It's A Cinch Tote, Super Online Sewing Match

Super Online Sewing Match Round Three | It’s A Cinch! Tote

Super Online Sewing Match, It's A Cinch Tote, U-Handbag
Whew!  Round three of the Super Online Sewing Match!  If you’re a new visitor to my blog, the SOSM is an online sewing contest sponsored by Sew Mama Sew and Janome.  Each round, two contestants are eliminated.  Immediately following the elimination, the remaining contestants are given a new sewing challenge.  The subject of our third challenge…a tote bag.  Specifically,  It’s A Cinch! Tote PDF Bag Pattern from   The last time I sewed a tote or handbag was obviously in the dark ages.  Cut two circles and one rectangle of fabric, add a  zipper, and voila, the perfect hot dog shaped bag.  Ugh!  Fortunately, things have changed, and for the better!  Cool patterns, endless zipper options, a large selection of handbag hardware, and fabric stabilizers.  To be honest, the world of bag interlinings and interfacings, was a wee bit overwhelming.  It was, however,  something I was keen to be educated on, because I like totes and handbags to have some shape.   There were recommendations in the pattern instructions; but a few of the products suggested were unavailable to me.  In the end, I used a combination of fusible interfacings, with a deliciously cozy sewn in interlining.  {Oops!  All  this fabric related discussion should be in the paragraph below.  Me’s getting ahead of myself.}  So, without further ado, I introduce to you, my version of the It’s A Cinch! Tote Bag.
Here are some of the required photos up first.
Super Online Sewing Match, It's A Cinch Tote, U-Handbag


Front View
Super Online Sewing Match, It's A Cinch Tote, U-Handbag
Back View
Inside View

Side Hardware Strap Buckled Three Notches
Top Zipper
Side Zipper Pocket
Side Zipper Pocket Opened
The Fabric, The Inspiration, & The Pattern
When I learned that this round’s challenge was a tote bag, I immediately thought ultrasuede.  I hadn’t worked with ultrasuede for many years, and discovered that it isn’t sold in very many stores locally.  After a few phone calls, I made a trip to Fabricana and quickly experienced sensory overload.  So much, so much everything!  One of the fun aspects of sewing a tote is that you need so very little fabric.  So for me, one whom often scores fabric at thrift shops, it seemed a fair project to splurge a little on fabric if I chose to.   But, how would/could I choose?   I started with the ultrasuede, and after it was cut, starting cruising the aisles.  The aqua/teal patterned home decor fabric quickly caught my eye, and I immediately loved how it complemented  the teal ultrasuede.  I couldn’t stop there.  Across from the ultrasuedes were several different faux leathers, and I bought a small piece of textured cognac leather.  I also bought a second home decor fabric that goes brilliantly with the cognac leather…You see, I’m already thinking of a future bag project.  As far as the inspiration went, I let the fabric lead the way.  I did some tweaks to the pattern, partly out of necessity, and partly to put my own spin on things.  I love handbags, and making this tote was creative bliss!
Variations on a Design
The pattern called for a swivel/snap hook on each end of the tote.  The theory being that you can cinch the tote smaller if you have less in your bag.  I could not find any swivel hooks in shiny brass coloured metal.  In fact, the only swivel hooks I found at all were a dull silver colour, and exceedingly large.  This was a required element, in that we are asked to show a photo of the ends of the tote, so I decided to make faux leather straps with a buckle.  I sewed two layers of the leather together and after punching holes with a regular hole punch, added the grommets.  I think that these straps function in the same manner as a swivel hook would.   I can cinch the tote by notching the strap. 
I altered the top of the tote.  I did not cut out the corners at the top, because I wanted the bag to look…well…just like it does.  The top ends kind of fold down towards the sides, and I love that.   
I added a pocket with decorative detailing to the front of the bag.  The zippered pocket side is the side that faces my body when it’s being toted around.

I added decorative faux leather piping detail.
I placed the zippered pocket a little lower than instructed to better fit with the design I was looking for.  
I used round rings instead of rectangular rings for the shoulder straps.
I inserted a zippered pocket into the lining, in addition to the elasticized interior pocket.
I changed the dimensions of the tote ever so slightly to fit with my vision.

