47. Tartan Tote Bag

I’ve finished even closer to the wire with this week’s make.  Well, in truth, it has taken me 2 weeks as I have had to wait while ebay delivered me some brown canvas.

This make came about when I saw the price of some very trendy tote bags in one of the most popular stores for teenagers in the UK. Almost £50 is way too much for a fabric bag in my book so I set about making one.

The tartan in this bag was a remnant that had made its way into my fabric stash after my mum made herself a skirt in the early 70s. Yes, I keep fabric that long! I’m very pleased to find a good use for it at last.

I started by cutting a rectangle of tartan and a similar sized rectangle of lining then sewing them together along what would be the top edge of the bag.

I then cut another piece of tartan and matching piece of lining to make a front pocket.  I attached it at the top of the pocket and then folded it down about 1 cm so that the tartan folds over slightly.  I then sewed almost all the way round the remaining 3 sides, leaving a small gap to turn it right side out.  After turning and pressing, I attached it to the front of the bag with a row of top stitching.

And this is where I had to stop until the brown canvas arrived.

It also gave me some time to figure out how to finish the bag.

I cut two long, rectangular strips of canvas and folded and pressed the long sides in to make the handles.

I then folded them in half and started to topstitch along the edge.

And this is where the fun began…just after I took the photograph above, my trusty Singer sewing machine, that I bought in 1978, decided to quit.  Smoke billowed from its motor but luckily I was able to turn it off before any flames engulfed my precious bag handles.

My mum came to the rescue and has given me her machine to finish it off.  Thank you, mum!

After a bit of bobbin shenanigans and some oiling, the machine worked well (and is much smoother and quieter than mine ever was, I guess sewing machine technology has improved somewhat since 1978).

I attached the canvas to the bottom of the bag.

Sewed the handles on, added a small rectangle of canvas to the front pocket and closed the side seams.

Here it is.

7. Quick Quilted Tote Bag

I think I was probably a bit optimistic to think I could get this made in a week but I’ll give it a go.

I started off by choosing the fabric. Actually, if the truth be known, I started the piecing before deciding what it was going to be.

I have had the parrot fabric in my stash for about 20 years and thought it was about time it was put to use.

I’m not going to give any measurements for this (but if you’d like some, add a comment below) as I started with no idea how big the finished bag or whatever it was going to turn into would be.  You can use the same steps to make any size bag.

Start by taking a piece of fabric and folding it so as the selvedges are together. Then fold it again so that the previous fold is also along the selvedge edge.  This will give you a nice straight line.  Next cut some strips.  I nearly said of equal width but on second thoughts, they really don’t have to be.

From the pictures you will see that I use a cutting mat, rotary cutter and long O’lipfa ruler.  If you are making the strips this way then put the selvedge edges (and folded edge) along one of the lines of the cutting mat and you should get pretty straight strips. Or, if you are using scissors, mark the fabric with tailor’s chalk or a light pencil line before you cut.

Do the same with a contrasting piece of fabric so that you end up with about 7 or so long strips of fabric.

Sew them together along the long edges so that you have a piece of fabric like the one above.  This is when I decided it was going to be a bag.

Press the seams.

Next find a piece of lining fabric the same size as the completed strips. I used bump curtain lining, a thick padding that is used to make insulated curtains.  You can use whatever comes to hand, any kind of old wool blanket, soft cotton or you could also use batting from a quilting supplies shop  (this is usually most expensive option).  I’ve pieced the bump (as the off cut I had wasn’t big enough) by butting the edges together and over stitching them.

Place this on the wrong side of your strips of fabric and tack in place.

You will see from this picture that my strips are not exactly even at the ends.  That is ok,  trim them as a next step.  Now cut 2 pieces off the end of the strips and bump that you can use to make the handles.  Mine are about 12cm wide each but make them as wide as you need for the size of bag you are making.  If you are making a small bag you may not even want handles.

Ooops…nearly forgot this piece.  Now do the quilting.  Sew a small running stitch about half a centimetre in from each seam so that there is a rectangle of stitching inside every strip.

Now get another piece of fabric roughly the same size as the strips and bump that will be the lining of the bag. I used the same fabric as one of those I used for strips. Place this right side to the right side of the strips. So in the picture above that shows the bump, the lining would be on the floor right side up with the strips face down on it and the bump on the top.  Stitch around the 2 long sides and one short side but leave 2 gaps on the short side where the handles will fit in. I placed the gaps on mine at the 2nd and 6th strips to make it easy to match them up. Turn right sides out.

I also decided at this point to add an inside pocket as I’m forever losing my phone at the bottom of my bag.  I think with hindsight, it might have been easier to add this before attaching the inside lining but nevermind.

Next step is to make the handles. Fold each strip you cut off earlier so that the long edges are concealed. It doesn’t really matter how you do this. I folded each long edge to the middle and then folded the whole thing in two.  Stitch together along the long edge. Up to this point I’ve done all my stitching by hand but I think to make sure the bag stays together, I’ll machine stitch the rest. (I’ve just had a message from P, who would like to know if she can make the whole thing by hand.  Hmmm…yes, of course.  I think I might run a couple of rows of stitches down the sides to make it v. secure if I was doing it by hand but it depends what size of bag you are planning – one row would probably be enough for a small clutch.)

Put the ends of handle one into the gaps you left on the short edge of the bag that is partially stitched and stitch them firmly into place, closing the gaps as you do so.

On the other short edge of the bag, pin the handle ends in the corresponding position to the first handle and fold over the edges and stitch the opening closed.

Take out any tacking.

Fold the bag so that the handles are together and stitch along both sides.  I machined on the right side so there is a top stitch along both sides.  And here it is: