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!

Last Minute Gifts: Cord/Coin Pouch

As my nieces and nephews have gotten older, cash or gift cards have become the favored gifts for the holidays because money always fits!  I try to get a little creative in the presentation of this not-particularly-original gift, so this year I am making cord pouches that hook onto a keyring.  These pouches finish at a little under 4″ from side to side, so they can easily hold a thumb drive, USB cord, some change, or even most phone chargers.  Come to think of it, I may need to make a couple for myself!

Finished Cord Pouches

Finished Cord Pouches


I knew that I wanted to put a grommet in each pouch to attach a key ring. (If you don’t have grommets laying about, a ribbon loop inserted into a seam would also do the trick.)  I thought that the grommet would look nice in a corner, so I experimented with a couple different shapes before settling on an octagon.  This project will work with most shapes, but if you would like to play along using the octagon, I have included a pattern here.  This Octagon Pattern  is a PDF File you are welcome to download.

I made six pouches, choosing an outer fabric and a lining fabric for each.  Orange tends to be pretty popular among my nephews, so I used a lot of it this year!  I cut one octagon out of each fabric, but for the front side I cut rectangles to set the zipper into before cutting it into shape.  I like to give myself some wiggle room when dealing with zippers, so I cut the rectangles to about 3″x5″.  For each pouch you should have 2 outer fabric rectangles, 2 lining fabric rectangles, 1 outer fabric octagon, and 1 lining fabric octagon.  You will also need a zipper and either a grommet or a small loop of ribbon.

Pieces cut for cord pouches

Pieces cut for cord pouches

For an exposed zipper I like to sandwich each side of the zipper between the outer and lining fabrics along the long edge of the rectangle.  I like to pin the layers in place so nothing moves out of place while I’m stitching.  The navy floral fabric will become the outside of this pouch, so it is laying with the right side of the fabric facing the top of the zipper.  The right side of the lining fabric faces the back of the zipper.  This leaves the wrong side of the fabric exposed on each side of your zipper sandwich.  I like my fabric edges to line up with the edge of the zipper.  I also place the fabric in the center of the zipper so I can sew it in place without the pull getting in the way.

A "Zipper Sandwich"

A “Zipper Sandwich”

Now you are ready to start stitching!  You will want to use your zipper foot and stitch a consistent distance from the teeth of the zipper.  I like to line up the right side of the zipper foot with the edge of the zipper, but machines can vary, so choose a means of measuring that works for you.

Using the zipper foot to stitch a zipper in place

Using the zipper foot to stitch a zipper in place

Now you are ready to press the fabric out to expose the zipper.  I like to press the outer fabric into place first.

Pressing the outer fabric into place around the zipper

Pressing the outer fabric into place around the zipper

Then you will press the lining fabric toward the back.

Fabric Pressed in place once the zipper is sewn

Fabric Pressed in place once the zipper is sewn

Next you will perform the same steps to sew the remaining rectangles to the other side of the zipper.

For added stability, I like to topstitch the fabric about 1/16″ from the seams we just sewed.  If you have an edge stitching foot, it will make this step easier, but it can also be done with a regular foot (and a little patience!)

Top Stitching the zipper

Top Stitching the zipper

Once you have the topstitching done on both sides of the zipper, take a moment to admire your work!  Now trace your octagon pattern onto the fabric, paying carful attention to where you want the zipper placed.  I decided to center the zipper across the octagon for this set of pouches.  Do NOT cut yet!

Tracing the octagon onto the front of the pouch

Tracing the octagon onto the front of the pouch

We are going to use a very small seam allowance for these pouches, so I decided it would be easier to sew first, cut later.  Move the zipper pull tab into the center of the octagon!  (If you are going to insert a ribbon loop, now is the time.  Place the loop toward the center of the octagon, with the ends sticking into the seam allowance.  Pin or Baste into place.)  Take the octagons you cut out at the beginning of this process and place the outer fabric piece right side down onto the zippered section.  Carefully line up the cut shape with the traced shape.  Layer the lining fabric octagon, right side up, on top of the outer fabric octagon.  With the zipper pull in the center of the octagon, the cut pieces may not naturally line up with all corners.  This is an instance where you should make the fabric line up the way you want.  (If you don’t, the zipper may gap in an unpleasant manner.)  I pin in each corner, but add as many pins as you need to feel comfortable.

Pinning the front and back together

Pinning the front and back together

Stitch all the way around the octagon using a seam allowance of a generous 1/8″

Stitch around the shape using a seam allowance of 1/8"

Stitch around the shape using a seam allowance of 1/8″

Check around the edges of your shape to make sure that all layers have been stitched properly.  Now cut away the excess material in the zipper layer leaving the 1/8″ seam allowance.

Pouch with Edges Trimmed

Pouch with Edges Trimmed

Carefully clip the corners in order to achieve nice points when the shape is turned.

Pouch with clipped corners

Pouch with clipped corners

Turn the shape right side out using the zipper opening.  Press to flatten the shape.  Make sure you have pretty corners!

Pouch turned right side out

Pouch turned right side out

To enclose the raw edges of the seam allowance, you will now want to top stitch 1/4″ from all edges of the octagon.  I started and ended the stitching in the corner I was planning to place the grommet since the stitching won’t be visible at that point.  When stitching over the zipper, I chose to turn the machine side wheel by hand, taking a large stitch over the zipper teeth, lifting the presser foot, moving back, and taking another large stitch over the zipper teeth.  I repeat this several times to secure the zipper.  (This should act as the equivalent of several zig zag stitches in a single spot often used to shorten a zipper.)

Top Stitching the Pouch

Top Stitching the Pouch

Since we used such a small seam allowance, I like to add another row of top stitching just under 1/8″ from the edge of the octagon.

Now that everything is sewn, it is time to add the grommet.  A grommet has two pieces: a grommet, and a washer.  You will also need a hammer, punch, and a setter to install a grommet.  I used the 00 size for this project.

Once you have decided where to place the grommet, lay the pouch on a piece of scrap wood, position the punch, and give it a couple whacks with the hammer.  You should now have a nice clean opening to insert the grommet.

Top Stitched Pouch with hole punched and grommet ready to install

Top Stitched Pouch with hole punched and grommet ready to install

Place the grommet through the hole you punched in the pouch, then place the washer over the center of grommet.  The grommet will be placed in the anvil portion of the setter.  The setter will fit into the center opening of the grommet (on the washer side), and it should then be tapped firmly several times to set the grommet.  You want to hit the setter hard enough to set the grommet, but not so hard that the grommet splits.  When in doubt, start with moderate force and increase as necessary.

Grommet

Grommet

Grommet with Washer

Grommet with Washer

Pouch in Grommet Setter

Pouch in Grommet Setter

There you have it- A useful little gift that practically everyone will find a use for.  I added some candy to sweeten the deal!

Finished Pouch, All wrapped up!

Finished Pouch, All wrapped up!