Tote Bag Tutorial Part 1: Gathering Supplies

I love this tote bag!  I have made many of them over the years for myself and others.  The best part about this particular bag is that anyone who can sew a straight line with a sewing machine can make this tote!  This is often the first project I have students (most of whom have never sewn anything) take on while learning to sew.

Tote Bag A

This is going to be a five part tutorial, with one section coming out each week.  I am putting in a lot of pictures and directions, so some of these posts will be lengthy- but hopefully in a good way!

Who is this tutorial intended for?

  • A beginning sewist who would like to improve their skills. (For the purposes of this tutorial I am assuming that you can thread your sewing machine, sew a straight stitch and zig-zag using the machine, read a ruler, and cut a straight line)
  • A quilter who has little or no experience sewing bags or garments.  (This project is designed to incorporate a lot of techniques and terminology used in garment construction, so reading other patterns should be easier after working through this project)
  • Anyone who wants to try making their own pattern- That’s right you will be making this bag from a custom pattern that you will create to fit your needs!

What will each section of the tutorial cover? (Links will be provided as posts become available)

Are you on board?  If so, you will want to start gathering the following supplies.  I often list what I use, and then follow up with one or two other options.  Just choose the material you are the most comfortable using.  If you have questions please leave a comment or email me, and I will do try to help you figure out what you need.

Tote Bag Supplies

For Drafting your pattern you will need:

  • Large paper-  I keep a roll of brown paper on hand to make patterns.  It was purchased in the paint area of a big-box hardware store.  You can also use something like freezer paper or tape together several sheets of printer/notebook paper if you don’t want to purchase a roll of brown paper.
  • A ruler with clear and accurate measurements.  I usually use a 2″x18″ gridded ruler found in most art, drafting, or sewing stores.  You can also use a good rotary cutting ruler or metal ruler.
  • A 90º Angle-  I usually use a large drafting triangle.  Other possible options are a tailor’s or framing square or a square rotary cutter ruler (the larger the better).
  • A couple sharp pencils
  • A good eraser
  • Tape- transluscent is best, but masking could work in a pinch.  I like a matte finish because it is easier to write over should the need arise
  • Tracing wheel / Pounce wheel / Perk wheel / Spiky-Wheel-of-Death.  I’ve heard this called a few things, but make sure you have one with pokey edges (the smooth wheel won’t work for this project)
  • A surface with a bit of give.  My table is covered with a painted, muslin covered piece of homasote.  Homasote is a construction material originally intended to function as a sound barrier, but it can act as a low cost bulletin board since it is firm and still easy to push a thumb tack into.  A cork board placed flat on the table or a piece of foam core are also plausible options.
  • Scissors suitable for use on paper
  • push pins

For cutting and constructing your bag you will need:

  • Ruler, pencils (or other marking device that will show up on your fabric), perk wheel, surface with a bit of give, and push pins from the list above.
  • Straight pins- whatever size and type you prefer.  I use size 21 with glass ball heads.
  • Container or pin cushion for straight pins
  • Fabric Shears
  • Tracing Paper (the type with a colored chalk or waxy coating on one side and plain paper on the other)  I like using large sheets of tracing paper in light blue that I get from Richard the Thread.  (Not a sponsored post- I just really like this tracing paper for bag and garment projects!)  For this project you don’t necessarily need to make that kind of investment, the small sheets from most large sewing stores are ok.
  • 1 yard quilting cotton for upper section for the bag exterior (this is an ample amount- the actual amount may be less depending on the bag size you choose and type of print)
  • 1 yard quilting cotton for lower section of the bag exterior (this is an ample amount- the actual amount may be less depending on the bag size you choose and type of print)
  • 1 yard quilting cotton for bag lining (this is an ample amount- the actual amount may be less depending on the bag size you choose and type of print)
  • 1 yard cotton canvas or cotton duck:  You will never see this fabric in the finished bag, but it add structural integrity to the bag.  If you would like a less expensive option, I have had success using a canvas drop cloth from the paint section of a hardware store. (I will be posting a tutorial for preparing a canvas drop cloth for sewing projects)
  • 1/3 yard of fusible interfacing, woven if possible.  I typically use Pellon Shape Flex Woven Fusible Interfacing that is generally available at big box sewing stores.
  • About 3 yards of webbing for your bag handles.  I usually use cotton webbing 1″ in width.
  • 2 Buttons
  • Thread to match (or coordinate with) bag exterior and bag lining.
  • Hand sewing needles and beeswax or Thread Heaven (as desired)
  • Sewing machine with bobbins, needles, etc.

I am really excited to share the process of creating this bag, and I hope you will enjoy making this skill building tote!

This post is linked up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced, and Tip and Tutorial Tuesday at Late Night Quilter.  Please stop by to see all of the beautiful projects being created.

