Tote Bag Tutorial Part 4: Assembling the Bag

Welcome to Part 4 in out tote bag series!  This week is a lot of fun because we get to see our bags really come together.  All of these tutorial posts are pretty long, and this is no exception.  To keep it a bit more manageable, I have added a section to this site for Tips and Techniques, and I will be linking to topics within that category throughout this post.  The addition of this section will also make basic techniques more easily accessible as a reference.  As always, please contact me with any questions.  You may email me or leave a comment, and I will do my best to give you a clear answer!

The following Technique pages are referred to in this post:

If you are just joining us, this is a 5 part series.  Here are the other segments (links are updated as posts are added):

Pull out all of the beautifully cut tote bag pieces from last week and locate the canvas pieces and the bag top and bottom exterior fabric pieces.  Flatline the canvas pieces to the outer fabric pieces.  For this project you will want to finish the edges of the pieces as described in the flatlining tutorial.Pressed Flatlined Pieces

In a few steps, we will need to see the precise placement of the bag handles on the exterior of the bag.  To achieve this, we need to Thread Trace the bag placement lines.

Front View of the Uneven Basting Stitch

Front View of the Uneven Basting Stitch

Next we are going to prepare the pockets to be attached to the bag.  The pocket sides will be incased by the bag handles, and the pocket bottom will become a part of the seam attaching the bag top to the bag bottom.  That just leaves us the top of each pocket to deal with right now.

Find the exterior (with interfacing attached) and lining pieces for the rectangular pocket.  Place the pieces right sides together and pin and stitch along the top line.  Grade the seam allowance before turning the pocket right side out.  Carefully press the seam allowance toward the lining fabric.  Understitch the seam allowance to the lining fabric.  Lay the pocket out flat and give it a final press.

Find the exterior (with interfacing attached) and lining pieces for the pocket with flap.  Place the pieces right sides together and pin and stitch along the flap edge, pivoting with the needle down at any corners.  Notch and grade the seam allowance before turning the pocket right side out.  Lay the pocket out flat and give it a final press.  Under-stitching is really difficult on seams of this shape, so careful pressing is essential.

Find the exterior (with interfacing attached) and lining pieces for the curved top pocket.  Place the pieces right sides together and pin and stitch along the curved line.  Clip and grade the seam allowance before turning the pocket right side out.  Carefully press the seam allowance toward the lining fabric.  Under-stitch the seam allowance to the lining fabric.  Lay the pocket out flat and give it a final press.

There are button closures on two pockets which require a buttonhole on both the curved pocket and the pocket with a flap.  Pull out the buttons you plan to use for these pockets.  Determine the size of the button hole by measuring the thickness of the button and adding it to the diameter of the button.  You will always want to make a test buttonhole on a scrap of the fabric you are using for the project.  Follow the buttonhole directions for your sewing machine, cut open the sample hole and test the size by moving the button through the opening.  If it is too loose or too tight, adjust the size and make another test buttonhole.  Once you know the size of the buttonhole, determine where you would like it to be placed on the pocket.  I usually use a center placement since I like symmetrical pockets, but an asymmetrical pocket may look better with a different buttonhole placement.  Mark your buttonholes on the pockets using a fabric pencil or pin that will disappear over time or with washing.  Make the buttonholes and cut them open.

Take out one piece of the bag top and the curved pocket.  Place the bag top piece right side up.  Place the pocket between the handle placement lines.  The bottom of the pocket should line up with the bottom edge of the bag top piece.  The sides of the pocket should extend about 1/2″ into each handle placement lines.  Baste the pockets into place either by hand or machine.  The basting stitches should fall at the edges of the pocket, well within the handle placement lines.Pocket Placement Diagram_Curved Pocket

Finished Curved Pocket with side and bottom edges incased

Finished Curved Pocket with side and bottom edges incased

For the other side of the bag you will need the bag top piece as well as the rectangular pocket and the pocket with flap.  Place the bag top piece right side up.  Lay the pocket with flap lining side up between the handle placement lines.  On top of the pocket with flap, place the rectangular pocket exterior side up.  Make sure to line up the pockets with the bottom edge of the bag top and between the handle placement lines.  Baste in place, just as you did with the curved pocket.  You will notice that you have actually created two pockets on this side of the bag.  The front pocket will be covered with the button flap.  Behind the flap layer is a pocket with an open top.Pocket Placement Diagram_Pocket with flap

