Simply Stylish Tote

Tote bags are a practical and stylish gift to give everyone on your gift-giving list, simply change the fabric pattern to suit the tote bag's recipient. This bag can be used as a diaper bag, shopping tote, knitting bag or school bag.


Materials and Tools:

(3) coordinating fabric prints, one each for the middle, the base and handles and the liner
fusible interfacing
magnetic snap
grosgrain ribbon
rotary cutting tool
sewing machine
ironing board
parchment paper for pattern
straight pins
Fray Check or lighter for sealing ribbon ends


1. First, create the pattern. Using parchment paper and a ruler, draw a rectangle 7-1/2 inches tall by 13-inches wide, this will be the tote bag's middle panel. Cut out the middle panel pattern and set aside. Next draw a rectangle 6 inches tall by 13 inches wide. On the bottom of this rectangle cut away a 2" x 2" square on each corner, this will be the tote bag's bottom. Cut out the bottom panel pattern and set aside. Cut a rectangle three inches tall by 25-inches long for the handle pattern. Cut a 13" x 13" square to make the liner. On the bottom edge, cut out a 2" x 2" square on each corner, then set the liner pattern aside.

2. Pin the parchment patterns to the fabric and cut out the pieces. Cut two each of the middle panel, the bottom and the handles. Then cut fabric for the liner. Cut two pieces of fabric for the liner and a piece for the pocket. Tip: Using decorator or upholstery weight fabrics will make for a sturdier bag which will last for a long time.

3. Once the fabric pieces are cut, iron as necessary to remove any wrinkles. The next step is to iron-on the fusible interfacing to give the fabric stability. Measure out the interfacing by laying it flat, adhesive-side-up, placing one of the fabric pieces on top to use as a pattern. With a pair of sharp scissors, cut the interfacing. Preheat iron, set it on the cotton fabric setting with no steam. Then iron each fabric piece to the interfacing following the manufacturer's directions. Follow these steps to add interfacing to the middle and bottom pieces of the bag.

4. Interface the fabric for the handles next. Fold the long sides of the handles over using a 1/2-inch allowance and press. Match the long sides of the handle and fold in half, then press. Set aside.

5. Sew the middle piece and bottom piece together using a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Repeat with the other middle and bottom piece. Next, press seams open on both panels.

6. The next step is to add the ribbon trim. Cut two strips of grosgrain ribbon a little longer than the width of the bag. Create a hand-tied bow with a smaller bit of ribbon and set aside. Stitch the strip of ribbon trim onto the middle of the bag, following the seam between the middle and the bottom pieces of fabric. Stitch as close to the edge of the ribbon as possible. Complete this step for each panel. Finally, stitch the bow onto the ribbon.

7. Constructing the bag. Lay both of the tote bag panels, right sides together, matching up the ribbon trim. Stitch one side of the panels together using a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Match the ribbon trim on the other side of the panel and machine-stitch together with a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Then stitch the base together with 1/2-inch seam allowance.

8. Press open the three seams with an iron. Open the sides of the bag and the base of the bag and match the seam together. Next, stitch the side and base together using a 1/2-inch seam allowance on both sides.

9. Turn the bag right-side-out. Fold the top of the bag over 1/2-inch and press. Then press the entire bag, beginning with the side seams. Next, iron the back and front of the bag.

10. Stitch the handles together using a 1/4-inch seam allowance and set aside.

11. The next step is constructing the liner. First, stitch the pocket piece together wrong-side-out, then turn right-side-out and press seams. Next, pin pocket piece to a piece of the liner. Pin lines for the dividing pocket seams. Then stitch the bottom edge of the pocket. Place both pieces of the liner right sides together. Sew both sides and the bottom piece together with a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Open the sides of the liner and the base of the liner and match the seams together. Sew the side and base together using 1/2-inch seam allowance on both sides. Press the top only of the liner with an iron to remove any wrinkles. Fold over the top of the liner 1/2-inch and press.

12. Now that the bag is roughly constructed, it's time to add the magnetic snap. Cut two 3" x 3" pieces of interfacing and center them at the top of liner. Press them with the iron onto the liner. Measure the desired length from the top of the liner down for the holes for the magnetic snaps, using scissors make two small slits. Turn liner over and repeat the previous steps. Seperate the magnetic snap into male and female pieces with a stabilizing ring each. Attach the male piece and stabilizing ring into one side of the liner and fold over the fabric. Repeat for the female piece on the other side.

13. Next, pin both handles to the bag. Match up the side seams of the liner to the bag's side seams, pinning the liner in place. Sew the liner, handles and bag together using a 1/4-inch seam allowance, removing pins as you go.

14. The final step is to seal the ribbon ends to prevent fraying. Fray Check or heat-seal the ribbon ends by holding them over an open flame.

Caroline Ritzer, Pink Lemondade Bags

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