We’re often asked for our recommendations about which sewing machine to buy; people wonder how many features are “necessary.” We do our best to answer, but it’s a little like asking, “How much is a red car?” The decision depends on what you want to make and how the extra features can help you construct your favorite things more easily and with a more professional result. With these questions in mind, we developed a series with our friends at Janome America that shows one project done three ways on three different machines.
The One Project Three Ways series kicked off with a big, bold tote. Finishing at a generous 16” x 16” x 7”, it has the size flexibility to be a perfect carryall for all kinds of outings and occasions.
This first bag is the basic version of the design. The clean lines and layered structure are accented with precise topstitching. The interior seam allowances are bound with strips of the exterior canvas for a pro finish and an extra pop of color. And, check out the cool reverse box corners!
Our featured machine for this basic bag is the Janome 5300 QDC-T. It’s a mid-range model packed with the best standard features. We combined three different substrates on the bag, which could be a slipping and sliding nightmare on some machines. But Janome’s exclusive Superior Plus Feed System on the 5300 ensures even, stable feeding from start to finish.
The 5300 is also the only model in the QDC line to offer special advanced features, like a Superior Plus Feed System with 7-piece feed dog, a Knee Lifter so you can control your projects with both hands at once, and an AcuView Magnifier Holder with a 20x lens so you can really see what you’re sewing! It’s a great option as an everyday machine or as a lighter weight companion machine to take to classes and clubs.
Bright colors make this tote an eye-catching summertime favorite. We combined Hot Pink canvas with Sunflower Yellow ripstop, but there are many other great pairings to explore. You’ll always be able to spot this bag! Our fabric selections come from Fabric Wholesale Direct (FWD). As a direct manufacturer of almost all their fabrics, FWD has better control of quality, selection, and inventory. And they do it all at wholesale prices without crazy minimum orders. Both the canvas and the ripstop we selected can be cut to order, starting at just one yard.
Okay, Big + Bold are covered, but there’s more. This tote is water resistant, which takes the usage options up another notch. Thanks to the incredible variety at FWD, we were able to combine their Ottertex® Waterproof Canvas with Ottertex® Nylon Ripstop. A layer of fusible fleece is added for substance and structure. Because of that layer, we prefer the description, water resistant. For carrying damp items and repelling light to moderate splashes and sloshes, it’s perfect. Look at how the water beads up on the surface!
We chose tough polyester belting for the straps. Our samples feature 1½” Dritz Belting, which comes in dozens of colors, as well as multi-color stripes. The straps are sewn through all layers so you can confidently load up the tote. The handle loops are big enough to slide over your shoulder or carry by hand.
You can see from the photos of our sample bags that we did not add traditional boxed corners. Instead, we show you the steps to create a reverse box held in place with a Chicago screw. These clever screws are longer than traditional rivets and easier to install when you’re dealing with very thick layers.
As mentioned above, our Bright Spot Weather Ready Tote finishes at approximately 16” x 16” x 7” with a 9” handle drop. Check out the other bags in the series: Bag #2 – Monogrammed and Bag #3 – Quilted.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
- Walking or Even Feed foot; optional – you could also engage your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the great AcuFeed™ Flex system we use on many of our Janome models – for this project, we worked with the Janome 5300 QDC, which features the exclusive Janome Superior Plus Feed System and so were able to use our standard presser foot throughout
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1 yard of 58”+ wide mid-weight waterproof canvas or similar for the bag exterior; we used 60” Ottertex® Waterproof Canvas from Fabric Wholesale Direct in Hot Pink
- ¾ yard of 54”+ wide ripstop nylon or similar for the lining; we used 58” Ottertex® Nylon 1.9oz Ripstop in Sunflower Yellow
- ¾ yard of 45”+ wide fusible fleece; we used Pellon Thermolam Plus one-sided fusible fleece
- 2¾ yards of 1½” wide polyester belting; we used Dritz Belting in Natural, which comes in 2 yard packages, so we purchased two packages
- TWO Chicago screws; you want a post depth of apx. ¼” (6mm) and a head diameter of apx. at ½” (13mm) – we used nickel
- All-purpose thread to match fabric and belting
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Pressing Cloth
- Rotary cutter and mat
NOTE: For the cleanest cut on both the canvas and ripstop, we highly recommend a rotary cutter over scissors.
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins and or clips; we used Wonder Clips with good success
- Awl and/or small scissors to create holes for Chicago screws
- Small flat head screwdriver for final tightening of Chicago screws
- From the exterior fabric (Ottertex® canvas in Hot Pink in our sample); cut the following:
TWO 24” wide x 13½” high rectangles for the exterior front and back upper panel
TWO 24” wide x 7½” high rectangles for the exterior front and back lower panels
ONE 7” wide x 9” high rectangle for the exterior front pocket
ONE 10” wide x 10” high rectangle for the hanging lining pocket back panel
ONE 10” wide x 8½” high rectangle for the hanging lining pocket front panel
THREE 1” x 24” strips for binding the interior widthwise seam allowances
TWO 1” x 20” strips for binding the interior lengthwise seam allowances
NOTE: This is our recommended finish for all the interior seam allowances, however, it is optional; you could choose another machine sewn finish if desired.
