I don’t have a fancy sewing machine. I bought it at Sears about six years ago and it has a few bells and whistles, but at the time I was just looking for a good, basic, dependable machine with enough power to handle heavy fabrics. It works just fine for what I need but I had the control panel open a few days ago and my husband asked why I never use any of the decorative stitches. It seemed a shame not to put them to use, so I decided to make something that would show them off.
This is a simple tote bag with a contrast lining and a reinforced boxed bottom. If you don’t have decorative stitches on your sewing machine, you could just use straight lines or iron on a pretty piece of fabric for the heart shape. To make a tote bag you’ll need:
- 3/4 yard denim, canvas or decor weight fabric for the outside and straps
- 1/3 yard lightweight cotton for the lining
- Red buttons and red thread
- Glue gun and glue sticks
- 3″ x 10″ scrap of Peltex or similar stiffener for the bottom of the bag
I found a little jar of assorted buttons at my local Joann’s store. I think some of them are seconds – the holes are wonky – but they were inexpensive and there’s a nice assortment of colors, sizes and shapes. I’ve used them for two projects so far and still have half the jar left.
From the outer fabric, cut:
- Two 15″ x 18″ rectangles for the bag body
- Two 25″ x 4″ strips for the handles
- One 29″ x 3-1/2″ strip for the top lining band
- One 6″ x 11″ rectangle to reinforce the bottom of the bag
From the lightweight cotton fabric, cut:
- Two 15 x 15-/2″ rectangles for the lining
*All seams should be 1/2″ unless noted otherwise.
Lay out the bag body pieces and measure over 2″ from the side and up 2″ from the bottom corners of each piece to create a notch. Cut out the notches. Set one of the bag body pieces aside.
Fold the other body piece in half and lightly crease to create a center line. Cut out a heart shape from scrap paper and center it on the front of the bag. Trace around the shape with a pencil or disappearing fabric marker, then lightly mark the center line within the heart shape. My heart shape is about 7″ x 7″ and I lined it up 4″ from the top edge of the bag.
Before I started stitching on my bag body, I grabbed some scrap fabric and experimented with different stitches and thread colors. Once I had a couple stitches I liked, I drew out the heart on another scrap of fabric and experimented with spacing for the stitched lines. This gave me a chance to figure out where to start and stop the rows and fiddle with the stitch tension without messing up my main fabric. Once I was happy with the arrangement of the lines, I moved on to the actual bag body.
I used two different decorative stitches and followed the center line within the heart shape for my first line of stitching.
From there, I moved over 1/4″ to the right of the first line of stitching, changed to my second decorative stitch and made another row of stitching.
I repeated this process across the heart, starting and stopping each line of stitching at the pencil outline.
Next, I layed out the front of the bag, right side up, and added the buttons. I tried a couple different adhesives for attaching the buttons and finally settled on hot glue. You could sew on the buttons if you think your bag will get heavy use, but i wasn’t too worried about that. I layed out all the buttons first to make sure I liked the spacing then picked them up one at a time and glued them down, with breaks after every three or four buttons to pick hot glue off my fingernails. :o)
Put the bag front and back together, right sides facing, and sew the bottom seam ONLY. Press the seam and lay the joined pieces on your table, wrong side up.
Grab your Peltex and the 6″ x 11″ piece of fabric. Center the Peltex on the fabric so you have 1/2″ of fabric extending beyond each end. Wrap the fabric around the Peltex and use a couple small pieces of tape to hold it in place.
Center the wrapped piece of Peltex between the notches on the bottom of the bag, with the taped side of the Peltex peice facing the wrong side of the bag, and pin it into place. Stitch along the long edges of the reinforcement piece as close to the edge as possible.
Fold the bag so the right sides are together and sew up the side seams. The bottom corners will be open at this point and should look like this:
With the bag inside out, spread out the sides and line up one side seam with the center bottom seam, matching the raw edges of the notches.
Stitch across the notch to create the boxed bottom – you should be sewing right along the edge of the Peltex piece. Repeat on the other side of the bag.
Turn the bag right side out and turn down the top edge 1/2″ (toward the inside of the bag). Press the top edge and set the bag body aside.
To make the straps, fold each of the strap pieces in half lengthwise and press to create a center crease. Open up the straps and fold each of the long edges in to the center line, then fold the strap in half again to encase the raw edges. Press well, then topstitch along both long edges about 1/8″ from the edge.
Time for the lining! Lay out the lining pieces and cut a 2″ notch at the bottom corners (along the 15″ edge) of each piece, following the same process you used for the bag body.
Put the lining pieces together, right sides facing, and sew up the bottom seam and side seams. Match up the notches at the corners, the same way you did on the bag body pieces, and sew across the notches to create the boxed corners. Turn the lining so the right side of the fabric is facing out.
Grab the lining band and fold it in half, matching the short ends, right sides together. Stitch across the short ends and press the seam open. Turn up a 1/2″ hem in one long edge of the lining band and press.
Match the un-pressed edge of the lining band and the top edge of the bag lining, right sides together. To minimize bulk at the side seams, the seam in the lining band should be at the CENTER of one of the lining pieces. Stitch the lining and lining band together, the press the seam. Turn the lining right side out (which means the right side of the fabric is on the inside).
Put the lining inside the bag body, WRONG sides together, and align the top edges. Measure in 3″ from each side seam and slide the end of a strap in between the bag body and bag lining so about 1-1/4″ of the strap end is inside the bag, pin into place. Repeat for the other end of the strap, then the other strap.
Top stitch around the top of the bag about 1/8″ from the edge. Add a second row of top stitching 1″ from the top of the bag. This will hold the lining band in place and make the straps more secure.