Side View Showing Strap Unbuckled

Side View Showing Strap Buckled Four Notches

View of Altered Top Corner of Tote Bag

Top Corner of Tote Bag with Straps Undone and Round Rings

Front Pocket with Decorative Brass Tone Spots and Faux Leather Piping

Inside Zipper Pocket

The Challenges

Is it bad to say that everything was a challenge?  Okay, I exaggerate, but this past week was creatively and technically mind expanding.   When I was trying to narrow down my fabric choices, I was sure that was the biggest challenge.  Ha!  As it went, the entire tote turned out to be a giant jigsaw puzzle.  Because of the little tweaks I had made, there was a very precise order in how this little beauty was to be constructed.  I did make a muslin first; but just of the basic shape, no zips or straps, or anything that was actually hard to do; you know, the steps that really would have benefited from a practice run.  Nuh-uh,  let’s leave all that for the good fabric.  I went slowly, stepped away several times, and even had to sleep on it a few times… not the tote, the problem.  All the while, the clock ticking towards our deadline.  My fabric choices were not without their unique challenges.   Faux leather likes to skip stitches.  I don’t have a walking foot, or a teflon foot, but I have a lot of parchment paper.  So, I put a layer of parchment paper between my presser foot and the leather, and it worked quite well….unless you prefer to actually see where you’re sewing.  Ultrasuede can’t be pinned, faux leather can’t be ironed.   Three colours of thread.  Three different needles.  I was changing needles from a denim needle {recommended for the faux leather}, to a regular needle, to a ball point needle with abandon.   At one point, I was stitching through a layer of ultrasuede, two layers of faux leather, a layer of interlining, and the upholstery fabric.  My sewing machine was groaning.   BUT…I’m not complaining!  Yes, my brain is toast as I type this; but I didn’t have any catastrophes…sure I dropped my pin box all over the floor once, and I melted a bit of faux leather onto my press cloth, but otherwise things chugged along according to my vision.  
The Humour 
The name of the bag: It’s A Cinch! Tote…For me, ironic, and a good little laugh.

Super Online Sewing Match, It's A Cinch Tote, U-Handbag

In The End 
I LOVE this tote bag.  I love the colour, the fabrication, the style, the practicality.  I love how it holds it’s shape.  {All of the photos, with the exception of the two with me holding the tote, are of an empty bag.}   I love the little details…I totally love my little straps with the brass coloured grommets, and the little brass spots too.   We’re six contestants now, soon to be four; and all very talented sewists.  I’m very hopeful to be moving on to the next round!  Thank you  for all your wonderful comments and emails on the previous rounds.  I very much appreciate the encouragement.

Linking Up With:

Heather at Feather’s Flights for You Flew Sewing Link Up


  • Reply Val Sparkle August 4, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    WOWOWOWOW! Sue, you have got to win – this is just gorgeous! The details, the choice of materials, everything. When are you going to start a business doing this?

  • Reply Brenda August 5, 2013 at 4:53 am

    This is the third bag I've seen from this challenge and it is by far my favorite! I love the colors, the fabrics, the side pocket, the brass tone spots…oh my gosh, the details, it's amazing! I bet the next one would be a 'cinch'!

  • Reply pastcaring August 5, 2013 at 5:13 am

    Oh my goodness, SUE! Can you hear me squealing? Your tote bag is utterly amazing! Everything you make is beautiful, and extremely well-made and fabulously finished, of course it is, but this… This project looks so much more complex and challenging, so many details and different materials and techniques to consider. And the finished article is just wonderful, all the different elements come together perfectly. I love it.
    Sue for the WIN!
    PS. Agree with Val – surely you could go into business? xxxxx

  • Reply Flo August 5, 2013 at 5:35 am

    As someone who has made quite a few bags and LOVES bags–BRAVO!!!! The attention to detail is phenomenal, great job. I can so relate to the sensory overload when picking out the materials, I have suffered from that myself when making bags. On to the next round!

  • Reply Flo August 5, 2013 at 5:37 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Reply Ariane Lasalle August 5, 2013 at 5:55 am

    Wow Sue! This something else! – You chose the prettiest fabric and i love the ultrasuede –
    How long does it take you to do this exquisite bag?