ONE 1⅝” x 47”strip for binding the top of the finished bag
NOTE: As mentioned above, we strongly recommend using a rotary cutter for the cleanest cut on both the canvas and the ripstop.
NOTE: The Ottertex® Waterproof Canvas does not ravel when cut, so you will see several instances below where we’ve left edges raw. This is a possible finish when you’re not concerned about raveling edges, however, if you choose a fabric that does ravel, you will need to finish the edges of the binding strips and the hanging pocket. Take this into consideration when cutting as you will likely need additional width and/length to accommodate folding back edges for a clean finish.
- From the interior fabric (Ottertex® ripstop in Sunflower Yellow in our sample); cut the following:
TWO 24” wide x 13½” high rectangles for the exterior front and back upper panels
TWO 24” wide x 7½” high rectangles for the exterior front and back lower panels
- From the fusible fleece, cut the following:
TWO 23” wide x 13” high rectangles for the exterior front and back upper panels
TWO 23” wide x 6½” high rectangles for the exterior front and back lower panels
- From the belting, cut TWO 47” lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Prepare the exterior pocket
- Find the 7” x 9” rectangle in the exterior fabric.
- Fold back the top edge ½”.
- Thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. Set a slightly lengthened stitch.
- Edgestitch along the top of the fold.
- Then run another line of stitching ¼” from the first.
Layer the panels
- Find the upper and lower fabric and fleece panels for both the front and back of the bag. Layer the canvas and ripstop panels wrong sides together with the fleece sandwiched between.
- On the upper panels, the fleece is centered so there is ½” of fabric extending beyond the fleece along both sides and along the bottom. Across the top, the fleece and fabric are flush. On the lower panels, the fleece is centered so there is ½” of fabric extending beyond the fleece on all four sides.
NOTE: You can try fusing the fleece to either the canvas or the ripstop prior to layering. You will need to use a cooler setting and a pressing cloth is a good idea. We testing all three options: fusing to the canvas, fusing to the ripstop, and not fusing at all. We found that very light fusing of the fleece to the canvas was the best option, then securely pinning/clipping all three layers to prevent shifting. Second best: no fusing at all.
- You should end up with FOUR layered/sandwiched sets: front upper, front lower, back upper, and back lower. Pin or clip all four sets securely. We used both, although clips in general held better than pins.
Position the front pocket and the belting front and back
- Find the front upper panel layered set (at this point both the front and back upper panels are the same, simply choose one). Place it exterior side up and flat on your work surface.
- Find the prepared front pocket.
- Position the pocket on the upper panel, right side up, centering the pocket side to side (8½” from each raw side edge of the layered panels) and with the bottom raw edge of the pocket flush with the bottom raw edges of the layered panels.
- Clip the pocket in place along the bottom raw edges.
- Find one of the 47” lengths of belting.
- Place the raw ends of the belting flush with the bottom raw edge of the layered fabric panel, spreading the straps so they are 6” apart at the center, across the pocket, and covering the raw side edges of the pocket. Make sure the belting creates a clean loop above the top raw edge of the fabric panel; you don’t want any twists or turns in the loop. Pin the belting in place along both sides from the bottom up approximately 12” along each side. This stopping point should be 1½” down from the top raw edge of the layered fabric panel.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the belting in the top, and thread to best match the lining fabric in the bobbin. Keep a slightly lengthened stitch.
- Starting on one side of the strap, edgestitch up the outer edge.
- Stop at the top marking point (12” up from the bottom, 1½” down from the top) and pivot to stitch across.
- Stop at the inner edge of the belting, pivot, and edgestitch back down to the bottom.
- Repeat to edgestitch the opposite side of the strap in place.
- Then, repeat to place and stitch the remaining length of belting to back upper panel layered set, matching the position exactly to the front.
Attach the lower panels to the front and back and bind the seam allowances
- Find the two lower panel layered sets. Place a lower panel right sides together along the bottom of each upper panel, sandwiching the webbing between the layers. Pin or clip in place.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the lining fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across the panels through all the layers.
- Find two of the 1” x 24” strips. Fold each in half, wrong sides together, and finger press to set a center crease, creating a simple binding strip.
- Slip a binding strip over each of the front and back panel seam allowances. Securely pin or clip in place.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the binding in the top and bobbin. Re-set for a slightly lengthened stitch. Consider switching to a Walking Foot or engaging your machines fabric feeding system. The precision feed dog system on our Janome 5300 made for excellent stitching with just the standard A presser foot.
- Stitch all the way across, then repeat to bind the seam allowance on the remaining main panel. We used a straight stitch. You could also opt for a zig zag stitch.
- On both the front and back panels, press the seam allowance down towards the lower panel.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the exterior in the top and to best match the lining in the bobbin. Keep the slightly lengthened stitch.
