Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Totebag Tutorial ~ Beginner Friendly!

My best friend recently moved away, and just when she started to want to learn to sew!  I tried to find a good tutorial for her to make a totebag.  Most of them are really great for people who have been sewing a while.  I could not find one that was really detailed enough for a brand new sewer.  Also, some of the more professional bloggers take beautiful pictures, but they are not always functional.  I've even been confused a few times when the orientation of the project is constantly changing in the pictures.  When someone is new (or seasoned!) to sewing the pictures need to be functional!  As a result, not all of my pictures are fabulous or artsy, but I made sure that they are all always showing the project in the same direction and hopefully they show the steps clearly!  Good luck!

Please read all of the instructions before starting your project!  If you have questions don't hesitate to email me!

2 ~ lining fabric ~ 14" x 17"
2 ~ outside fabric ~ 14" x 17"
2 ~ batting (warm & white) ~ 14" x 17"
(alternate options: use fusible fleece, interfacing, or no batting ~ see step 3 below)
2 ~ strap fabric ~ 4" x 32ish" (depending on how long you want the straps!)
2 ~ 1" timex or other woven strap ~ same length as strap fabric
sewing notions/machine/etc

(In this picture I put an extra yellow piece because I intended to do a pocket... then I decided not to in the middle of the process.  Sorry!)

1. Take both batting pieces and set them side by side.  Place your outside fabric on top of batting with the Wrong side down (touching the batting.)

2. Pin in place

3. Quilt.  We will be quilting the fabric to the batting.  This step is important because it keeps the fabric from separating from the batting.  I just did a few straight lines that went with the fabric pattern.  You can do as much or as little as you like.

Note: This is a walking foot.  It has "feed dogs" on the foot itself.  It is to help the top fabric move, just like the feed dogs on the machine help the bottom fabric move.  I just got this machine and walking foot from my Grandma!!!  You can still quilt without a walking foot.  I did until now!

Don't want to quilt your bag?
~ You can use fusible fleece!  All you have to do is fuse the fleece (using your iron) to the Wrong Side of the Outside fabric.  With fusible fleece no quilting is needed.
~ You can use fusible interfacing to give the bag some stiffness without the bulk of batting.  Again, you would fuse the interfacing to the Wrong Side of the Outside fabric.

Quilting straight lines.

Quilting done.  You can see what the back of it looks like.  Also, even though I had a walking foot you can see that my fabric shifted a bit!

4. Trim the edges if your fabric shifts like mine did!

5.  Now take your Lining Fabric and place it on top of your Outside Fabric.  Place the RIGHT SIDES together.  (Lining fabric right side down, outside fabric right side up.)

6.  Sew across the top of the bag ONLY.  No need to backstitch because you'll be sewing over this seam later.

7.  Flip the lining up as shown.  You should be looking at the right side of the Lining and the right side of the Outside.

8.  Press the seam.

9.  Flip the lining under.  Now it is a sandwich with the seam at the top (outside fabric, batting, lining)

10.  Press that as well.

11.  Now topstitch about 1/8" from the edge.  Sew across the top Only!

12.  After topstitching open up the piece again.  You are looking at the right side of the lining and the right side of the outside piece.

13.  Take your other rectangle and place it on top.  Right sides together!!  The lining touching lining, and the outside touching outside

14.  Pin in place all the way around.  Be careful to make sure that the seams match up at the "top of bag" (notice my sophisticated sign).

15.  Start sewing at the 'bottom' of the lining.  Backstitch where my 'start sewing here' sign is and then sew to the right.  Sew all the way around stopping about 4inches from where you started.  This will leave a space to turn the bag rightside out.


When you turn corners you leave your needle down in the fabric at the corner.

Lift the presser foot and then carefully turn your fabric!

Lower the presser foot and start sewing again.

Your opening should look something like the picture above.

All sewn up! (and blurry, whoops.)

If you want to make the bag with no flat bottom continue reading below.

16a.  Clip the corners to reduce bulk when you turn it rightside out.

clipped!  Also, trim any seam allowance that is over 1/4".

bone folder!  Your 'pushing out corners' friend!

17a.  Turn the bag right side out through the hole and then use the bone folder to push out the four corners.

You still have to sew up the opening!

18a.  Fold the fabric under a bit and then press

19a.  Sew across, backstitching at the beginning and end.  You should use a coordinating color, but I wanted to make sure you could see the stitch in the picture.  (and maybe I was too lazy to change my thread....)

Note: I always make sure that I start sewing ontop of the old seam to prevent holes.  In other words, if your opening is 4 inches then I sew a 6 inch line across.

20a.  Stuff the lining inside the bag!


Time to make straps!!!  See my Strap Tutorial Here!

You have sewn all the way around the bag with right sides together, but you have not turned it rightside out yet.

16b.  Go to your corner!

17b.  Lift it up!

18b.  Pull the 'non seam' parts apart.

19b.  Match the seams up on either side of the triangle you have created.

20b.  Use your ruler to decide where to draw your line.  My bottoms are 2 inches.

21b.  Draw a line and pin.  Repeat for ALL FOUR corners making sure they are all the same!  The line you draw should be the same length on each corner.

22b.  Sew across the line backstitching at the beginning and the end.


23b.  Cut off the triangle!

24b.  Turn rightside out as show earlier.

This is what your corner should look like!

25b.  Sew up the hole in the lining as shown earlier (Step 18a).  Then stuff the lining inside the bag!

yay!  Now you have a bag with a bottom!!!!

Time to make the straps!  


Kristine @ JandMs Eye Candy said...

GREAT tutorial!! Love this! I am so NOT a sewer, but it's so cute I might have to try out my sewing machine ;) THANKS so much for sharing!

Jasmine @ Sew Divertimento said...

This is exactly what I needed! Thanks A! Will post pix soon! Miss u!!!!

Donna said...

Andrea, excellent tutorial! Great pictures and explanations. Consider doing the handles by sandwiching them between the inner and outer bags. That way when you pull your bag through the little hole in the lining, the straps are there and securely attached!

Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting said...

Great tutorial! Hope your Christmas was nice! First one as a married lady!

Reese said...

I've been looking for a great tutorial on making bags and yours is the most helpful! Great job on this!