Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: Senna Tote by LBG Studio for Willow & Co

Yes, another bag.  I can't help it.  I love things that hold things.  Bags or boxes, it doesn't really matter.  On my last trip to visit my parents, my mother pulled a plastic box out of the closet that was evidently mine from when I was quite young (I know this because I had written some of the letters in my name backwards).  I guess my affinity for organizing is deeply rooted.  Hey, at least I'm consistent!

This time I decided to make a Senna Tote by LBG Studio for Willow & Co.  Not shockingly, this is another bag pattern that I first noticed on Instagram, and it's one of those projects that leaves you wondering why you took so long to actually make it (initially it was due to indecision on fabric, but I figured that one out several months ago).  It has a curved top that folds down onto itself and creates a distinctive shape that isn't all that common among the bag patterns I see.

I used the Cigar Box and Expedition prints from Tim Holtz' Eclectic Elements collection and paired them with Michael Miller Cotton Couture Burgundy solid fabric for the bottom of the bag and straps.

Let me start off by saying that this bag was far faster to make than I had imagined (once you get the pattern, fabric, and interfacing cut and fused, of course).  It was also pretty simple to assemble.  I think I would rate this as an appropriate pattern for somebody that is some sewing experience because the materials and zipper installation can be a little more challenging.  I wouldn't say that it is difficult, just a little bit more of a challenge.

This bag relies on duck cloth as an interlining to give the bag its structure.  The biggest problem that I have with using duck cloth is that it frays easily and rapidly.  If the project is a longer term work, I'd even recommend serging the edges or a zig zag stitch along the edge to minimize the fraying.  Another issue that I have with duck cloth is that it smells when ironed (I've bought it from higher end fabric stores in different weights and colors from several manufacturers, and I've noticed that it all seems to smell).

There are only a couple of things that could be more problematic, in my opinion.  The first is the materials.  Duck cloth is heavier weight and more dense than quilting cotton, so some machines might have a hard time punching through the layers.  Using a larger size denim needle (a 100/16) would make it more doable as would slightly increasing your stitch length.  You also want to stick to a thread that is more durable such as a polyester or my beloved 40wt Aurifil.  For this bag, I used colors 2460 and 2370.

The other semi-tricky spot is with the zipper installation.  It is done on a curve, but it is a pretty gentle curve.  My best advice would be to use a lot of pins and take your time.  As with almost every bag I make, I prefer to use handbag zippers (not the chunky teeth jacket zippers).  They have a wider zipper tape which can increase the ease of installation and a longer pull.  The nylon coil can still be sewn through like the standard, lightweight zippers with which most of us are probably pretty familiar.

Check out the cool shape that you get from the curved zipper installation.

I wouldn't be me if I didn't make a couple of modifications.  The first one was to lengthen the straps about 2 inches to give it a little bit of extra drop length.  If it make the bag again, I'd probably add another inch or two beyond that so the rounded top could be left extended instead of folding it over.  It would give a little bit of extra room in the event that I wanted to carry more stuff in the bag.  The other modification was to rectify the lack of lining in the exterior pockets that caught my attention when I read through the instructions before starting to make the bag.  I simply cut a piece of lining fabric using the pattern pieces for the exterior pockets.  I basted the duck cloth to the main fabric and treated it as one piece before following the instructions for how to assemble the pockets.  I wanted the pocket lining to remain soft, so that is why I opted to baste the duck cloth to the exterior/main fabric.

Yes, I am pleased with my choice to line the pockets and not have the duck cloth exposed.

So, would I make this bag again?  Yes, I would, but I think I'd expand my modifications to one other thing.  The bag has 2 exterior pockets.  The front pocket is smaller and is the width of the straps.  The larger, back pocket extends the width of the tote.  I would either eliminate the larger pocket or modify the bag to have a second smaller pocket.  The straps are sewn through the large pocket which divides it into 3 sections.  The center section has a snap closure while the other 2 do not have a closure.  I don't find the outermost pockets to be entirely useful, but that's my preference.

The bag is quite roomy on the inside and it features a single pocket with a line of stitching to separate the pocket into multiple compartments.

Anyway, that's about it for my experience with the Senna Tote.  It's a very cool bag with a distinctive look that was quick to put together.

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