Finished Pocket with flap open and side and bottom edges incased

Finished Pocket with flap open and side and bottom edges incased

Finished pocket with flap closed

Finished pocket with flap closed

Now we are going to assemble the side seams.  Place the bag tops right sides together, making sure the top of the pieces are going the same direction.  Pin and stitch the side seams on the stitching lines.  Sewn Bag Top Side Seam

Press the side seams open.Bag Top side seam pressed open

For the bag bottom, fold the piece in half lengthwise with the right sides together (when folded, it should look like the pattern piece).  Pin and stitch both side seams.  Press open the seams.Stitching Bag Bottom Side seam

Pin the shaping seam for the bag bottom.  The side seam should match up with the center of the bag bottom.  Pin and stitch on the line.Sewn Shaping Seam

Place the pieces for the bag lining right sides together.  Pin and stitch the side seams on the stitching lines, finish the raw edges, then press the seams open.  Finishing Raw Edges

Pressing the lining seam open

You will also want to pin and stitch the bottom of the bag, leaving several inches in the center of the seam open.  This opening is what you will use to turn the finished bag right side out, so don’t try to make it too small.  Pin and stitch the shaping seams of the bag lining.  When lining this seam up, the side seam will match up to the bottom seam.

With right sides together, pin and stitch the top of the bag top to the top of the bag lining.  Since this is a circular seam, you will want to match the side seams up to start with.  Pinned top seam

Grade the seam allowance and press it toward the lining.  Understitch the seam allowance to the lining of the bag.Understitching Front View

Situate the bag so the right side of the bag upper is readily accessible and the lining is pulled out away from the bag top.  We are now going to position the bag handles.  Before cutting the webbing, estimate the length you think you will need and pin it roughly in place.  Check the length and when you are happy, mark the length, unpin it, and cut two sections of webbing exactly the length.  Starting at the each end of the webbing, pin the webbing carefully in place between the handle placement thread tracing lines.  Double check that the handles didn’t get twisted in the pinning process.  Pinning the handles in place

Stitch up one side of the handle, across the top of the webbing (just before you reach the top of the bag where it joins the lining) and back down the other side of the webbing.  Make sure you have the lining out of the way, so it doesn’t get caught up in the handle stitching.  Repeat this process for each section of handle.Sewing down the webbing handles

With right sides together, pin and stitch the bag bottom to the bag top.  Hint:  I turn the bag bottom right side out, the bag top wrong side out, and slip the bag bottom inside the bag top.Bag Top pinned to Bag Bottom

Clip the bag top seam allowance just outside the bag handles.  Press the bag top to bag bottom seam open at the bag sides and down at the pocket and handle sections.

Turn the bag right side out and press the lining toward the inside at the top edge.  Pressing the lining to the inside of the bag

You are almost there- Next week we’ll be finishing up!

I am linking this post up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.  Please look in to see what everyone is working on!


Valentine Tic-Tac-Toe: Mini Quilt #5

What could be more fun than a mini quilt?  Eleven mini quilts!  This week I decided to make the fun and games of Mini Quilt Mania into a real game!  This mini is a quilted version of tic-tac-toe with a Valentine’s Day twist.

Tic-Tac-Toe Quilt Set

The game board section section of the set is comprised of a grid of red echoed with this fun pink print.  The background of white Kona Cotton really shows off the echoing heart spiral quilting.

Quilt Front

The backing of the quilt is also white Kona, which shows off the pink quilting thread.

Back Quilting and Binding

One quilt isn’t enough for this week, so I made ten more mini quilts to act as game pieces.

Tic-Tac-Toe Set Bag

The five X’s for this game are square blocks made from half-square-triangles that are paired with one another then stitched and cut again along the opposite diagonal.

