Sharing and enjoying my small-town life with my darling husband, family, friends,
faith, two adorable Ragdoll cats and one very sassy Yorkie!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

TOTE TALK! (Plus free tutorial and pattern)

You know by now this isn't a "craft" blog, although you probably also know by now that I am a fan of all things artsy and craftsy!    So, I just had to share my latest little project, the tote bag pictured above.

Here's the back story.  A girlfriend invited me and several other friends to her home for a two-evening quilted tote bag class.  This was supposed to be two classes of 2 hours each: four hours total.  The teacher, "Miss Nancy", gave us handwritten instructions copied onto pink paper.  I am not a sewing newbie, yet I was perplexed and often lost during the class.  We stayed late (very late!) both nights, and still had about 10 hours of "homework" to do on our own.  I kid you not!  It did come out adorable, but there is just NO WAY I wanna spend THAT MUCH TIME on a tote bag, no matter how stinkin' cute it is!

As we were making this tote, I kept getting ideas on how it could be done easier and faster.   So when the class was over and the tote fiiiiiiiiinally done... I decided to put my money where my mouth is and make a second bag, trying out my ideas.  *SUCCESS!*  Yep, the second bag, using my "tweaked and revised" directions, only took a few hours, start to finish.  It was a very fun and "instant gratification" type of a project.  Just the kind I like when I don't want to make a long term commitment to a quilt!  LOL!

So with many thanks and all-due-respect to Miss Nancy, herein I present...


FINISHED SIZE:   Approx  17” (wide)  x  14” (tall)
This tote can easily be made with 5 fat quarters and 1 yard of coordinating fabrics. 
(Or simply “mix and match” from your stash, and cut pieces to size as below.)

Also needed:  Warm and Natural, or other thin cotton batting.   
(Approx. 60” x 40”; or in pieces a little larger than:   18” x22”;  18” x 14”;  18” x 8”;  5” x 96”)

NOTE:  Photos below are from various stages of both totes... the one I made in class (the flowered one) and the one I made on my own (the kitty one).   I apparently didn't have the wherewithall to get all the pictures from one project!  ;o)


5” x 22”    Side #1, cut one
5” x 22”    Side #2, cut one
10” x 22”  Middle, cut one

18” x 14”, cut one

18” x 16”, cut one

5” x 48”, cut two (For 1.25” wide finished straps)

Makes softer, floppier ties:  3/4" wide finished (2 fabric layers)
2” x 12”, cut 4  
Makes firmer, stiffer ties:  5/8” wide finished (4 fabric layers)
2.5” x 12”, cut 4:

18” x 36”, cut one  (NOTE:  Depending on exact finished size of tote body, this may be approximate.  Do not cut this piece until tote body is done and you can double check this measurement.)

18” x 16”, cut one for one inside pocket , or cut 2 for two inside pockets

BINDING (top finish):
6” x 36”  (for 1” finished binding)

(NOTE:  ALL SEAMS ARE 1/2” unless otherwise noted.)

Sew one 5” x 22” piece on each side of the 10” x 22” piece along long edges .
Press seams toward darker fabric.
Size of tote body at this point should be 18” x 22”.

Cut a piece of batting larger than 18” x 22” and lay the tote body (right side up) on the batting and carefully smooth it out.  Pin the tote body and the batting together with quilting pins (large straight pins).

Using your favorite method, mark two diagonal, intersecting 45 degree lines (I use a Hera marker, which only creases the fabric.   Hera markers are available online or in most quilt or fabric stores.)  If you don't have a Hera marker, use a water soluble or disappearing marker, chalk, etc.

Then, using a walking foot with a guide, quilt the tote body in a diagonal “grid” pattern, with lines 1” apart.  (NOTE:  If you don’t have a walking foot with a guide, you will have to mark ALL of your grid lines.)
Press, “square up” and trim batting even with tote body.

This is the front side of mine (before trimming batting) :

This is the back (batting) side of mine:

Carefully measure and cut tote body in half crossways, making 2 pieces, each 18” x 11”.

Cut a piece of batting larger than 18” x 14”.
Lay the tote bottom piece on the batting, smooth out, and pin as above.
Mark with two diagonal, dissecting 45 degree lines, and quilt in a 1” diagonal grid pattern as above.
Press, “square up”, and trip batting even with tote bottom.

Press 18” x 16” pocket piece in half lengthwise, right sides out.  (Will now measure 18” x 8”)
Cut a piece of batting 18” x 8”.
Place the batting carefully between the layers of fabric, edges even, smooth out, and press.
Topstitch 1/4" from the fold.  (This will be the top of the pockets.)
Pin the 3 layers together and mark/quilt as above in a 1”diagonal grid pattern.
Cut pocket piece in half crossways, making 2 pieces, each  9”x 8”. 

Using the photos of the completed bags as your guide, place one pocket in the center of each tote body half, raw “bottom edges” of pocket and tote body even.    Stitch pocket to tote body along both sides (long edges) of pocket using a 1/4" seam.  (The straps will cover these raw edges later.)   
(Note: if you want the side pieces of your tote bag to be alternating fabric between front and back as mine are, then “flip-flop” second tote body piece before adding pocket.)

