Foldable Bag DIY Tutorial

 A quick note before we start …. you might notice that the fabrics in the some of the photos are different – that’s because the photos for this tutorial were taken during the making of two different totes. It’s slightly lacking in photos in some parts of this tutorial – sorry about that, it’s really hard to remember to take photos as I sew.
You’ll need the following:

A bit of fabric for the outer shell of the base – roughly 11.5 x 6.5 inches
A piece of fusible fleece or regular batting if you haven’t got any fusible fleece
A piece of fabric for the body of the tote, the inner side of the base and the facing at the top of the tote
A piece of plain fabric (8 x 21 inches) for the handles or 2 lengths of webbing or twill approximately 21 inches long
A 14 inch zip
Double fold bias binding
Thread to match
(I used cotton quilting fabric for this bag.)

Cutting the fabric

You’ll need to use the pdf pattern I’ve provided to cut 3 layers for the base of the tote:
1) fabric for outer
2) batting for the middle
3) fabric for the inner (I used the same fabric for the inner as the body. The inner is what you see when you peer into the finished tote.)
Also cut a small 2 inch x 2.5 inch square from the same fabric as your base outer layer. This is used to make a small tab for the end of your zip.

You will also need to cut one 12.5 inch x 28 inch rectangle for the body of the bag and a strip of fabric measuring 2 inch x 28 inch for the facing at the top edge of the bag.

If you are using plain cotton fabric for the handles, take the 8 x 21 inch rectangle of fabric, mark it into half lengthways and cut it so that you end up with 2 pieces which are 4 x 21 inches.

Making the base of the bag

The base of the bag is also the outside of the pouch. I’ve used a piece of printed quilting fabric but I think you could easily piece some scraps of fabric together and cut out the base shape from your pieced fabric. Make a sandwich by placing the batting in between the outer and lining fabrics. You want your fabrics facing right sides out (wrong sides together). See the three layers in this photo below?
 If you are using fusible fleece, you’ll need to iron your sandwiched pieces together to lock them together. If you are using regular batting, pin the pieces together. Sew the 3 layers together. I’ve put 3 rows of stitches half an inch apart right down the middle. You can quilt this any way you wish. I’ve also stitched the 3 layers together all around just inside the edge.

 Make the tab for the end of your zip. Fold the little 2 inch x 2.5 inch square in half with right sides together so that the two 2 inch sides meet. Sew the side seams on the tab using a half inch seam allowance so that you end up with a teeny pocket. Clip the corners of the seam allowance and trim the seam allowances down to just under a quarter of an inch. It will be awfully fiddly so do take your time on this part – turn the tab through to the right side and carefully poke the corners out neatly with a pencil or your preferred pointy object. Fold the raw edges inside the tab and give it a press with your iron. Now slot your zip end into the tab until your metal stop reaches the edge of the tab. Sew all around. Here's a sketch of what I mean ....
 And here is the zip tab at the end of my zip.
 Take your bag base, fold it in half so that the two curved edges meet and make a mark on each side at the fold. See it there right where my finger is?
 Take your zip and unzip it all the way to the end. Place the zip right side up crossways to the edge of your base piece at the mark you’ve just made. See picture below. The edge of the tab is roughly 2.4 inches from the edge. You should be able to see the mark you have made between the two sides of the zip.
 Fold the sides of the zip over and lay the edge of the zip tape along the edge of your base piece – the teeth of your zip should now be pointing towards the inside of the base piece. Adjust it so that the mark you have made is right in the centre of the triangle formed by the two flipped sides of the zip. Pin the zip to the base piece. See picture below.
 Pin the zip all around the edge of your base piece, carefully following the curve.
 When you get to the other end of the zip, fold the top end of the zip tape back, then fold the edge down so you get a little triangle. See picture below. Don’t worry about the gap. There should be a little gap there.
 If you’re an experienced sewist (unlike me!) you could probably go right ahead and sew the zip down using a quarter inch seam allowance. Make sure you backstitch where the zip tape folds are (two at the top of the zip and two at the end of the zip) to strengthen these points. As I am not terribly experienced yet, I like to hand-baste my zip down first like this.
 After you have stitched the zip down, clip around the curved edges with your scissors. Make sure not to accidentally cut into the stitching line.