Square Game Pieces

I replaced the standard O’s of the game with five heart shaped pieces.  The inner hearts are fused using Wonder Under before being machine blanket stitched around the edges.

Heart Game Pieces

All of the game pieces were “bagged out” (stitched together with right sides of the fabric facing one another and then turned right side out through a small opening in the stitching) with a piece of cotton batting.  I had never tried this technique with batting before, and I was a bit concerned about the bulk around the edges of the pieces.  Fortunately, a row of edge stitching around each piece allowed them to lay flat.  The added bonus was that the edge stitching closed up the openings used to turn the pieces right side out.  No hand slip stitching on this project!

Game Pieces in Bag

To keep the game pieces together, I whipped up a cute little drawstring bag in matching fabric.  It is fully lined in the light pink cotton.

Bag Closed

Quilt Stats

Title:  Valentine Tic-Tac-Toe

Size:  Quilted Game Board- 16.5″x16.5″   Hearts and Squares- 3″x3″   Storage Bag- 5″x7″

Techniques:  Machine Piecing, Fusibles, Machine Applique, Bagged-out shapes

Quilting:  Machine quilted.  Game board- Heart shaped spiral.  Heart Pieces- heart shaped ech0.  Square Pieces- diagonal orange-peel shapes

Fabrics:  100% Cotton fabrics including Kona Cotton in White, Marble Dot from Moda, a Suzy Ultman print for Robert Kaufman, and a Nancy Halvorsen design for Benartex

Batting:  Scraps of Warm and White and Warm and Natural

Thread:  Pieced using Gutermann Mara 100 in White and Magenta. Machine embroidery done with Mettler Cotton Machine quilting thread in Magenta.  Quilted with Connecting Threads Essential Thread in Magenta.

Binding:  Marble Dots from Moda, cut on the bias in 2″ strips.  Machine stitched to the front of the quilt, hand stitched to the back

What Was New:

Creating an interactive game in quilt form

Bagging out small quilt pieces with batting included

Quilt 5 / 50

Quilt 5 / 50

Goal #4 is Finished!

Goal #4 is Finished!

I am linking this quilt up with Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts, Whoop Whoop Friday at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts, Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation, and Show Off Saturday at Sew Can She.  Please stop by to see everyone’s lovely work!

Tote Bag Tutorial Part 2: Creating the Pattern

One of the most wonderful parts of this tote bag is that you can create the pattern to fit your personal needs.  In this post we will go through the steps of drafting a full pattern for your bag.  If you have never created a pattern before, you will probably be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to do!

I have taught this technique in person many times, but this is the first time I have ever put it all down in writing.  This is a crazy long post!  I have tried to give the most clear directions possible, but if anything is confusing or you have questions please email me.  I will do my best to help you through this process.

If you are just joining us, this is a 5 part series.  Here are the other segments (links are updated as posts are added):

Drafting Your Own Tote Bag Pattern

For the sake of clarity, the diagrams in this post are computer generated, but I usually create patterns using a roll of brown paper, pencils, a ruler, and a drafting triangle (or tailor’s/framing square, or large square rotary cutting ruler).  There is a complete supply list with descriptions in Part 1.  


You will want to think about what you will use this bag for in order to determine the size you would like to make.

  • Large:  A great size for hauling a few towels, snacks, and some reading material to the pool or beach.  I often use this as a personal item carry-on, especially if my other item is a computer bag.  This easily holds a  change of clothes, my tablet, a couple magazines, and the purse I will carry once I arrive.  The buttoned pockets can keep your cell phone at hand.  This is the size I make the most often, and it is pictured here.  Overall finished measurements are approximately 15″x14″x8″
  • Medium:  Perfect for the grocery store or farmer’s market, this size is perfect for carrying both heavy or bulky items.  I have often used this for carrying library books.  This size makes very efficient use of fabric. Overall finished measurements are approximately 15″x11.5″x6″
  • Small:  A good size for keeping small-ish projects with you, a smaller sized library bag, or a kid’s activity bag.  Overall finished measurements are approximately 12″x12″x4″