Press each strap in half, lengthwise, right sides out.  (At this point, straps will measure 2.5” x 48”)
Then open, and with wrong side up, turn each long edge into center fold, wrong sides together, and press.  (At this point, straps will measure 1.25” x 48”.)
Cut 2 pieces of batting, 1 1/8” x 48”.
Open each strap and insert batting between either of the fabric folds.  Refold carefully and press.
Stitch 1/8” or 1/4" (your preference) along each long edge.


Position one strap on one tote body piece as follows:
Center a strap over the seam between the pocket and the side piece of the tote.  Being careful that strap isn’t twisted, center the other end of the strap on the other seam between pocket and side.   Pin in place.
Following your previous strap stitching, stitch strap to bag, starting from the bottom.  Extend your stitching 1” past pocket (toward top of bag).  Reinforce stitching at top by triple stitching, or stitch a decorative “barn door” pattern:

Repeat with other strap on other tote body piece.

With right sides together, sew a tote body piece to each long edge of the bottom. 
At this point, you should have:

Press each seam toward bottom and topstitch on bottom 1/4" inch from seam.

Measure size of open tote shell.  Cut lining the same size.   Set lining aside for now. 

With right sides together, fold tote in half; stitch each side.  Press.   

While still inside out, make mitered/box corners by pressing each corner into a flat triangle, matching the bottom seam to the side seam.  Measure down the seam 1.75” and sew horizontally across the triangle.  Your seam should be 3.5” long.   Stitch again to reinforce.  See diagram below (borrowed from HERE).  

Repeat on other corner.   Turn tote body right-side out.

If making inside pockets, add these to lining now:
Press each 18” x 16” piece in half, making an 18” x 8” pocket piece.
Top stitch 1/4" from folded edge.
Sew to right side of lining, stitching pocket on both sides and across bottom, with pocket top (opening) 4.5” down from each raw, short edge of lining.   
NOTE:  After attaching to lining, pockets can be divided by stitching one or more vertical lines as desired.

With right sides together, sew lining in half along sides.   Turn right-side out.
Make box corners as above. 

With wrong sides together, place lining inside tote, and line up the top raw edges.  Pin and baste.
With wrong sides together, press one short edge of binding under 1/4".
Then press binding in half lengthwise, wrong sides together.  
Starting with the 1/4" turned down edge, position binding along top raw edge of tote.  Pin.  (TIP: start binding where it will be hidden by the strap.)  Leave the first 2” unsewn.  Stitch in a scant 1” seam,  tucking in and overlapping ends about 1”. 
Blindstitch vertical overlap where binding meets. 
Turn binding to back (lining side) and hand stitch (blind stitch) in place.
For OPTION #1 ties:
Press each strap piece in half lengthwise, right sides together;  sew 1/4" from raw edge, to make a “tube”.   Turn right-side out.  Press, tucking in each raw edge 1/4".  Edgestitch short ends. 

For OPTION #2 ties:
For each strap piece: Turn both short edges in 1/4" (wrong sides together) and press.  Then press fabric in half lengthwise.  Then fold in each long edge to the center and press.  Edgestitch all four sides. 

Position and stitch straps on outside of each tote side, approx. 1.5” from strap toward side seam and 2.5” down from top of tote. 

Cut a piece of plastic mesh (the kind used for plastic needlepoint projects, and readily available in craft and fabric stores) the size of the bottom:  3” x 17”.    If desired, cover with fabric to match lining. 
Place stabilizer in bottom of tote; tack in place if desired. 


So, how fun are these bags?!  And just perfect for totin' around your *stuff* or giving as a gift.

If you like this bag, please feel free to leave me a comment and let me know.  And if you make one of your own, I would love to see what you've done!

And before I end this post, and because you also know that I am certifiably CAT CRAZEEE, I just haaaaad to share a couple of pictures of my chief sewing companion and right hand helper, my Ragdoll kitty Bentley (aka "Squeak").  OK, HOW FUNNY IS HE???!


  1. Oh, I love this bag! And thanks for the easy to follow directions on your tutorial!

  2. Can you put a zipper in this bag

  3. Joansy and Josette,
    You are so welcome! Thanks for the feedback!

    I suppose you could add a zipper... but I don't have directions for that. Sorry!

  4. thanks for tutorial. Very good and easy to understand and follow. I did namy totes, and still not able to get the best pattern how to do so. Every time it is so difficult.
    Thanks so much.

  5. josiane.bartolini@gmail.comJune 14, 2016 at 5:30 AM

    merci pour le tuto très facile à suivre.
    Les couleurs de ce sacs sont supers jolies.

  6. Thank you for this pattern and easy instructions. I thought my Maine Coon cat was the only one to sit like a hussy. LOL.

  7. Absolutely the best tutorial ever. It calls to "do it now" and had me rushing to
    my stash to find fabric. Thank you after trying so many pattern and this is a winne

  8. Sooo happy to hear that! THANK YOU for letting me know!

  9. Oohhh So many ideas now! Thank you for the help. Here we go.

  10. Thank you so much for taking your time and care to provide this excellent tutorial, I appreciate it! Oh, and I LOVE your cat!! :>)

  11. I love this pattern, is there a way to print it? I have a hard time reading on computer, I like it in print in front of me. Thanks

    1. Yikes, that’s a good question. Hmmmm... what happens if you are on that specific post and just click “print”?

      Or, you could highlight and copy the post (or specific selections of it) , then paste onto a Word document (or any word processing program).

      Let me know if you figure out something!

      I’m sorry there’s no easier way right now. I’m working on that though. In the meantime, enjoy the tote and thank you for writing!