I finally found a bag pattern that I really like and feel like I can improve to make the elusive "perfect" bag (for me).
This is the Hobo Bag from jcarolinecreative's online tutorial. It ends up a really nice size and weight, and I learned two things while following her tutorial. The first thing I learned was a clever way to add form to the bottom of a bag. The other was a clever way to install a zipper pocket on the side.
The tone of the tutorial was nice and funny while being easy enough to follow. I wish the first photo of hers would have shown all of the pieces that she cut, because it was a little bit hard to figure out how many of each piece to cut. Had she had the different pieces connect with different markings than all circles the same size, it would have also made it easier. It took me a little bit of figuring to sort out which piece was for the bottom and which was for the side and how many of each to cut (the shorter one is the bottom, and you need one of those and two of the longer ones, which are for the side-- in both the interior and exterior fabric, if you are curious). She could have labeled the pattern pieces with the part, too, to make it easier to follow.
While making this, I was quite impressed with her description of how to enclose closed-cell foam and make it attach to the bottom of the bag. She didn't have a photo, but her explanation was quite clever. I didn't have any of said foam, and used a double-layer of Zorb, and it worked nicely.
I was also really impressed at her step-by-step explanation of a side zipper pocket and like how my first attempt turned out. Next time, I will turn under my cut edges slightly more so that it would hide my initial seams more fully.
Another modification I made was to use a snap instead of a magnetic closure and I think it works okay here (I have lots of snaps and no magnetic closures, plus she says you should use a product to keep it from fraying, and I would like to stay away from making things that will make my items fray in the first place).
I think the strap is really cute, with the rings and the square knot. I didn't have any rings, so I used some plastic d-rings from an old pair of gloves. They made the fabric squish up a bit, since they were quite a bit smaller than the size rings she calls for, but I like upcycling and am happy enough with them. Next time, I am going to cut both exterior side pieces about two inches longer to make it easier to work around rings of some sort, as mine ended up a little closer to the bag than hers did in her pictures, and they seem a bit squished.
I am curious how structurally sound the straps will be, since there are four seams and a knot holding the strap on to the bag. On her cutting directions, I was confused about the straps and initially only cut the longer strap. Perhaps a list of pieces needing to be cut would be helpful. Also, with the strap, I am not sure it is long enough. This may be one of the modifications I will make next time (lengthening the strap).
Also, I skipped the interfacing completely. I was happy that it used less than a yard of the exterior fabric, and the interior is an old sheet. I have been having bad luck with interfacing lately, and thought the weight of the flannel would make up for the lack of interfacing. You can see through the light interior fabric slightly, which would have been avoided had I used interfacing or a darker interior fabric.
I am really excited about this bag. In addition to making the straps a bit longer next time, I may add a pouch pocket on the side opposite to the zipper pocket. But maybe that would make it less simple and detract from the bag overall?