Sunday, July 6, 2014

simple tote.

A simple tote that can be made in a short afternoon.

(see directions below for sizing options)
15" x 28" light weight canvas or linen/cotton blend for body of bag
9" x 29-1/2" quilt-weight cotton for straps
light-weight interfacing for straps
coordinating thread

A few general notes:
Dimensions are for a finished tote of roughly 14" tall x 12-1/2" wide, with
1-1/8" wide straps and 14" drop.  (Drop is the distance from top of shoulder to top of bag).  Calculations are given below to make totes and straps of different sizes.  Make it a little bigger for trips to the library.  A little smaller for party bags.
The directions include French Seams to neaten up the inside of the tote.  I recommend backstitching at the beginning and end of all stitching to reinforce the seam.

WS = wrong side
WST - wrong sides together
RS = right sides together
RST = right side together

Make the straps!

Method 1  - Folded:
This is my preferred method for making bag straps.  They are quick and durable.

Cut two of strap fabric:
4 1/2" x 29-1/2"
Cut one of lightweight interfacing:
2 1/4" x 29"

      To make a different size strap, cut two each per the following formula:
      Fabric:  length = [2*(drop) + 2 1/2"], width  = [4*finished width]
      Interfacing:  length = [2*(drop) + 2"], width = [2*finished width]

Center the interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric.
Fold in each short end 1/4" and press.

Fold in one side of the fabric at the edge of the interfacing and press along the full length.
Repeat for second side.

Fold in half and press.

Top stitch the folded halves together along the long edge 1/8" from the edge, keeping the edges in alignment as you go.  Repeat along the folded edge.  This helps the strap stay flat and creates a consistent look.

Repeat for second strap.

The straps may feel a little stiff initially - they will loosen up with use.

Method 2 - Tube:  The method uses less fabric, and yields a slightly lighter-weight strap, but turning the tube can be fussy, and it can be difficult to get the strap to lay flat when finished.

Cut two of strap fabric:
29-1/2 x 2-3/4"
Cut one of fusible interfacing:
29" x 2-1/2"

Center the interfacing on the wrong side of fabric and press in place well.
Fold fabric RST.

Stitch in 1/4 seam down the long side, catching the edge of the interfacing to secure it in place.

Using a fabric tube turner (also called a loop turner), turn the tube right-side out.  If you don't have a turner, attach a safety pin to one end of the tube, and work it's way down the inside of the tube, pulling the fabric right side out.

Turn the raw edges to the inside 1/4" and iron the tube flat, with the seam to one side.

Top stitch down both long edges.

Repeat for second strap.

Make the body!

Cut two pieces of the body fabric to 14" x 15".  If the fabric has a clear direction, orient it in the longer dimension.

     To make a different sized tote:
     Add 1 1/4" to the desired finished width and 1 1/2" to the finished length.

Aligning the two pieces WST, stitch along both side edges in a scant 1/4" seam, creating a tube.

Turn the tube WS out and press the seams flat.  I find it works well to roll the seamed edge between my fingers to even out prior to pressing.

With RST, stitch both side seams again.  This time use a 3/8" seam, incapsulating the previous seam.

Press the seam allowance towards one side.

With the tube wrong side out, top stitch on the right side of the bottom layer, 1/4" from the seam line to secure the seam allowance to the bag.   As you work down the length, keep the top layer of the tube towards you, out of the way, and gently smooth the seam apart to keep as flat as possible.  The fabric will form a sort of nest around the needle and look like it's going get stuck, but keep stitching to the end.   Trust me, it works and it's much easier than it sounds!  Repeat for the second side seam.

Turn the bag RS out and stitch along the bottom in a scant 1/4" seam.  Clip the bottom outside edges to a taper at each corner to reduce bulk.

Turn WS out, stitch bottom edge again in a 3/8" seam.  Do not top stitch the seam allowance of the bottom seam.

Assemble the bag!

With bag RS out, turn the top edge of the bag in 1/4" and again another 3/8" - 1/2" to conceal the raw edge.  Press / Pin in place as needed.

Position one strap in a loop,  centered along the bag width, with about 5-6" between straps. (I usually just eyeball this.)  Each end of the strap should overlap on the interior of the bag 1/2" - 1".  Pin in place with two pins, keeping the strap perpendicular to the top edge of the bag.

Test the length and make adjustments as needed.  Repeat for the second strap, aligning it with the first strap.

Top stitch around the top edge, continuing around several times to secure the straps in place and create a decorative edge.   For my Little Red tote, I chose a blue thread to pick up on an accent color in the fabric.

Straight stitch, zig zag stitch, decorative stitch around the top of the tote...the possibilities are pretty endless.  I was fairly sketchy with my stitching to give the tote a more whimsical feel.

And that's it.  A simple tote!

If you make a tote following this tutorial, please post a photo to the lark cottons flickr group!

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