Bag Parts

The first pattern piece we will draft is the bag top.  This piece is a rectangle.  Maintaining 90° angles is the most important part of this piece.  Using the largest triangle or square ruler you have, line up one side of the tool with either a straight drawn line or the edge of the paper.  (Only use the edge of the paper if it is clean, smooth, and has not warping or contortions.)  With the ruler or triangle carefully placed, draw a perpendicular line along the other side of the 90º angle.Drawing a Square CornerWith the first angle created, you will make a mark along one line indicating the height of the piece (around 2/3 the overall height of the bag is usually a pleasing proportion).  On the other line mark the line the width of the bag.  You will cut two of this pattern piece (one front and one back), so the width of this piece will be half of the desired circumference of the finished bag.  Use your 90 angle to draw the rest of the rectangle.  For this bag, the rectangle measured 22″ x 10″.  Check the lengths of each side to make sure the measurements of the long sides are equal to each other.  The lengths of the short sides should correspond to each other as well.  To double check the accuracy of your angles, measure diagonally from one corner to the other and make note of the measurement.  Then measure the other set of diagonal corners.  If the measurements are equal, the angles are a true 90º!  Do not add seam allowances to this, or any pattern piece at this point.Tote bag pattern: Bag TopOnce you have the rectangle drawn, you will determine the placement of the bag handles (shown as dashed lines in the diagram above).  How wide do you want the pockets on your bag?  The pockets are placed between the handles, so their size will indicate handle placement.  Subtract the desired pocket width from the width of the rectangle.  Then divide that number in half.  For example:  22″ (rectangle length) – 7″ (pocket width) = 15″.  Half of 15 is 7.5″.  This means that you will measure seven and a half inches from each side of the rectangle and draw a dashed line.  Look at the proportions of what you have drawn.  Adjust as needed, making sure that the pattern remains symmetrical.  When you are happy with the pocket width, draw an additional dashed line 1″ toward the outer edge of the rectangle.  The handles will be placed between the lines.

Draw a grain line parallel to the edge of the rectangle.  You will label each pattern piece as above- but make sure to list yourself as the pattern designer!  Indicate the appropriate size of tote, the pattern piece name, and in a box write how many pieces you will need to cut of each fabric.  NSA means that you have included no seam allowance.  Along the edges of the pattern piece, you will write how much seam allowance you will want to add when laying out and cutting your bag.  In this case I wrote +1/2″.  Note:  Omitting seam allowance in the pattern making process allows you to more easily make sure the pieces of the bag will fit together.  If you would rather include seam allowance in the pattern , you may tape on additional paper after all the pieces are drafted, or you may retrace each piece completely with the added seam allowance.  Commercially available patterns include seam allowance, but many people who sew one of a kind garments add seam allowance when cutting the fabric.

Now you are ready to draw the bag bottom.  Begin by drawing a rectangle that is the same length as the bag top pattern piece.  This pattern piece includes shaping seams which will create the bottom of the tote bag.  To determine the height of the rectangle you are drawing you will want to consider how much depth you would like to create for the bottom of the bag and add that to the amount of the bag bottom piece you would like to see on the front/back of the bag.  Draw this rectangle using the same process you used for the bag top.  For this bag I started with a rectangle measuring 22″x9″

Bag Top and BottomOnce you have created the bag bottom rectangle, you are ready to add the shaping seams.  If you have a square rotary cutting ruler, this is a good time to pull it out.  The shaping seams are squares removed from the bottom of the rectangle. The vertical and horizontal lines must be of equal length, and the squares should be the same size on both sides of the bag.Drawing the Shaping SeamsIn the photo above I have drafted the bag top and bottom so that the bottom line of the bag top is the top line of the bag bottom.  This guarantees that the length of theses seams will match up perfectly when you are sewing the bag together.  The shaping seams in this photo form a 4″ square.
Tote Bag Pattern: Bag BottomThe Bag bottom piece will be cut on the fold of the fabric in order to eliminate the need for a seam at the bottom of the bag.  Label the pattern piece as shown above, making sure to indicate the location of the fold line at the bottom of the pattern piece.

