Tuesday Reviews-Day: Totes Amaze! by Amanda McKittrick

Tuesday Revews-Day


It’s no surprise to anyone who’s been reading here for a while that I like to make things. While making stuff just for fun is all well and good, I especially love it when my hands-on time is spent making something useful as well as nice to look at. And even though a lot of my handmade projects are intended for others, every now and then I will make something for myself, too. Which is why I was more than happy to take a look at Totes Amaze! 25 bags to make for every occasion by Amanda McKittrick.

A tote is, at its most basic, a simple rectangle of fabric folded in half, sewn on two sides and with handles attached. But why stop there when you can add linings, pockets, gussets for bags to sit flat, draw strings, zippers, and curved bottoms instead of square? That’s where Totes Amaze! comes in handy with creative combinations of the basic elements, many of which you don’t even need a pattern for.

When something outside of an easily-measured square or rectangle is needed, there is a sheet of pattern pieces tucked into a pocket on the inside back cover.

[box type=”tick” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Tip #1 Even though the pattern pieces are printed on heavy-weight paper, reinforcing your patterns before you use them will help them last longer. I suggest clear shelf paper (such as the Con-Tact brand) adhered to one or both sides before cutting out the paper patterns. This way, when your friend sees you with your new tote, you’ll be able to whip up another one without worrying that your pattern might be too tattered for the job.[/box]

Alas, I have yet to clear the time in my schedule to actually make one of the bags, myself, but I have several marked for as soon as I can. I’m desperately in need of a new overnight bag with all these back-and-forths to the Dollhouse so the Classic Carryall Tote on page 50 is top of the list. After that, you know I couldn’t possible resist the Wine Bottle Tote on page 66, and the Six-Pocket Gardening Tote on page 38 will be perfect for crafting on the go (you guys know I can’t keep plants alive to save my life). With a simple lengthening of the main pattern piece, I think The Man Tote (page 114) would be the perfect custom answer to my widescreen laptop-carrying needs!

If you’re still a novice with needle and thread, McKittrick’s got you covered with some basic techniques in the beginning of the book and even a list of basic Sewing Kit items you’ll need to make anything in the book. After that it’s just a quick trip to your local fabric store and you’ll be all set! Each of the projects in Totes Amaze! feature detailed instructions and plenty of helpful illustrations to help you understand how things should look along the way. The book is full of bright colors and patterns that make it fun to flip through for inspiration.

[box type=”tick” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Tip #2 Even though the enjoyment is in the making, if you’re like me you still want to feel like you’re getting a bargain by making your own anything instead of buying it ready-made. Good fabric is the key to a great tote, especially the simpler the pattern design, but good fabric can cost a mint. Since totes don’t need a lot of yardage, check out the remnants bin each time you’re in the shop. Frequently these end-of-bolt pieces are marked down 50% or more, making it easier to splurge on a good handle for the same bag and still come in well under retail.[/box]

I picked up a full yard of caramel-colored faux suede for less than $10 that will make an amazing overnight bag and some sturdy, striped canvas on my last trip to JoAnn Fabrics that are set aside especially for the projects in this book. I also found a smaller cut of lighter-colored faux suede that I’ll use to make my own handles for this one (there are instructions in the book for that, too) and save the webbing for more heavy-duty projects.

I was provided a copy of Totes Amaze! for purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.

What’s In Your Purse?

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For the last several years almost all of my purses have been big and red and from Liz Claiborne. Not that I pay department store prices, or even retail! I find them at places like Marshalls, TJ Maxx or Bealls Outlet and pay half (or less) of the usual price. There’s just something about a show-stopper red purse that can carry whatever I need and look fabulous doing it. Plus, it matches pretty much everything by needing to match absolutely nothing!

As promised, here’s what was inside my purse as of Monday evening:

What's in My Purse?

What's in My Purse?

Clockwise from the upper left corner:

  1. Tome of Runes (my first illustration credit–it came in last week and I’ve been carrying it around because I’m just so tickled it’s done!)
  2. Monthly planner (stuffed with store coupons in case I feel like shopping) and postage stamps (yes, I mail things–not bills, though, that’s what online banking is for!)
  3. My Red Notebook (everything from budgets to project notes to podcast playlists–it’s my life and I go through one a year, always red)
  4. Travel Amulet
  5. iPod (in red case… are we sensing a theme, here?), charger and ear buds
  6. Calculator and 6 pens (I highly suspect at least one is dead or broken)
  7. Prescription sunglasses
  8. A sash from the skirt I wore 2 weeks ago
  9. Ginger pills and Lactaid tablets
  10. Wallet, smaller card case, coin purse and passport
  11. Umbrella holding down a stack of store receipts
  12. Keys and a separate ring of those store scanner tabs
  13. Nail file, tweezers, compact, 5 lip glosses (3 tinted, 2 clear) and 3 hair clips (that’s where they all went!)

