Sunday, 15 July 2012

Easy Peasy Summer Tote Tutorial

The weather here in Waterloo has been hot, sunny and humid for weeks now.  The grass is brown and the BBQ is the cooking method of choice these days.  All the heat and humidity had me looking for a quick and easy sewing project to use as the subject of my next post.  

With summer and easy being the key themes I had a look at my fabric and supplies and came up with this easy peasy canvas tote.  So easy that I decided to make a tutorial out of it!  If you can get past the slight blur in my photography this tote bag is a great sewing project for you or to make as a gift!  And it doesn't require a pattern because it uses only rectangles of fabric.

For my tote I used some summery navy striped canvas I bought in a sale. So all in I would say this baby cost me under $10 for fabric, handles and ribbon. Woot!

 With no lining and a great boxed shape this bag is super quick and easily adaptable. You can easily change the dimensions to make it longer, shorter, wider or deeper.  The inside has a hanging open pocket that gets sewn into the turn down seam on the top of the bag.  The top stitich seams are optional but went perfectly with the preppy, nautical look of the striped bag and gave it a bit more structure.

I saved even more time by using cotton or canvas strapping (which is pretty cheap at most fabric/sewing shops).  But you could easily make straps from a coordinating fabric as an added accent! To keep my bags from being too boring I opted for using a bit of ready made ribbon piping and striped ribbon I found for at $1.99 per 2 meters at Len's Mills here in Waterloo.  Just a single stripe across the front of the gray bag and a little bow on the striped bag was all it took.


The measurements for this tutorial will give you a bag the same size as the striped one in the pictures.  For the gray bag I shortened the length by a couple inches.  

For this tutorial you will need:
  • cotton canvas or other suitable heavy weight fabric
  • ribbon, ready made piping, or trim of your choice
  • coordinating thread
  • general sewing supplies (scissors, rotary cutter, ruler, sewing machine). 
From your fabric cut:
  • 2 rectangles 16 1/2" x 18 3/8" for the main body of the bag
  • 1 rectangle 7 1/2" x 12 1/4" for the pocket
 







 








From the canvas strapping cut:
  • 2 straps 24 1/2" long

STEP 1: CREATE THE POCKET

1/4" zig zag seam on long edges





  •  fold the long edges of the pocket piece in 1/4" toward the wrong side of the fabric and iron. Pin in place and sew using a zig zag seam.  Back stitch at beginning and end of the seams. 














Short side zig zagged seam

  • on one short end of your pocket piece fold a 1/4" seam (as you did for the long sides), pin and sew using zig zag stitch.
  • Take your zig zagged short side seam and fold it over again (toward the wrong side of fabric), pin and top stitch in place using a 1/8" seam allowance. 
  • Fold the long side seams in again and iron flat. 



  • Measure 5" in from the finished short edge of your pocket piece and mark a line.  This will be the bottom edge of the pocket.


  • Using the 5" line you marked as a guide fold the finished short edge up (with wrong sides facing each other) to form the pocket.
  • Match the side edges and pin in place.  Sew in place using a 1/8" top stitch.




  • Done! Your finished pocket should look like the picture on the left.  It is hard to see the top stitching up the sides but I promise they are there!








STEP 2: CREATE THE FINISHED TOP SEAM OF YOUR BAG

  •  Take one of your 16 1/2" x 18 3/8" rectangle and lay it down wrong side facing you.
  • Fold the edge in 1/4" and iron flat.








  •  Fold the same edge in again but this time fold it down a full 1".  Pin in place.
  • Top stitch in place 1/8" from both the bottom and top of the folded edge.






  • Repeat the 1/4" and 1" fold on your second 16 1/2" x 18 3/8" rectangle. Iron but do not sew!
  • Find the center of the folded top edge and center the raw edges of your sewn pocket underneath the folds.  Pin in place.
  • Top stitch in place both edges of the folds using a 1/8" seam allowance.



This picture shows one finished folded top edge with the pocket securely attached.














STEP 3: ATTACH THE STRAPS TO THE BAG


  • Take one of your cotton straps and turn the raw ends under 1/2".  Baste the raw edges in place with a line of stitching.
  • Lay one of your rectangles down right side facing you and with the finished top edge at the top.  
  • Next, place the ends of the strap approximately 5.5" from the side edges along the top edge of the bag.  Make sure your strap is not twisted!
  •  Pin in place. Sew in place with a rectangle reinforced with an x for strength.  Note: I couldn't get a good picture of this because I  used navy thread on the handles. 
  • Repeat with the second strap and the second bag half.  When sewing across the bag half with the pocket make sure to pin it down so it doesn't get bunched and twisted.  

STEP 4: SEW THE MAIN BAG BODY
 

  •  Take the two halves of your bag and lay them down with right sides facing each other and matching the finished top seams and handle strap.
  • Pin along the side and bottom edges.
  • Sew around all three pinned sides using a 1/4" seam allowance. 











Step 5: BOX THE BAG CORNERS

  • With the wrong sides of the bag still facing out take one bottom corner of your bag and flatten it, matching the side and bottom seams. I find it helpful to pin the flattened corner at this point to prevent it from shifting.
  • Measure and mark a 3" line across the corner using your ruler.  The line should be about 1.5" in from the tip of the flattened corner. Pin.
  • Sew along the line (using a straight stitch).
  • Cut off the excess fabric leaving a 1/4" seam allowance.  
  • Zig Zag the seam allowance to prevent fraying.
  • Repeat for the other corner.
  • You now have boxed corners! :)

STEP 6: TOP STITCH THE BAG EXTERIOR (OPTIONAL)


  • Turn the bag right side out.  The bottom should now have 4 corners as a result of boxing them.
  • Working from one of your newly boxed corners,  flatten the bag from that edge up to the top in a straight line creating a new edge that is 1.5" from the side seam. Pin.
  • Top stitch from the bottom corner to the top using a 1/8" seam.
  • Repeat with the other three corners.

Close up of top stitched edge.














Finished bag interiorMy seams were a bit ravelled in this picture.  I may have to go back later and zig zag them to stop it!















To finish my bag I made a small bow using a white, navy and red striped ribbon and hand stitched it to the front of my bag.  You could also use Rickrack, lace, piping, buttons or handmade flowers to jazz it up any way you like.  There are sooo many options!

I've since made another one in some gray twill with black handles and a horizontal strip using ready made flat piping.  I will post pics asap.

And there you have it!  A super easy, canvas summer bag! 

As always, if you enjoyed this tutorial or have any questions please let me know!  I'd love to know what you think.

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