How To Make A Quilted Tote Bag | Beginner Sewing Tutorial and Free Pattern
1/8 yard fusible stabilizer
2/3 yard fleece fusible interfacing
4 yards fusible woven interfacing
1 yard 44” wide quilting cotton for the lining
2/3 yard 44” wide quilting cotton for the contrast fabric - for pockets, handles, and bottom
1/2 yard total 44” wide quilting cotton for the main exterior (1/4 yard of 44” wide fabric of each print/solid should be sufficient for a pieced bag like the one featured in this tutorial.)
One magnetic snap
For this bag - the Alice Shopper Tote by Swoon (Free Pattern) - I chose some bright and cheerful prints and solids from Cotton + Steel. The muted mint greens and bright pinks work so well together! Using quilting cotton really makes this bag easy to piece together too.
For this bag I used the following fabrics:
Cotton + Steel Netorious Kerchief
Cotton + Steel Supreme Seafoam
Cotton + Steel Rilfe Paper Co. English Garden Bouquets Cream
Cotton + Steel Rilfe Paper Co. English Garden Stripes Pink
Cotton + Steel Freshly Picked Terrance Pink
Cotton + Steel Rifle Paper Co Amalfi Checkers Hunter
Cotton + Steel Supreme Solids Rio
Pattern mixing can be tricky, but I think these particular prints really complement each other. The pink and mint green solids help break up the prints used in the bag to help them each stand out. Choosing prints of varying densities and scales also keeps any one fabric from overpowering another.
For the contrast pocket and handles, I needed to choose a fabric that would work next to all of the fabrics on the bag’s exterior. The Netorious Kerchief print by Cotton + Steel was the perfect option for that. It is monochrome enough that it reads like a solid and doesn’t compete with the prints in the bag, and the very subtle diamond print keeps it from looking like just another solid next to the solids.
For the lining, I used Rifle Paper Co. Amalfi Checkers in Hunter. I knew that print would be too busy and add too much contrast to be used on the exterior of the bag. It works great on it’s own for the lining, and the little bit that is exposed when the bag is open adds just the right amount of interest and fun!
Preparing the Pattern and Fabric Cutting
The pattern, as written, features a solid piece of fabric for the main exterior. Since we are piecing the exterior of our bag, we will need to cut strips, and sew them together before cutting out our main bag pieces. For this bag, I cut out 9 strips of fabric 3” x WOF. Sew these pieces long sides together with a ¼” seam allowance. Press your seams to one side, and top stitch each seam for a polished finish.
Print out and assemble your pattern pieces.
The main exterior pattern piece is designed so you can cut your fabric on the fold. We need to eliminate the need to fold our fabric so we can be sure everything is lined up properly on our pieced exterior. You can print another exterior piece and tape it to the other half or trace the half pattern piece onto a folded piece of tracing paper to get one whole exterior pattern template. I chose to trace mine onto Swedish tracing paper. Make sure to transfer your handle marks and pocket placement to your new pattern piece.
Line up one of the handle placement lines with a seam in your pieced exterior fabric. This will ensure your fabric strips match the angle of your handles, and will result in a more pleasant finish.
Cut out your main exterior piece. Do the same for the back exterior piece, making sure to line up a seam with the handle placement marking.
Cut out all of the other necessary fabric and interfacing or stabilizer pieces according to the pattern instruction. For my bag, I used Warm & Natural quilt batting instead of fusible fleece interfacing. It was what I had on hand, and there was no fusible fleece available locally. Fusible fleece would certainly make the whole process easier, but you can use batting if necessary. Instead of fusing your batting to your pieces like you would with the fusible fleece, you’ll simply need to baste it to your fabric pieces. It is more time consuming, but works just fine.
Assembling the Bag
Assemble the bag according to the pattern instructions. Seam allowances should all be 1/2” unless otherwise noted.
When installing the magnetic snap, the snap instructions say to use a piece of cardboard between the snap back and the fabric to prevent the fabric from ripping over time. I found that using a scrap piece of stabilizer with the fusible side facing the fabric works great for this, and creates slightly less bulk.
If you basted batting to your pieces instead of using fusible fleece, remember to remove the basting stitches as you assemble your bag. Using an iron with a bit of steam will help remove any visible stitching marks after the stitches are removed.
During the gusset assembly, sew slowly when you’re near the stabilizer to keep your ½” seam allowance even.
When pinning the gussetsto the main pattern pieces (both exterior and lining), I found it is best to pin the center bottom, then the top corners/ends, and then work your way towards the bottom corners. This will help in easing the corners together evenly. I like using clips instead of pins. They are much faster, and keep everything nice and neat.
After your bag is assembled, and it is time to turn it right side out, be sure that you have an opening in the lining of at least 6”. I used the 6” opening as the pattern suggests, and was just barely able to get the stabilized bag bottom through the opening. Next time, I’ll probably leave a 6.5” opening to make turning the bag right side out easier.
Your bag is complete! It’s the perfect size for taking to the Farmer’s Market or carrying around craft supplies!