The only thing not pictured is my cell phone–when I’m home it’s usually on my computer desk or on it’s charger.

Now, who else played along?



Whoever thought it’d be so difficult to give stuff away!

But, hey, it’s my giveaway and I’m going to give it another try. That’s right, I’m extending the deadline.

You have until Sunday, October 24, 2010, at 8pm Eastern do the following:

  1. Dump everything out of your purse (arranging it nicely is optional)
  2. Take a picture of it
  3. Upload the picture to some public place (your blog, Facebook, Flickr, etc.) and leave me the link in the comments OR email it to me at randomactscomics@gmail.com

See, it really is that simple. And I’ll pick one purse photo at random of those submitted and the owner of that purse will win a prize that I will mail to you. It will be purse-themed. It will be a mix of store-bought and hand-crafted items. You will either love it or decide it would make the perfect regift for the neighbor/teacher/co-worker at some point in the upcoming holidays, thus saving you a shopping trip–that parts up to you.

Now, go find that camera!

Guest Post: The Organized Purse

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Thanks to a recent tribe-building activity with the SITS Girls, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several bloggers in what’s become known as the Creative Living genre. One of these lovely ladies–Kathleen Boland, a professional organizer in Alberta, Canada–has graciously traded posts with me, today, and this week we’re talking purses.


I only have one purse. It is a classic black butler bag. I’m very particular about my purses. I buy them rarely and they have to live a long life. I wish I could say that I have a bag for every outfit, but that doesn’t fit my lifestyle or my budget. I’m just not that kind of girl. So if you are like me and you have one purse, it probably stores your life in it.

Even when I do a seasonal clear out of my purse I still can have over twenty items in it. If I had to do an inventory today here’s some of things you would find in there …

  1. Wallet (Slimmed down to the bare essential cards and info)
  2. Coin purse
  3. Calculator (I hate doing math in my head for billing clients)
  4. Timer
  5. Crayons in an old card box (Not all restaurants have them for kids)
  6. Keys
  7. Hand cream
  8. Mini-Flashlight
  9. Calendar (For making appointments)
  10. Notepad and pen
  11. Kleenex
  12. Granola bar
  13. Measuring Tape
  14. Dental Floss
  15. Nametag and Association Pin
  16. Matches
  17. Emergency tampon
  18. Hair elastics / bobby pins
  19. Individually wrapped hand towelettes
  20. Lip gloss and chap stick (Absolutely necessary here in the north)
  21. Mascara
  22. Ear plugs (From the activity with helicopters a few weeks back…)

Does that seem like a lot? Not to me. I’m so glad that I don’t have to pack the baby bag anymore. That thing was heavy…probably heavier than my child.

I seem to have a few “what if” items in there. I guess I like to be ready for anything. I could probably slim it down even more it I had to, but I like that I can pull out a Kleenex when someone sneezes or have a measuring tape on hand when I’m shopping for home accessories or furniture.

I love a purse that keeps me organized. The butler bag is separated into section so I just drop my stuff where it needs to go. I love that. I have seen other products that do the same thing if your purse is just an open style, like this one at Kangaroo Keeper or this one at CCKmode .

Before I had this bag I was a slave to the zipper bags. All items that belonged in the same category went into zipper bags into my purse. (Children, Health and Beauty, Work related, Money related.)

As a Professional Organizer I am always hearing about people putting the strangest things in their purses. Here are a few that should NOT be in your purse:

  1. SIN Card or Social Security Card
  2. Credit cards that have not been signed (Do it as soon as it comes in the mail)
  3. Leaky containers …ewww
  4. Important documents like your Power of Attorney (No really, it happened once)

Your purse is a living, breathing extension of you. Take a few minutes each day to pull out the contents that have been deposited that need to be filed, purged or shredded. It will take less than a minute and you will know that your purse is ready for your next adventure.

Take a few minutes now to do your own personal inventory of your purse. What is in there that can go into categories? Can I use something to organize the contents better? Do I need to re direct some items to another home?

Get your purse organized and have everything at your fingertips when you need it!

Tip: If the bottom of your purse is getting floppy, cut out the bottom of a cereal box to make a new support for the purse base. You can pull it out and replace it when it gets sticky or bent.

I’d love to hear how you got organized so please leave a comment so I can enter your name into the draw for a prize of organizing products. Visit me here and follow along each Friday for all the organizing fun.


Thank you, Kathleen!

Okay, ladies–it’s time to spill your purses! Take everything out, take a photo of it and send me a link to it (flickr, facebook, your own blog–anything goes)! On Thursday I’ll post my own photo (already took it a few minutes ago) and announce the winner of the giveaway, drawn from the names of everyone who links me a picture of their purse contents! What will the prize(s) be? I’m still deciding, but it’ll be worth it, I promise you that!

You have approximately 36 hours (more like 38), until 8pm Eastern, Wednesday the 20th, to send me your links.