bag hacking

I'm trying to hack a bag pattern to make a smaller version.

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I made a tote bag a few months ago. It would make a great purse, except it's too big for that. I'm going to try shrinking the pattern and we'll see what happens along the way.

So far I have shrunk the pattern to 66% and 85%. The 66% bag is pretty small and the foam gives it way too much structure, so I'm leaving it out of the 85% bag.

A bit of background: I decided to try a tiny backpack as a purse and loved it so much that I wanted to try making my own. I've only made a few zippered bags here and there, so it was a big undertaking. But somehow, it went pretty well.

That was October. I've made fourteen more bags since then (but no more backpacks yet) including the Ethel tote by Swoon, which is a free pattern. You can find it here: I decided to play around with it and make it more purse-sized, and here we are, shrinking patterns and seeing what happens.

The issue with shrinking a pattern is the seam allowances. If you shrink a pattern but don't change the seam allowances, there will be surprises as you sew it up. So far, I've only encountered one problem and it was easy enough to fix -- the gusset ended up being 1/2" shorter than the two main pieces that make up the front and back, so I just trimmed it down.

That's really the only thing that went wrong. Well, that and it's pretty darn small. I think maybe something like 85% would be just right. Also, it has a ton of structure because of the foam. It stands up on its own because of this, but it also naturally hangs open. I didn't plan a closure for it. It might not be too late for a magnetic snap closure, but I haven't played around with those yet.

  • 1 × 2/3 yard of 44" wide quilting weight exterior fabric I'll be using something with a similar weight
  • 1 × 3/4 yard of 44" wide quilting weight lining fabric the purple is quilting weight and the blue sparkle is metallic linen
  • 1 × 1 yard fusible foam interfacing (Pellon Flex-Foam) I didn't use foam in the 85%, only the 100% and the 66%
  • 1 × 3 yards 20" wide fusible woven interfacing (Pellon SF101)
  • 1 × 1/4 yard fusible stabilizer (Pellon Peltex 71F) For the bottom panel -- I'm using fusible buckram instead

View all 8 components

  • The 85% bag is 100% complete

    kristina panos01/02/2021 at 20:41 0 comments

  • 66% vs. 85%

    kristina panos12/28/2020 at 17:15 0 comments

    Lessons learned from making the pattern at 66%:

    • foam does not belong on such a small bag -- it is too structured
    • this is like the right size for a tween purse or little girl purse

    So now I've made the pattern at 85% of normal size as well. I never came up short anywhere, and it was a lot like the first time I made the bag except it went much faster. All I have left to do is make the strap. Well, that and iron it when my sleeve board gets here, because both bags are too small to fit on the end of my ironing board.

View all 2 project logs

  • 1
    Shrink pattern pieces

    I printed the pattern at 66% of regular size, cut out the pieces, and taped them together where necessary.

  • 2
    Cut out fabric and interfacing

    The drudgery! The boredom! But then you finally get to start sewing!

  • 3
    Apply interfacings

    I always use fusible (iron-on) interfacings. Some people hate fusible fleece and use Decovil instead.

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Joseph Eoff wrote 07/11/2022 at 12:26 point

The link for the Ethel tote is broken.  Is this the one?

  Are you sure? yes | no

kristina panos wrote 07/11/2022 at 19:25 point

Yes, that is it! I will update my link.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Mike Szczys wrote 12/30/2020 at 23:09 point

They're Russian nesting bags! Looks great, the 66% model has a much nicer outline that the larger versions where it curves back into the rings for the strap. Is that just an optical illusion? I also like to see the lining popping out like a bit of piping on the outer pockets.

  Are you sure? yes | no

kristina panos wrote 01/03/2021 at 14:03 point

I think that's because of the foam. The biggest one has foam interfacing too. Maybe part of the difference is the pattern on the big one interrupting the line?

  Are you sure? yes | no

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