Pattern review · Tutorial · Uncategorized

The Bag With a Mission

I’d like to introduce someone to you for this blog post. I “met” Bridget the season that I competed on Project Run and Play. I don’t know if she voted for me each week (and I won’t ask) but she encouraged and supported me with words along the way. When I decided to start Sofiona Designs she was one of the first people that applied when I posted the tester call and I was honoured because I found that she didn’t test for anyone else. I have to admit, I felt special that she wanted to jump into that world with me. Since then she has done numerous tests for us and always goes the extra mile.

I involve our testers in quite a bit of behind-the-scenes stuff and one thing was inviting them to be part of some brainstorming on how to celebrate our one year anniversary. Bridget pointed out that though we do state that a portion of all our sales go to A21, it’s not something that is really visible and talked about. Most people likely don’t know.  (Find more about A21 by clicking the logo on the top of our website.) I could say more, but I’ll let Bridget tell the story.

So, without further ado, I’m handing this over to Bridget and I’m throwing in some pictures of the new Balsam bag as made by a few of our testers.

Photo: Jess

I’m so excited to introduce the Balsam Bag from Sofiona Designs! This pattern has been a true labor of love, and has taken months of work from many minds and several hands to be brought into existence. 

Earlier this year, Sherri and Trisha began planning their upcoming Sofiona Designs 1-year anniversary and asked their special events team for ideas. All the members of the group gave wonderful suggestions, and it was incredibly inspiring to read all the ideas shared.

Ever since they opened their online doors, they have donated a portion of every sale to an organization called A21, which helps rescue and rehabilitate victims of human trafficking. I thought it would be great to highlight their commitment to A21 by releasing a bag pattern with them in mind, and shared my thoughts in the group. Sherri and Trish loved the idea, and asked me to design the bag for them! When they asked if I was interested, I let out an excited squeal, and did a rather embarrassing celebration dance that I am grateful no one but myself witnessed…

Photo: Erika @erikamadewithlove

The Balsam bag incorporates several features that make Sofiona Designs unique and memorable. It features eye-catching angles, sleek design lines, hardware details, and comes with different options and sizes to mix and match for both small and large family members. 

Photo: Chloe @t_wootsie

Recommended fabrics for this bag are canvas, light faux leathers with drape-like qualities, and interfaced quilting cottons. Interfaced medium-weight knits and heavier faux leathers are also great options, however, these options require certain changes to be made to the construction method of the straps and tabs to accommodate the nature of thick, sturdy fabrics. These are recommended for experienced or adventurous sewists, who are familiar with these types of fabrics and their sewing machine’s capabilities.

Photo: Annie @dalilahtrew

Method for Straps and D-Ring Tabs with Heavier Fabrics

I chose to try some bags with some different fabrics outside of those recommended. One was a sturdier pleather and the other was interfaced cotton lycra. In order to make the straps and D-ring tabs work, I used different methods than the one in the pattern tutorial (since it is written with lighter fabrics in mind). This idea originally came from Rachelle, one of the Balsam Bag testers who, by the way, has two blog posts written up about her own Balsam bags. This one for her daughter and this leather one that she made from her couch!!! Yes, you read that correctly! She goes into more details about her strap construction there as well.

Instead of cutting the D-ring tabs and shoulder strap according to the cut chart, cut the pieces with the same length, but only HALF the width. Mark the center. 

For the interfaced knit bag, I found that the fabric was still quite pliable and I was able to use a method that still enclosed the ends but resulted in a thinner strap that I was able to sew through when folded in half and attached to the body of the bag.

With the prepared fabric, (1) fold the sides to the middle mark, with right sides together. (2) Sew across the short ends with the same seam allowance recommended in the pattern. (3) Clip corners, trim seam allowance in half, and (4) turn right sides out. Clip into place.

Sew down the length of both sides on either side of the center. (Read a bit further about how to finish the back of the strap before topstitching.)

For the thicker pleather fabric, it did not have the pliability for enclosed ends and it’s just too thick for a regular household sewing machine to sew through when all the layers are lined up. I needed to use a method that would leave the edges exposed on the ends. Of course, with leather-like fabrics, this is quite acceptable.

(1) Fold the sides to the middle mark, with wrong sides together. Clip into place, and (2) sew down the length of both sides on either side of the center mark

I want to point out that this does result in an exposed raw edge on the back. This is usually fine with leathers, however not recommended for fabrics that will fray and maybe not preferred if using the interfaced knit. The tabs will be folded and it won’t be visible, but it will be on the strap. Here’s an idea for you that also adds yet another nice finish to the bag without any added bulk.

Using a ribbon of whatever width you prefer, lay it over the back of the strap centering it evenly and covering the raw edges. There is no need to have the short, raw edge of the ribbon finished as it will be hidden once you fold the end of the strap over.

Topstitch in place. Keep in mind how many topstitching lines you want on your strap if you already stitched the strap in the previous step. Use your creativity to come up with the look that suits your taste.

After tab and strap are assembled using this method, continue with the construction according to the pattern tutorial. 

Photo: Lindsay @lindsaysewsstuff

I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to design the Balsam Bag for Sofiona Designs. It has been an amazing experience, and I hope everyone loves it as I much as I do. All the proceeds from the purchase of this pattern will go straight to A21 to help rescue and rehabilitate people trapped in modern day slavery. As makers, this is a great way to give back to the community, and I am excited to be part of it.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Sherri, Trish, and each of the testers who have used their time, talents, and fabric to bring this bag to life. I am so very appreciative of all the hard work and attention invested. Together we have put a lot of love into the Balsam Bag, and we can’t wait to see it come to life with everyone’s unique vision, details, and talents! Please share makes by posting in the Sofiona Designs Fan Group on Facebook, and posting on Instagram using the hashtags: #sofibalsam #balsalminthewild and #sofionadesigns. You can find me on Instagram at or at

Photo: Lindsay @PACountryCrafts
Photo: Amanda @derivingmommyhood
Photo: Anja
Photo: Meghan @emptyseasewing
Photo: Emily @byemilyfi

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