Sew a Quilted Fabric Tote Bag

QuiltedToteLead Pre-quilted bags can be found in designer stores everywhere. Why not make your own for a fraction of the cost? I personally have been coveting a quilted tote for a few years. I saw some pre-quilted fabric in the remnants bin and jumped at the chance to finally create my own!

This fun project only requires one yard of fabric. As you make this tote you will learn important tips for how to manage the added bulk created by the batting. You will also discover how to match patterns like a pro and how to make perfectly matching bias tape.

Supplies:

• 1 yard of 44” wide pre-quilted fabric (more if pre-washing – see step 1a under Cutting & Prep.)
• ½ yard of matching quilting cotton
• 114” of 1” wide heavyweight cotton webbing
• Denim machine needle
• Matching all-purpose thread (possibly in multiple colors depending on pattern)
• Hand sewing needle
• Removable fabric marker
• ¼” wide double stick fusible web (such as Steam-A-Seam)
• Fabric clips or paperclips
• Pinking shears (optional)

Cutting & Prep

Step 1a: If you would like to wash the pre-quilted fabric prior to sewing it, zigzag stitch (or serge) the raw edges to keep it from pulling apart in the wash. There’s a slim chance that the fabric will shrink in the wash; consider purchasing an additional ¼ yard to allow for this. Allow the fabric to air dry to avoid shrinkage.

Step 1b: Pre-wash and dry the quilting cotton per fiber content directions.

Step 1c: Download and print out the bag base pattern. The pattern comes on two pages, but the total size should be 7” tall by 16” wide.

Step 1d: Lay out the pre-quilted fabric. Consider how you would like the fabric’s pattern to repeat. In the featured project, the stripes were selected to run horizontally. To make sure the stripes would intersect properly, the two large rectangles were cut first as one large rectangle measuring 15” x 42½” then that rectangle was cut in half to create the rectangles required below. Using this technique for two pieces that will line up once sewn will help keep the pattern repeating properly. To match a vertical pattern simply cut the rectangle out as 21¼” x 30” then cut that in half per the specifications below.

Note: Make sure the pocket pieces and bag base can be cut out of the fabric remainder prior to cutting out a large rectangle for the two bag sides.

QuiltedTote1 Step 1e: From the pre-quilted fabric cut one bag base, two 15” x 21¼” rectangles for the bag sides, two 8” x 21¼” rectangles for the inside pockets and two 6” x 8½” rectangles for the exterior pockets. Bear in mind how the pattern will repeat on the bag base, bag sides, and exterior pockets. Use the instructions in step 1d to ensure proper stripe alignment.

QuiltedTote2 Step 1f: From the quilting cotton cut five 3” x 42” strips. If the strips are a little longer or a little shorter than 42” that’s fine. In total this project requires 178” of bias tape strips.

Note: In traditional bias tape, these strips would be cut on the bias. However for this project it is not necessary to achieve the stretchy qualities of traditional bias tape and these can be cut along the crosswise grain.

Step 1g: Cut the cotton webbing in half creating two 57” strips; these will be the straps.

Making the Bias Tape

QuiltedTote3 Step 2a: Using a removable fabric marker, draw a line down the center of each strip.

QuiltedTote4 Step 2b: Fold one long edge into the center, press.

QuiltedTote5 Step 2c: Fold the remaining long edge into the center, press.

QuiltedTote6 Step 2d: Fold the entire strip in half, press. Repeat to press all strips into center, creating strips of bias tape. The bias tape strips should all be long enough that you won’t need to stitch any together, however if you would like to learn how to do this like a pro check out Kelly Pederson Hanson’s tutorial on our sister site National Quilters Circle:

Tips for Preparing Your Quilt Binding

Constructing the Exterior Pockets

QuiltedTote7 Step 3a: Designate one exterior pocket long edge as the upper edge. Place the bias tape’s center fold along one exterior pocket’s upper edge, and pin in place. Trim the bias tape to match the pocket’s length. Repeat to pin bias tape to the remaining pocket piece.

Step 3b: Stitch the bias tape to the pocket. Repeat to stitch the remaining pocket.

TIP: Using a denim needle to stitch pre-quilted fabric will make the process smooth and easy!

QuiltedTote8 Step 3c: Using an overcast stitch, secure the exterior pocket’s lower edge. Repeat to secure the remaining pocket’s lower edge.

QuiltedTote9 Step 3d: Press up the lower edge ¼” to the wrong side.

QuiltedTote10 Step 3e: Place the exterior pocket on the bag side’s right side 3½” from the upper edge, 6¼” from each side and 3¼” from the lower edge.

QuiltedTote11 Step 3f: Stitch around the perimeter of the exterior pocket leaving the upper edge open. Repeat the previous steps to stitch the remaining pocket to the remaining bag side.

Constructing the Interior Pockets

QuiltedTote12 Step 4a: Designate one interior pocket long edge as the upper edge, repeat for the second pocket piece. Place the bias tape’s center fold along one interior pocket’s upper edge, and pin in place. Trim the bias tape to match the pocket’s length. Repeat to pin bias tape to the remaining pocket piece.

Step 4b: Stitch the bias tape to the pocket. Repeat to stitch the remaining pocket.

