Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Amy Butler Sweet Harmony Tote: Reveal, Review, Modify

{The quick version for those who don’t want to read all about it}
Do you all remember last month when I {almost} said I would rather carry my stuff around in a plastic grocery sack than make a new bag from one of Amy Butler’s patterns? Yeah, thankfully I didn’t really say that because I would totally be eating my words right now. I don’t know if I am just such a master at sewing now or what, but this pattern was actually fun to make. Yes, I just said that. I have made several other of her patterns, but they were much earlier in my ohsomature sewing career, and they were so difficult. But the thing is, the finished product was always worth every headache along the way. That’s why I went full steam ahead and made this bag under a tight deadline and with my many picky-me modifications.

{The long version for those who want a step by step replay of making the tote}
So here’s the scoop. I used décor weight fabrics from Joel Dewberry’s Tossed Flowers line for the outside and décor weight fabric from Denyse Schmidt’s County Fair line for the piping and lining. The designer décor weight fabrics are really wonderful to work with. The thread count is really high (nothing like the loosey goosey home décor stuff you buy off the bolts at J’s fabrics) and the fabric is definitely thicker than regular quilting weight, but it’s still really easy to work with and my little machine was able to sew through six layers with a size 11 needle. That’s close to miraculous, folks. (I bent something in the machine when trying the quilting on my sister’s quilt so I can’t use a high needle higher right now).

The pattern says the finished tote will be 17.5” across the bottom, 4” deep, and 11” tall. I don’t know about you, but if I’m carrying a big diaper bag, I want it to be big, and 4” isn’t that big. So I added an inch to really make it big. (If I made it again, I would add another inch just for kicks.) This was a little tricky, but once I cut out the pattern pieces, I just sliced all the ones that would be affected in half straight down the middle and then taped them back together with another strip of paper to add an inch to the middle.
So that means I cut the bottom piece, the side pieces and also the handle. Except, with the handle, I tapered it so an inch was added to the center at the bottom where the handle attaches to the back, but I didn’t really widen the top of the handle. I should have taken pictures but didn’t…sorry.

I also wanted to add side pockets on the outside and only have one big pocket on the front, thus omitting the big pocket on the back. I just took my side pattern piece and cut two pocket pieces for each side but didn’t cut them as small. I followed the directions from the front pocket for adding the piping and attaching the side pockets. Easy peasy.

As for fabric placement, I again steered away from the directions and I knew ahead of time which pieces I would cut from which fabric (and marked it on my directions so as not to get confused!) I also “fussy cut” (if that’s possible with such a big piece) that pink piece on the front so that the flowers would look pretty popping out in the background. I didn’t figure this out though until I had already cut the panel once and sewn a cell phone pocket to it, so I had to do that step again.

OK, for the interfacing. I didn’t want a bulky bag in terms of fabric thickness, so I cut the interfacing as I was sewing. Here’s what I ended up with:
  • Side pockets, Front pocket, and back outside panel: 1 layer each of fusible fleece.
  • Front outside panel, cell phone pocket, and interior pieces: 1 layer of very thin fusible interfacing (not sure what number)
  • Interior pockets: 2 layers of same thin fusible interfacing, 1 on each piece of fabric
  • Bottom panel: 2 layers of Peltex (Pellon?) 70 plus 1 layer of fusible interfacing.
The directions say to trim all interfacing (except that last piece on the bottom panel) ½-3/4 inch around. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! It is a little bit of a pain while you are doing it, but it will make your seams so much nicer and easier to work with. Trust me. DO THIS.

The actual construction of the bag was fairly easy. The directions made sense, including the order of doing things. I made very few modifications here beyond adding my side pockets (and a key fob). One thing I’ve learned to really appreciate from quilting is to keep your iron hot, steamy, and ready for action. Ironing after each step may seem a little tedious, but your final product will look so much nicer if you do!

And the final bag? So worth the 8 hours it took me to make! I spent a lot more time cutting out the pieces and the interfacing than is really required, but that’s because I was being so picky about what I did or did not want interfaced, where I wanted my pattern placement to be, etc. I think this could be a 6 hour project (maybe??) if you followed the directions exactly, but it’s definitely not a super quick one.

As for difficulty, I would say this wouldn’t be bad for someone with intermediate sewing skills. Although it wouldn’t be impossible, I don’t recommend this for a beginner because you really need to have your bearings around all the basics before getting into something more complicated like this. I know others have said it would be great for beginners, but I’m going to disagree here.

OH, and the most important part, Do I like the bag?? Yes!! In fact, I love it! It totally meets my expectations. The size is great for carrying lots of stuff, and with the customizations I made I was able to use this as my sole bag when flying alone with Della from KY to CA for my sister’s graduation! We have also taken it to the zoo, the pool, and given it to the babysitter for the day.  I mainly use my purse with my diaper clutch when I'm out for a few errands with Della, but I think when Baby 2 gets here, I will get plenty of use from the bag as I’ll need room to fit stuff for two (and I’m not always a light packer).

I'm linking up today with the other fabulous projects at Fabric Tuesday and the Creative Itch!

Fresh Poppy Design

Creative Itch



  1. LOVE that bag!! Thanks for linking @' Sew Cute Tuesday'!

  2. Very cute fabrics and pattern. You did a great job!
    Mrs. Hearts

  3. Lovely bag! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I love Amy Butler bags... My fav is the Cosmo. =)

  5. It's gorgeous!!! You did a fabulous job with it! You have the BEST taste in fabric!! Great picks! :)

  6. Oh, it turned out great! I have an Amy Butler pattern for a weekend bag, but I've been a little intimidated to try it because the material list was so long and there were so many things I didn't really recognize. But I've come a long way in the last few months, so I might just pull it out again and take a look!


Thanks for reading Irene Design! I try to reply to every comment, and if you have a specific question please be sure you include your email or have it enabled on your Blogger profile. Happy Sewing!