Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sew me a Tote Bag (in 30 minutes or less)

My minimalist side is often at odds with my likes to sew side.  Did I need a tote bag.  Nope.  Did I need 4 tote bags?  Most definitely not.  Are the four that I've sewn now my most used?  Yes.  Should I count, and admit to the internet, how many tote bags I have?  Nope.  My minimalist side is also at conflicts with my "I like to change up things for the seasons" side.  Apparently I have a lot of sides.

I'm always on the lookout for easy projects that can help me expand my sewing skills and give me an excuse to buy some fabric.  In my (weak) defense, I was trying to figure out a few things besides burb cloths I can sell at the craft bazaar I did with two of my sisters last weekend so my excess tote bag sewing can partially be chalked up to "experimenting".

I've made each of my four tote bags with slightly different dimensions and I think this size is my favorite - a happy medium.  It doesn't take long to sew up and makes for a very satisfying quiet time sewing project.  Plus, there are so many fabric options that it's almost impossible not to find something you like.  I wish Joann would pay me to say that but unfortunately I'm just giving them my money to do so.

Whip yourself up one of these after your next fabric shopping trip (or before, if you have a big enough stash)!

Easy 30 Minute Tote Bag
What You'll Need
½ yard of fabric*
4 feet of cotton webbing
standard sewing supplies (thread, scissors, tape measure, etc.)

*I've been using the home decor fabric because it's thicker and a little more heavy duty, I don't think the standard quilting cotton would be strong enough for these.  Abstract patterns are certainly the easiest to start with, something where there is no up or down or lines to match up.

Wash and dry your fabric.  Square up as needed.

Cut two panels, each 15" (width) by 16" (height).   With this fabric, since there was no up or down, I cut one big panel that was 15" by 32".  The flamingo bag (because of course I made one of those) pictured above needed two separate panels so no flamingos would be upside down!  Cut the webbing into two 24" pieces.

Start by folding over each 15" side by about 1/8" inch and iron.  Pin.

Flip the fabric over and get the handle pieces.  You are going to pin them looking like this, make sure they aren't tangled!

Assuming I've done a good job with my cutting (and that can be a generous assumption sometimes), I've found it's easiest to use something like an index card to make sure all the handle pieces are pinned equally. 

Once all handle pieces are pinned, sew along the 1/8 folded over edge, going back and forth a few extra times over the handle pieces to secure it.  

Using the iron again, fold the 15" edges over one inch so the raw edges are hidden and the edge of the handles are on the inside.  Pin.

Sew about 1/8 in along the top and bottom of this one inch fold over.   I usually go over the handle a few extra times here too. 

Now you are ready to put the bag together.  Fold the outsides together.  The handle pieces of each side should line up.  Pin along the two sides and sew with about 1/4" seam allowance. 

You should be left with something like this:

Trim the bottom corners. Now we need to clean up those other raw edges.  I use my rotary cutter to trim along the sides, NOT cutting into the sewn seams  but enough to even up the raw edges.  

Sew a zig-zag stitch along the raw edges on both sides.  

Turn right side out and that's it!

These are so easy to whip up and I feel really accomplished if I can start and finish a project over nap/quiet time!  I love having such a range of fabrics to choose from and still get a kick each time I use one of my bags!  About the perfect sewing project, now only if I needed more...

Source: slightly modified from Purl Soho

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