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Summer Sewing School {make a lined tote bag}

Boy, these summer weeks are moving fast! I can’t believe that this is our 5th sewing class. Today we are making lined tote bags. Tote bags are great for the beginner sewer because you don’t have to be exact, you just have to be consistent.

For this bag, we will be using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. I just line up the edge of my fabric with the presser foot. It’s certainly not exact (unless I’m using my quarter inch foot) but as long as I do it the same each time, it really doesn’t matter. I’ve also decided not to put a pocket in this tote because there is not enough fabric for a pocket if you only have 1/2 yard of each fabric. On Monday, I’ll be posting another bag that has a pocket. So, if you really want a pocket you will need about 1/4 yard more of fabric and the instructions will be up on Monday.

Week 4 {Supplies}1/2 yard cotton fabric – for outside
1/2 yard cotton fabric – for lining
Nylon cord
Straight pins
Seam Ripper
Ruler or measuring tape
Rotary Cutter (optional)
Cutting Mat (optional)

Week 4 {Skills Learned}: turning long tubes, top stitching, linings, boxing corners

Here’s how to make a lined tote bag:

  • Cut 2 – 18″ squares from each fabric
  • Cut 2 – 2″ X 36″ strips from each fabric
  •  Pin your outside fabric right sides together on 3 sides. The open side will be the top of your bag, so if your fabric is patterned make sure that the pattern is correct. You wouldn’t want upside down hearts or whatever your pattern is. 
  • Sew around all 3 sides using a 1/4″ seam allowance.
  •  When you get to about 1/4″ of the end of the first side, lift your presser foot and turn your fabric around so that you can sew the second side. If the fabric doesn’t line up with your seam allowance then turn the fabric back to the first side and go up or back a few stitches (depending on if you need to be closer or further away from the end. I do this by manually moving the needle using the hand wheel.) You will need to do this at the end of the second side, also. Then Sew up the third side.
  •  I like to do a zig zag stitch off the end of all my seams to finish them. You can also use pinking shears if you have them. This will keep the raw edges from fraying.
  •  Pin the lining right sides together. Remembering that the side that is open will be the top of the bag.
  • On the bottom of the bag (the side opposite the side that was NOT pinned) make a mark 6″ in from each side. I used a disappearing marker, but you can use a fabric marking pencil or even a ball point pen or a pencil. Just make sure to use a light mark. It’s going to be sewn so that no one will be able to see the mark
  • Now, sew one side and turn to sew the bottom but stop at the mark.
  • Do the same for the other side.
  • Zigzag the seam or use pinking shears.

To box the corners:

  1. Line up the seam at the bottom of the bag with the seam on the side of the bag. It will make the bag have a pointy end.
  2. Pin the fabric so it doesn’t move
  3. Using a ruler, measure 3″ in from the point and mark a straight line. I use my clear ruler and line up one of the straight lines with  the seam so that I get a straight line.
  4. This is your sewing line
  5. Sew right on top of the line
  6. Cut off the pointy end, leaving 1/4″ seam. Sew a zigzag on the raw edge.
  7. Do this for both ends of the outside of the bag and both ends of the liner.
To make the handles:
  1. Pin one 2″ X 36″ of the outside fabric and one 2″ X 36″ liner fabric right side together. Stitch all the way down, using  a 1/4″ seam
  2. Take the cord and tie a knot on one end. Open the handle up and lay the cord inside with the knot hanging out. Pin the top (where the knot is) and all the way down, making sure the cord is near the seam. If you sew over the cord you will have to rip out your stitches.
  3. Sew the top, where the knot is. Go forward and back a couple of times.
  4. Now, sew along the open side – making sure not to sew the cord.

To turn and finish the handles:

  1. Gently pull the cord while holding the fabric near the knot. The fabric will bunch up. Continue pull the cord and helping the fabric turn right side out.
  2. This is what is will look like when you are about half way done, just slide the fabric down the tube and soon it will all be right side out.
  3. Cut off the end where the knot is, cut the whole seam off. If it is crooked, just cut it straight.
  4. Iron the handle flat, making sure that the seam is on the edge and not tucked inside. You should not be able to see the lining fabric from the front or the front fabric from the back. Although it is fine it you do a little. I like to sew a straight line right near the edge, all the way down. This is called top stitching and it is not necessary but it makes the bag look really nice.
  • Turn the bag right side out.
  • Pin the handles about 4″ from each edge

  • Sew the handles onto the bag using a 1/4″ seam allowance
  • Leaving the lining inside out, put the bag inside the lining. They should be right sides together! Double check.
  • Pin the lining to the bag
  • Stitch a 5/8″ seam all the way around the bag.
  • Zig zag the raw edges
  • Pull the bag out from the lining (from the hole in the bottom)
  • Pin the hole closed, tucking in the edges to make them even with the seam.
  • Sew close to the edge – I just use the machine, since no one is going to see it. But if you are going to use the is bag as a reversible bag you might want to use a slip stitch.
  • Push the lining into the bag – you can chose to be done at this point
  • But I like to pin around the opening at the top of the bag and then top stitch all the way around. This really makes the bag look nice.
Now you have a bag for all your needs! You can adjust the size of the bag by making the square a different size or the handles a different length. These also make great gifts or bags to include with a gift.
Feel free to ask any questions or leave any tips in the comments.

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

The Schneiders

Friday 8th of July 2011

Our summer never quite goes like I think it will in May. If we weren't hosting this, I think we would be behind also. So, no failing!

Rachel E.

Friday 8th of July 2011

Beautiful bag! I think we are running behind on school. Please don't fail us, teacher! :-(


Friday 8th of July 2011

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