- On both the front and back panels, edgestitch just below with seam within the lower panel. And, then stitch across again ¼” below the first seam.
Stitch front to back and bind interior seam allowances
- Place the front and back panels right sides together. All edges should be flush. Take the time to make sure the belting matches up front to back and that the horizontal upper/lower panel seams are aligned. Pin along both sides and across the bottom.
- Re-thread with thread to best match the lining in both the top and bobbin. Re-set for a standard stitch length.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting sharply at the two bottom corners.
- Find the remaining three binding strips. As above, fold each in half, wrong sides together, and finger press to set a center crease line.
- The two 20” lengths of binding slip over each side seam allowance. The 24” length of binding slips over the bottom seam allowance, overlapping the sides at each corner. Pin or clip in place.
- Re-thread with thread to best match the binding in the top and bobbin and re-set for a slightly lengthened stitch.
- Stitch the binding in place all around. Again, we used our standard presser foot and a straight stitch on our Janome 5300 QDC. You could opt for a Walking foot or engage your machine’s feeding system and/or change to a zig zag stitch.
NOTE: As mentioned above, we felt clips held the binding more securely than pins.
- Clip the corner.
- The photo above shows a standard corner clip. Because of the thick layers we clipped a bit further down each side in order to get as sharp a turn right side out as possible.
Turn right side out and create the reverse box corners
- Turn the bag right side out. Using a long, blunt tool. push out the corners to get as sharp a point as possible at each of the bottom corners. Press each corner flat, using a pressing cloth.
- The bag’s depth should finish at 7”, which means the corner turns up half that amount or 3½”.
- From the point of each corner, measure up 3½”. Using a fabric pen or pencil, draw a line at this measurement horizontally across the corner.
- The machine should still be threaded with thread to best match the exterior in both the top and bobbin and the stitch should still be slightly lengthened.
- Stitch across the corner along the drawn line.
- Keeping the thread and the stitch length the same, edgestitch along both diagonal sides of each corner point.
- Find the awl (or small, sharp scissors) and the two Chicago screws.
- Make a hole in one corner approximately ½” from its point.
- With the hole in place, fold up each corner along the horizontal stitch line. Mark onto the body of the bag where the hole should continue through to the inside. In general, it will be just above the horizontal seam where the upper and lower panels come together and slightly to one side of the side seam line.
- Because most rivets would be too difficult to set through all the thicknesses on this type of fabric, a Chicago screw is playing the part of a rivet. If you insert it with the back of the screw facing out, it’s a perfect look.
- With both holes open and aligned, insert the hallow half of the screw all the way through until it just emerges at the inside of the bag.
- Screw the top into place from the inside of the bag. Finger tighten and then finish to secure with a flat head screwdriver.
- Repeat on the opposite corner.
Create and place the lining’s hanging pocket
- Find the 10” x 10” and 10” x 8½” panels in the exterior fabric.
- The machine should still be threaded with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and bobbin and the stitch should still be slightly lengthened.
- Across the top of the 10” x 8½” panel, run a line a edgestitching along the raw edge and a second line of stitching ¼” below the first. This Ottertex® waterproof canvas does not ravel and so the top edge can be left raw with just the two lines of stitching that match the other topstitching on the bag.
- Place the 10” x 10” pocket panel right side up and flat on your work surface. Place the stitched 10” x 8½” panel on top of the 10” x 10” panel, also right side up. The two panels should be flush along both sides and across the bottom, which means the back panel extends 1½” above the front panel.
- Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Keep the machine threaded with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and bobbin and re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Edgestitch along both sides and across the bottom of the layered pocket panels, sharply pivoting at the bottom corners.
- Find the bag. Place the hanging pocket into position at the back of the bag, centering it against the lining, spanning the straps. The top raw edge of the pocket should be flush with the top raw edges of the bag. Pin/Clip the pocket in place.
- We machine basted the pocket in place for extra security.
Bind the top to finish
- Find the 1⅝” x 47”strip. Fold in half, wrong sides together, and finger press to set a center crease. Just as you did above with the binding strips.
- Starting at the center back, above the hanging pocket, slip the binding over the top raw edges of the of the bag. Clip in place all the way around the top of the bag. For this step in particular, we really recommend clips over pins.
- At the center back, overlap the ends about ½”. Remember, the canvas we used doesn’t ravel so it isn’t necessary to create a folded edge to overlap. If you choose a fabric prone to raveling, you will need to finish all the edges of the binding.
- Keep the machine threaded with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and bobbin and re-set the for a slightly lengthened stitch. We continued to use our standard presser foot, but as mentioned above, you can consider switching to a Walking foot or engaging your machine’s fabric feeding system should you have any issues with shifting.
- Stitch all the way around the top of the bag. Go slowly and carefully to insure you are catching both the front and back of the binding in this one seam. If your machine has a free arm, as our Janome 5300 does, now it a good time to use it.
NOTE: Don’t forget to pull the handle loops down and out of the way.
Project Design: Anne Adams
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild