Boho Gypsy Sling Bag with Leather Belt Straps



As I drove out to the lake this week, all responsibilities and even my family were left behind.. I was flying solo!
For the first time, since I can’t remember when, I just dropped everything and drove to the lake to have a visit with my parents.

My overwhelming sense of guilt got tossed out the window somewhere along the way and it felt like I was traveling back in time, back to a place where I was once young, single and childless.
All I had to be for those few days was a daughter.

We had a lovely time together, a slow time filled with conversation and then no conversation.

Just the sound of water lapping at the shore, motorboats humming, apricots bubbling into jam, water sprinkling over flower petals, pages of books being turned and iPad keys clicking.

Dinners were homemade and pure with small portions of market fresh veggies, tender cuts of meat and glasses of wine or cold tins of beer. No more grab and run, every meal was taken at the correct time and in the correct order.. simple toasts spread with Okanagan raspberry jam and later home-made relish dolloped wraps were devoured before drifting on the lake where we eased gasping into the unrelentingly glacial waters of old Mabel.

It was soul nourishing… I love my mom and dad..

The summer before my daughter was born, I rode the Greyhound Bus for 7 hours to get out to Mabel Lake with a massive bag filled with quilting fabric, thread and a pattern shoved under the seat in front of me. Every summer,  I would try to bring out a book I wanted to read or a project to work on. Katie’s “blankie” was the project that summer and with my mom’s help, I went home with a pretty ruffled pink and blue quilt that hasn’t left her side for very many nights. It also bears little resemblance to that once carefully stitched quilt, having been cradled, cuddled, and smooshed into the tattered well-loved “blankie” she has today. When she was a tiny little thing I asked her why she had to have her blankie with her everywhere. She looked at me like I must be daft and replied, “Because it smells like you, momma!”

Boho Gypsy Sling Bag with Leather Straps

This year I brought out a project that takes me back to my old “hippy days”.
I seem to be drawn to the bohemian lifestyle as each year passes and  it sure feels”right” embracing the person I once was.
Now if only I could just bring that feeling of the lake home with me..

The pattern for this tote is an Amy Butler “Gypsy Sling” pattern and the first of hers I’ve tried. I found her instructions a bit difficult to follow and had only one maddening setback when I missed the very first step where I was to tape two pattern pieces together before cutting the fabric! Why she didn’t just draw the entire front/back pattern piece in one section I’ll never know. But with the cost of the fabric, I adapted and cut out the second “extension” piece with a little seam allowance and sewed the two together so I ended up with the large piece I was supposed to have had.

Everything was pretty straight forward from there. Sewing a pocket with a little pleat and making gussets were new to me, as was sewing a bag that was lined. A gusset is made when you line up the side and bottom seams and stitch blithely across, pretty easy once you know what it is!

I was glad to have had enough experience in sewing that helped me interpret her unique pattern writing style. The diagrams can be very helpful to clarify each step. If you’re a novice sewer, I would be sure to have someone you can ask if you get stuck on any steps in this pattern. Given that so much of it is lined and sewn with heavy fabric and interfacing, it would be really challenging to rip apart any mistakes.

The final decision was whether to make fabric handles or use leather belts. My daughter promptly suggested that belts were the right choice and I agreed, thinking that fabric straps might make the bag look more like a diaper bag than the “Gypsy” coastal look I was going for.

The instructions call for cutting off the buckles and stitching the ends of the belts together. I skipped that whole step by sewing a simple channel and threading two separate belts through. I really liked the look of the buckles showing and didn’t want to remove them. They also allow me to lengthen or shorten the straps as I wish. I think if you have any two handled bag you could convert it into a similar look just by sewing the pockets and inserting the belts.

I’m now in Vernon and have gone everywhere with my new Gypsy Sling.

I love that the belts can overlap on my shoulder, this helps them “stay put” when walking around.
It opens wide enough to carry, well, anything.. from market veggies to beach gear.


This pattern cost $13.00 and can be ordered and even downloaded as PDF (not sure how you’d enlarge it) on the Amy Butler  website here. She sells fabrics on her website as well, but I choose a different fabric from our local Out of Hand shop in Lakeview.

