A geek with style

Let me tell you this – sewing gives “instant gratification” a whole new meaning.

I had an utterly craptastic day yesterday. Oh, don’t worry – I’m fine, my family and friends are fine, my personal and professional lives are just dandy… but what the hell is up with this weather?!? I thought nothing, nothing could be worse than my walk to work yesterday, when the shit of hell itself was falling down from the sky, bombarding me from every direction. But I was wrong! My walk back home at the end of the day was a ballet through an icy slurry, leaping from this pile of ice to the next, and still ending up cold and wet from head to toe.


I got home, changed my clothes, and thought, “I don’t want to knit right now. In order to lift my mood, I want a finished project by the end of the night! Sewing to the rescue!”

I’m a big fan of totes – so simple, yet so practical! I have at least 3 or 4, but always reach for my favorite: a simple cotton one with thin, long-ish straps. I don’t know what it is about this one that makes it different, but the size always seems to be right, and the straps always stay on my shoulder. Love it!

But, there’s a slight problem:

Nothing screams “geek” like a tote proudly announcing that I’m a member of the Society for Neuroscience to every passerby!

Upgrade? I think so! For several weeks now I’ve envisioned a perfect tote upgrade, and yesterday was the perfect day to crank out a little cuteness.

Tada! I absolutely adore this bag! If it looks familiar, it’s because I used fabric and piping left over from my June Cleaver apron.

I didn’t use a pattern and made this very much freeform – just my fabric, a ruler, a rotary cutter, and the SfN tote to use as a guideline. I’m especially proud to have conceived and created this project without the help of my sewing teacher, and using my own tools and sewing machine. Finished in one night, too! Very gratifying.

I’m starting to feel very confident about sewing, and I think my teacher will be delighted with my construction and finishing when I show this to her.

As for the details, there aren’t too many to report. The upper portion of the bag is fully lined, and the lower is joined with a slight ruffling. Overall, I gave the bag a slight pear shape – I don’t like my stuff to be visible to the whole world.

And the geeky tote? There’s a time and place for everything, so I’m holding on to it. However, when prancing around downtown this weekend, I’ll be using my upgrade :).


91 thoughts on “A geek with style

  1. gray la gran

    oh! the bag is precious πŸ™‚ i keep meaning to do some sewing, and i sometimes feel i need a bag for each knitting project, specific to that project.

    i know how a bad weather walk can suck … i have a story about walking in thigh high drifts with ice plastered to the windward side of my face! brrr!

  2. amberpixie

    looks great! i love the instant gratification of sewing, as well, and have the idea for a great tote kicking around in my head. maybe now that vision will include piping…

  3. rfg

    Fantastic! I love it. And I love the instant gratification of sewing (once I get it together to cut all the pieces and put needle to fabric, that is).

  4. Jenn

    The tote looks great. I’m glad you are keeping your Neuroscience bag. I work in a Neuroscience lab and think you should be proud of your geekiness. πŸ™‚

  5. mari

    I love your bag! So great, and without a pattern – very impressive. I’m glad to see that you are appreciating the appeal of sewing – the instant gratification is addicting!

  6. Marlyce

    Great new tote. The piping is a beautiful designer touch which kicks it up a notch.

    Let me suggest a way to upgrade your geeky tote. (I’m great at this–I’ll do all kinds of stuff to a project to try to redeem it, and then, when all else fails, finally give it to a thrift shop)

    Cut out a beautiful design from a fabric–even the flowers from the scraps of your new tote bag–arrange them to cover the SFN logo. Cut out a piece of stitch witchery the same size, and iron on. Trim the edges with fabric glue of a fabulous colour, or metallic shade, and voila–your best tote loses it’s geekyness. And you’ve entered another craft zone–like you needed that.

  7. Kim

    I’ve got a tote fetish too. I’m going to sew up a new one for spring and give my beloved Lexie Barnes skeleton pattern knitting bag a rest. Yesterday’s was ghastly. I wish it had just snowed.

  8. kelly

    Your bag is awesome! So cute! Your sewing teacher will be so proud. Sorry about your sucky weather…but it will be spring soon enough!

  9. Nicole

    Perhaps what your geek tote needs is a front pocket. Although I must say, with the fabulous new one you made, it might be awhile before you feel the need.

  10. jennie

    heh. i have that bag too, and I’m not even a neuroscientist (but my best friend is — also lives in boston. small world). It IS a great bag. I have a slew of conference bags that i love to carry around also, but it never occured to me to make my own (less dorky) version. Yours is so cute! I must make myself one now.

