A basic bag means basic sewing. But what if you want a little extra punch and pizzazz? You might want to step up the ladder to a machine that offers a few more feature and embellishment extras, like hundreds of decorative stitches and embroidery. Looking at a project from different angles is the theme of our Bright Spot Tote Trio and the idea behind a new series developed with our friends at Janome America that shows one project done three ways on three different machines.
This second bag in the trio takes off from the basic version of the design and adds a front pocket monogram as well as decorative stitching highlights on the straps. The bright, crayon box colors allow you to have lots of fun using your most dramatic color combinations. 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.
The original clean lines and layered structure of the bag’s basic design are accented with precise topstitching. Adding a pro finish and extra pop of color, the interior seam allowances are bound with strips of the exterior canvas. And check out those cool reverse box corners!
Our featured machine for this intermediate bag is the Janome Skyline S9. It’s a sewing and embroidery model that explodes with embellishment inspiration. There are 250 embroidery designs, including 40 exclusive designs by Anna Maria Horner, plus five amazing iPad apps to help make your embroidery even better. All this along with 300 built-in decorative stitches.
The sewing side is packed with capabilities as well. The Skyline S9 features our favorite AcuFeed™ Flex system, which turns thick layers, tight turns, and tricky substrates into flawless fabric feeding. There are so many great automatic and standard features; you’ll wonder how you ever lived without an Auto Presser Foot Lift, Automatic Thread Cutter, AcuGuide™ Cloth Guide, and 22 presser feet. Power and possibilities, that’s what we found with the Skyline S9.
Super bright colors make this tote an eye-catching summertime favorite. We combined Sunflower Yellow canvas with Orange ripstop, but there are so 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 thick layers.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
- Walking or Even Feed foot; or use your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the great AcuFeed™ Flex system, which is what we used on the Janome Skyline S9
- Satin Stitch foot or Open Toe Satin Stitch foot for the decorative stitching
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 Sunflower
- ¾ yard of 54”+ wide ripstop nylon or similar for the lining; we used 58” Ottertex® Nylon 1.9oz Ripstop in Orange
- 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 Orange, 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
- Tearaway stabilizer as recommended for your machine
NOTE: The canvas is quite stable but we still recommend stabilizing it prior to monogramming for the best results.
- All purpose thread to match fabric and belting
- All purpose or embroidery thread for the monogram to match the belting; we used all purpose thread in orange
- All purpose or specialty thread for decorative stitching; we used Sulky 30wt cotton in a light natural – you want a color that will pop our from the belting color
NOTE: We liked the slightly heavier 30wt cotton; it delivered a beautifully dense decorative stitch on the soft surface of the 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 Sunflower 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
ONE 9” wide x 11” high rectangle for the exterior front pocket
NOTE: This panel is sized larger in order to best fit the embroidery hoop. It will be trimmed to 7” wide x 9” high after monogramming. If you prefer no monogram, simply cut ONE 7” wide x 9” high rectangle.
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
ONE 1¼” x 24” strip for binding the interior widthwise seam allowance
TWO 1¼” 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 Orange 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.
- You’ll be using a fair amount of thread. Take the time now to wind all your bobbins. It’s fast and easy on the Janome Skyline S9. We used one each in the orange and yellow all purpose thread, and two in the natural thread for the decorative stitching. We used the all purpose orange thread for both construction and for our monogram.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Monogram the exterior pocket
- Select the embroidery of your choice. We used a built-in three letter framed monogram from the selection on the Janome Skyline S9.
- The Skyline S9 allows you to enlarge built-in designs up to 120%, which is what we did to best fit the size of the front pocket. The diameter of the circle monogram will now finish at approximately 3¾”.
- Find the 9” x 11” exterior pocket panel, which should be cut larger than its final size in order to fit your hoop. This is known as “hooping wild,” meaning you hoop plenty of fabric to embroider and then cut down the piece to size when done.
- Layer with stabilizer as directed by your machine’s instructions.
- Hoop the fabric.
- Thread the machine with the appropriate contrasting color thread in the top and bobbin thread in the bobbin.
- Attach the hoop to the machine.
- Embroider the monogram.
- On our Janome Skyline S9, the frame stitches out first and then the lettering.
Add decorative stitching to the belting
- Find the two 47” lengths of belting.
- Re-set the machine for decorative stitching, including switching out to a Satin Stitch or Open Toe Satin Stitch presser foot.
- Select your stitch. We picked a simple, dense pattern and recommend this style; a lighter, airier stitch pattern is likely to sink into the soft surface of the belting and won’t show up as well.
- As mentioned above, with the thicker Sulky 30wt cotton we selected, we used two bobbins to complete the stitching on both lengths. Make sure you have bobbins wound and ready so you can start the second length with a fresh bobbin.
- Stitch down the center of each length of belting.
- Set aside the belting.
Finish the front pocket prep
- With the monogram complete, trim the front pocket panel down to 7” wide x 9” high, centering the monogram within the trimmed panel. Our monogram sits just slightly lower on the pocket for the best look. The top of the embroidered circle is 3” down from the top raw edge of the panel.
- Once trimmed, fold back the top raw edge ½” and clip in place
- The photo below shows both pockets pinned.
- Thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. Set for a slightly lengthened straight stitch.
- Edgestitch along the top of the fold on the front pocket.
- Then run another line of stitching ¼” below the first.
