The Harriet Expandable Tote by Swoon Patterns


Hi! It’s Denita from HattieLu Handmade. I had the pleasure of sewing Harriet by Swoon Sewing Patterns. Harriet is Pattern No. 11 of the Vintage Collection. The Vintage Collection began in March 2015 and showcases a total of twelve Swoon bags.

We all sew for different reasons and some are afraid to attempt a Swoon or another handbag pattern. In all honesty, handbags are not hard. There is a slight learning curve to “understanding” the directions; however, Swoon has an awesome support system.

I’m a little biased because Swoon was the first handbag pattern I sewed. So why is that important? I’ve sewn a lot of Swoon bags. However, Harriet is my absolute favorite. Harriet has a very special meaning to me. My great-grandmother, Hattie Robinson Benson, was born Harriet Robinson. She changed her name from Harriet to Hattie before moving to South Carolina. The irony of my passion for bags being showcased by my favorite designer with my great-grandmother’s given name is uncanny! I know I probably sound out there, but I literally cried about the name. It’s almost as my great-grandmother is officially telling me that I’m doing a good job from heaven.

To honor the spirit of my great-grandmother, I chose sheer roses (backed with pink quilting cotton) and vintage sewing machines. She loved her rose bushes and tended them daily. She sewed on what we call a “vintage” sewing machine. These fabrics together seemed to make the perfect handbag and who doesn’t love challenge.

Harriet is a mid-sized expandable tote bag. What makes Harriet special? She has two expandable side zippers, interior zippered pocket, fabric overlays, and a top closure flap. The instructions are well written and easy to follow. I am a visual learner so when I “get stuck” I’ve found that if I re-read the instructions the steps become more clear. The two toughest areas of Harriet are the side zippers and topstitching the exterior in the round before attaching the bottom panel. Overall, Harriet is very easy to put together.

On the Swoon Patterns website, Harriet is rated a 3 out of 4; however, she’s closer to a 2 especially if you use quilting cotton for the entire handbag. She measures 12.5″ wide (at the base of the handbag), 10″ tall, and 4.5″ deep. I fussy cut, fused, and sewed Harriet in 12 hours (two munchkin helpers). You can probably finish in about 5 hours without any interruptions.

One important thing to mention: if you will clip the curves on the Left and Right Accent pieces and the Closure Flap, it makes them lay flat more easily. I made one alteration to Harriet. Instead of adding the interior zippered pocket, I added a patch pocket. Slipping my lip gloss, cell phone, and pen is easier to access with the patch pocket versus the zipper pocket.

Thanks to my great-grandmother and great-aunt for guiding and teaching me. Tell me...Who was/is your sewing inspiration? Why do you sew with passion?

Click here for more Swoon patterns and reviews? I want to see your Harriet! Post yours in our Facebook group!

Until we meet again! Remember, it’s all about the sewing!



Chris's version shows how easy it is to adjust the Harriet to exactly what you want. She enlarged the pattern to 110%, extended the straps 7 inches, and left off the closure tab to make it into the perfect school bag that she can easily get in and out of all day!