This blog is no longer active, come over to www.quiltingbuttercup.com for more.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

How to make a shopping tote

This shopping tote is an easy to make classic. Using a cute fabric the tote becomes a practical accessory that you can fold and keep in your purse for when you need another bag for your shopping, to go the market or, even, the sea.

For the measurements I used a tote I received as a gift on a fair. I folded the fabric and placed that tote with the lower and right side aligned with the edges of the folded fabric. The finished tote measures 17 x 20 inches. If you don't have a tote you can model from, cut a 18 x 44 in rectangle (18 is the width of the unfinished tote, while the height will be 22 in, as the rectangle will be folded over onto itself with the fold forming the bottom of the tote).

Like that all I had to do was cut along the right and left edges of the model tote without bothering about measurements.

Place you ruler along the edge to cut, make sure it is perpendicular to the lower edge of the tote and cut just outside the model tote on the right as well as on the left side.
Then place the handles of the model onto the tote in order to cut the upper edge.

Leave some space (about 1 inch) for the seam when cutting the upper edge.

And it's already time for sewing. Place your tote on the sewing machine as you cut it (that is the double folded fabric left sides out) and sew straight seams on the left as well as on the right side from top to bottom, fixing the seams at the beginning and at the end with a couple of backstitches.

Leave about 1/2 of an inch of seam allowance and, in this case, close the eges of the fabric with a zigzag stitch in addition to the straight seam. The zigzag stitch protects the edges so they don't unravel which is useful in this case, as the edges are not protected inside the tote and are subject to movement when the tote is being used.

For the zigzag stitch use a stitch width that makes sure you don't stitch over your straight seam and, keeping the edge of the fabric just in the middle of the presser foot, stitch the whole length of the right and left outer edges.

In the picture above you see the straight seam at a good distance from the edge and the zigzag stitch covering the edge of the two layers of fabric.

The bottom doesn't need to be sewn, as the fabric was folded and thus it's already closed.

Before being able to finish the upper, open edges of the tote we need to prepare the handles.

For the handles cut two strips that are 3 inches wide. The strips of my tote have an unfinished length of 34 in, like that they are long enough in order to easily carry the tote over your shoulder.

In order to cut the strips first place your ruler onto the fabric and cut a straight edge. Align the lower edge of the fabric with the horizontal lines of the ruler and cut perpendiculare to that lower edge.

Now place your ruler in order to cut straight 3 inch wide strips.

Prepare the strips for sewing by ironing 1/4 of an inch of seam allowance towards the inside on both sides of the strip as shown in the picture below.

Then fold the strip in half lengthwise, with the two seam allowances facing inside the strip.

In order to fix the handle this way, sew all the way along the strip on the open side as close to the edge as possible, joining the two sides.

Then sew another parallel seam as close to the other edge of the strip as possible. This second seam keeps the handle flat. The finished strip should look like this:

Now we need to prepare the seam of the upper, open edge of the tote attaching the handles in the process.

Place the tote flat on your table left side facing out, and measure the width. You want to add the handle so that the tote will be divided in thirds.

Trace the position of the handle onto the tote fabric dividing the tote in three equal parts, two outside the handle and one between the two sides of the handle. Then pin the two sides of the handles in place. One handle goes on one side of the tote, the other handle on the other side. Each handle is sewn onto the tote in two places. Pin the first handle where you traced it's position on one side of the tote and then pin the other end of the same handle on the second mark on the same side of the tote, with the same sides facing upwards.
Then pin the second handle in place in the same way.

Now you need to turn the upper edge of the tote outwards onto itself to form the seam. The end of the handle will be hidden inside the seam. Turn the fabric over for almost 1 inch and turn 1/4 of an inch of seam allowance inside.

 Pin the seam in place all around the opening of the tote and with the handles facing upwards.

Now sew all the way around, fixing the seam with a couple of backstitches at beginning and end and staying close to the lower edge of the folded fabric. When you come to where a handle is pinned, attach the handle as shown below, stopping at the end of the handle and adding an X across the strip as indicated in the picture. This will attach the handles securely so that they will not rip off if the tote is full of heavy things. There is no need to make more seams, it can all be done in one movement.

In the picture above you see how you sew along the lower edge of the folded fabric, while below you can see how the handles are securely attached to the tote:

To achieve this secure seam, follow the arrows indicated below:

Finish the seam, attaching all 4 ends of the handles securely. Then turn the tote right side out and be proud of your finished bag!

You can fold it and keep it in your purse as a backup for when you need another bag, as the tote folds up nicely and doesn't take up a lot of space, or you can just use it to carry stuff, as it is meant to be.

Have you made a project following this tutorial? Let me know what you think. Did you like it? Was it easy to understand and to follow? Do you have any suggestions?
Write a comment or send me an email using the contact form at the bottom of the page.