Tuesday, 8 July 2008

An easy tote bag tutorial - from a beginner!

This is my first ever tutorial. It's for a patchwork type bag - like the Cath Kidston material one above, but the instructions that follow are for a smaller version in Globaltex fabrics. I haven't quite finished, but I thought I'd post this, then update soon with the remaining instructions.

Totes like these are honestly are really simple. If you do try it, I'd love to see a pic of the result, so please let me know... even if it's in 6 months time.
I'm posting instructions to make a lined bag with sides and base. I'll post instructions soon to make one without sides and bottom, as my daughter did one alongside me doing mine (and she's only 10, so that shows how simple they are!). I've tried to take lots of pics, as I know they make everything really simple.

How to begin
1. You need to choose your fabric, and then cut a pattern. It's best to wash and iron the fabric first, to pre-shrink it. Because they do shrink, and it's better getting it shrunk before you make it! I used A3 paper for the pattern, as the width was just what I needed. You can make larger bags - the Cath Kidston one is larger than the globaltex (pink dotty) one. So you have one large piece for the back and front. Two sides, and one base:

The front back measures 14 1/2 inches by 11 3/4 inches. The sides measure 14 1/2 inches by 2 1/2 inches. The base measures 11 3/4 inches by 2 1/2 inches. But you can make this larger if you want a larger tote. Don't be afraid to experiment. You can go wrong as long as the sides measure the same length as the front/back.

2. I then cut a strip 3 1/2 inches wide from one end of the back/front piece - this is to form the patched pieces at the top.

3. Now you need to cut your material pieces. Fold your fabric, with right sides facing, and pin the large back/front piece to it:
Cut around the pinned pattern. I placed it on a fold, so had to then cut up the fold.
Next, pin the smaller pattern strip you cut to the contrasting fabric. You will need to cut two of these pieces:

Carry on cutting all your pieces. You end up with the following pieces:

4. Now pin the top piece to the large front piece and do the same to the back (making sure to place right sides together, and making sure the fabric is the right way up if there's a definite top and bottom to the design):

5. Machine stitch along this join, then iron the seam open.
and do the same to the other other front/back...

6. Now you need to pin (right sides together) the two sides to the large patched front piece. And also pin the base in place:

7. Pin the two corners as shown:

8. Machine stitch down each side, and along the base, taking care to stitch up to the diagonal formed when laying the corner flat and not across it:
9. Now you can pin the back in position, down the sides and along the bottom:

10. Stitch down each side, as before, then across the bottom. Then stitch along the base sides. Again, just be careful to stitch up to the diagonal at each corner, made when holding the fabric flat under the machine's foot. You can then hand stitch at the corners if you haven't gone right up to the diagonal, so there's no hole. Pull thru your threads and knot.
Once that's done move on to the lining.

Make up a lining with optional pocket

This is pretty much the same as the outer fabric bag you've just made. A cotton is easy to work with and looks good. If it is really thin, it's best to use an iron on interfacing, but I've kept things simple for this tutorial, so haven't done that.
So, first use your pattern pieces to cut the lining: same as before. You need to cut a back and front, two sides, and a base. Remember for this, you need a complete front back, without the panel cut out. So total measurement for the front back panel should be 14 1/2 by 11 3/4 inches.

Also cut a pocket. I've made mine 6 inches by 6 inches, but you can make it any size that suits. Remember the measurement has to include about a cm or so all around for the hem. Cut two:

Now you have to sew the pocket to one of the lining pieces. Sew it on the right side! I put the two pieces together, right side to wrong side, and iron a cm hem around - all around. Then pin it to your lining and use the machine to sew down the side, along the bottom, and up the other side. Leave the top open. I then hand stitch the inner bit to the lining. If you prefer, you could machine stitch the inner pocket piece to the lining, then sew the outer piece on. It doesn't matter what you do - I'm sure there are better ways, but this is what I've found works for me.

Now pin the sides of the lining in position as shown:
And the base. Pin the base corners to the side. Don't do what I have done here, and pin the base to the top so the pocket is upside down. I'll leave the picture as an example of what can go wrong!

So, having made sure the base is at the right end of the bag, with the opening of the pocket facing up the right way, sew the sides of the lining, but don't sew the base to the sides yet. When sewing, form a diagonal at the bit where the fabrics meet - it will be obvious. I sew up to this diagonal.

