Monday, March 26, 2012

Make Your Own Tote Bags

A few months ago after a lengthy hiatus (with the exception of a few poodle skirts), from the darkest corner of my storage closet, I located my sewing machine. My parents bought it for me many years ago and it still works like it's brand new. I used to sew my own clothes and whatever else I could find to sew up, but sewing sometimes seems like a lost art. My daughter has been asking me for months to show her how to sew, napkins are a great way to learn (see previous post just enter napkins in search this blog box).  I recently found some great buys on material and after my spring cleaning adventures I found some more items to repurpose; sheets, shirts, dresses, pillow cases and blankets. These are also great items to practice on because you don't have to spend too much money. Since I am tired of finding and throwing plastic bags away, I decided to make some inexpensive grocery totes that I could use then wash with my other laundry. I just don't like the material of the recycle bags you can buy at the stores.
For my every day totes, I don't line them but I try to find a material that is not too flimsy, flat sheets work very well. And before I start sewing my spring wardrobe, I could use some practice on sewing straight seems - lol! Today I made 3 totes; 1 larger tote for the taller items and 2 smaller totes. You can make them any size you want. So...let's get started!
Tote Instructions:
  • Wash and dry your material.
  • Lay your material on a flat surface with the right sides together (wrong side facing you). I folded mine the long way, so I had a fold on the left side (I was standing at the bottom edge, facing my material). Determine how many totes you can make with the amount of material you have, remember you'll need material for handles too but you can also use different material for the handles if you have some.
  • I measured the top of the material from the left side (folded side) to the right side and it was 22 inches. First, I had some frayed edges on the top so I cut those off (about 1 inch) to get rid of them.
  • So I started with cutting out my handles - I am making 3 totes so I need 3 handles. I measured 4 inches down from the top edge of the folded edge, the left side of the material . I marked this with a dot (pencil). Then from the dot, I measured down another 4 inches and repeated this once more. You can make your handles any width or length whatever is comfortable for you.
  • Cut a straight line from the first dot across your material from left to right. Your fold will be on the left edge.After you cut your material when you unfold it you should have a strip of material 44 inches wide and 4 inches high. If you are making 1 tote, you can go to the next step. Otherwise repeat this step for as many times as the number of totes you are making. I had 3 strips of handle material. Then I iron the strips so they are easier to sew.
  • With your fabric still doubled (wrong side out) measure next to the fold (but not on the fold) for the actual tote part. I wanted one tote 17 inches wide and 20 inches long, the second tote 16 inches wide and 18 inches long, and one tote 15 inches wide and 17 inches long. Cut the tote bodies, remember they will be a little smaller by the time you sew them together.
  • Now to sew our handles, you will need the strip you cut for your handles. The easiest way for me to make handles is to fold the strip in half (wrong sides together) and iron this. Then unfold the material and fold the top half to the middle and the bottom half to the middle. They will meet where your first fold line was. The right side of the material will be on the outside.  

  • Then fold this piece in half again (toward the middle) so you have no raw edges of material except on the two ends. Iron this so it will be easier to sew.
  •  Now you are going to sew (top stitch) each side of this strip from top to bottom, fairly close to each side. Now fold the entire handle in half and cut it. Now you will have 2 handles, one for each side of your tote. I fold the ends under and sew so you have a finished edge for your handles. Now set these aside and let's sew the tote body.
  • I like a finished edge on the top of my tote so take on piece of the tote material and have the wrong side of the material facing you. I fold the top down about 1/2 inch and iron it. Then I fold it over one more time so the edge is not the raw edge. Now you can sew this down or you can use iron on hem tape. (I used this today but sometimes I just sew it).

  • When you have the top edges finished, you are ready to sew the sides and bottom together. With right sides of material together, match up the tops and sides. I sew the sides together first, then the bottom. I usually take a minute to iron the side seams, then I turn it so the right side of the material is on the outside. Then I iron the whole tote. Next is sewing the handles to the tote.
  •  I keep my tote right side facing me and pin my handles about in the middle of the tote. You can measure from the sides but I just place them in the middle without measuring. Then I pin them on the inside of the top of the tote. Position the bag so you can sew the handles on the inside of the bag.

  •  After I sew the handle on the inside, I go back over the seams to give it more strength. Then I sew toward the top of the bag, (you can do this on the right side of the material, top stitching or you can sew it on the inside) but on the handle so you reinforce the handle. I don't want my handles coming off with groceries in my tote! Repeat this for each handle.
  •  Now cut off any long threads, iron your totes and clean up your mess! Let me know if you have any questions! Happy sewing!

 Love and peace,
~ Simply Tammi

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