Super Online Sewing Match Round THREE! The Caravan Tote

I can’t even describe how awesome it feels to have been put through into anther round of the Super Online Sewing Match with Sew Mama Sew. From the start of this whole adventure, I knew there would be a bag thrown into the mix somewhere. I was not so much dreading it, but I was a little scared of it!! Bags are not exactly “my bag”, so to say!! I made one or two terrible ones when I first started sewing and decided after those disasters that I should stick with apparel and quilts, lol!

SOSM Caravan Tote

I’m so happy to have been forced to sew the Caravan Tote from Noodlehead though! This was a seriously challenging feat for me, I swear I worked on this bag every single day that we had to make it. I had to stretch my brains in ways I never imagined to figure out how I wanted it to look. I wanted a professional looking bag that I could be proud of, not a cutesy crafty home made looking one like the others I had sewn before.

SOSM Caravan Tote

The whole day we found out what the sewing challenge was, I was freaking out. I was totally out of my element and completely out of ideas on how to make it awesome. But after Jake got home and we were talking about it, the best idea hit me!! Jake is an artist and prints his own photography on canvas to stretch them onto frames every day. I got SOOO EXCITED when I figured I could use one of his art pieces on my bag!!! Hello, he prints on CANVAS! I seriously did a little jig, for the first time I was actually excited to be sewing a purse! I went onto his personal art page for Austin Art Garage and picked the one that I liked the best and would love to wear on a bag. I decided on this sweet bear one, I know that he took the picture of those trees when we were in Portland for a family trip last year. Millie is in the background of the real picture, and if you can believe it, the trees are actually miniature! A bear is Jake’s spirit animal and I think the whole art piece is so sweet and so meaningful to me because it makes me think of my family. I just had to use it :) Jake was awesome and came home the next day with 3 different pieces of canvas, printed exactly to the size I asked for. He had made an extra one just in case I wanted to play around or if I messed up somewhere.

SOSM Caravan Tote

That day I went to 3 different fabric stores (with my poor children in tow) to find the most perfect fabrics for the innards :) I Thought it would be fun to play off the bear and forest theme, so I found some sweet bees (bears love honey! Bees make honey!) to use in the zipper pocket and some cool blue and gold pattern that reminded me of honeycombs for the pocket inside. The main lining is a bunch of interesting bugs. Bug prints make me think of Millie, she is my crazy girl who loves nature and her happy place is my nightmare- bugs crawling all over her skin :O I knew I wanted to frame the picture with some other fabric and I decided keeping it canvas around it would work great. I thought brown would keep with the woodsy vibe and using that color could make me be able to wear this purse with almost any outfit without it clashing.

SOSM Caravan Tote

I was wondering what the heck I was going to use for the handles of the bag, when I remembered all the leather in my parent’s basement that I found last year when I discovered they had been holding on to a friend’s old industrial Juki for the past 25 years. I made my sister send me a huge box full of random leather scraps to play with. Boy did she come through!! I have SO MUCH LEATHER now, woohoo!! And one of the pieces was large and dark brown with gorgeous suede that is so rich and soft, it was definitely the one :) I also used it for the pull tab and added some fringe to the zip.

SOSM Caravan Tote

After I sewed the main pieces together, I decided that I HATED the color of the brown canvas with the art piece. It was such a bland mild poop color brown. I was having heart palpitations about having to do it all over again. The idea of starting from scratch was insane to me, it took me so long to do what I had already done and the thought of all the wasted hours with my ignoring the kids for nothing was getting to me. You see, Jake was out of town this weekend so instead of having lots of time, I just did what I could do while Millie and Quinn watched Frozen fan fiction on youtube. By the way, that stuff is insane. People REALLY want Elsa and Jack Frost to get married.. I kind of recommend it, and also warn against it, your kids will be crazy addicted!

SOSM Caravan Tote

Anyways, instead of starting all over again, I thought I could maybe dye the canvas a nicer deeper brown. So I went and bought a few different colors of Rit dye and tested them on scraps of the canvas. Turns out the brown was AWESOME and so I did something crazy and very carefully painted it on, avoiding the actual bear art part. HOLY MOLY what an amazing difference!!! The deeper brown is exactly what I was looking for and it turned out gorgeous! (Thank goodness!!!)

SOSM Caravan Tote

This is supposed to be a bag for knitters...I don’t knit. So instead of making little slots in the zip pocket for knitting needles, I made them big enough for my personal needs; pens, a notebook, my cellphone. I had no need to add the grommets in the main pocket because I was never going to put a skien of yarn in there, but I thought they looked cool so I put them in there anyway :) 

SOSM Caravan Tote

Since my leather was so soft and kind of thin, I made the straps by following the same instructions as if they were just woven fabric. So they are 4 layers of leather sewn together, much like you would so bias tape. The problem was, trying to imagine how to put the handles on the bag was bothering me. I wasn’t happy with my options. I didn’t like the look of sewing them directly on to the bag, it made it look weird in my imagination. I needed something to break the canvas from the leather. That is when I thought of the genius idea to use some awesome gold hardware :D Gold rectangles hooked from leather pieces make it all mesh together nicely and I love it.