Oh Scrap! Feature

I am really excited that today my tutorial for cord/coin pouches is featured in Oh Scrap! at Quilting is More Fun Than Housework.

Cord/Coin Keyring Pouches

Cord/Coin Keyring Pouches

Oh Scrap! is a terrific link up to share your ideas for making good use of the bits of fabric we all have laying around.  I hope to read some of your scrap-busting ideas there!

Quilting is more fun than Housework

Cynthia creates so many beautiful designs, and I hope you will check out all of her wonderful work!

If this is your first time visiting, I am thrilled to have you here!  Please take a look around to see more of my work.

This year I have embarked on a project to create a mini quilt a week, so I hope you will continue to visit as this project progresses.  I enjoy creating quilts in a wide range of styles, particularly “art” and “modern” quilts, and I like to share the design process as well as finished quilts.  In the coming weeks, I will also be releasing an in depth multi-post tutorial on creating a custom tote bag.

I love sharing my work with you, and I am so happy to welcome you to my online home.  Thank you for visiting!

Implied Spiral: Mini Quilt #3

Mini Quilt Mania continues this week with Implied Spiral which is the third mini quilt finish for the year!

Implied Spiral Mini Quilt Front

Implied Spiral: Front View

I started this week by doing some drafting for a theatrical scenic design which included two spiral staircases.

Initial Stages of Spiral Staircase Drafting

The first thing I do when drafting a staircase is to rough in the stair placement, and it occurred to me that this type of visual may be an interesting inspiration for a quilt.  I especially like seeing several spiral staircases together (like in the step by step image above)  When looking at a spiral staircase from the front, the stair placement shifts from one side of center to the other.  I sketched designs with and without the central post, but ultimately decided I liked the simplicity of the design without a separate vertical design element.  I did, however, want to emphasize the shift from one side of the quilt to the other.  This is how I decided to use a color shift to define the vertical areas of the design.

I started a pair of bright colors for the background with a single, sharply contrasting color for the stairs.  Then I experimented with a black and white version in which the stair and background colors would reverse on each side.  Finally, I combined the two ideas by using a consistent “stair” color with contrasting background colors.

Implied Spiral: Color Options

I enjoy using complementary color schemes, and blue with orange is one of my favorites.  In looking through my stash, I was happy to discover some Carolyn Friedlander prints.  The architectural feel she uses in many of her designs reinforces the architectural influence of this design, and I had the same print in both the white and blue color ways.  Another fabric from her line is used for the orange “stair steps.”

Implied Spiral Detail

Implied Spiral: Detail

I made up a quick cut list and layout for the design to help in translating the design from the computer to fabric.

Cut List for Implied Spiral

Once the quilt top was assembled, I selected a blue from the stash to serve as a background.  I knew I wanted to do heavy horizontal quilting, so I thought a solid would show off the stitching without competing with it.

Implied Spiral Mini Quilt Back

Implied Spiral: Back

The quilting lines are mostly orange, but I did incorporate two white stitching lines through each “stair.”

I wanted to create a sense of continuity in the application of the quilt binding, so I chose to split the binding fabrics at the center line of the quilt.

Implied Spiral Binding Detail

Implied Spiral: Binding Detail

I like the linear simplicity of this quilt, and I may create a longer version to function as a modern table runner.

Quilt Stats

Title:  Implied Spiral

Size: 12″x25″

Techniques:  Traditional piecing

Quilting:  Tightly spaced horizontal lines

Fabrics:  Front and Binding- Carolyn Friedlander prints.  Back- Blue solid from stash fabric

Batting:  Scrap of Cotton/Polyester blend

Thread:  Pieced with white Gutermann Mara 100.  Quilted with orange cotton Mettler and white cotton machine quilting thread

Binding:  Straight grain binding, cut in 2″ strips, machine stitched to the quilt front and hand stitched to the back.  Binding color shifts to match the background fabric.

What was New:

  • Using fabric from one designer for an entire quilt design
  • Matching binding to the background fabric
Quilt 3 / 50

Quilt 3 / 50

Goal #2 is Finished!

Goal #2 is Finished!

I am linking this post to Finish it Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts, Show Off Saturday at Sew Can She, Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts, Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation, and Whoop Whoop Friday at Confessions of a Fabric Addict.  Please drop by to see all of the wonderful work being done!

Fibonacci on the Seashore: Mini Quilt #2

This week, I set out to create a snow inspired wintery-beyond-belief mini quilt.  That did not happen.  There were unexpected technical difficulties that I have not been able to resolve yet.  I still have a couple options to explore to make this work, but I need to track down some supplies.  This quilt is not eliminated (although the original design may end up altered), so I will share those challenges when I write about the finished mini quilt.

If I can’t play in the (fabric) snow this week, I decided to celebrate the beach!

