Purse Palooza 2014 – Swoon Blanche Barrel Bag

Hi All! First off I’d like to say thank you to Sara for once again hosting Purse Palooza and asking me to participate. You’re awesome!

Secondly, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Wendy, and my alter ego is W.D. Handbags. I started sewing 10ish plus years ago on a bit of a whim.  Sewing is my preferred creative outlet (I love to sew handbags and accessories mostly); I’ve recently learned the love of crochet through YouTube and online tutorials. I’d love to conquer knitting but my fingers just don’t seem to want to cooperate with 2 needles. I’m usually caffeinated; I’m addicted to Pinterest, nail polish and all things chocolate. That’s enough about me. Now onto the main event…

When Sara asked if I’d like to participate in Purse Palooza, I jumped at the chance and knew almost immediately what bag I wanted to sew. I’ve sewn a lot of bags in my time, and lately I’m all about Swoon Patterns. Alicia designs some great on trend patterns and is super encouraging and helpful to all who create with her patterns.  There is also a Swoon Facebook group filled with Swoon addicts, so if you ever have a question or need an opinion they’re happy to help. Sorry, back to topic, I chose Swoon’s Blanche Barrel Bag (in the small size) I had 2 fabrics I knew I wanted to use so I made 2 bags, each a little different.. I’ll elaborate more down below 😉


Black Watch Blanche


Blanche is a stunning, rockabilly-inspired barrel bag in three different sizes, 10.5”, 12” and 14” wide.  The materials you’ll require to make your very own are:

  • 2/3 yard 44” wide exterior fabric (1/2 yard for Small Bag)
  • 1 yard 44” wide lining fabric (extra if making piping)
  • 3 yards 5/32” cotton cording (or premade piping)
  • 1 yard fusible fleece (Pellon Thermolam Plus)
  • 3 yards stiff fusible interfacing (Pellon Craft-fuse 808)
  • 1/2 yard fusible stiff stabilizer (Pellon Peltex 71F)
  • 14” all-purpose zipper (11” zipper for Small Bag)
  • 6” all-purpose zipper
  • Four 3/4” metal loops
  • Two 3/4” lobster clasps
  • Two 3/4” D-rings
  • Coordinating thread

It’s rated at a difficulty level of 3 out of 4, meaning you should already be somewhat familiar with sewing patterns and terms.  I think that’s a pretty fair rating, I also think a confident beginner with a bag or 2 under their belt and ready to expand their skills would be able to tackle Blanche. This bag has everything to push you out of our comfort zone slightly, but not enough to make you want to hurl your half finished bag across the room (I’m looking at you AB Weekender)!

I feel like the pattern is laid out well and makes sense with the way I approach bag making. There are detailed explanations throughout the pattern as well as illustrations. I find they’re both thorough, and clear. The illustrations show clearly where to sew, and when measuring 4″ from the top for example, where exactly that measurement should start and end. Also included is a great mini tutorial on how to make the piping for the Blanche, which can be used for piping on any other bag.


I think the hardest part for me are the connectors, there is a tutorial on the Swoon Blog (http://swoonpatterns.com/tutorial-blanche-connectors/) to help with the construction, but even with that mine always seem to come out slightly (or totally) wonky. Keep trying.. you’ll get them! As you can see, I often opt for pre-made handles. I hand stitch them on before adding the lining to the bag so you can’t see the stitching inside. I also left the connectors off the ends of the red bag this time, as I knew I wouldn’t be using a cross body strap for this particular bag. I did add my simplified version of them to the blue bag. I think that’s one of the things I like most about bag making, it’s so easy to customize exactly what you want!




I also added some vinyl to the bottom of the red bag, which isn’t called for in the pattern but it’s pretty simple to do.  I basically split the main body pattern piece to the where I wanted the vinyl and fabric to meet and added ½” on both pieces for seam allowance. You may notice in the pics, my vinyl puckered slightly at the bottom of the bag. I probably should have gone in and ripped the stitches and tried again, but I was nervous about being able to see holes left from the previous stitches so I left it alone. If you decide to go with vinyl go slow, and use lots of clips to make sure it doesn’t shift on you. If you have a walking foot, it’ll be your best friend.

On the blue bag, I added strips just for a different effect. I cut 4 strips 4″ x 10″ and folded them much like you would for handbag straps. I measured 3″ in from each side. I then pinned the handles to the strips, sewed around them and voila! A whole new look! 🙂

One other thing the pattern doesn’t call for, but I always do is after sewing the bottom together, I iron open my seam then top stitch down each side. (It may not need to be said, but I will just in case, don’t iron vinyl!) It can be a little tricky, but I arrange my walking foot inside the zipper opening. Not necessary, but I like the look in the end 🙂





As metioned above the interfacing in the pattern calls for 1 yard fusible fleece (Pellon Thermolam Plus), 3 yards stiff fusible interfacing (Pellon Craft-fuse 808),  and 1/2 yard fusible stiff stabilizer (Pellon Peltex 71F). I used ½ yard of Soft and Stable instead (again the small size), my local quilt shops don’t always have the right interfacing products available but Soft and Stable (or Inn Control Plus) is easily found and I use it in all of my bags. I love the look and sturdiness of it.



One other thing is that, I cut my main panels of the red plaid on the bias just so the plaid pattern wasn’t so linear; I’d suggest not doing that, as it made things shift slightly during sewing. It might not even be noticeable but when I look at the bag I feel like there is something off and that’s the only thing I can guess that happened.



I’m including a couple of extra pics of other Blanche bags I made, large and small size.. my printer broke on me before I could print the medium size or else you’d have a pic of her too 😉

All in all I think the Blanche Barrel Bag pattern is great, on trend and well written! I think you should give it a try!

Once again, I’d like to thank Sara for this fab opportunity to share my current favourite pattern with you, and to you.. thanks for reading! ❤


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