Sunday 27 November 2016

Genoa Tote in Bamboo Print from Fashion Formula

I've got a project slightly different to my normal dressmaking to share with you today, it's a bag and a fun print! The pattern is the Genoa Tote which Pattern Fantastique released in collaboration with Blogless Anna a couple of months back and the bamboo print fabric was sent to me by fabric printing company Fashion Formula; more on that in a moment! It looks like a super simple tote but there's actually more to it than it may seem, being fully lined with a zipped pouch and key clip inside. You end up with a very professionally finished bag and you can tell that the best method for construction has been well thought through. For example as one of the final steps the box corners of the lining and exterior are secured together inside to keep the lining from shifting around which is a lovely touch. The top edge of the bag is faced and under-stitched so you have a nice clean top edge.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Genoa Tote in Bamboo Custom Print Canvas from Fashion Formula

I had great fun picking a fabric from the Fashion Formula website. You can create your own prints on the site and as well as fabric they'll print on wallpaper, gift wrap and even accessories such as cushions, aprons and tea towels although I'm guessing as sewing addicts like me you'd prefer to sew your own! I can't review the custom design service as I opted to choose from the database of prints designed by over 500 independent designers. The database is really easy and clear to navigate; there's a search function or you can filter results based on a keyword or colour. The biggest difficulty you'll have is making a choice from the huge selection! Once you've chosen your print there are around 35 fabric bases to choose from including a variety of silks and cottons as well as stretch fabrics and even speciality fabrics like velvet and fleece. Fabrics are available in a 20cm x 20cm sample size, as fat quarters or in metres. If ordering in metres it's worth noting that the fabric bases vary in width so check carefully what yours says. Mine was 140cm wide and that's the width of the print, the base fabric was actually 150cm wide with a white border along each selvedge.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Genoa Tote in Bamboo Custom Print Canvas from Fashion Formula

My exterior fabric is 'Bamboo' printed on the canvas base as I wanted something hardwearing. The pattern actually recommends using three fabrics; one for the exterior, one for the lining and one for the zipped pouch inside. I was trying to use only fabrics from my stash with the fabric from Fashion Formula and didn't have anything that went quite right so I decided to use the exterior fabric for the pocket too and some duck egg cotton poplin for the lining. You could have great fun mix and matching prints and fabric bases on a project like this and I think a poplin lining in a tropical print with a striped pocket would have been exciting. I'd really like to make a completely leather one at some point as I think I'd get a lot of use out of it. Marilla's two leather versions of the pattern are really inspiring!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Genoa Tote in Bamboo Custom Print Canvas from Fashion Formula

The canvas is an ideal weight and quality for the project (the bag is actually deigned with denim in mind and this canvas has very similar qualities). It has a crispness to it and is nice and tough but with a soft and smooth hand. I gave it a good hot pre-wash before sewing and didn't notice any shrinkage which I think is really good in a custom printed fabric as you don't want your print getting distorted or changing in size. After the pre-wash I have noticed a slight softness in the surface texture which is nice but I am wondering if with further washes it would start to go a bit fluffy and loose the density of colour in the print. As it's a bag it won't be seeing all that much washing but I will report back! Being a tightly woven cotton it sewed up and pressed really beautifully. I wasn't expecting to enjoy sewing a bag as much as I do a garment but found it a really satisfying project to get absorbed in.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Genoa Tote in Bamboo Custom Print Canvas from Fashion Formula

The most tricky thing I found about this project was actually getting together all the supplies! The zip I actually had in my stash and is one of a selection I picked up in SIL Thread in the NYC garment district earlier this year as I couldn't believe how cheap they were! You could easily do without the swivel key clip but I really liked this feature so was determined to locate one! I tracked one down at MacCulloch & Wallis but the opening was smaller than the pattern requests so I made my fabric loop piece narrower to work with it. I might add key clips to all my bags now; so useful!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Genoa Tote in Bamboo Custom Print Canvas from Fashion Formula

Attempting to find leather straps turned into a bit of a saga and as you can see was a quest I gave up on. Pattern Fantastique do actually sell leather handle kits at a more reasonable price but sadly for me they are based in Australia so that wasn't an option. I'd highly recommend it if it is an option for you though! I found some leather strapping in MacCulloch & Wallis but it was all either too skinny or too expensive. The pre-made bag handles by Prym are also very pricey. I did consider purchasing some leather to make my own straps as there are some excellent leather merchants in London (my favourites being Walter Reginald, JT Batchelor and Alma) but most of them only sell whole skins so that turns into another expensive option. As I had chosen a nice robust fabric for the exterior I decided to make some matching straps out of it. My straps are an inch wide and I cut strips of two times the width plus a 5/8" seam allowance on each side. I then sewed the raw long edges together right sides together, trimmed the seam allowance and turned them through to the right side. I then turned the ends under by an inch and topstitched around every side. I attached the straps with rivets as the pattern recommends for the leather straps as I liked the look. I was worried that the might be too tough a treatment on the cotton rather than leather but as it's fairly thick and I was riveting through six layers it's worked really well.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Genoa Tote in Bamboo Custom Print Canvas from Fashion Formula

I made this before I made the Aeolian Tee I posted last week so it was my first experience of a pattern from Pattern Fantastique. The instructions are VERY thorough and there was a lot I liked about them, particularly how they are broken down into very brief points. It makes it impossible to go wrong really! There are lots of instructions to clip corners and grade to reduce bulk which I like and even tips on when to change needles and machine feet for inserting the zip and working with different fabrics. The assembly of the PDF was a little different to what I am used to. There were no diamonds or little squares to line up, you just had to line up the borders and the pattern lines themselves and there is a diagram on each page showing where that page fits into the pattern as a whole. As I was using the medium size I wasn't sure if I'd need to print every page but a diagram of the layout of the pattern across the sheets isn't provided. In this case I did need to print all of the 21 pages but when it came to the Aeolian Tee when I made the shortest length I didn't need about 12 of the pages so took some time looking through the PDF to work out what I needed to print. For this pattern the printer scale test square is on page 18 and as I like to print this page individually first to check the size I found it a bit frustrating to have to scroll through the whole PDF and find it.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Pattern Fantastique Genoa Tote in Bamboo Custom Print Canvas from Fashion Formula

All in all I'm really happy with how this combination of fabric and pattern has worked out. It definitely feels like more of a summer print but I'm constantly using canvas totes for carting around work stuff and this is the perfect size to hold a folder, script, notebook and my laptop! I made the medium size and it's very roomy, the large would be huge and great for a beach bag. It would make a great Christmas present; the interior pocket and key clip detail really set it apart from a standard handmade tote and you could pick or design prints appropriate for each recipient at the click of a button!

Disclaimer: Both the pattern and fabric were provided free of charge by Pattern Fantastique and Fashion Formula respectively but the opinions are all my own!


  1. There is a company in Somerset called CA Cornish which make all sorts of leather straps etc. well worth having a look at.

    1. Ah wow thank so much for the tip! Going to investigate for next time


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