Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

Tired of the plain old rag bag that uses charm pack squares?  Here is a pattern that is simple, fun and uses up your scraps.

If you are anything like me, you have a ton of scraps. Seriously, I have three 33 gallon garbage bags overflowing with scraps. I just can’t throw them away, but I am not much of a quilter. As a busy mother of 3, I don’t have that kind of time. But I do have a few hours to make a great bag.
This is my version of a Rag Bag. It is more of a tote, and reversible. I make mine so that I do not have to worry about matching up seams.
Again, I’m not much of a quilter.
This pattern has many variations so that you can customize your bag to look exactly the way you want it to. You can make choices on style of straps completely ragged or only partially ragged reversible or one sided and with pockets inside I have included a basic tutorial on how to construct a rag bag so you can use your own various sized scraps or precut pieces such as jelly rolls or charm packs. 

Click here for the FREE PDF Pattern.

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

Rag Bag Basic Tutorial

Making a rag bag is very simple.  You can use any size scraps or pre-cut packs like jelly rolls or charm packs.
Here are the basic steps –
1. Pick out your fabrics.  Find scraps that go together.  Remember they do not have to be “matchymatchy”. They just have to work together.

2. Once you have your fabrics, you need to determine how you want to cut them based on the size of the scraps.  It is best to pick one uniform size.  Use all long thin strips or 4 inch squares or bigger.  The idea is to keep this simple.  The bigger you make the scraps the quicker and easier it is to sew.

3. Cut your scraps.  You will need to cut the same amount and size of scraps for both the inside and the
outside of the bag.
4. Cut your batting.  I prefer to use 100% cotton batting, I think it washes better which you need to do in order to “rag” your bag.  Cut your batting 1 inch x 1 inch smaller than your fabric scraps.  For example, if your fabric scrap is 4” x 4”, then cut your batting 3” x 3”.

5. Create a “sandwich” with your fabric and batting.  Place your outside fabric right side face down on the table.  Then put down the batting centered ½ inch from the edges.  Last put the inside fabric right side face up.   

6. Quilt these together.  Use a simple “X” or straight lines.  If you are familiar with a free motion quilting  foot on your sewing machine, you can free quilt swirls or curls.  Be sure to sew to the edge of the fabric, not the batting.

7. Do this for all your scrap sandwiches.   

8. Now it is easy!  Just sew it all together, wrong sides together, using a ½” seam allowance.  I like to
double stitch the seams.  The first stops the ragging process while the second keeps everything
9. The top of the bag will still be opened.  Place your straps where you want them.  Pin them so that they are in-between the two layers of fabric and then sew along the top edge using a ½” seam allowance.   

10. Now you have a bag!  Still a little confused?  Use my step by step instructions below.  Once you make  one bag, you will get a feel for how to make it.  Then go ahead, try one on your own.  Make it bigger, smaller, taller.  It is easy and they always come out so cute! 

 What you need

 Cotton batting
 Fabric scraps
 Rotary cutter and self healing mat (or scissors will work too)
 Sewing machine – This is one pattern where you cannot use a serger
 Fusible interfacing (optional)

 Time and skills 

 Basic sewing skills are all you need to make this bag.  
 This takes about 2 hours to cut and sew depending on your skill level.
 You need to know how to use a ½ inch seam allowance.
 You can choose to use a quilting foot on your sewing machine, but a regular presser foot for quilting is all you need.

Keep these tips in mind  

1. Always prewash and dry your fabrics.  Here is why –
   a. When using multiple fabrics in one bag some may shrink more than others and you will eventually end up with a misshapen bag.  If you prewash, everything will shrink and wash from the same place.  
   b. Fabrics are treated with some nasty chemicals (usually formaldehyde) and you want to wash as many of these out as possible.
  c. Washed fabrics are actually a little easier to work with.
2. You may choose to prewash cotton batting as well.  There will be shrinkage when you wash it.
I like the look of something old and vintage so I do not prewash my batting.  But if you want
your bag to stay flat, gently wash and dry your batting.
3. Always pin before you sew. Pinning helps reduce the shifting.  Be sure to pin perpendicular to
your sewing and just sew right over the pins.  Pull them out when you are done with the seam.
It will save you time in the end!
4. Sew all the way to all edges of the fabric, NOT the batting.  Do this even when quilting.  You
need to crisscross your stitches to hold them in, otherwise you should backstitch at the end of
every stitch and that is a ton! 

