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 similiar to any general quilted tote.
  • Make the bag  using a flip and sew technique with the batting as the foundation.
  • Trim the excess batting from  the front and back of the bag, measure for size, and cut 2 lining pieces to match.
  • Sew the bag front to the bag back on three sides
  • Sew the lining front to the lining back, leaving an opening in the bottom seam 
  • Box the corners of the bag and lining to give the tote some depth
  • Make the handles
  • Center the handles 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.
The obvious difference between a carryall tote and a Tiny Tote is the size of the pieces.  Beyond that, there are a few other changes.  For one, the carryall tote is bigger and has room for an inside pocket .  In addition, I add batting to the handles to make them more comfortable, and also a loop closure with a button for a little security. 

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.  Finish the bag in the same manner as the Tiny Tote.  Add a button to the top band for fastening the loop.

Here's how the pocket looks inside the bag.

Now you have a finished tote, with padded handles, a button and loop closure, and an inside pocket.   Enjoy!

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  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.


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