Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tote Bag


 Here's a fun tote bag project I thunk up (yes, thunk) the other day. Of course there are tons of ways to make a tote bag, but I thought this one was fun and gives you a lot of options no less!

Whether you like things scrappy or streamlined, this bag is ready to go when you are. Take it to the library or to the park, it's big enough for all the essentials.

Ready to make one (or a few?!)


1/2 yard exterior fabric
1/2 yard lining (if you choose to use any)
1/2 yard for straps, or cotton webbing or a handle type you prefer
bias tape - handmade or store bought
thread, sewing machine
water soluble pen
pattern pieces!! {I set it up to print on an 11x17 piece of paper, if you're using letter size you'll have to tell the printer to tile full pages.}

{1/2" seam allowances throughout, unless indicated differently}

Cut and prepare pieces:

Cut two pieces from the main pattern piece out of the exterior fabric. Also cute two pieces of the lining fabric if you're using a lining. You don't have to use a lining the way the bag is constructed, but if you want to use a lighter weight fabric on the exterior, you'll probably want to use a lining.

Cut two pocket pieces. One of which will be the lining of the pocket.

Cut strap pieces: cut two pieces 6" tall by 24-27" long, depending on how long you want your handles to be.

Cut reinforcement pieces: these are on the inside of the bag, they can add a decorative or fun touch if you'd like, cut two pieces 3" tall by 13" wide. Iron one long edge of each piece WRONG sides facing by 1/2"

Make Straps:

Take the long strap pieces, fold in half the long ways, and press. Open up, fold raw edges to the center crease and press.

Fold in half again and press.

Sew down the length of the strap with the first row of stitching at 3/8" and the second line of stitching at about 1/8" on each side of the strap. Repeat for other strap. Set aside.

Make pocket:

Make these as patchworky as you'd like. (And, sorry, I didn't take pictures of making the pocket, let me know if you need help on this.) Place pocket pieces RIGHT sides together, sew using a 1/2" seam allowance all the way around the edge of the pocket, leaving a 2" opening on the bottom side of the pocket piece. Clip corners and turn right side out through the hole you left at the bottom. Press. Topstitch on the TOP edge of the pocket only. I did two rows of stitching about 1/8" and 1/4" from the top. Set aside.

Assemble bag exteriors:

Take your exterior pieces (making sure you've marked the corner darts - those little pizza shaped pieces - on each piece with a water soluble pen) and sew the darts in the corner of each side of the exterior pieces.

Align the two edge dots with fabric RIGHT sides together and stitch along the line to the upper dot of the 'wedge'. Repeat this for both corners for all main bag pieces.

If you're using a lining, take the exterior pieces and place them RIGHT sides together with the lining pieces and pin together. If you're NOT using a lining read on...

Pin the pocket to the front of one exterior piece, making sure it's centered.

Sew pocket onto front of one exterior piece. I used two rows of stitching along the pocket sides and bottom.

Align strap pieces with the raw edges of the top of the bag, spacing them equally from both sides, leaving about 3.5" between the straps (see the tiny little red arrow line above). Be sure not to twist the strap at this point!

Next, align the reinforcement piece with the unfolded edge at the top of the bag.

Pin and sew using a 1/2" seam allowance.

Flip and press so that the WRONG sides are facing.

Topstitch at the top of the bag and again at the bottom of the reinforcement strip. Repeat for other side of bag.

Finishing the bag:

Take both assembled exterior pieces and place them WRONG sides facing (or lining RIGHT sides facing if you chose to do a lining).

Baste along both sides and bottom of bag using a 1/2" seam allowance.

Trim seam allowances to about 1/4" from the basting line of stitches.

Next, take your bias tape and sandwich it along the sides and bottom of the tote and sew into place. Be sure to tuck in the raw edges of the tape by folding them under. Sewing on the bias tape can be a bit tedious, especially with thinner bias tapes (I made my bias tape strip 1.75" wide), but just take your time and go slow, this is the part that will really show the quality of your work!

That's it! Fill it with books, sling it on your shoulder and you're off to the library!

{Just wanted to add that for the patchwork/scrap type bag, I made my own bias tape with scraps as well as some of the strap piece, the pocket, and the reinforcement pieces. The pocket was made using nine 3.5" squares and sewn using a 1/2" seam allowance.}

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