Harris Tweed bag with the Ethel Tote pattern

Harris Tweed Ethel Tote

Review Info

"The tote is fully lined, with two slip-pockets on the front. The instructions provide details for making your own handles too. The bag is kept upright with foam stabiliser. Ideally suited for beginners."


Our rating:

Buy it for £FREE

This is one of the first bags I’ve made in a long time, since I started sewing. I used to make a lot of bags out of old clothes when I was learning to sew. I’d cover them in ric-rac and tassels. They were awful. This one is hopefully much better!

Harris Tweed is a specific heritage fabric from the Isle of Harris, and surrounding Hebridean islands, in Scotland. The fabric is made from wool of sheep living on the islands, and is woven on a traditional loom in traditional patterns such as coloured checks and herringbone. It is the only fabric in the world to be governed by its own Act of Parliament. This act states that only fabric made in this traditional manner can be granted with the Harris Tweed Authority orb label.

Harris Tweed Ethel Tote

Details on the Ethel Tote

I decided to make this bag for my friend for her birthday. She has a love for all things Scottish and I know she really wanted a Harris Tweed overnight bag. Well this is a gentle introduction to an overnight bag! This tote is made using the free Ethel Tote pattern from Swoon, which is ideally suited for beginners.

The tote is fully lined, with two slip-pockets on the front. The instructions provide details for making your own handles but I decided to use riveted leather handles instead. The bag is kept upright with foam stabiliser. I didn’t use any strong stabiliser on the very bottom, so my bag does sag a little bit.

Adjustments to the Ethel Tote

I did make a few pattern adjustments. Due to having only a small amount of fabric, I decided to create an exterior-front as a faced piece rather than a full piece. That means that the entirety of the slip pocket is lined, rather than the whole front piece being made of exterior fabric even when it won’t be seen.

I also added a small patch-pocket to the inside with an additional “keysaver” – a lobster clasp for attaching keys to so they won’t get lost in the depths of the bag.

I added a magnetic clasp to the lining as I wanted to secure the bag closed. It does pull it out of shape a little (it collapses the side gussets) but I don’t mind this look.


I’m planning to make another one or two of these bags. I’m really happy with the result. The only change I will make next time is to use a very strong stabiliser on the base, and also to face the top of the lining so that no lining is seen when the bag is closed. But other than that, I’m pretty happy with how it looks!

I’m knocking off one star because I feel like the drafting points I raised above should be included as standard. I do understand it’s meant to be a simple tote, but I don’t feel like these parts are particularly challenging.

Harris Tweed Ethel Tote


Francesca Haselden

Francesca is the owner of EatSleepKnitUK, she also works for Toyota Home Sewing and is a web developer 9-5!

Visit Francesca's site

Tell us what you think!

Get involved with the discussion