Fibonacci on the Seashore

Fibonacci on the Seashore: Front View

The Fibonacci spiral has long been inspiring to me as a designer.  I am fascinated that art can be derived from mathematics, but since I am definitely not a mathematician, I will not be going into any specific details about how it works!  The Fibonacci spiral is based in a grid which starts with a square which is duplicated.  Then those two squares together determine the length of the sides of the next square. Now the size of all of these squares determine the side length for the next square.  This can continue on forever if you want it to!  This gridded image shows the basis for the spiral.

/Users/cassandra_ireland/Desktop/Quilt/Quilt Designs A.dwg

To get the spiral, you draw a quarter circle in each square.

/Users/cassandra_ireland/Desktop/Quilt/Quilt Designs A.dwgFor my mini quilt I started with two 1″ square blocks, and added 2″, 3″, 5″, and 8″ blocks.  Each block is essentially like sewing a Drunkard’s Path block, but the illusion created due to the size shifts is like a seashell.

Fibonacci on the Seashore with Grid Overlay

I selected subtly colored batiks with the thought of having the quilting thread inject a bold moment of color to the shell.  There are six different blue, pink and lavender batiks used to create the “Shell” and the “Sand is created with one batik which is both incorporated into three of the blocks as well as the border strips.

Fibonacci on the Seashore: Detail

Fibonacci on the Seashore: Detail

I quilted the “shell” first using a silver metallic thread as well as bright pink and purple.  This was done using the walking foot, but I shifted to free motion quilting to create “pebbles” in the sand.  My free motion quilting is definitely a work in progress, but this is a vast improvement over past attempts.

Fibonacci on the Seashore Detail 2

The back of this quilt is another batik print that I selected to incorporate both the yellow of the sand and the blue tones of the shell (as well as implying water).  I think the quilting on this piece makes the back as interesting as the front, although in hindsight, I wish I had used a batik with a less rigid pattern.

Fibonacci on the Seashore: Back View

Fibonacci on the Seashore: Back View

The binding is another purple batik that I selected to: (1) Draw the purple used in the center of the quilt out to the edge, and (2) play off the yellow of the sand fabric- I seriously love using complementary colors.  To create a greater sense of definition in this quilt, I used a decorative stitch to secure the binding and enhance the spiral shape.  I liked using this technique of finishing the binding, and now I wish a had a few more options on my wonderful little mechanical machine!


Fibonacci on the Seashore: Binding Detail

Fibonacci on the Seashore: Binding Detail

Quilt Stats

Title:  Fibonacci on the Seashore

Size: 12″x16.5″

Techniques:  Curved Machine Piecing

Quilting:  Outline and curved quilting using a walking foot, and free motion pebbles in the background.  All quilting was done on a Bernina 1008

Fabrics:  Batiks (I have never done an all batik quilt before!)

Batting:  Warm and White cotton batting

Thread:  Pieced with Gutermann Mara 100 in white.  Quilted with Light Blue cotton machine quilting thread, Gutermann Silver Metallic thread, and Mettler cotton quilting threads in Magenta and Purple

Binding:  Blue and Purple batik- cut in 2″ strips, machine straight stitched to the front, top stitched to the back, and accented with purple decorative stitches.

What was new:

  • An entirely batik quilt
  • Using bright quilting threads on a pastel background
  • Trying out metallic thread for machine quilting (I need to explore other thread and needle options for use in the future- Does anyone have suggestions?)
  • Decorative stitching for quilting and securing binding
Quilt 2 / 50

Quilt 2 / 50

Finish #1

Goal #1 is Finished!

This post is linked with Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts.  Please stop in to see all of the wonderful creations that have been shared!

2015 First Quarter Finish Goals

2015 Finish Along

With cautious optimism, I am joining the finishing fun with the 2015 Q1 Finish-Along hosted at On the Windy Side!  Some items aren’t necessarily a huge time commitment (goals 1-12), but others (goal 13) will take a significant amount of time and thought.  I am also hoping to dip my toes in the pattern writing waters in the next couple months, so I think I will be pretty busy!

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

Goals 1-12

In order to keep up with Mini Quilt Mania I am planning to make 12 more mini quilts for the first quarter of this year.  Most are sketched, I have drafted patterns for others, selected some fabrics, and a couple are started.

Quilt 1 / 50

Goal 13

I loved making Low Volume Fail, Pastel Win!, and I am planning a quilt based on similar ideas and techniques.  I am currently sketching and selecting fabrics.

Goal 14

A Secret Project that is a generous twin sized quilt.  It is currently quilted and ready for finishing.

Goal 15

A Secret Project that will be a lap sized quilt.  The blocks are made and ready to be assembled, quilted, and bound.

Quilt Blocks

Goal 16

I am thrilled with the results of Mini #1, and I want to make a lap or twin sized version of this pattern.  I have scaled up the pattern and started pulling fabrics.

Mini #1

Goodness, I better get busy!  I wish everyone the best of luck in the next few months, and I’m looking forward to seeing the exciting projects that are planned!