Spring Tote Bag Tutorial

 Tote bags are an easy and satisfying sewing project, and can also be a quick project if you are using pre-cut fabric, like tea towels.

Materials needed:

    two tea towels (one for the outside of the bag, one for the lining) OR two pieces of fabric cut to 20x30 inches
    3 yards of coordinating 1 inch wide belting
    measuring tape
    fusible fleece interfacing (Pellon)
    1 package of coordinating piping

Project time: 2 hours or less

1. Using a seam ripper, take out the seams of both towels and press. If you want to make this a super-fast project, you can skip this step and leave the seams in. I have made the bag both ways with good results. However, I found it to be much easier to sew the bag after taking the original towel seams out (fewer layers of fabric to get through).

After I took out the seams and pressed the fabric, I trimmed it to square off the corners.

2. Iron the fusible fleece interfacing to the towel you'll be using as the bag's outer fabric, following the manufacturer's instructions (again, this is optional, and will simply make it stiffer and not so floppy).

3. Lay the 3 yard piece of belting out flat. Join the ends using a zig zag stitch (go over it several times) to form one continuous loop, taking care to not twist the belting.

4. Lay the loop of belting on top of the outer fabric. If you are using the same towel as me, you can follow the line of the fabric pattern to figure out the belting placement. I counted four flowers in from each side (see below). If you are using a different fabric, the belting was placed 5 3/4 inches in from each side.

Adjust the loop so that the seam where you joined the belting is directly in the center of the fabric (this will put it at the bottom of the bag where it is not noticeable). Measure the straps on either side and adjust until they are of equal lengths (approximately 23 1/2 inches).

5. Pin the belting in place. Leaving about a 1/2 inch space on each end of the fabric (see photo below - this leaves room to sew in the piping in step 10), sew down each side of the two strips of belting.

6) Fold fabric in half, right side together, matching top and side raw edges - pin in place.

7) Stitch sides of bag using 5/8 inch seam.

8. Square off bottom of the tote: match side seam to bottom fold (it will form a triangle). Stitch across 2 inches down from point (it will be 4 inches across). Repeat for other side and trim off excess.

9. Repeat steps 6, 7, and 8 with the lining fabric, leaving a 6 inch opening in the middle of one side. This is important - you won't be able to turn the bag right side out if you don't leave an opening.

10. Pin piping to the outer bag fabric, lining up both raw edges. Start the piping behind one of the straps to hide it. Overlap at the joint and cut off the excess piping.

11. Sew piping in place using a coordinating thread color, or one that will show up well on the back side of the fabric -you'll want to be able to see it clearly so you can follow the stitch line.

12. With right sides together, place the outer bag fabric inside the lining fabric. Match raw edges and pin.

13. Sew the bag and lining together, following the stitch line from the piping.

13. Almost done! Turn the bag right side out through the opening in the lining. Hand stitch the lining closed.

14. Press bag for a cleaner look and enjoy!

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