  11. Carrie

    It’s adorable! I have been on the lookout for a good sewing class, myself, but the only ones available are for kids or seniors, or are credit-classes in the middle of the day at the local community college. Gah! Even the fabric and sewing machine shops have weak offerings!

  12. Leisel

    It’s gorgeous. I think I might even like the fabric as a tote better than I did as an apron, if that’s possible. Now I want to go pull out my sewing machine.

  13. Cirilia

    Sorry, that bag doesn’t exempt you from geekness because it is GENIUS! I have a little purse that has these qualities (slight gather that makes the top a little more private/secure and the bottom a cavernous ballon for all my stuff) and I can’t wait to replicate it. Well done!

  14. Maritza

    I am swooning over the details! It is fantastic! And in those lovely, juicy colors, it is certainly the quicker-picker-upper from yesterday’s grays. I love it.

  15. Elizabeth

    Very cute. I love making totes myself, always out of fun happy fabrics like yours. Your bag makes me want to get out the sewing machine and whip up some instant gratification.

  16. Amber A

    Hi, I’m new to your blog but find it very inspiring and interesting! LOVE the tote you made and I completely understand about sewing’s instant gratification factor. There’s a time and place for everything! (Living in the Pacific NW, we have rain coming at us from ALL directions…)

  17. Brenda

    Very pretty! I have science society and meeting totes. Sometimes I wonder if the society thinks we really use the tote after the meeting. I don’t want to have to explain what the Society for Glycobiology is to my non-science friends, and even though they ask, they really don’t want to know either.

  18. Laurie

    Fantastic Tote! And your finishing is beautiful. Yup. Your teacher will be proud.

    The geek tote? How about treating it to a little dye job? Your favorite color might give that bag just the lift it needs to be presentable all of the time.

    But, really, is there ANYTHING wrong with being a geek when you’re over 16?

  19. sanni

    Hey what about this idea? A little series of totes in fabrics as different as possible. Like, how about a smashing Marimekko design




    PVC-coated (misnamed “oilcloth”)–I’m Finnish, have used Marimekko fabrics all my life, they’re very cool and durable, and the PVC coated ones look matte but feel smooth & repel dirt/water) or plain Marimekko fabrics/remnants for a bigger selection and different look. Bold graphic designs, big-scale, handsome.


    these–very are cool–the galbraiths are talented



    African-style primitive prints with pleats and contrast piping. just pulled this off the web at random, don’t know the source at all


    Or Seacloth, from a range of styles and colors


    How about it?

    Love your blog.

  20. Brandy

    I love it! That is such a great idea!

    I have tons of meeting totes as well. I’ve never thought twice about using them (well maybe I have thought twice about the BRIGHT YELLOW one I got from my alma mater last year) but you have a great idea for just making your own. πŸ™‚ While reading your post, however, I thought that perhaps you were going to do some embroidery and patch it over the SfN or something… and that gives *me* an idea! I’ve been looking for an excuse to embroider something, and maybe I’ll patch up my silly totes.

    Thanks for some inspiration. πŸ™‚

  21. SheepsPyjamas

    The tote looks great — you only have at least 3 or 4 though? I have several with knit projects at any given time, plus a bunch that just sit and wait their turn. I do know what you mean about a favorite, though — I do tend to use one until it’s dead before moving on to another, even so. Hmmm… If I knew how to sew, I could make as many as I wanted, all it’d take is some material and thread and, yikes, a whole new stash… Nice job of yours!

  22. Joan

    Your tote is gorgeous and you are terrifying. Is there anything you can’t do when you put your mind to it? I only hope you never choose to put your many talents to work for evil….

  23. Ariel

    I think Boston forgot how to shovel! I got my feet totally soaked walking through the 4 inches of ice water covering our sidewalk. πŸ™

    Your tote is lovely by the way! Reading your blog makes me want to learn to sew even more than I did before. Too many hobbies!

  24. Meghann

    Oh, god! I’m so sorry you had to walk yesterday….the weather WAS miserable. My hubby was out shoveling last night and was soaked and cranky when he came back. The bag is adorable. Hmmm….time to get out my sewing machine? I have a bag “problem”. LOL!

  25. Lynn in Tucson

    It’s not just the weather, Kathy. I’m convinced there’s something wrong with the universe this week. But bags like that should help get things back on track!

    Piping intimidates the hell out of me. Yours looks great.

  26. Heide

    Of course your new tote is to-die-for cute and amazingly constructed, but I like your geeky tote. Sometimes the messages we pass on to others are fun. I personally whip out my pen that says “PROZAC” on it for signing checks, etc. in public when I don’t feel like talking. It came from a pharmaxy rep that I know, but people tend to eschew conversation with someone whom they know to be mentally imbalanced. Hee.