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  • That lakeside house of your parents is just about perfect. I’d find that a hard place to leave. Lovely post.ReplyCancel

  • Gorgeous bag, Smidge, and I think you absolutely made the right decision about the handles – matching fabric handles would have looked as you say like a diaper bag, or a nanna’s knitting bag! Katie’s blankie is beautiful, and it sounds like you’re having the most wonderfully restful and enjoyable time, which is just so good to hear! xxReplyCancel

  • Smidge, how wonderful to spend alone time with your folks – reading about your time at the lake house warmed my heart to near bursting and I really love your bag and absolutely, your belt handles are the winners at completing your beautiful bag.
    Have a wonderful day.
    🙂 Mandy xoReplyCancel

  • What a lovely story about having free time with no interruptions or obligations apart from being a daughter! That must be an extremely precious time with your parents – and a rare one too. I love the images – what beautiful scenery xxReplyCancel

  • LOVE that bag! And love the way time with your mom and dad ministers to your soul ~ glad you got to let everything go to soak in a time of refreshing. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • What is it about those hippie days that we sometimes miss. It must be how carefree we were, everyone was so friendly and I don’t know about you, but I talked to everyone. I never had a bag like that before but it sure looks like it would be fun the carry around. I wonder if I could still remember to sew. My home-ec days were a long time ago. I wonder if its like riding a bike!ReplyCancel

  • I just love the bag. I have a nice collection and just purchased an Amy Butler bag.ReplyCancel

  • Is there anything you CAN’T do!? I am loving ever word of this post, I felt calm and soul nourished just reading it! I am so glad you were able to escape for a bit and spend some time alone with your parents and with yourself. The bag is amazing, I love the strap and it looks professionally made!! Amazing job!ReplyCancel

  • smidge, my sister of those hippy days! this bag does just what you hoped – speaks of carefree and lakeside, girl on the go with lots to carry and you-just-never-know! and you did Such a smart thing with those buckled belts! i bathed in your lake today barb and it was quite the refreshment i needed! this was a lovely post. all of it. xoxoReplyCancel

  • Love the project, love the memories, Smidge. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • have you changed your layout again? It was much quicker to down load this time.. what a wonderful bag, and how lucky to have a beach home with a mom and dad there as well.. perfect, it reminds me of the days when i was young and where i belonged.. gorgeous bag, I am so glad you had such a wonderful time, even just a short break like that is good for the i am off to pickle some beetroot, my mouth waters at the thought! cReplyCancel

  • Don’t you just love time spent alone with mom and dad. I like going to my parents’ house and just hanging out with them. Even if we don’t do a thing! (especially if we don’t do a thing) And I got teary eyed about how Katie liked the blanket because it smelled like momma.

    I love the purse too Smidge – it’s a great color!ReplyCancel

  • I love, love this bag! The fabric, the leather straps and the roomy design. I hope to get sewing again one of these days, and what a fun project to get back into that!

    So nice to see you took a trip on your own to see your parents. I was taken aback a bit to see your comment about feeling guilty (although glad to see you tossed that out along the way)… really, there’s no need for us to feel guilty when we take time for ourselves. Adventures like these replenish our spirit and make us even better partners/parents when we return home. And, don’t you think leaving them to forge for themselves for a while builds character? 🙂ReplyCancel

  • What a wonderful escape and visit with your parents! I love the cozy feeling of the lake and all of the nice little things that you remember as a kid. the bag is both fun and practical. Love that idea and I am sure yours will gets lots of use. Wishing you a super week. BAMReplyCancel

  • It is marvelous! I simply love it. The fabric is beautiful and the leather belts with their buckles add the perfect final touch. Congratulations and thanks a lot for sharing. I’m going to take a look at this site 😉ReplyCancel

  • It’s a lovely bag and I love how you’ve been able to adjust the pattern so it can fit your own personal needs perfectly. xxReplyCancel