Now pin the other side in position. The lining is inside out - you can see the pocket (now correct way up!) inside the lining...
Once that's pinned, sew down the sides, to the diagonal formed, as before. Then sew across the bottom.

Making the straps

Cut two strips from your main fabric that are 7 cm by 56 cm. This allows for you to sling the bag over your shoulder. If you want thinner straps, make them a little thinner, but they are more fiddly to work with. Mine on this bag are just 5 cm wide, and they were a fiddle!

Iron them in half to get a fold line. Then iron a hem up each side. Allow about 1 cm for the hems - I've got about 6 mm in the pic (so it really doesn't matter, you just need the two hems!).

Now pin them together as shown, doing the same for both straps.
And machine stitch each close to the pinned edge. That's your straps done!

Finishing your bag
Keeping the bag inside out, but with the lining right side out, slip the lining inside the bag. So you have right side to right side:

Slip a handle inside each side, to sit between the lining and the bag. You should have two ends of the handle poking out on each side:
Ensure they are the same distance from the sides, and match up on both sides, otherwise they will look unevenly spaced. Secure each of these between the lining and outer fabric with a pin. Match up the side seams, and pin around the top of your bag.

Now sew around the top with the machine, but leave a 5 inch gap.

When you've sewn, pull the bag and lining through this gap.
You then pin and slip stitch the gap. Or you can do what I did and machine stitch (an overstitch) all around the top of the bag. It strengthens the handle areas, and gives a neat finish.
Good luck. And I'd love to see some results!

Sept 2008 edit: I know a lot of you are looking at this. Please do take a look at the pictures here of bags some of you have made after being inspired by the tutorial. It actually takes a long time to put a tutorial together, and I really would love to hear from anyone who has found it helpful, and if you can let me have a picture, I'd love to add more to my gallery! Or even, leave a comment - I love to find new blogs!


Elaine said...

You're so clever, and neat!!!, Lacey.
You even press out the seams !!!

Put's me to shame.

Well done on a lovely clear tutorial.

Love and blessings

Lace Threads said...

Thank you, Elaine. I'm not sure about neat - have you clicked on the pics to enlarge them and show up the little faults! lol. But thank you.

A Different Era said...

I have no inclination to sew at all, but well done you for doing it and for the tutorial.

Trish said...

thanks hunny, I may try and have a go now xxx

angel said...

Thanks Lazy, could you make another one, hummmmm lol, I cant quite get the hang of this one.....and ermmmm....could you do it in a smart stripe .......... maybe a pale pink and with a touch of blue..... hummm whatdoyafink...then you can give it to me cos you wont want one you already have will you. lol.

Lovely, fanks for all your hard work Honey, you make it look easy.*wink*
Love and Hugs.

sharie said...

Thank you for putting this up as I do intend to make a tote (its on my to-do list!).
I've got lots of ideas and was really in need of a good basic pattern.
Thanks once more for taking the time to do this for us all.

Lace Threads said...

Thank you all so much. I'd love it if somebody made a bag. I've tried to make sure the instructions are as clear as possible. Do remember to let me know!
Angel - hahahahahaha! I thought you were gonna send me a bag! xxxxx

angel said...

I would Lofty but now after seeing yours...........I daresnt..... :-)

Lace Threads said...

Angel - your bags were really special. I haven't managed applique! You were one of the peeps who inspired me!

angel said...

Get off..........really.....Gosh...

I will take pic's of those that are left and you can have one... I have just come down from the loft and down loaded a load of junk...erm i mean juicy bits to stick on shabby angels tat stall, just going to put them on SCC... I may be some time...............
Love and Hugs Honey............

Debbie said...

it looks beautiful lacey! :D :D

Ziakoko said...

Hi-well done for this really nice tutorial- I just wanted to add that I sell globaltex fabrics and can do dotty for £8 per metre if you are interested-sorry to talk shop! regards Zia

angel said...

Was your air like then Lastic, is it bootiful ................ i bet it is.

TattingChic said...

What a great tute! I love it. If I ever decide to make a bag I know where to go for info. BTW, thanks for your very sweet comment on my blog today! :)

vintage paper bella ~ andrea said...

I think your tutorial is fabulous..you did a great job!

Elizabethd said...

I made the bag this afternoon using your very clear directions. Thanks so much.