Step 1 – Cut your fabric and batting 

Outside Fabric and Batting
Upper body
 Cut 2 – 13” x 2” from fabric
 Cut 2 – 12” x 1” from batting
 Cut 12 – 3” x 8½” from fabric
 Cut 12 – 2 x 7½ from batting
 Cut 1 – 13” x 13” from fabric
 Cut 1 – 12” x 12” from batting
For “Rag Method”
 Cut 2 – 3” x 19” from 2 different fabrics
 Cut 2 – 2” x 19” from batting
For “Binding Method”
 Cut 4 – 2½” x19” from 2 different fabrics
 Cut 4 – 1½” x 19” from interfacing (optional)
 Cut 1 – 19” x 4” from one fabric
 Cut 1 – 3” x 19” from interfacing (optional) 

Inside Fabric
Cut 12 – 3” x 8½” from fabric
Cut 1 – 13” x 13” from fabric
Cut 2 – 13” x 2” from fabric

For the bottom piece of your bag you will have to make an additional cut.  Follow these painless
1. Fold the 13” x 13” piece in half so that it measures 13” x 6½”.
2. In the bottom corners, where the fold is, cut a rectangle on each side that measures 3” across and 2½”
from the fold up.
3. Do the same for the inside piece of fabric.
4. For the batting, make the cut 3” x 3”.
5. When you open them up they will look an “I”.  

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

There are many different pieces for this bag, so hopefully this chart will help you keep it all straight.  

Cutting Chart

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

Step 2 – Quilt the Pieces Together

1. Make a “sandwich” with the fabric and the batting. Lay out like this-
a. One outside 3” x 8½” piece,
b. then put on a 2” x 7½” piece of batting
c. top it with the inside 3” x 8½” piece

2. Make sure they will look the way you want it to when they are sewn together.  In other words, the prints need to face right side out and in the correct direction.  If your prints have a pattern with a
top and a bottom, make sure you are layering them with tops on top.   

3. Now quilt the “sandwich” together.   Use whatever you are comfortable with.  
a. You can straight stitch, a simple “X” or straight lines.  Use a water or air soluble pen to make lines to follow.  It will help the bag look cleaner and more professional.  
b. I used straight lines 1” from each edge for the bag pictured here.  
c. If you are comfortable with free quilting, this is a good place to do it.  Do little swirls or loops. It doesn’t have to be perfect if you are free quilting and there is no measuring.   
d. Make sure you stitch all the way to the edge of your fabric.

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

4. Quilt all 12 top body pieces together.
5. Now quilt the bottom of the bag.  Follow the same simple steps.
Make a sandwich with the 3 layers.  Quilt them together.   I followed the pattern on the fabric for this bag, but you can use any of the other quilting methods suggested above.

You should now have all your pieces for the bag (except the straps) quilted.  Now let’s do the straps. 

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

A simple straight stitch quilt is super quick and easy!

Step 3 – Make the Straps

There are 2 different methods you can use to make straps depending on how you want them to look.  I call them the “Rag Method,” which will give you the ragged look.  Or the “Binding Tape Method,” which will give you clean sturdy straps with no frayed edges.  I used the “Binding Tape Method” for the bag pictured on the front of this pattern.
Rag Method
This is the quickest, easiest way to make your straps! Use the same steps you used to quilt your body.
1. Make a “sandwich” with the fabric and the batting.  Make sure the right sides of your fabric are
facing out.
2. Quilt the 3 pieces together.
3. Now sew a ½” seam allowance from each edge. Then sew your second stitch out slightly from
the ½” seam.
Binding Tape Method

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

Additional steps for 2 different fabrics on the strap -   

Because I like my bag to be reversible, I use two different fabrics for my binding tap method. The steps are essentially the same.  Here is the only difference –  
 Start with 2 – 19” x 2½” pieces.  
 Sew them together using a ½” seam.
 Now fold in the center and follow the steps below.

Steps for using only 1 fabric for the straps -  

A personal preference of mine is to always use interfacing or batting with straps.  I find they are more durable this way.  But this is optional.  If you do use interfacing, iron in the 2 – 1½” x 19” on each
side of the seam and then follow the steps below.
1. Fold fabric in half and iron, right side out – wrong side inside.  
2. Open it up and fold in one side to middle crease, iron.  
3. Repeat for the other side.
4. Now fold the whole strap in half again, iron.

Once the strap is ironed, sew 1/8” from both outside edges.  

Step 5 – Sew the Body Panels Together  

This is a little tricky if you are an experienced sewer because it is backwards of what you are accustomed to doing.  You need to really pay attention or you will end up having to go back and fix it.
1. First stack 2 sets of 6 upper pieces together.  One set for each side.
2. Lay them out in the order that you want them to be in.  Again, make sure that they are not backwards or up-sidedown.

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

3. Take two adjacent pieces and put them on top of each other WRONG SIDES TOGETHER and right sides facing out.

4. Sew along the joining edge using a ½” seam allowance.  
5. Make a second seam slightly to the right of your first seam. The 1 st  seam holds it together and the second seam stops the ragging process.

6. Continue to add each panel until you have all 6 body panels attached to each other.
7. Do the same for the second set of 6 of body panels.
8. You now have two sets of body panels made.

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

If you want a Ragged look at the top
For a finished top, skip this step and continue with the pattern.  The instructions for adding the top and handles of a finished bag are on page 11.  

