Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Week Nine Craft: Simple Tote

I am obsessed with tote bags.  Big, small, simple, complicated I love them all.  Like any true sewer I have boxes of stash fabrics.  You know, the piles of remnants you can't bear to part with and the yards of "It's marked down so low I better buy it;  I'm sure I'll use it someday" fabrics.  Why not clear up some of that stash?

Inspiration came from this bag from Better Homes and Garden.

The fabrics are great and I like how the contrast looks like a band at the top.  Here's the bag I came up with:
Here's what you need:
Fabric approximately 17"x28" plus 9"x9" piece for pocket (use canvas, duck cloth, or home dec fabric)
Contrasting fabric 4"wide and about 34" long
4"x34" of fusible interfacing
1 1/2 yards of 1" wide strapping (or handles sewn from fabric)
16" of 5/8' cotton cording 

The finished bag is approximately 12"x12", but this pattern can be adjusted to any size.  

1. Start by finishing the edges of your pocket.  The easiest way to do this is to sew a line of stitching all the way around the pocket 1/2" from the edge.  Fold along the stitching line, fold the raw edge in and press.
2. Pin and sew the pocket to the 17"x28" piece of fabric about 5" from the top.  Sew 1/4" in from the edge of the pocket and edge stitch as well.  Not only does this make your bag look more "finished" it also strengthens the pocket.

3. add rivets to the four corners of the pocket.  
4. Sew the sides of the bag together.  This bag isn't lined so this is a good place to use french seaming. Don't know what a french seam is?  All you do is start by pinning your fabric "wrong" sides together and stitch using a 1/4" seam.  Now turn your fabric "right" sides together and stitch using a 3/8" seam.  This will capture the raw edge and give you a nice clean seam. 
Iron the side seams to one side and top stitch 1/4" from the seam.  Just like with the pocket this will make your bag stronger and look more professional.

5. Now it's time to make an envelope bottom for your bag.  This is a super easy way to get a flat bottom on your bag.  Usually the "envelope" point is on the interior of the bag, but I thought it would be more fun to have it on the outside.  With your bag right side out locate the bottom points of your sides and iron the fabric so you get a nice crisp triangle.
Measure up 2"from the tip on the side of your bag and place the tip on that mark.   Stitch in place and then add a rivet over the point.  

6.  Place your handles about 3 1/2" from the side seams and pin them in place.  It's important that these handles are as sturdy as possible, so place the ends 1 1/2" past the edge of the top.  Please note that I have the handles pinned to the "wrong" side of the bag fabric.  This will capture the ends between the band and the bag so that they will be hidden.  

7. Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of your contrast fabric.  Measure your bag to determine the circumference.   Sew the edges of your contrast together forming a band the same circumference.  With the right side of the band facing the wrong side of the bag pin around the top as shown in the photo.  Press up 1/2" of the bottom edge of the band.  Using a 1/2" seam stitch the contrast band to the bag.

8.  On the bag only (make sure the contrast band is free) reinforce stitch your handles in place.  

9. Pin the "hem" of the band to the bag and edge stitch in place.  Do this both at the top and bottom of the band.  

10. One more step and you are done!  Padding the handles takes your simple tote beyond an ordinary tote and makes the bag more comfortable to use.  Find the midway point on your handles and place the midpoint of 8" of cording on that.  Using a needle and thread hand stitch the edges of the strap together - trapping the cord.  You only need to stitch about 1/4" beyond the ends of the cord to completely hide it.

Now all that's left is to stand back and admire your work.  How much more joyful will your trips to the grocery store and farmer's market be when you pull out your very own made-by-you bag to put your items in?  Be prepared to be hated by the other shoppers, green with envy that you are not only ultra fashionable, but super creative and a friend of the planet (for not using plastic).

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