Monday, July 4, 2016

Tote Bag Tutorial Repost

This easy to make quilted tote bag comes together so fast, I had to make another one! This time I added some extra quilting, and I pieced together the front pocket to make a nine patch quilt block. You can view the original bag and the tutorial here: Quilted Tote Bag Tutorial

The colors on this tote bag are much different than the colors of my first one. At first I used teal, white, and navy blue to make a nautical bag. Since it's getting close to summer, I decided to use some brighter, more floral fabrics. The combination of yellow and blue is one I haven't used often, but I need to because it turned out great! I've only ever used this color scheme one other time, on my Twisted Star Topper.

I also used a different type of quilting for the body of the bag. On my nautical tote bag, I did traditional cross hatching. For this new bag, I did some simple straight line quilting. I spaced my lines 1" apart.

Instead of webbing for the straps, I just made some extra wide bias tape from the same blue fabric as I used for the top of the bag. To do this, I just folded the bias tape in half and sewed down the open edge. Then, I added a zigzag stitch for style. I felt that the decorative stitches went with the floral fabrics, so I added some around the top of the bag.

You can have your tote bag straps coming from between the outer fabric and the lining by placing them against the outer fabric when you sew on the lining. I prefer the look of the straps outside of the bag for that "tote bag look" versus the look of a purse. This method utilizes an element of the bag, in this case the straps, for a simple decoration.

What I really love about sewing totes is that they tend to be more simple than a purse, yet they are still useful. If you make them big enough, they hold a TON. I just like to look at and hold purses and bags, some can be so cute! What's nice about sewing your own purses is that you can sew a bag for every occasion, season, or even every outfit if you want to! You get to use the fabrics you want, and choose every little element in the bag such as pockets, buttons, zippers, straps, etc.

If you know how the bag is put together well enough, you may even be able to make alterations after using it. Sometimes when I make a bag and it doesn't work the way I thought, I will rip it apart and make a smaller bag from the material I can save. I might be able to get a little zipper pouch out of the leftovers, too!

I think the front pocket is my favorite part! The nine patch block gives it just enough of a patchwork look, without making the whole bag look scrappy. There are many parts of this simple project you can change to make it your own.

  • The front pocket. Piece something together, or use a simple solid. You could even quilt the front pocket after you sew the front and lining right sides together, turn it right sides out, and before you sew it onto the back. If you want to, you don't have to add the front pocket. You could even add a front pocket to both sides of your tote bag.

  • The body quilting. I tried using cross hatching and straight line quilting, though you could even do free motion quilting. Or, simply use fusible interfacing and batting so you don't have to quilt it at all!

  • The body piecing. I added a simple band to the top by sewing together two pieces of fabric to make my 16" x 13" outer fabric pieces. You could piece together more fabric for this, or use solid pieces.

  • The lining. Unlike for my front pocket and outer fabric, I used solid pieces of fabric for the lining. Since it's going on the inside of the bag, I like to use a nice, light colored fabric that isn't too busy. This makes it easier to find things inside your tote.

  • The inner pockets. I mention in the original Quilted Tote Bag Tutorial post that you can customize the size of the inner pockets by choosing where you sew across them. This is nice because you can plan exactly how you want your tote depending on what you will be using it for. Another benefit of sewing your own purses and bags!

  • The straps. Originally, I used webbing for the straps since it's already made, and it is nice and strong. On my next tote, I wanted the straps to exactly match the rest of the bag so I made some by making wide bias tape. If you use fabric (not webbing) for the straps, you could add as few or as many stitches down the straps as you like.

  • The stiffness/amount of padding. I used a layer of thin quilt batting + a layer of thin interfacing. You can leave out the interfacing for a softer bag, or leave out the batting for a thinner bag. If you want a stiffer bag, use a thicker interfacing. For a more padded bag use thicker batting, or multiple layers of thin batting. A padded tote would be great for carrying electronic devices.

  • Embellishments. I tend to not add embellishments to purses and bags, but I would love to start experimenting with them. Buttons, felt flowers, or maybe applique. So many possibilities!

Please comment if you think of another way to customize this basic quilted tote. I can add your idea to this list. The list is also available on the original tote bag post. Thank you so much for reading, and happy sewing to you all!


  1. One of my favorite color combos here. I have to check out your original post now.

  2. Such a pretty tote, visiting from Show Off Saturday.


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