SOSM Caravan Tote

 I was so happy to have my workhorse of a Singer 201 for all the crazy thick layers that were going on. There were parts of the bag that were almost impossible to sew through, and I’m positive that my Pfaff would have said “NO” while seizing up and breaking needles. That being said, even my Singer couldn’t handle 8 layers of leather. She said “HAHAHAHAHAHA You fool!!! NOPE..” I was like *panic* How the heck am I going to get these straps on the bag?? So last minute I went running around the city of Austin trying to find some gold rivets. Crazily, it seemed that silver was the only option, and that was just not going to work. Luckily I found this amazing leather place up north (I live south so it was like 40 minutes away) with ALL SORTS of animal hides, on top of any rivet you could imagine. YAY GOLD RIVETS!! And now I have a daughter who wants a rabbit pelt. But anyways…

SOSM Caravan Tote

I didn’t top stitch anywhere on this bag. The canvas is SO THICK plus all the interfacing. I was worried it would be too much and look weird. There was also the thought that once I sew the art piece with a top stitch, there will be forever holes. I didn’t want to chance it. There was a part of the instructions where you are supposed to sew through all layers of the front piece through the zipper pocket piece. I really didn’t want that to be the only part that was top stitched, so I was trying to figure out WHY that needed to be sewn. Then I realized, OH that way the things in the pocket won’t fall to the bottom of the bag! So I just sewed the pocked pieces instead of all the layers. Problem avoided :) I WAS going to top stitch around the top, but no machine was going to get through all those layers. There are like 12 at the side seams. I tried. Needles broke. I cursed. Then I shrugged my shoulders and said OH WELL. But I really like how the whole thing looks without them so it all worked out :D

SOSM Caravan Tote

The pattern also came with this little pouch, and since Jake had printed 3 pictures for me, I figured I aught to use them all!! So I made this sweet little clutch for myself and backed it with some of the awesome suede. I can’t even handle how awesome adding leather is to bags, it totally brings everything up a few notches! I love it and I’m sure I’ll be using it as my main bag when I go do things without the kids and only need a few items.

SOSM Caravan Tote

I learned SO MUCH putting this bag together and developed a few new skills!! I can now say I’ve sewn leather AND used hardware in a project! SO MUCH HARDWARE lol! Using hammers while sewing is pretty rad! Conquering fears left and right over here!

SOSM Caravan Tote

YIKES I can’t believe I have so much to say about putting a bag together, haha! Honestly, I’m sure I would never ever have put this much effort into something if it weren’t for this challenge and I am so happy with how this turned out!! I’m loving putting so much energy into one piece, it makes me so much more proud of it than I could have imagined :) And it is so perfect, I needed a new purse really bad, I’m still carrying around my nasty stained diaper bag. Now I get to switch everything out and use this one, woohoo!

 SOSM Caravan Tote

This has been such a fun and challenging round :) Head on over to Sew Mama Sew and check out the bags the other girls have sewn!

37 thoughts on “Super Online Sewing Match Round THREE! The Caravan Tote

  1. What!?! This is too good! Business idea….Hello!?

    I can totally see you dancing a jig by the way! Ha!

    I’ve been keeping up with your progress ever since you mentioned you were going to be doing this competition! Ernie loved the dress you made, and so did I of course! By the way, that pasture by your house comes in handy for photoshoots, eh? ;)

    Good luck, dear! Cheering you on!

    1. Aww thanks Nicole!!! I’ve thought about making things with Jake’s art to sell, but I think that would get crazy expensive for the consumer, lol!! And yes that open space totally rocks!! Although I’m quite sure my neighbors think I’m insane haha

  2. Michelle,

    This bag is amazing! I would totally purchase it! I love the idea of adding the artwork. Such a personal and unique touch.

  3. Congratulations! It’s adorable. I absolutely love the idea of using one of your husband’s photos for the front.

    I cracked up a few times reading this. You’ve got a great story. I’m slightly amazed by your courage in hand dying the leather around the print. I’m so curious about the process for that. I very rarely dye fabric, but that always involves a very messy process at the end where everything needs to be rinsed off. I can’t imagine how you got the excess dye off without compromising the color of the canvas.

    The interior fabrics are adorable.

    Congratulations again.

    1. Thank you so much!! I’m Going to say that I dyed that fabric VERY CAREFULLY Lol! I used a highlighting brush from my old hairstyling days on the big parts and a small paint brush for the edges. To get the excess dye off, I carefully blotted it with a thick and absorbent wet cloth butt wipe haha! During the process I was freaking out that I would ruin the whole thing, but I’m so happy it was executed cleanly and dried perfect *whew!*

  4. What an amazing story behind the finished bag – you should get through on effort alone! The artwork is an inspired choice, so unique and all the details really add up to a winning bag.

  5. Wow this is so cool, especially with Jake’s awesome photo. Where did you find silver rivets in Austin? What mm size are they? I am not far and need some. Thanks!

    1. Thanks!! Silver rivets were everywhere! Joanne’s, michael’s, hobby lobby… The leather place I went to was Tandy’s leather. I think it was on Cameron rd? They had everything!

  6. Your bag is one of my favorites. Great idea to use art and natural products like leather for this bag.

  7. Michelle – your tote looks great! I love the custom artwork on the bag! Your husband is very talented, I loved peeking around his shop and seeing all of his canvas artwork!

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