  27. Nicola

    That’s really beautiful. I got a sewing machine for Christmas, I am so looking forward to the time when I get to try it out and maybe get myself some instant gratification too!

  28. Samantha

    Man, the weather yesterday and today has been horrifically terrible. And this week I started a new job that has me outside all the time! I’m not sure which is worse, dealing with the icy sludge from yesterday or the 3 to 5 inch lakes of ice formed from the sludge today.

    Love the bag–my landlord gave me a sewing machine and I need to slap that puppy on the table and see if it works!

  29. beth

    From a former sewing teacher, be proud indeed. Very well done. I love that fabric and piping is the perfect finish for almost any sewing project.

  30. Dana

    I am impressed. As someone who has sewn for a long time (I really had trouble with the word ‘sewer’- how to spell one who sews vs. the system that removes household waste?)I followed your learning curve as you learned to sew. Now..no pattern? Piping? You go girl!

  31. Kim

    The first thing I noticed about your bag was the little gathers – sort of like an empire waist for your bag. I love little details like that! You’ve rapidly become quite a seamstress – no, fabric artist!

  32. Shanon

    Oh, it’s gorgeous! That’s it, I’m definitely asking for a sewing machine for my birthday. It’s time I learn. πŸ˜‰

  33. Anne

    Ooh a woman of many talents – that’s so cute! I’ve never been able to sew much, but it never ceases to amaze me how quickly nice little totes and bags can be sewn together like that!

  34. minnie

    and since it matches the june cleaver apron, you could use it while wearing the apron (um, if you needed a tote bag in the kitchen, lol. ya never know!)

  35. Dorothee

    Pretty! I wish I could sew… as soon as I live in a place that has more space than my apartment right now, I’ll buy a sewing machine and sign up for sewing classes.

    Keep the Neuroscience bag though! I think it’s cool.

  36. Sue Krekorian

    Add me to your bag fan list! My sweetheart is a psychiatrist, so we too end up with a bit of freebie plunder adorned with questionable embellishment. Another solution is appliquΓ© to cover the offending motif – a simple answer for one of your accomplishments… And I’m just knitting my fourth pair of Jaywalkers – thank you so much for the pleasure and cosy toes they give me.

  37. Christina

    Love it! Love the shape and the fabric. Nothing like some instant gratification. I almost had some yesterday until I melted it with the iron. Doh. πŸ˜›

  38. Judy Foldi

    Oh, I just knew that you would be as good at sewing as you are at knitting. I always loved sewing but my back can’t take bending over the machine any more. That’s why I went back to knitting a few years ago. I’ll bet you can cook too…

  39. Susan

    well how ’bout that? we’ve got that very neuroscience bag at home, a relic from hubbo’s days in gradual school. we use it grocery shopping all th time but it’s totally coming apart. those neuroscientists may know brain stuff but they can’t make a durable tote bag for anything. your june cleaver bag has inspired me!

  40. Kate

    I love the new tote.

    I might have to sew a replacement for my ‘Alcohol: Don’t lose your standards’ one that I got at school.

  41. silverarrowknits

    Why is it that all the free conference bags are the most useful? One of my favorite canvas bags is one that I got from APSS (the big annual conference for sleep researchers). It has a huge logo on one side, but it durable and has a zippered top!

  42. Teresa

    My mother is like that. She LOVES totes. I just came from the 2007 Knit Out at the Mall of America and she’s already eyeballing the lion brand tote I got LOL! I love your sewn tote by the way. I can’t sew for…anything.

  43. TracyKM

    Very cute!

    For the other cotton bag, you could turn it inside out and stitch on some pretty ribbon to cover the seam allowances. viola! A reversible bag! Or, you could dye it so the logo is not so noticeable πŸ™‚

  44. Lisa in Toronto

    I just carry the geeky bags with the logo next to me, instead of facing out.

    I like the suggestion of a small pocket to cover a particularly geeky logo – shopping list, pencil, key, phone etc

    For a future project you may even want a top zipper.

    I don’t know how to sew at all – I am impressed.

  45. Mary-Heather

    Your new tote is beautiful – nothing like a cute new bag (in an evening, no less) to cure some blahs. BUT! I think the Society for Neuroscience tote is high on the awesome scale, too… I’d snap it up if I saw it in a thrift store! πŸ™‚

  46. Lisette

    I’m new to your blog relatively speaking and have yet to create my own, but I just had to come out of hiding when I saw this post!

    So, can I just say I have felt the same way about my geek tote and yes, in fact, have used it regardless of what it screams. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the inspiration to make a suitable replacement! Your new bag is so cute!

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