Pennie’s Vintage Icons

How much do you love the Ruby Star Vinyl tote bag on our homepage? Want to make your own? Read on for a review of the Pretty Pleats Tote Pattern and top tips for stitching these beauties from Pennie Haslehurst of Tuppence Ha’penny Quilts. Thanks Pennie!

I’ve been coveting Melody Miller’s new range, Ruby Star Vinyl for some time now, so I was so excited when a parcel of the fabric arrived through the post from Annie at The Village Haberdashery. This range comes in yardage for the records and panel lengths with Bakelite telephones and instamatic cameras, and in the Starlet designway.

Having seen images of this bag on the Melody Miller stand at market, I decided to give it a go myself. I made a version with the panel as per the original and also using the records fabric from the range. It was a really easy bag to make, even with the turning through of the handles, but there are a few tips I’d add for both fabric and pattern.

When making the first bag from the panel, I realised immediately that it really mattered where the panel was cut for using the telephones as the main motif! However, one panel is more than enough fabric to make the bag – you just need to get a bit creative and be willing to cut it and re-stitch it.

Take good care of the seams, carefully pressing them open, then once the interfacing is ironed on, they become more or less invisible.

Choose a vibrant lining – matching the colour to the telephones really made them stand out.

With the records, cutting the whole pattern piece would result in a lot of incomplete records left over. Consider using a solid which matches one of the colours in the main design and use the records for the body with solid handles for contrast.

Pattern Cutting

If you are fussy cutting the pattern, instead of following the pattern instructions and placing the edge of the pattern on a fabric fold, print two pattern pieces and tape them together. This also means you can put the two exterior pieces right sides together and properly line up the seams and changes from pattern to solid before cutting to make sure they will meet when sewing the bag together.

Steps 4 & 5 – Sewing seams

It’s easier to press open the base seam if you sew that first, and press after sewing.

Then sew the side seams and press after each. Lastly sew the gusset seams. This is a slightly different order to the pattern.

On the second bag, I chose to iron in a stiff piece of Pellon into the base to give the bag some structure at this point.

Step 7 Turning the bag and handles

The pattern calls for a bodkin here – I found a simple quilter’s safety pin worked perfectly well, the handles were easy to turn through.

Once the handles are turned through, the pattern says to push the lining into the exterior, then later says to sew shut the base seam. It’s easier to sew the seam shut before pushing it into the bag, to save pulling it back out later.

The pattern is designed to make a reversible bag, but if you want to you could add an internal pocket – sewing it to the lining before step 6. Also, you could insert a magnetic snap if you wanted to be able to close the top of the bag – again, add this to the lining before step 6.

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