Thursday, June 7, 2012

DIY Quilted Tote Bags

In appreciation for all their hard work, I made tote bags for my kids' teachers.  I was proud of how they turned out and wanted to share with you how I made them.
While looking rather detailed,
these tote bags are very simple in design.

There are:
  • no pockets, 
  • no zippers, 
  • no adjustable straps, 
  • no clasps or buttons, 
  • and no lining!
Sewing techniques I used:
  • Log cabin style patchwork,
  • basic applique,
  • free motion quilting,
  • and applying bias tape.
Supplies I used:
  • Fabric,
  • batting or fleece,
  • bias tape,
  • free motion quilting foot,
  • and basic sewing supplies.  
The totes are made from 2 rectangular panels that comprise the front and back.  Each panel is like a mini quilt consisting of a layer of batting sandwiched between a top and backing:
The dimension of the panels is up to you.  I made mine around 18"X20".  The finished tote was a few inches thinner an shorter because I added a bottom.  When you add a bottom to a tote it's like putting on 3D glasses.  All the sudden your tote has depth, literally!  :-)

I spent the most time creating the top layers (green in the graphics).  You'll need a 2 top layers for your tote. These will make up the outside of the bag, front and back.  My totes have definite fronts and backs, utilizing patchwork on one and large appliqued petals on the other.  

You'll need 2 pieces of backing fabric (blue in the graphics) and 2 pieces of batting (gold in the graphics).

Sandwich the batting between the wrong sides of top and backing fabrics.  Line up the edges and pin or baste through all the layers.  Then you start quilting: 
Here's some picks of the quilting on my totes.  Click on the pics to see them enlarged:

Square up the quilted panels and trim to the same size.  Finish the top edges of each panel with bias tape.  I made my own bias tape for the black tote and used ready made tape for the brownish one.   After the top edges are finished, match up the panels front sides together and sew around the sides and bottom to form a pouch:

Next, finish the remaining edges with bias tape.  To make the bottom you'll need to match up one side seam with the bottom seam.  Then you have to cut off the corner, stitch it closed, and finish it with bias tape:

How much corner do you cut off?  Take a look at the photos below.  The "As" show you where the corners were cut off in correlation to the bottom seam "B".  If you cut off a large amount of corner like in the left pic, you get an almost square shaped bottom and the overall tote shape is kind of like a trash can (but prettier!).  If you cut off less corner like in the right pic, you get a thin rectangular bottom and an overall cereal boxy shape.  There are pros and cons to each shape.  The trash can shape stands very well on it's own--perfect for loading up with groceries.  The cereal box shape is more traditional and lays flat against your side when you carry it--perfect for books and files.  

The final step is to construct and add handles:

I like how fast the tote comes together once you finish the quilting.  I love how the sides are stiff enough to allow the bag to stand on its own, yet soft enough that you can roll it up and stuff it into a drawer.  I love not having to mess with a separate lining.  The downfalls are that adding inside pockets is challenging unless you don't mind the stitching showing through to the outside.  Adding pockets to the outside is much easier.
So what do you think?  Easy enough?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Happy crafting and big hugs from Montana,

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  1. They look great, Rikka! I especially like the one with petals. Love the way you've done the quilting around the petals.

  2. Great job Rikka! Lucky teachers:)

  3. Really nice bags. Am sure the teachers enjoyed them. You make the process really simple ☺️


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