  • What an incredibly clever solution for the straps, I just love it. And even though my style is more city than bohemian, I would totally go for this, particularly with the fabric choice, GORGEOUS! My very first sewing project was a reversible bag, demin one side and some patterned fabric on the other, it was quite handy but the design of the handle in the middle made carrying larger items impossible as they wouldn’t fit in through the holes — yours is the perfect design. I’m going to check out Amy Butler now, but to be honest, I find the pattern a bit pricey, so maybe I’ll check the ordinary brands and see if they have something similar. This looks like the perfect Christmas present for my GFs!
    We’re having a bit of a cold front right now, it goes down close to 10°C at night so it’s perfect for sleeping.ReplyCancel

  • What a wonderful trip and treat for you. So beautiful. I want a boho bag.ReplyCancel

  • Barb I LOVE the bag. it’s just so cute and can go well with a cute maxi dress. And you know you’re the only blogger that inspires me to get fresh flowers every week for my home :).ReplyCancel

  • What a delightful trip! So nice to spend some quality time with your parents. And what a great bag – I can see where that would be so handy. Love the pictures – thanks.ReplyCancel

  • Such a cute bag! Love the pattern and color.ReplyCancel

  • How wonderful that you were able to have a few peaceful days with your parents. Love the bag – looks like a perfect summer tote.
    Thanks for the inspiration,
    Pieced PastimesReplyCancel

  • I love that bag, Barbara! I’m definitely drawn to the boho/gypsy style look. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • You really touched on a point that many of us feel as mothers…escaping back to that point in life where we weren’t loaded with responsibility, and the “lakehouse” mentality was our lives.

    I just spent a night away from my sons and husband for the first time in a few years, and feel completely recharged. But the challenge is, finding that quiet space in the everyday.

    I only find that offline in yoga classes, walks, drawing, etc.

    I love your project, and this whole post. We are pinning at sharing it today at Our Sunday Best.

    Have a blessed weekend, “Smidge”…


    • Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen

      Thank you so much, Nicolette, you’ve left me blushing with such kind remarks. You’re right, it’s definitely time to find that respite in the every day.. Hopefully I can bring that back with me into the September crazy time! Thanks again:) xx BarbReplyCancel

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  • Barbara, on the first photo I thought the bag was your dress … how funny was that. I’m loosing it.
    What a fantastic home your parents have … or is it their summer place????? Wow … it reminds me about that movie with Jane and Henry Fonda – Golden Point .. I think the title was.
    The “dress” is fantastic and I really like your choice of fabrics.ReplyCancel

  • Just saw your gorgeous sling on FB and dashed over to see if I could buy one (or more) from you! (I’m not set up to sew right now 🙁 ) but what a beautiful bag… just love! (also really like the fabric you chose Smidge).ReplyCancel

    • Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen

      Thanks, Kelly! There was a shop in BC that said they could sell these bags, but I did the math and with prices of materials, I’d probs make $20 per bag. Not a great return on a business. If I ever get my head up out of work I’d love to make you one, though:) xxReplyCancel

  • Thanks Barb — so true, when you add it up, so many of these homemade pursuits are not money makers sadly ;-). The bags are beautiful though!ReplyCancel

    • Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen

      Yup.. they do enrich our own lives and that’s a great thing:DReplyCancel

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  • Tara

    Hi- love the bag and thanks for sharing. On a side note: I actually think fabric straps could be very cute and very Boho chic, by the way! Not diaper bag at all, lol! I was actually even thinking about the soft rope they use in nautical and rustic apparel/accessories. Only saying in case you do the pattern again 🙂

    I have a question for you about this pattern- Did you actually use all that fusible interfacing that is listed on the pattern (it’s over 8 yards!!)? IReplyCancel

    • Hey, I love the idea of soft rope, that would be so pretty for summer! You know, it was so long ago that I made this, but that does sound like a lot! I have this vague recollection of discussing this with the girl at the shop because she thought so too? Are you going to make one? You’ll love it!ReplyCancel

      • Tara

        Yes, I LOVE these types of bags! Actually, yours is selling it better than Amy Butler’s photos did- I like the long line it creates. I have a few ideas for it, and I like trying to find home décor fabric, so I don’t have to do interfacing. I also agree with what was said above – I occasionally sell my bags, but it usually just funds more projects, not really a money maker. Love your pics! I’ll check out the rest of your blog, as well… 🙂ReplyCancel

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