    Ps – The cats are behaving now- but still keeping an eye


    Ariane xxx

  • Reply Cheryl August 5, 2013 at 6:49 am

    Stylish, beautiful, practical, unbelievably well-made – and TURQUOISE!

  • Reply Suzanne Carillo Style Files August 5, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Wow your talent and determination amaze me. I would have thrown the towel in.

    I love your choices of fabric.

    Great job!


  • Reply josep-maria badia August 5, 2013 at 7:26 am

    I love your bag and I love your blouse.

  • Reply August 5, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Sue! You are amazing! 🙂

  • Reply sabine August 5, 2013 at 9:46 am

    The bag is marvellous, Sue! I love the pattern and the colors.
    Sabine xxx

  • Reply Shirl August 5, 2013 at 11:01 am

    WOW! Fabulous! Love it! I love that fabric choice as well. This is soooo professional looking, it boggles my mind. WEll DONE! And kudos on figuring out the swivel hook problem!


  • Reply amy mayen August 5, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I love the texture of your straps, the gold studs, the color of your zipper, and the fabrics and colors you chose. You really dove right back I to sewing! I wish I could pick back up so fast. This bag is a dream! I'm so impressed with the quality of your craftsmanship. Wonderful job, with the painstaking effort!

  • Reply Melanie August 5, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I can't believe you made that! I love every detail, from your choice of colours, patterns, and textures, to your design with buckles and piping. Amazing.

  • Reply Anonymous August 5, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    who needs Kate Spade etc when we have Sue!!!! Superb, love it.

  • Reply Michelle August 5, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Wayyyy beyond the call of duty with this stunning bag! Just beautiful!!!

  • Reply August 5, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    WOW. You are SO going to win. VERY beautifully finished!

  • Reply August 6, 2013 at 3:50 am

    Absolutely fabulous! Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I love your choice of buckles on the side vs. clips. It really dresses up the bag and pulls the upscale fabric choices together. That bag is something I'd be proud to carry on my shoulder!

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Aw, thank you Val! I admire you and your initiative to have an Etsy site and sell your beautiful jewelry. I haven't yet been able to get to this step with my own creations…yet.

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Thank you for such a big compliment Brenda. I haven't yet seen the other entries…it always makes me nervous…but I'm sure they are awesome. Your comment makes me feel more confident. Yeah! And yes, I agree that future bags will come easier.

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Thanks Curtise! Squeals across the pond…love hearing them! 🙂 Thanks for noticing the complexity and details. I appreciate it very much.

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Thanks Flo! That's right…you are a handbag lover too! Thanks for your kind words.

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Good to hear the kitties are behaving. Please let me know if anything changes. I didn't calculate the amount of time for this bag…a lot of thinking that's for sure…a basic tote can be done in a few hours, but I always tend to want to add extra elements.

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I KNOW! Start with favourite colour….the build on that. Thanks for your compliments.

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Thanks Suzanne! There have been projects that I have had to put aside, but fortunately this one really went along quite well.

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Thank you Josep! I know you have a good eye for detail, and appreciate your compliment.

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Aw, thanks Erin!

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Thanks Sabine. I hope you had a good holiday. I'll pop over soon and say Hi.

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Thanks bunches Shirl! I'm glad you like it.

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Thanks Amy! I enjoyed adding the faux leather to the webbing for a more quality strap.

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Thank you so much Melanie! You have a great eye for detail, so I appreciate that you've noticed.

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Ooooh, Kate Spade has awesome purses! Thanks for commenting.

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Hi Michelle, thank you! Yup, I think we're all going beyond the call of duty….:)

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Thanks Kristin! I appreciate the positive thoughts!

  • Reply Sue @ A Colourful Canvas August 6, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Aw, thank you so much for your sweet comment. I too think that the buckles dress up the tote versus clips. Glad you agree.

  • Reply his_girl_friday August 6, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    You are so terribly talented!