But a ragged top is actually a much easier way to go in just a few simple steps.
1. Take your 13” x 2” upper body strips and a 12” x 1” piece of batting.  Make a sandwich with right sides facing out.  Put down the outside fabric, the batting and then the inside fabric just as you did with the body pieces.
2. Take the straps and place them in 3½” in from the outside edge.  
3. Pin them in between the layers fabric.  Set the straps at least 1¼” down from the top edges.  This will
insure that they will be securely fastened when you quilt.  

4. Now quilt it all together.  Start by sewing your double seam, ½” from top edge and then again slightly  above that.  Then sew again 1” from the top edge.
5. Do the same for the second side.

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

Step 6 – Attach the Body to the Base

Now you need to take the body panels and attach it to the base.
1. Lay out the assembled body panels and the quilted base.
2. Sew the body to the base as pictured here.  
3. You want the ragged edge to be facing out so sew using a ½” seam allowance with WRONG SIDES TOGETHER and right sides facing out.  Sew your second seam slightly out again.
4. Do the same for the second side.
5. If you want a ragged top, attach the upper body and handles to the top of the panels now.  Remember right sides facing out.  If you are adding the finished top, continue with step #6 and then go to page 11 for finishing instructions.
6. Now fold the bag on top of itself so WRONG SIDES ARE TOGETHER and right ragged sides are facing out.

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

7. Sew ½” from outside edge.  Make your second seam again, slightly to the outside of this first seam.
8. Time to sew the gusset.  This is the flat part of the bottom of the bag and it is actually very easy to do.  Fold the square at the base of the bag on top of itself so you have a “topless” triangle.
The side seam will be in the exact center of the triangle.  Sew your double seams again starting with a ½” seam allowance.  
9. If you have attached a ragged top, YOU ARE DONE!  If you want a finished edge on the top
continue to the next page. 

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

Step 7 – Assemble the Finished Upper Body and Straps

I like a finished edge on the top of my bags.  If you want the ragged look for the top of your bag, look at the directions on page 9.
For a finished top edge –    
1. Take on inside and one outside 13” x 2” pieces and one strap.
2. Lay down one of the 13” x 2” pieces right side facing up.
3. Pin your straps in 3½” from the side on both sides.  If you have used 2 different fabrics for your straps, make sure the fabric is facing the right direction or matches the 13” x 2” fabric strip.

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

4. Make sure that the straps are not flush with the edge. You want them to stick out about ½”.

5. Place the second 13” x 2” piece on top right side down.

6. Center a piece of batting in the middle and pin together.   

7. Sew two seams again starting the first seam in ½” from the upper edge.

8. Sew the same for the second set of upper body and straps. 

9. Now open the pieces up and align the edges and the seams, right sides together.  Your handles will be on the inside.  
10. Pin to keep the seam in the middle of each end lined up.  Sew a double seam along the two shorter edges again using a ½” seam allowance.   

11. Turn the piece right side out.  It will look like the top of  a bag with the middle seam becoming the finished top.

12. Iron the top edge so it is flat and tight against the seam.  

13. Now quilt it.  Sew a straight horizontal stitch ¼” from the top and then again ½” down from the top.  

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

Step 8 – Put the top on the bottom

Attaching the upper body of the bag to the rest of the bag is super simple!
1. With RIGHT SIDES FACING OUT, place the handles and the upper body INSIDE the bag body.  The finished edge will be facing the bottom of the bag.  
2. Align the top of the bag and the bottom rough edge of the finished upper bag.  
3. Sew along the top edge using the ½” seam allowance and the second seam slightly up from there.
4. Pull handles up and you are done with the sewing!
5. When I am all done, I go through and cut close to the seams where I sewed the “flap” down.  For
example, where the base and body panels meet.  Don’t cut in too far, just enough to free the flap and
help the ragging process.

6. Now gently wash your bag to begin the ragging process.  Some people like to make small cuts along
all outside exposed seams, but I don’t.  It will rag on its own.  Enjoy! 

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

Optional changes -  

 If you want to include a pocket or two on the inside it is easy to do –  
o Cut a piece of fabric the width of two pieces sewn together.  For example, this bag would require a piece 5” wide
o Cut it twice the length of the pieces you are going to place it over.  For this bag to would be 11”.
o Fold the fabric in half.  You will have a piece that is 5” x 5½”.   
o Sew a scant ¼” in from folded edge.
o Center this over two sewn body pieces lining up the side and bottom edges.  
o Continue sewing the body pieces as usual.  Your pocket will be sewed into the seams and will add to the raging process.  
 If you want to use jelly rolls or charm packs, you now have the basic tutorial and have made a bag.
You can do it.  Just adjust the batting sizes to be 1” x1” smaller than your fabric pieces.  Because you
are using the same size pieces inside and outside, this is easy to make and there is no special
measuring for lining sizes.  Go ahead, you can do it!

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

Reversible Rag Tote Bag Tutorial

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