplies now too, so if you’re interested in this those are great places to start.
- I initially had grand plans for this bag, but I realized right away that I was biting off more than I was ready to chew – and I also don’t have quite as much hardware and supplies in my stash as I used to. So, instead of a zipper (didn’t have the right size) there’s just a magnet snap closure. I also wanted to make an adjustable shoulder strap but I didn’t have the right buckle, so the handles on the bag will have to do for now. I can add the shoulder strap later.
- It took a minute to get the tension right on my sewing machine, and even then it wasn’t crazy about sewing two layers of leather at once, so I had to get creative with the handles. I had to go with a single layer of leather for each one and I just edgestitched them, riveted them to the bag, and then folded them above where they’re attached and used leather cement to glue them together. I tacked the sides of the handles to the bag to keep them from flipping up. Ideally, they should also be edge painted to seal the leather, but that’s another thing I’ll have to get to later. For now, this is fine.
I love sewing clothes too much to abandon it and take up accessories exclusively (and there’s too many things I still need to make), but making this bag definitely fired up my imagination, and I’m excited to get back into sewing bags here and there. They’re really fun projects, and so practical!
The cut a facing using the hemp canvas, but the lining is just a white polka dot quilting cotton I had in my stash. I don’t love the spot my label is in, but I had to move it down when I realized I needed to install the magnet snaps. (See, totally out of practice.)
The reason this post is so late (I’m so sorry about that!) is totally on me. I wrongly assumed this bag would come together much more quickly than it did, and with all the tests and samples I had to do I worked right down to the wire on this one. It was one of those really fun adventures though, because I was sending my dad pictures as I went along (“check this out!”/”this isn’t working”/”wish you lived next door so you could help me”/”I figured it out”/”this is so fun!”) and I was Googling things and practicing things and just figuring it out as I went along. And the end result is pretty close to my original idea, so I suppose that’s a good thing. It’s definitely not perfect, but I still like it.
Practicing installing the rivets on a test piece of leather on interfaced hemp canvas to determine the size of the rivet shanks (that’s a lot of words):
Applying the leather cement (you can also use rubber cement on leather, I’ve done that countless times):
Folding the handles and clipping them in place to fully attach. Painted and clipped, had lunch, then they were good to go. I didn’t want to leave the underside of the leather (the soft, kind of fuzzy side) exposed. It’s much stronger folded and glued together, and the fuzzies won’t fall off and get all over the bag.
I’ll have more pictures of this bag this weekend – I know you’d probably like to see me actually holding it. Ha! Again, that’s on me – I’m so behind this week! But TÉLIO has been so incredible, and Stone Mountain Fabrics is just as great- don’t forget to check them out for this fabric, as well as the others I’ve featured during this collaboration.
This tote bag is the final piece in the group, and I have been beside myself to share this with you. Like, kind of giddy. It’s fun to surprise you sometimes! And remember, there is a giveaway coming tomorrow. Check back here for more details on how to enter. (I promise, I won’t post it at midnight!) I hope you have enjoyed this collaboration. I know I have, and it’s actually gotten me excited about fall. Bring on the boots and sweaters!
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