The 241 Tote from Noodlehead – Mermaid Edition

I love bags. LOVE BAGS. Love them. Love them like the day is long. They’re my security, my way of feeling safe in the world. If  I have a good solid bag with me, I’m okay. If I don’t, I’m anxious, waiting for the zombie apocalypse to start and me without my tiny flashlight. Everywhere I go I bring either a cross-body bag or a small backpack, with a list of essential items. The usual, like my wallet and phone, plus an eclectic mix of stuff like a water bottle, my  firestarter and my multi-tool – hey you never know when that great Pacific Northwest earthquake might happen. I always, always have lip balm, preferably in a tin versus a tube. And a small vial of lavender oil. And my notebook and my favorite fountain pen that I got for my birthday. In the summer, I always have my hat. This could go on. I’ll stop there.

When I got my sewing machine, everyone I know said, “Are you going to make bags?” Because of course Hollie would make bags. This makes sense since I own a hundred bags, and am usually talking about whatever new bag or backpack I’ve found that I might get, or one that I will get tomorrow, or one that I just got yesterday. I even worked at the best travel bag company in the country (in my humble opinion). I’m always trying to work out the right combination of pouches and pockets and ways to carry (cross-body is good but a backpack carry is better for walks longer than a few blocks).

Bag-making was inevitable, you see. I even thought I’d end up with an Etsy shop full of my own bags. And I still might. But the experience of making my 241 Tote from Noodlead surprised me. I learned the following:

  1. I already have so many bags. Do I really need another one?
  2. Bag making is harder than I thought.
  3. I prefer my bags to be made of stronger stuff than cotton fabric.
  4. I’d rather make clothes.

All three of these were absolute revelations. First of all, how can I have too many bags? That’s like Powell’s having too many books. Like a corgi having too many snacks (okay I guess that’s possible, in terms of waistline).  Like someone owning too many ukuleles (can’t happen). It simply doesn’t make sense. And yet, after I completed this one, I thought, “Oh, it’s so cute! But I already have so many bags….”. It was so weird. I wasn’t expecting to feel this way at all. I thought I’d just end up with this fleet of handmade bags. I figured I’d have to hang them on the wall as art to keep track of them all. Instead I finished the bag and then had a sense that I was…..overdoing it. <GASP>

Then came the next revelation: it was harder than I thought, and took a lot out of me. My fibromyalgia had a very hard time with it. All the cutting, all the endless pieces, all the seams, all the concentration, all the time. And then I didn’t understand the instructions, but according to the internet, everyone else thought this was an easy pattern (“I just whipped it up!”) and they had no trouble understanding where the pieces went together. So then I had to spend a good ten minutes telling myself that this was the first time I’d ever constructed a bag and it might not be strange to not immediately recognize how things were joined. By the time the bag was completed, I was exhausted. If I do end up making bags later, they will be very simple designs.

The next thing I realized is that my daily bag needs to be a lot stronger than a cotton tote. I loved the mermaid fabric and it was fun to see how the fabrics contrasted with each other, but when I spent two days carrying my average 5-7lbs of crap around, the bag didn’t feel sturdy enough. I want to get my hands on some waxed canvas. Oh yes. If I get a bolt of waxed canvas, the first revelation might fly right out the window. I could see myself with a fleet of canvas tote bags. I just have to figure out the right closures. I don’t want to use leather. Everyone is always using leather. Hmm….

Finally, I’d rather make my own clothes, at least for now. The dominating feature of my sartorial life has been the struggle to find clothes that match my image of myself. Right now, I’m just in love with making clothes. As I find my closet filling with everyday things to wear that I’ve made, I can see my priorities changing.

For now, this adorable tote has found a new home. A few houses away lives a sweet family, with an enterprising little girl, who once came to the door and said, “I can draw you a picture for one dollar.” I bought two. Yesterday she came to the door taking orders for cinnamon rolls, which would be delivered at 8am this morning (they were!), for two dollars a piece. Jason and I can’t have gluten, but Greg put in his order. I asked her if she’d like a mermaid bag, and her eyes got big. The 241 Tote is now hers.

But here’s a few more pics in case you’re curious.


This project reminded me how much I love contrasting fabrics. Patchwork, here I come.


I think she’s supposed to be looking at herself in a seashell mirror? But I like to think she’s reading on a seashell Kindle. Probably something like Pride and Prejudice. I imagine mermaids like Jane Austen. Or maybe she’s reading what I’m reading now.


Charming pockets, but good for basically nothing. Anything that goes in them will fall out the second the bag tips over.


I love the lining. I was going to make a skirt out of that starry stuff, but then I remembered that anytime I wear white, I invite catastrophe. Works great as a bag liner.



  1. Elaine Bradtk says:

    Warning heavyweight canvas is hard work. I once made a viola case cover. Whatever you do, shrink it first, it will shrink a lot. I should have waterproofed it before I cut and sewed it, but didn’t so it shrank when I waterproofed it. The second case cover was much easier made with heavy duty waterproof tablecloth fabric. Prettier too. That sure was a cute bag, I bet she’s pleased as punch with it.

    • Hollie says:

      Ooooh, good tips, thank you! See I have a feeling I’ll end up just modifying the bags I have. I have an idea for one design, a hip bag that I’ve seen some examples of at festivals and cons. I’d like to make my own version. But I can’t imagine that would be a quick project, or one that I’d use for selling. It would be to fill a need I have. Which is becoming the main point of all my sewing, it seems! I’m discovering how fun it is to solve life’s problems with fabric.

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