Thursday, May 14, 2009

Reversible Tote: Hands-Free Version

Actually, I made two because it is never worth the 
time and effort to just cut one. Mass -producing, in 
a twisted sort of way, is more efficient. 

But back to the bag. This was for Emily's grandma, 
so naturally it had to have a child's artwork on it. I 
had Emily draw directly onto the canvas pocket 
with fabric pens, then sewed the pocket on. With her 
teachers' bags, I used transfer paper because we needed 
three identical drawings for the three bags. The alternative
 would have been to have her draw three pictures, which 
is sort of like mass-producing (hurrah) but she 
hasn't developed that bad habit yet.

Here is the bag turned inside out so the pocket 
becomes an inner pocket.

And here's a close-up of her rendering of "Nana 
holding flowers and wearing yellow lipstick 
and makeup on her cheeks".

And here's an even closer-up of the pocket piping 
which actually is just a folded strip of the lining fabric, 
tucked between the edge of the pocket and the bag. 

And here is a random picture to demonstrate how 
the bag has so overdosed on interfacing that it could 
pass off as a bucket. Look- even the long straps 
stand up by themselves. Overkill? I thought so too, 
until I remembered sadder bags I'd previously made 
that were just right fresh off the sewing machine but 
turned to useless flaccid lumps after a couple months of use. 

Off my interfacing soap box now. 

Thank you for all your comments and requests in 
the previous post! I drew up the pattern here

but no tutorial, I'm afraid. Main reason: there are so 
many good tote bag tutorials in Blogland already! 
Everyone makes tote bags differently and you could pick 
up so many good habits by reading their instructions 
that you never would reading mine. Like ironing. I never 
iron, unless I am sewing garments. Because I am lazy. 
Also I never sew my bags with a little hole in the 
lining through which to turn everything right side out 
because it would need to be slip-stitched shut. It gets 
a bit hard to do this with heavy-weight canvas and 
silly-overkill interfacing but mostly it's because 
(did I share this already?) I am lazy. 

I will just add a few notes here that 
I couldn't fit in the printable sheet:
  1. All the pattern pieces (not drawn to scale, obviously) have dimensions that include seam allowances. The strap pattern pieces have a 3/8" seam allowance but the other pieces have a 1/2" seam allowance.
  2. Each strap is made from two canvas strips and one interfacing strip. If you want your straps to stand up like swords, you need to cut another strip of fusible/iron-on craft-weight interfacing and iron that onto one of the strips. If you are new to interfacing, I've included a useful link at the bottom of the post.
  3. The strap pattern pieces are 2" longer than the finished exposed (i.e. sticking out of the bag) strap. This is to allow you to insert each end 1" into the bag before sewing the bag up.
  4. The distance between the strap ends differs for the short and long straps. The long straps should be inserted farther apart than the short straps because they go over your shoulder. I measured this spacing from mid-line of one strap end to mid-line of the other, not between their inner edges
  5. The main body of the bag is made by folding the 15.5" x 25.5" pieces in half, right sides facing, and sewing up the sides.
And here are some helpful places to go for

Tote Bag Tutorials
  • Craftster - nice pictures of strap-making without sewing those inside-out tubes. Vital if you are using heavy-weight material for your bag.
  • Colorfool Creates - quick way of making gusset (the bottom and sides that make a flat bag 3D) corners.
  • Not So Fancy Nancy - another set of good gusset instructions and pictures.

Interfacing Information
  • U-Handbag - also superior in general bag-making know-how.

Good luck, everyone! 


  1. Nana has amazing eyes!

  2. Eh, I really like your hand-drawn/written pattern sheets. So personal! Please don't ever decide to 'professionalize' -ugh!- and switch to doing them on your pc.

    You never could stick to just making the one...luckily!

  3. I just made one!!!!!! I LOVE IT! What a fun idea. It is amazing having my son's art work on it! YEAH!

  4. Your craftsmanship absolutely blows me away! Seriously. And I clicked back and saw your magnetic paper dolls and now I'm dying! I have to make some for my daughter.
    You are so talented! I love the stuff you make!

  5. Love the bag L. It's so gorgeous and I love that it's reversible.

  6. Great post. I'm especially glad you mentioned two things:

    1) grandma has yellow cheeks; I thought the poor woman had four eyes! : )

    2) purse that looked nice and crisp after initial sewing looked limp a few years later. I'll up my interfacing for next project!

  7. I LOVE those cute totes. (And I am usually not a big fan of tote bags.) I especially like the way they stand up by themselves. Maybe I should try to sew one of those ... at least there would not be a problem if I make them slightly too small or too big ... :-)

  8. Thank you for posting your pattern. I'm in the process of making two already and I've scaled down the pattern to make lunch totes as well in matching fabrics! I am also lucky enough to have an embroidery machine so I'm personalizing with names too! I used to make totes from my own pattern with an additional bottom and side pieces but this is so much easier! And yes, you are right - it's much easier to make a bunch at a time! Thanks again!

  9. Hi LiEr,

    Thank you for sharing the pattern and many of your creative works. You are amazing! Looking at your creative works. I am amateur in sewing and finally plucked the courage to try some interfacing with bags. I must say your workmanship is fabulous! Can you share how your bag only has one sew line at the top? Mine was kind of messy with two sew lines (one was the seam allowance of the inner and outer bags sewn line, the other was the last sew line to assemble the strap) at the top after assembly the straps to the bag. And yes i did not leave a hole for turning eveything out. I hope to get around it and improve! Thanks again!

  10. @Anonymous
    Hi Lynn,

    Thanks for your kind words! I know what you mean by an extra line from attaching the straps to the bag, but I don't quite understand way you mean by the sew line from the inner and outer bags. I did a later tutorial that shows how I attach the lining (inner bag) to the outer bag with only one stitching line at the top. Here is the tutorial (see specifically step 19):

  11. Hi LiEr,
    Thank you so much!! That is what I needed to know. I'm loving your blog too with all the different tabs at the top. Neat!

  12. These bags look great! I'm currently sewing my first tote bag, and I found your notes very useful. Thank you!

  13. Thank you so much for the link to U-Handbag. What an amazing site. I've never made a bag before and I've just ordered a kit for a first project. I love these totes and they make such a personal and practical gift. I always worry about teachers ending up with 20 boxes of chocolates. It's so much nicer to make something they would really use.

  14. Love love your post, thanks a bunch will now make a bag,


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