Susan is in Tote Bag Hell…It’s Her Own Fault

My sewing assistant, Jennie-Penney

By Susan Klindienst Fogel

It has been a while since I have had anything to say on this blog. Sew today, I’ll show you two Lazy Girl Designs bags I made. I have been in bag-making hell. I committed to making  five purses, three Summer Totes for Miss Meliss and her friends, and I have to have them ready when my current guests depart for the US so they can mail them for me.

The other two bags are for my niece and grand-niece.

In October the family gathered on Long Island for my sister Patricia’s wedding. Cousins and nieces and nephews reunited after years of separation.

Kids whose diapers I changed had kids of their own. How they managed to age and I did not is a secret I am not sharing. I could not possibly be old enough to have nieces with kids…some have teenagers!

One of my favorite nieces, Michelle was there with her husband and two darling kids Elise and Ethan. The last time I had seen Michelle was in the early 90‘s when she visited me in California. She was single with no hint of a wedding on the horizon. We had a lovely visit including an early morning trip to Half Moon Bay so we could be there at low-tide.

It was frigid, the air and the water, but so romantic and wild. Later we headed to town for lunch but had a flat on Highway 1. Some Mexican field workers saw us struggling with the spare, and came down and helped us. From there we went to Pasta Moon for lunch, and just enjoyed being together.

I was touched by Michelle’s calm, sweetness, and her gentle relationship with her children at the wedding . Later back at our beaches, me in La Paz, Michelle in Delaware, we struck up an email relationship. Her father, my older brother died when Michelle was very young. Up until that time their life had not been very stable.

It feels good to be keeping my promise to my brother that I would always be there for his kids.

I sent her photos of my stash, and all of the Lazy Girl patterns I had on hand and asked her to choose a bag for herself and one for Elise. They both chose the same fabric:

This deeply hued batik

And they chose the Chelsea Tote. It can be a tote bag or a backpack. Their special motif: butterflies.

So I also embroidered a butterfly on each of their bags. Michelle’s butterfly took 42 minutes and 11 thread changes!

Midway through the construction, I remembered that Elise is only 8 year old and very slight. I asked Michelle to measure a kid’s backpack. The bag I was making was just too big for tiny Elise.

I shave 3 inches from the bag dimensions, and shortened the straps from 34inches to 21 inches. I had already quilted the bag and made and attached the pocket. Re-sizing it and keeping the shape and the pocket took a little effort, but I am pleased with the results:

You can see the innovative way the straps unzip to become shoulder straps for a backpack.

And a beach photo. It is untouched, other than the cropping. The sea star was already dead, so I took it home, and now it will go to Delaware as a gift for Ethan.

Keep Sewing!


  • The Sewing Loft

    Reply Reply June 7, 2010

    Hi Susan! Your bags are so pretty. Unique idea to have a zipper in the handle so it converts to a backpack. I love the fabric they chose, and the butterflies.

    Happy sewing,

  • gwensews

    Reply Reply June 7, 2010

    It sounds like you are having the time of your life, with and without handbag sewing! The backpack is great!

  • Carolyn

    Reply Reply June 8, 2010

    I love that batik fabric. And your sewing assistant is so cute!!

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