Mary poppins

Wax canvas tote bag

Wax canvas tote bag

Wax canvas tote bag

Wax canvas tote bag

Ever since I started to discover that things I had once thought were impossible (jeans, bras, jackets, etc.) were actually totally within the realm of possibility, I’ve wanted to make a bag. I did make one bag a while ago that was cute but not exactly practical for my lifestyle (i.e. too small). Most of the bag patterns I’ve come across online have either not been the style or type of bag I was looking for, or are entirely too Amy Butler-y, which doesn’t go with my wardrobe at all.

I randomly came across this pattern/tutorial/guide thing a few years ago and pinned it and promptly forgot about it. I ran into again the other day and remembered that I had a bunch of canvas, wax, faux leather and pretty Cotton and Steel horses that were just waiting to be made into a bag. (It was originally supposed to be a Walden Cooper bag but I decided I’m really not a backpack person.) The canvas was from fabric.com and the faux leather was from that giant warehouse of fabric shops in Taiwan, and the wax I randomly found at Goodwill one day. I’ve heard great things about Otter wax too.

Now, I’ve never worked with waxed canvas before and I still don’t really feel like I know what I’m doing, especially since I was waxing my own canvas. I did the rubbing in paraffin wax thing and then melted it with a hair dryer, but then the iron would basically make it evaporate or otherwise disappear. I ended up deciding to wax most of the fabric (once cut), ironing it carefully with a press cloth and on a low setting, and then just reapplying wax at the end as needed. It seemed to work well. I also did a light layer on the inside to protect the pretty horses.

The inspiration bag.

Onto the pattern/tutorial/guide thing. Fun fact: it’s written by Don Morin, who has a Craftsy class on leather bags that looks pretty interesting. Anyway, the instructions are a bit confusing and there aren’t any step by step photos but if you read through carefully and just look at some bags you own/photos of the finished bag it’s pretty straightforward. I also found this blog post of someone who made it and shows some of the steps, which was helpful. The main confusion is the fact that his finished photo is of the RTW bag that was his inspiration, and not an actual bag made with the pattern, so there are some differences.

Wax canvas tote bag

I also changed a few things due to preference.

1) He has you cut two struts for each side (the vertical things that extend down from the strap). Based on advice in the blog post I linked above, I cut two extra long ones so they wrap around the bottom of the bag for support.

Wax canvas tote bag

2) I thought his straps were too thin so I doubled the width, as well as the length so they can be worn over the shoulder. I also didn’t bother sewing the leatherette trim on because holy crap that looked fiddly.

3) I added a lining, which basically just entailed cutting a second main bag piece. I also had to cut additional zipper placket pieces and then had to fiddle with the zipper insertion so I think mine ended up being a little different than what his instructions said to do.

Wax canvas tote bag

3) I added a zippered patch pocket (basically just make a window in a rectangle of fabric like you’re going to do a welt pocket but then sew a zipper there and then sew it on like a patch pocket) and some open pockets on the other side. I interfaced the crap out of the lining and then just sewed it on easy peasy.

Tote bag details

4) I stole this idea from my Jordana Paige knitting bag because I love it so much, but I made a zippered pouch but attached snap buttons on the side, and then the other side of the snaps are on the inside edge of the bag so the pouch doesn’t get lost in the bottom of the bag but is also removable. (I use this pocket in my knitting bag for makers and needles and needle tips. This one holds Ibuprofen, tampons, chapstick, and ladybug bandaids.)

Tote bag details

5) Also stolen from my Jordana Paige bag: I added a snap loop thing either for hanging my keys or for feeding yarn through if I want to knit out of the bag. I realized afterward that I should’ve made a elastic top pocket thing to actually hold the yarn but I think I can still go back and handstitch one in.

Wax canvas tote bag

6) I also haven’t done the strap because I can’t decide if I would ever wear it that way. I did sew on D-rings just in case I change my mind though. Instead, I elongated the straps so it can comfortably fit on my shoulder.

Tote bag details

7) I don’t always zip my bags but don’t want the giant opening flapping around either so I added a small snap button in the middle.

Wax canvas tote bag

Anyway, I looove how it turned out. It’s so heavy and sturdy and lovely and then you look inside and it’s horses. Major heart eyes. I didn’t expect it to be quite so ginormous (I guess the fact that he calls it a “Weekender bag” didn’t tip me off..) but that means it’ll be nice for either weekend trips or just stuffing multiple knitting projects into.

Wax canvas tote bag

(Now I really want to sew another camera insert..)

9 thoughts on “Mary poppins”

  1. I’d like to make a bag for myself but find many of them too flowery or patchworks. You choices would work for me. Looks good – and a practical size.

  2. Ok you continue to amaze the heck out of me, this bag is amazing!! I like it more than the inspiration one. I love the leather bottom, and the gold zipper and gold snap buttons, ahh my heart. And of course the horse lining. LOVE. You are amazing.

  3. I really like how this turned out! If you are interested at all in more waxed canvas bags, I started a shop that specializes in waxed canvas fabrics and bag patterns that are more neutral and will stand up to everyday use. I started my shop as a reaction to the exact problems that you came across- it is hard to find waxed canvas and many bag patterns are too “Amy Butler-y”…not that Amy Butler isn’t a very talented person, but crazy paisley goes with zero of my clothes 🙂 My website is http://www.redrabbitmercantile.com

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