Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Adding Front Pockets to Swoon's Ethel Tote - A Tutorial

I can't believe that its already been two years since I wrote this tutorial to add front pockets to Swoon's Cate Pattern!  Although Cate was a beautiful bag, the pattern has now been retired.  I was thinking about how my technique to add the front pockets could be used for several other patterns, so I decided to write a new tutorial to add similar front pockets to the Swoon Patterns Ethel Tote Bag!  One added bonus about the Ethel pattern, it is FREE!!!

So let's get started!  If you haven't already downloaded the free Ethel Tote Bag Pattern from Swoon Patterns, head over here to grab it!  This tutorial is adding on to the Ethel pattern, so you will need that first!  Also, if you aren't a member already, join the Swoon Patterns Group on Facebook!  It's an awesome group of ladies always willing to help out with any questions, and its a fabulous place to share your finished Swoon Bags and see other's bags!

I have made almost all of the Swoon bags, but I realized the other day that I hadn't made Ethel yet!  So I just had to get another check on my list!  I loved the pockets that I added to the front of Cate, and I thought what would be more perfect than to add them to Ethel as well!!  And to share how to do it with all of you!  I absolutely cannot wait to see all your beautiful creations!  Enjoy :)

Materials needed (in addition to what is already listed in the pattern):
1/2 yard contrasting pocket lining fabric 
1 yard mid-weight fusible interfacing (I used Pellon Shape-flex SF101)
A 16" long scrap of piping

First, print all of the pattern pieces, printing two copies of pages 7 & 8.  Cut all the pattern pieces out and tape together as instructed in the pattern.  You will have two Main Panel pattern pieces (you can discard the extra side panel pattern piece that printed on the second copy of page 8 - we only need the bottom piece of the Main Panel from that page).

On one of the main panel pattern pieces, measure in 2 inches from the right (fold) side and make a mark and measure 4.5 inches down from the top left corner and make a mark.  

Then line up something round with those marks and trace around it.  I used a small plate. (Trace with pencil, not permanent doesn't wash off that easy...oops!)

Cut along the curve you just drew, and you have now created a new pattern piece for the front pocket. 

If you don't want to make your own pattern piece, or if you just prefer having your patterns from template plastic instead of paper (or card stock), the lovely Jenna Appleton is offering templates for sale for the Ethel, including this front pocket mod!  The templates can be purchased here.

The image below will show you what will need cut from each of these pattern pieces now.  See below the following picture for the new updated cutting instructions!  For pattern pieces that are not shown, you will still cut what is listed on the pattern piece.  

Please ignore the writing on the above pattern pieces and follow the cutting instructions below!  Eventually I'll get a new picture of the pattern pieces with the updated cutting instructions on them!

From New Pattern Piece - Cut on Fold:
1 Exterior
3 Woven Interfacing
1 Pocket Lining

Then Cut 1 Pocket Lining and 1 Woven interfacing in half along the center fold line.

From Main Panel Pattern Piece - Cut on Fold:
1 Exterior Fabric
2 Foam Interfacing
2 Lining Fabric
4 Woven Interfacing
1 Contrasting Pocket Panel Fabric

Then Cut 1 Foam Interfacing and 1 Contrasting Pocket Panel Fabric in half along the center fold line.

Slip Pocket Pattern Piece
2 Lining
2 Woven Interfacing

Cut all pieces as directed from Exterior Fabric, Contrasting Pocket Fabric, Lining Fabric, Fusible Foam, Woven Interfacing, and Stiff Fusible Stabilizer.

Below you can see the fabric pieces that will be cut that differ from the original pattern.

Fuse woven interfacing to lining main panel, lining side panels, lining bottom panel, lining pocket panels, straps, front main pocket panel (exterior piece with two curves cut out), and two contrasting pocket panels (with curves cut out).  Fuse foam interfacing to back exterior main panel, exterior side panels, exterior bottom panel and contrasting pocket panels (that do not have the curve cut out). 

Place the exterior front panel right side up in front of you.  Cut the scrap of piping in half and pin the piping along the curves matching the raw edges.  Sew the piping in place using your zipper foot and stitching as close to the piping as possible. 

Place the curved contrasting pocket panels right side up in front of you.  Lay the front exterior main panel, with piping attached, on top of the pocket panels with the matching the curved edges.  Pin along the curves only.  The piping will be sandwiched between the two layers.  Stitch just inside of the previous stitching lines from attaching the piping.  Trim the seam allowance.  

Flip the contrasting pocket pieces to the back along the curves. Press well and topstitch 1/8" away from the piping.  You should now have a piece that looks like this:

Flip the Main Pocket Exterior Panel over so the back is facing up.  We will now be attaching the other contrasting pocket panels.

Right sides together, place the contrasting pocket pieces that do not have the curves cut out on top of the backside of the Main Pocket Exterior Panel.  Line up the bottom, sides, and the raw edges that run down the center.  Pin along the center raw edges.  

Make sure you are only pinning contrasting pocket pieces together.

Sew the contrasting pocket pieces together using a 1/4" seam allowance along the center edges only.  Repeat to attach the other contrasting pocket piece.  

Flip the whole panel over, and this is what you have:

Baste along the top center, then down the side, around the bottom, and up the other side using a 1/4" seam allowance to hold everything in place.

Now head back over to your Ethel pattern and follow the rest of the assembly instructions to finish the bag!!  You will be skipping the directions to attach the slip pocket to the exterior (only attach a slip pocket to the lining).

I wanted to share a picture of my phone in the pocket to show how deep it is, but it is so deep you couldn't even see the phone!!  And my phone is not small!  These pockets are perfect for me!

And a picture of the back, just because I love it!!  And who doesn't want to see more Parisville? ;)

Thanks for checking out my tutorial!  I hope you enjoy adding these front pockets to your Ethel Tote Bags!  Let me know if you have any questions or issues, because I'm afraid I'm better at following directions than writing them!

*This post contains affiliate links*


  1. Thanks Jenny!!!!! Can't wait to try this, I'll be sure to link back to this post once I'm done.

    1. You're welcome! I can't wait to see your bag!!

  2. Very very nice, thank you !!!!!
    Ethel got a new face and makeup :)

  3. Thank You terrific tute gonna have to try this!

    1. You're welcome! I hope to see if you make one!

  4. Love this thank you a thousand times. I haven't made Ethal yet but now look out.

  5. Thanks so much for this! I'm just getting started in purse making and have everything to make the Ethel pattern ready to go. What a great addition your pocket pattern will make to this tote!

  6. Super cute and great tuto.Thanks you.

  7. Always looking for exterior pockets. Thanks. I have to try this!

  8. This is great! It looks similar to the extra pocket for the Phoebe purse, but your tutorial is really well done. Great job! and thank you.

    1. You're welcome, Marsha! I really just updated my tutorial from 2 years ago for a different bag. I didn't realize there was one for Phoebe too, I'll have to check it out!

  9. I tried to follow you on bloglovin and it says the link is broke! This bag is beautiful!

    1. Thank you, Lisa! I'll have to see what's going on with Bloglovin!

  10. Thank you so much for the info. Will use it in my next project, the ethel bag. thanks again, keep up the good work. Hope to see new stuff soon.

  11. Hi: thank you for sharing this! I only just found it, but will be making one ... eventually.
    I've made 2 Ethel Totes so far, and have a commission on another. But, am looking forward to making this one!
    Thank you again for sharing.

  12. I was willing to buy the template, but I don't read chinese.

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