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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tote Bag Tutorial

Okay – the long awaited tutorial!
Amy's bag- short straps, exterior pockets, ribbon trimming the open top

What you need to do to begin:
Decide the length (L) and width (W) of your tote.
Decide if you want pockets or details. (maybe try that 1 or 2 totes in… you’ll get it better, if you try it most simply, first)
Pick your fabric and straps.
Decide if you want to hem your tote’s top edge with bias tape (see below) or just have a simple hemmed edge.

CUTTING THE FABRIC:
Ok. So you want a tote that is L” long and W” wide.
You need to cut 2 pieces of fabric (one for each side) that are L plus 2” long and W plus 1” wide (example. For a 12L”x10W” tote, I would cut 2 pieces that are 14”x11”)

SEWING THE BAG:
Now is where you would add in the decorative elements. 1- add pockets for either the interior or exterior of the bag. 2 – Add decorative elements, ribbons, appliqué, etc.

If you’re not doing decorative elements, or if you’ve already done them…
1. place the two rectangles together – right sides facing in.
2. sew around the sides and bottom of the bag, leaving the top open. A ¼” or ½” seam allowance is good. I have a serger and like to serge the edges together for a clean line. Sometimes, I go back over the bags here and topstitch the seams for a more finished look, but again, that’s preference.
3. Add gussets. (this part IS optional, but I’ve found it adds a lot of class) This is the hardest part to explain. I found this great description online of how to make one. I hope a photo will help, but basically, try doing this as you read the instructions and see if it makes sense… hold the sewn bag (still inside out) upside down. Put one of your hands into the bag all the way to one of the corners at what will be the bottom of the bag. If your fingers are all together in a point, you can use your other hand to pinch the bag so that you have flattened the bag in a perpendicular angle to the seams you just made.
(Your bottom and side seam should be in line with each other, kind of stacked on one another) Take your inside hand now to the outside of the project, and flatten what you’ve pinched into a triangle. For your first one, measure about 1” in from the point and sew a straight line across this measurement. (You can cut the remainder off with pinking shears or serge it, like I do) Repeat the same on the other corner.
4. Trim the scraps and turn the bag right side out.
5. Decide if you will hem the top of the bag or turn it in/out… One of my favorite things to use for the top edges is Extra Wide Double Fold Bias Tape. It’s so easy! Just cover your raw, folded, hemmed edge (or serged, as I like to do) – with the bias tape - There is one side that is shorter than the other and this is for a reason… place the shorter side on the outside (pretty side) of your bag so that the wider side is on the interior of your bag. Now, when you sew the tape to your bag for a nice clean look from the outside – you will for sure be catching the inside bias tape, even if you wobble a little…. Simply genius!
a. Sometimes here is also where I like to leave a raw serged edge, or if the fabric has a cool “wrong side” I will fold it over so that it kind of trims itself. see Aunt Shirley's bag (again, preference)

GETTING STRAPS READY:
The first thing to do is to decide how long you want your straps to be. Do you want them to be shoulder straps? How many do you want – one or two? Are they long enough to hold over your elbow, or just carry with your hand? Decide the length.
I do one of two things for my totes… I either stack 2-3 layers of said length grosgrain ribbon and sew them together with two straight running stitches down the length…. Or I take scraps and fold them many times over until I have a nice hefty strap at the width I want – and then I do two straight stitches down the length. It’s a preference thing.
Aunt Shirley's bag- one long strap, interior pocket, self-folded top trimmed with ribbon, button closure

Now I measure (or just eyeball) where I want the straps to be. I mark, pin, or just remember where that is and begin to sew the straps on, one at a time. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Here is where some creativity can come in. Do you want to show the edges of the ribbon? (I always singe the grosgrain’s edges over a candle’s heat to stop fraying) Do you want to hide the stitching with a cute button? Do you want the straps inside or outside?Mom's bags- short straps, button closures, exterior pockets, ribbon trimming the serged top

And the finishing touches are simple. Maybe you want a button and loop closure at the top. Maybe a snap? That’s up to you. And once you’ve made a zillion of these, I’m sure you’ll have tried every possible way. I’d love to see your totes, so if you use my tutorial, please post a link to where I can see your projects!
Amy R.'s bag- medium straps, exterior and interior pockets, raw serged topNancy's bag- short straps, ribbon trimmed top, button closure

4 comments:

Sara Moriarty-delaFuente said...

lovely. I am heading to the fabric store tomorrow and now have another project to shop for. I am thanking you and my hubby is cursing you. LOL :)

libbydibby said...

Try it on an old t-shirt first! (then you know you'll be doing it right the next time around!...

I want to contribute to the tote-love!
If you (and other readers) make a tote from my tutorial, show me a photo and post a link to the tutorial - if you can... i'll send you a scrap bag for free - and you'll have enough fabric to make a few more totes!
(you pay the shipping, it'll be around $5... i put over 1lb of fabric in each one.)

Cheri said...

Ok, I have never left a comment on someone's blog that I don't know, but....I am so excited, I just had to! :-) My 8 year old daughter and I are taking sewing lessons together and having a blast and so I get really inspired when I see people like you making such cute stuff! I love your skirts.....and I'm gonna try to make one of these totes! Thanks for the tutorial!

libbydibby said...

Cheri, that's great! I hope you have a fun time. I think you'll find these totes really addicting. They make the perfect gifts for birthday parties... the design director and I make little girl ones, embellish them, and fill them with dollar store goodies for our birthday parties that she goes to.

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