  • Reply ann wood August 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    This tote is perfection! Absolutely beautiful Sue, I'm betting you win this contest. Great choices of colors and materials. You could make a business of selling bags like this.

    blue hue wonderland

  • Reply Barbara A Mizzoni Young August 6, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    This is a very well thought out and designed bag. Your color schemes work wonderfully together. Please consider making these to order and selling on Etsy. Good luck in the contest, you should have no problem winning the grand prize.

    Barbara @

  • Reply Jo-Anne August 6, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Well done!! I love this bag, and it's my all-time favourite colour. Very nice!

  • Reply Lynn Dylan August 6, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Well done indeed! It's gorgeous! The pictures are superb — they showcase your talent and your attention to detail! It did my heart good to see you in your lovely hat, holding your tote! I want you to win, girl!!! XOXOXO PS — I agree that you could easily take orders and sell these!!

  • Reply Lori August 6, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Your bag is amazing, all the details are perfect. Great job.

  • Reply The Style Crone August 7, 2013 at 5:30 am

    Sue, your talent and skill amaze me! Gorgeous bag and hoping for a win for you. You deserve it!

    Love the addition of the hat! Your photos are perfection!

  • Reply Marla Robinson August 7, 2013 at 7:37 am

    what talent you have!! AMAZING bag

  • Reply Emalina August 7, 2013 at 8:41 am

    A fabulous tote, it looks so pretty and well made! You can do it Sue!

  • Reply dan August 8, 2013 at 1:32 am

    I can't believe you have sewed yourself that wonderful bag! You are so talented!!!Extra good job . . .

  • Reply nancy @ adore to adorn August 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    that's an AMAZING tote. What talent!! =D

  • Reply Cheryl August 8, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    …and on to round 4. No surprise there. Cuffs, collars, and yokes probably don't even scare you. (just the thought of them makes me break out in a cold sweat). Have fun!

  • Reply Kathleen Lisson August 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Fabulous hat to go with the Tote!

  • Reply cindy the cottage chick August 9, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    You are awesome. I don't know how a T1 could stick with all those details and not go running from the room screaming (that would be me!). You've really got it going on Girl! Hope you win the contest 🙂

  • Reply Lisa August 10, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Wow, LOVE this bag, Sue. Just love everything about it… the size, the colors, the fabric textures, the details such as rivets/studs/buckle, pretty colored zippers. The hat looks great with it too. You should have a shop and sell your beautiful creations.

  • Reply Zoé August 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Really like this bag. The shade of turquoise and the pattern are pretty, and the quality seems good. 🙂 Also, have to admit, that it's paired well with the overall look.

  • Reply shams August 11, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    That's a beautiful bag! And thanks for visiting my blog, from another sewist. 🙂

  • Reply Jean at August 12, 2013 at 7:00 am

    WOW!!!!!!! The description of your process has me in awe. I am familiar with the brain scramble and the necessity of sometimes sleeping on it, but I'm not sure I could've figured this one out. The finished product is absolutely gorgeous. I am interested in making bags, but I think I may stick with simple “rustic” looks. 🙂 I definitely think you should win, by the way. XXOO

  • Reply ChatterBlossom August 12, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Such a pretty pattern and color!! Love it!

  • Reply Theresa August 15, 2013 at 7:14 am

    You thought this bag out very well! It turned out beautifully I think it was worth the battle. Great job.

  • Reply Heather Feather August 15, 2013 at 11:19 am

    It looks so professional! I love the fabric you chose! Great job!

  • Reply Rebecca August 16, 2013 at 8:00 am

    You made such an incredible bag! Looks like it is right out of a boutique! Love the pattern and it sure looks great with your sweet hat!


  • Reply Rosy August 17, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Wow! This is a great job, it has nothing to envy to a bag of a million dollars! So complete and well done! You deserve to win!

  • Reply Jessica Cangiano August 20, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    You've created such a classic, beautiful work of art here. That paisley is simply stunning! I love the colour palette – it reminds me of the year (grade seven) when I discovered the joys of wearing brown and teal together, and proceeded to do so heavily for the next couple of years (enjoying it many times in the years to come after as well). Stellar work on this handbag, dear lady!

    ♥ Jessica

  • Reply Wendy August 21, 2013 at 2:31 am

    Gorgeous tote! I am in awe of how talented you are.

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