TIP: Use a zigzag stitch for a fun and professional look. A sewing colleague taught me this trick years ago! The zigzag stitch is far more forgiving and will look nice and straight.

QuiltedTote13 Step 4c: Measure in 7¼” from the interior pockets side, mark using removable fabric marker. Repeat to mark the remaining pocket.

Step 4d: Pin the pocket to the bag side, aligning lower edges. Repeat to pin remaining pocket.

QuiltedTote14 Step 4e: Stitch the pocket to the side using the marks as guides. Begin stitching from the lower edge and work to the upper edge. Backstitch at both ends. Repeat to stitch the remaining pocket to the remaining bag side. This step requires that you stitch over the exterior pocket partially. These stitch lines will be covered with strap and the pockets will not be oddly shaped in the end.

TIP: Load the bobbin with thread that matches the bag’s right side.

Step 4f: Baste around the interior pocket’s perimeter securing it to the sides and bag side lower edge. Repeat to baste the remaining pocket to the bag side.

Attaching the Straps

QuiltedTote15 Step 5a: On the bag side’s right side, place a piece of double stick fusible web over the stitches formed while creating the interior pockets. The fusible web should end at the exterior pocket’s upper edge. Repeat to place a piece of fusible web over the second stitch line on the bag side’s exterior.

QuiltedTote16 Step 5b: Place one strap’s cut edge along the bag side’s lower edge. Align the inner side of the strap over the fusible web. This will cover the exterior pocket. Following the fusible web manufacturer’s instructions, adhere the strap to the bag side. Align the remaining cut edge with the bag side’s lower edge making sure the strap is not twisted. Place the second strap side directly over the fusible web and adhere it to the bag side using the iron as with the first. Pin the entire strap in place. Place the pins on the bag side’s wrong side. The uppermost pin should be roughly 4” from the bag side’s upper edge.

QuiltedTote17 Step 5c: Working on the bag side’s wrong side, stitch over the previous stitches used to create pocket dividers. Stitch up to the uppermost pin then backstitch. Repeat to stitch the other strap, making sure to stitch over the previous stitches.

TIP: Use thread that matches the strap in the bobbin.

QuiltedTote18 Step 5d: Fold the interior pocket out of the way to stitch the remaining side of the strap. Pin the folded pocket back to secure for stitching.

QuiltedTote19 Step 5e: Working on the bag side’s right side, stitch the remaining side of the straps to the left and right of the pocket, securing the strap fully. Repeat the process to stitch the remaining strap to the remaining bag side.

Constructing the Bag

Use ½” seam allowances unless otherwise noted.

QuiltedTote20 Step 6a: Clip the two bag sides right sides together. Stitch down both sides.

QuiltedTote21 Step 6b: Place the bias tape’s center fold along the bag’s side seam, and clip in place. Trim the bias tape to match the bag’s length. Repeat to pin bias tape to the remaining side seam. Stitch down both side seams, attaching the bias tape and encasing the seams.

QuiltedTote22 TIP: If all the layers prove too much for your zigzag stitch to form properly, try a straight stitch instead.

QuiltedTote23 Step 6c: Using a removable fabric marker, mark the center point on the bag base’s rounded ends. Find this by folding in half and marking or by measuring and marking.

QuiltedTote24 Step 6d: Trim the side seams at a slight angle to eliminate some bulk from the side seams. Pinking shears are optional in this step.

QuiltedTote25 Step 6e: Align the center marks on the bag base with the side seams on the bag sides, clip right sides together. Only clip one half of the seam and only stitch from side seam to the next.

QuiltedTote26 Step 6f: Repeat to clip the remaining bag side to the bag base, stitch to join together. By sewing one half of the perimeter and then the next it helps keep seams nice and even, distributing the bulk properly.

QuiltedTote27 Step 6g: Measure the circumference of the bag base seam, trim a piece of bias tape to match plus 1”. Pink the bias tape’s strip ends.

QuiltedTote28 Step 6h: Place the bias tape’s center fold along the bag base’s seam, and clip in place. Overlap the pinked edges. Stitch in place, encasing the bag base’s seam. If your sewing machine can’t sew through all the layers at the side seams, don’t force it. Stitch as close to the side seam as it will allow and proceed on to step 6i.

QuiltedTote29 Step 6i: Using a hand needle and matching thread, slipstitch the bias tape to the side seams.

Step 6j: Place the bias tape’s center fold along the bag’s upper edge, and clip in place. Overlap the pinked edges. Stitch in place, encasing the bag’s upper edge seam. Here too it is perfectly acceptable to leave the side seams for hand stitching, though it should be easier to stitch through the fewer layers on the upper edge.

QuiltedToteAlt

Now take your tote out to pick up books or groceries and wait for the compliments to roll in! No one will ever know it’s not a designer bag.

Want another take on a tote bag? Use pre-quilted fabric to make Ellen March’s padded tote project, no fusible fleece required. She offers a different take on how to make straps in this video: Padded Book Bag

You can pick up additional tips for working with bulky fabrics in this video: Tips for Managing Bulky Fabrics

Intrigued by quilting and want to learn some tips and techniques? Check out our sister site to learn from the experts: National Quilters Circle

Have something to add? Leave a comment or email editor@nationalsewingcircle.com.

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