Prepare the hanging lining 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, matching what you did along the folded edge of the front pocket. The Ottertex® canvas does not ravel, so this top edge can be left raw with just the two lines of stitching that match the topstitching on the front pocket. In the photo below, the topstitched raw edge is on the left, the topstitched folded edge is on the right.
- 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 (as shown in the photo above).
- Keep the machine threaded with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and bobbin but 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.
- Both pockets are now ready to be put into position.
Position the front pocket and the belting front and back
- Find the front upper panel (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 monogrammed and topstitched front pocket.
- Position the pocket on the front upper panel, right side up, centering the pocket side to side (8½” from each raw side edge of the main fabric panel) and with the bottom raw edge of the pocket flush with the bottom raw edges of the main panel.
- Clip the pocket in place along the bottom raw edges.
- Find one of the 47” lengths of belting, which should have its decorative stitching complete.
- Place the raw ends of the belting flush with the bottom raw edge of the 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/Clip 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 main fabric panel.
- Repeat to place and pin the remaining length of belting to back upper panel, matching the position exactly to the front.
Layer exterior, lining and fleece and stitch the straps in place
- Collect the front and back exterior upper panels with the straps pinned in place, the front and back exterior lower panels, the upper and lower lining panels for both the front and back, and all four fleece panels.
NOTE: If you have been following along with us on this 1 Bag 3 Ways series, you’ll notice the next steps are slightly different. The layering/stitching option shown here removes the seam binding across the upper/lower seam allowances. It is not necessarily better or worse than binding the seam allowances as shown in the instructions for Bag 1 and Bag 3, just different. Feel free to follow the steps for the other bags or go with this process. As always at S4H, you get to choose.
- On the upper panels, center the fleece on the ripstop lining so there is ½” of fabric extending beyond the fleece along both sides and across the bottom. Across the top, the fleece and fabric are flush. On the lower panels, the fleece is centered on the ripstop so there is ½” of fabric extending beyond the fleece on all four sides.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the fleece in place on all four lining panels. With a lightweight fabric like ripstop, use a lower temperature. You can also opt to use a pressing cloth.
- Layer the upper exterior panels (front and back) with the fused upper lining panels (front and back). The canvas and ripstop panels should be wrong sides together with the fleece sandwiched between. Pin/clip all around.
- 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. Re-set for a slightly lengthened stitch.
- Starting with the front upper panel, on one side of the strap, edgestitch up the inner 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 strap, 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 in place on the back upper panel.
Attach the lower panels to the front and back
- The exterior and lining lower panels are stitched separately to each front and back upper panel.
- Find the two lower exterior panels and the two lower lining/fleece panels.
- Place a lower exterior panel right sides together along the bottom of the exterior side of each upper panel, sandwiching the webbing between the layers. Pin or clip in place.
- Flip over each panel so it is now lining side up. Place a lower lining panel right sides together along the bottom of the lining side of each upper panel. Pin or clip in place.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the lining fabric in the top and to best match the exterior in the bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal. We stitched with the ripstop facing up, which is why the top and bobbin are threaded in this way.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across the panels through all the layers.
- On both the front and back panels, press the seam allowances down towards the lower panels. Then bring down the exterior and lining lower panels so they are now wrong sides together with their side and bottom edges flush. Pin/Clip along both sides and across the bottom.
- 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. Consider switching to a Walking Foot or engaging your machines fabric feeding system, which was our choice with the Skyline S9 throughout the project.
- 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.
- Press flat from the front. We added machine basting along both sides and across the top for added security against shifting during the final construction steps.
- Press flat from the lining side.
- Repeat to layer and stitch the lower panels to the upper back panel.
Stitch front to back and bind interior seam allowances
- Place the front and back panels right sides together. Pin/Clip in place.
- Take the time to make sure the belting matches up front to back and the horizontal upper/lower seams also match up front to back.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the lining in 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 three binding strips. Fold each in half, wrong sides together, and 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. You can overlap the binding strips at each corner. Or you can trim away just a bit from each strip, leaving the corner free. This can help you get a cleaner point to the reverse box corner. We used this method here on Bag #2, and the overlap method on Bag #1 and Bag #3. As above with the alternative method for attaching the bottom panels, one option is not better or worse – just different.
- Pin or clip in place.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the binding strips in the top and bobbin. Re-set for a slightly lengthened stitch.
- Stitch the binding in place all around. Again, we engaged the Skyline S9’s fabric feeding system and used a standard straight stitch. You could opt for a Walking foot and/or change to a zig zag stitch.
- Clip the corners.
Turn 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”. Or as shown in the photo below, slide your ruler up from the point until you reach a 7” width. Using a fabric pen or pencil, draw a line at this measurement horizontally across the corner.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the exterior in both the top and bobbin. Keep a slightly lengthened stitch.
- 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 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.
Place the lining’s hanging pocket
- 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 of the bag.
- 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 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 do recommend clips over pins.
- Keep the machine threaded with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and bobbin and with the stitch slightly lengthened. We continued to use the AcuFeed™ Flex built-in fabric feeding system on our Skyline S9. You could consider switching to a Walking foot.
- Stitch all the way around the top of the bag.
- Go slowly and carefully to keep your stitching as close to the raw edge of the binding as possible while insuring you are catching both the front and back of the binding in this one seam. If your machine has a free arm, as our Skyline S9 does, now it a good time to use it. Don’t forget to pull the handle loops down and out of the way.
- 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.
Project Design: Anne Adams
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever