First, can I say that I love love love the Echino fabric? I used it before when I made a pillow for the newly finished den, but I had forgotten how wonderful the fabric is. It is a 50/50 linen cotton blend; the linen makes it soft but durable and the cotton holds the warp and weft together so it doesn't shift like most linen fabrics. It is a dream to cut and sew with.
I woke up on Tuesday and realized that I had enough exterior fabric (the Echino) if I pieced the bias strips for the straps. I wasn't thrilled about putting a seam line through the middle of the straps, but I figured it wouldn't show much, as it would only be on one side. Piecing also allowed me to use what I had, which saved me money and shipping time.
Since the extra gathers made the peak distance on my bag shorter than the instructions, I knew I needed to reduce the length of the binding. From measuring the pattern piece, it looked like the binding was 2 inches longer than the peak distance. I made mine 3 inches longer just to be safe, and that turned out to be wise since my binding ended up being only 1/4 inch too long. The distance between the peaks on my bag was 9.5 inches, and the resulting binding measured 12.25 inches.
I received a comment on my blog from Limabean + 4, and she said she also gathered her bag more but felt the pattern's strap length was too long with the gathered bag. I cut my straps the same length as the pattern, and checked them by pining everything in place before sewing. I was happy with where the bag fell while on my shoulders, so I left the strap length alone.
The main problem I had with my straps is that they got very bulky at the side seams of the bag. My sewing machine had trouble sewing through the layers and there wasn't quite enough room for all the fabric to pass under the foot. This was all my fault since I used decor weight fabrics for both sides of the straps. While it didn't matter for the bag body, it did make a difference on the straps. Next time, I'll either use a lightweight fabric for the interior of the handles, or still use decor weight but make the interior strip shorter than the exterior, so there aren't as many layers where the ends of the straps meet up. I ended up trimming off about 1/4 inch of the lining fabric from both ends to reduce the number of layers - everything came together nicely and I had no trouble moving the bag under the presser foot.
From other blogs and the flickr group, I knew some people had trouble understanding how to sew on the straps. It took me a couple of reads - I was a little confused at first - but I followed them and found the instructions to be right on. I wish Heather also included measurements for any square or rectangular pattern pieces, as I'd rather use my ruler and rotary blade to cut them out, instead of tracing the pattern, cutting out the pattern pieces, chalking the outline, then cutting out the fabric. There is a lot less room for error by me using the ruler and rotary blade.
I adore this bag. I love the fabrics I chose, and the look of the bag. It may not completely replace the black tote, but I know I'm going to use it a lot and I see myself making more, especially as gifts. I'm also glad I finally made a bag with a curved top and bias strips for the handles, because I've been intimidated by that technique and Alicia's Tanglewood Bag kit and pattern have been sitting untouched on the shelf in my sewing nook for far too long.