Do you Swoon? (As in, do you love sewing the handbag patterns designed by Alicia of Swoon Sewing Patterns?) I do! Ethel is free tote bag pattern from Swoon and a great way to try out a pattern from Swoon, if you haven't already. (Swoon has several free patterns here)*this post contains my affiliate links for Swoon. I received this pattern for free - because everyone can! If you use my links and make a purchase, I will receive a portion of the sale. If making money were a motive for this post, I would not be reviewing a free pattern (ha!). UPDATE Sept 2015 - Alicia at Swoon has updated the Ethel pattern since I sewed this version. The newer version features a higher pocket, new diagrams, and different interfacing (with the introduction of Pellon's new Flex Foam) You can see her post about the new Ethel here.
Sewing Ethel is not difficult. I would not say handbags are my forte, but I've made a few other Swoon bags (but just realized I never blogged about any of them! You can spot a picture of one of my Glendas in the collage in this post). I think Alicia does a great job making the illustrations and instructions clear to follow. The only modifications I made for this bag were to lengthen the shoulder straps a few inches and sew the lining with a larger seam allowance. The lining and main fabric are cut from the same pattern pieces, so I find that it helps to keep the lining from bunching up inside if I use a larger seam allowance when sewing those pieces. I forgot to do this for the bottom, and I got a ripple which I am not proud of (and a blurry picture of it, too).
The Ethel tote from Swoon is designed with a front slot pocket, an interior zip pocket, and an interior slot pocket; but, you can easily add, modify or remove pockets to suit your own vision for the bag. I sewed a divison in the interior pocket, to hold smaller items in place better, such as a cell phone or pens.
This particular Ethel tote was a thank you gift. The recipient's daughter helped me pick out fabric she thought her mom would like and after I sewed the bag, I stuffed it with snacks and little gifts. I was really impressed with how much the bag held.
The free Ethel Tote bag pattern is designed to be made from quilting cotton, but I used home decorator fabric and still used the interfacing and fusible fleece that the pattern calls for. The finished bag is very sturdy. When I cut this bag, I cut three others, which are now in my UFO pile. I'm eager to finish those as well as a few other Swoon Sewing Pattern handbags I have on my to-do list. Any guesses how long it will take me? I cut them in February. Interfaced them in May, I think. Am I the only one who does that?!