 Making the body of the tote

OK, the body of the tote is next. Take the 12.5 inch x 28 inch rectangle and fold it in half, wrong sides facing so the two shorter ends meet. We now want to create a French seam.
 Pin and sew using a 3/8th seam allowance. Then trim your seam allowance down to about 1/8th. Turn the body of the tote inside out so that the right sides are together. Fold the fabric on the seam and iron it down. Stitch another seam at 1/4 inch. Iron the seam so that the flap you’ve created sits flat. Then finally stitch the edge of the flap down.

After making your French seam, turn the body of the tote right sides out. Along one of the top edges, mark the middle point of the piece. Then make a mark 3 inches to the left and another one 3 inches to the right of your middle point. Do the same for the other side. Set the body aside for now whilst you prepare the handles.
 Making the handles

If you are using twill or webbing, you can skip this bit. If on the other hand you are making fabric handles from plain cotton, you’ll need to read this bit. Take your 4 inch x 21 inch rectangles of plain fabric and fold them in half lengthways and press. Open it up and press each side in half lengthways again.
 Then fold it up so you get a folded strip which is an inch wide and 21 inches long. Kind of like a long piece of folded bias tape. Stitch down each long side of each strip. Voila – handles!
 Take one of your handles and pin each end to the little marks you made along the top edge of your tote body 3 inches to either side of the mark in the middle of your piece on one side. Do the same for the other handle on the other side of the tote body. You want to baste the handles to the tote body as close to the top edge as you can. Here's a sketch of what I mean.
 Now take the facing strip (in photo below), put the short ends together right sides facing and sew using a 5/8th seam allowance. You’ll now have a loop of fabric. Press the seam open.
 Place the facing over the outside of your tote body, right sides together. Line the top edge of your facing with the top edge of your tote body. Pin the facing to the tote body. You'll see that your handles are now sandwiched between the facing and the tote body. Stitch using a 1/2 inch seam allowance all the way around. Backstitch a couple of times when you get to each handle end to strengthen that point. When you’re done sewing the facing to your tote body, pull the facing up and press the raw edge of the facing under by 1/2 inch. It should look something like this.
 Now fold the facing over onto the wrong side of your tote body and press the top edge of the bag.
 I did one row of stitching just inside the edge of the facing. This secures the facing down and neatly hides the ends of your handles. I then top-stitched a couple of rows along the top edge of the tote. This will further strengthen the handle points.
 Putting it together

Make sure your tote body is turned right side out. At the bottom end of the tote body, locate the middle point for each side and make a small mark like this.
 Match the small marks to the middle marks on your base piece. In the next photo you can see the little blue mark in the gap between the zip ends. You’ll need to carefully pin the tote body to the base. I then basted the tote body to the base. You can see my red basting stitches in the photo below. You don't have to baste - you can go right ahead and sew it on. I have a thing about basting! Haha!
 You’ll need to put your zipper foot back onto your machine now for the final steps. Using a 1/4 inch seam allowance, sew a row of stitching to secure the base to your tote body. I find it easier to sew this step with the base facing up.
 OK, the bias-binding is the last bit of sewing on this project. This time we’re going to sew with the tote body side up. Open up your bias tape and fold down the end by about 1/4 inch. Place it along the edge of your base. Start sewing at your fold.
 Sew all around the base, working slowly as you sew around the curved part of the base. When you get to your starting fold, lay your bias tape over the fold and sew over it by about 1/2 inch. Cut the rest of your bias tape off.
 Turn the base over so the bottom of the bag is facing up again. Fold your bias tape over the edge. You’ll find that your bias tape when folded over to where your zip is, will cover the zip tape up nicely by roughly 1/4 inch. Sew your bias tape down, folding it over as you sew all around. Your tote is finished! Yay!! See how lovely the bottom of the tote looks with the bias tape edge?
 To fold your tote up, stick your handles inside the tote body and roll the tote body up like this so it sits flat onto the base.
 Fold the base in half and zip it up, tucking the bag inside as you’re zipping it up.
 Here you have it – a tidy clamshell-like pouch. Isn’t it cute? Stick one in your car, another in your handbag and you’ll have an eco-friendly tote you can use when you’re nipping out to the shops for a few bits like the Sunday papers and a carton of milk or a loaf of bread.
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