The lining pattern is the next to draw.  If you were able to draft the top and bottom pieces so that they shared a line (as shown above), you can create the lining pattern by cutting the exterior lines of the pieces while leaving the line connecting the pieces intact.  (Do you see how I used push pins in the homasote topped table?  You can also lay down foam core or a piece of foam core to pin into.  Don’t have any of that?  Try using pattern weights-or even a couple books to hold down your pattern pieces on your regular table)  Carefully trace this piece onto another section of paper.  Now you have the lining piece- easy right?
Drawing the Lining PatternThe lining pattern should be equal to the bag top and bag bottom pattern pieces combined.Bag Lining pattern is a combination of the bag top and bag bottom piecesAdd a grainline parallel to the edge of the pattern piece and label the pattern as shown below.

Tote Bag Pattern: LiningGo ahead and cut out the pattern pieces you have made so far.  Take out the bag top pattern piece, place the center of the pattern piece over another section of paper that is big enough to create a pocket pattern, and use push pins to hold it in place.  Trace the bottom of the pattern using a pencil.  Then pull out your tracing wheel to mark the interior dashed lines.  This will guarantee that the pocket width will correspond with the width between the bag handles.  You may use a ruler to help ensure the line you trace is straight.

Transferring LinesDo you see how the pocket pattern will fit between the handles?Pocket Widtch DiagramThe height of the pocket is up to you.  A lot of people like to use this pocket for a cell phone, so you may want to use that as a starting point.  The flap on the pocket makes it even more secure, so design something with proportions that are pleasing to you.

Tote Bag Pattern: Pocket with FlapLabel the pattern as indicated in the diagram above.  Don’t forget a grain line!

The pocket for the other side of the bag is open with a curved top.  Create this pocket using the directions for the above pocket, but instead of designing a flap you will create a concave curve.  Tracing around the edge of a plate or round container is a good way to make the curve of the pattern piece.Pocket Width Diagram CurvedAdd a grain line and label the final pattern piece.
Tote Bag Pattern:  Curved PocketCut out all of your pattern pieces, and you have finished your tote bag pattern!  Happy Dance!Pattern PiecesThis post is linked up to Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts and WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.  Please stop by to check out all of the awesome work being created!

 

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.

Holiday Gifts 2014

I hope you are all having a wonderful and joyous end of 2014!  Now that the gift giving portion of the holidays is winding down, I thought I would take a moment to share a few of the gifts I created for family members this year.

I love these tote bags!  I originally created the pattern for these a few years ago when I was teaching a class to college students involving beginning sewing techniques.  I have done some revisions, and I will offer a series of tutorials for developing your own version of this bag in January.  We will start with drafting your own pattern, and move through the entire construction process.  I hope some of you may want to join in the fun!

Tote Bag A

Tote Bags


 

I posted about these cord/coin pouches last week, but I love to see all six lined up and ready for my older nieces, nephews, and their significant others!

Cord Pouches

Cord/Coin Pouches

 

I gave my parents a joint gift, but I rounded it out with these potholders for my Mom.  They are improvisationally pieced and quilted, so each one is unique.  I quilted them with Insul-Bright and a layer of cotton batting, and chose fabrics that won’t stain very easily, so I hope she will be able to use them for years to come.

Oven Mitts - Front View

Oven Mitts – Front View

Oven Mitts - Back View

Oven Mitts – Back View

In retirement, my Dad has taken on a lot of the grocery shopping, and he is really good about taking reusable bags with him to the store.  Some of the store bags have seen better days, so I made a new one using the tote bag pattern I used for my sister’s gifts.  I used a double layer of denim for this bag and omitted the exterior pockets.  It seems really sturdy.  If this works well, I’ll have to make a few more!

Grocery Bag

Denim Grocery Tote

 

I hope you have all had a wonderful holiday season and are looking forward to a fabulous 2015!

 

I am linking this post to Santa’s Sweatshop Linky Party at Porch Swing Quilts and TGIFF hosted this week by Sew Fresh Quilts.  I hope you all take a few minutes to stop by and look at all of the lovely work being done!