Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tips for Tote-making

I finished the tote bag I was making yesterday.

The basics of making this carryall tote are similar to any general quilted tote. I created this list as a reminder for myself.
  • Create 2 pieces of quilted fabric for the front and back of the bag. I use a flip and sew technique with the batting as the foundation.
  • Trim the excess batting from  the quilted fabrics, measure for size, and cut 2 lining pieces to match.
  • If you want to add pockets to the lining of the bag, you add them before you sew the lining pieces together. See this post.
  • Sew the quilted front to the quilted back, on three sides. (left side, bottom, right side)
  • Sew the lining front to the lining back on three sides, leaving an opening in the bottom seam for turning.
  • Box the corners of the bag and lining to give the tote some depth.  ( Here is a handy online tutorial showing how that is done.)
  • Make the handles, and the closure tab. (see tips below for making those.)
  • Center the handles and closure on the outer fabric and baste in place
  • Place lining  inside the tote bag, right sides together and sew around the top opening
  • Reach through hole you left in the lining seam and turn the bag right side out
  • Top stitch around the bag opening
  • Hand sew or fabric glue the opening in the lining.
I like to make the handles using 2 different fabrics, but, of course they could be made using just one.  I cut two 2-inch strips of each fabric that are each about 30 inches long.  (I find the ideal length for tote handles is 25 inches, but I start with  30 inch strips  to be sure I have enough.)  I also cut two strips of batting that are also 30 inches long, but are slightly less than 2 inches wide. (approximately 1 7/8)

Stack 2 handle fabrics with right sides together, and lay a batting strip on top of them.   Center the batting strip in the middle of the fabric.

Sew with a healthy quarter inch seam down both long edges of the handle. Since I cut the batting strip a little narrower than the fabric strips, it allows me to see the edges of the handle fabrics as I'm sewing, and make sure they stay  lined up.

Turn the handle inside out, and press.  There will be some bulk due to the batting in the seam allowances, but that's okay.  It actually makes for a more comfortable, padded handle.

Sew a row of stitching right down the center of the ironed handles.  I use the markings on my soleplate as a guide.

Make two more rows of stitching approximately halfway between your center row of stitching and the edge of the handle.  (Use whatever is convenient on your machine to line them up, either a marking on the soleplate, or the edge of you presser foot as a guide. )  Trim the handles to 25 inches.

If you want to add a button and loop closure, you'll need to make a loop.  I use a half inch bias tape maker that I already had on hand. 

Start with a one inch strip of fabric for your loop  that is approximately 8 inches long.  Later, it will be trimmed a little shorter, but a little extra now helps keep your fingers out of the way of the iron in the next step.

Feed the fabric into the wide end of the tape maker. It will come out the other side with the 2 edges folded in towards the center.  Use your iron to press the folds as you slowly draw the tape maker along the fabric. Steam is good here, but WATCH those fingers!

Fold the bias strip in half, press again, and sew the fold closed.  What started as a one inch wide strip now measures 1/4 inch.  I trim the length to about 6 inches.

Pin the handles and the loop closure to the top of the bag, with raw edges all facing out.  Baste.    .

At this point your bag is ready to be sewn together with the lining.  See the last four steps in the list at the top of this post.

Here is the finished tote, with padded handles, a button and loop closure, and an inside pocket.   Enjoy!

post signature


  1. Even thought I'm a cat lover, I like that fabric. Very pretty tote. Seems so easy to do with the instructions you've given.

  2. Thanks for this. I'll definitely give it a try.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...