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Our designer barrel tote, with its detachable strap, uses beautiful Jacquard ribbons from Renaissance Ribbons to their best advantage: as focal point embellishments against a solid base fabric. They add just the right dash of drama. But don’t go overboard – too many ribbons is like too much whipped cream… sounds like a good idea at the time, then it smothers the taste of everything. Use them to accent not overwhelm. 

This bag would be considered an advanced project, but as always, we’ve included detailed step-by-step instructions and lots of helpful photos. Read through the tutorial a couple of times before you start, and we know you can do it!

Our thanks to Renaissance Ribbons for providing the ribbons for this project. The rich chocolate and turquoise palette we chose is just one of the hundreds of options available.

Some of our other favorites, which would also make wonderful bag accents (and more!), include the beauties featured below. Browse Renaissance Ribbons for all the latest options.

The shoulder strap is detachable so you can quickly clip the swivel hooks off the rectangle rings and carry the tote with the double handles. As noted below, our strap finishes at approximately 39″, which is a standard length. It is not an adjustable strap, so test this length to make sure it is the best fit for you.

You’ll use a technique called a strata to create the blocks of beautiful ribbon. A strata is a quilter’s term for a block of pieced fabric made up of strips sewn together side-by-side. The completed strata can be cut into smaller strips for a project. It’s a wonderful time-saving technique, and we’re using it in a similar fashion for our ribbon units, simply butting together the ribbons rather than seaming them.

Our steps show the ribbon widths with which we worked, but we also give you the overall size you’re aiming for so you can build your own combination of widths to create a strata unique to you.

The beautiful Jacquard ribbons from Renaissance Ribbons are wonderfully substantial, which makes them a great choice when accenting areas on a project that will take a lot of repetitive use, like the handles and pocket tops on this tote.

Our Barrel Tote finishes at approximately 13″ wide x 7″ in diameter.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • 1 yard of 59″+ wide cotton twill, lightweight canvas or similar for the exterior; we used a chocolate brown twill
  • ¾ yard of a coordinating 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton print for the lining; we used an aqua and chocolate quilting cotton
    NOTE: The exterior fabric should be a neutral tone, and even the lining fabric should be subtle. The beauty of the bag comes from the ribbon, so the fabric should not compete in any way.
  • 1½ yards of light to mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Shape Flex
    NOTE: Ribbon amounts shown below are sufficient for all the steps shown using our ribbon widths and strata pattern. However, as mentioned above, you may want to create your own pattern. Read through the steps below to understand how we built our strata. In general, you want to end up with: ONE 36″ STRATA APX. 3¼” IN FINISHED WIDTH and ONE 20″ STRATA APX. 3⅝” IN WIDTH.
  • 1 yard of ⅝” woven ribbon for the handles
  • 1 yard of 1½” woven ribbon for 20″ Strata B
  • 1 yard of 2½” woven ribbon for 36″ Strata A
  • 1 yard of 1″ woven ribbon for 20″ Strata B
  • 5 yards of ⅜” woven ribbon trim for both 36″ Strata A and 20″ Strata B
  • ONE 12″ purse zipper; we used a Coats & Clark Purse Double Slider zipper 
  • ONE 7″ zipper to match lining fabric for the optional zippered pocket in the lining; we used a 7″ Coats & Clark invisible zipper in pale blue; a standard zipper would work as well
  • TWO 1″ D-rings or rectangular rings
  • TWO 1″ swivel clips
    NOTE: We used a slightly larger set of swivel clips and D-rings, but recommend 1″ sizing for the best fit.
  • FOUR apx 14mm purse feet; optional – use a finish to match your other hardware
  • 1 yard of 12″ – 15″ wide tear-away stabilizer to build ribbon stratas; such as Pellon lightweight Stitch & Tear
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • All purpose thread to match ribbon or use a clear monofilament thread for an invisible finish
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Tape measure
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle

Getting Started & Pattern Download

  1. Download and print the Pocket Pattern and the Circle Template, which have been bundled into one PDF to make the download easier.
    IMPORTANT: Each pattern consists of ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF files at 100%. DO NOT SCALE or SHRINK to fit the page. There is a guide rule on each sheet to insure your pattern has printed at the correct size.
  2. Cut out the pattern pieces along the solid lines. Set aside.
  3. From the exterior fabric, cut the following
    ONE 4″ x width of fabric strip; you want a strip of at least 59-60″ for the adjustable strap and tabs – you can cut two pieces to seam together if unable to find a wide fabric
    ONE 3″ x 22″ strip
    ONE 14″ wide x 19″ high rectangle
    TWO 2½” x 14″ strips
    Using the circle template, cut TWO 8″ circles
    Using the pocket pattern, cut TWO pockets
  4. From the coordinating print lining fabric, cut:
    ONE 14″ wide x 22″ high rectangle
    ONE 9″ wide x 14″ high rectangle
    Using the circle template, cut TWO 8″ circles
  5. From interfacing, cut
    ONE 14″ x 19″ rectangle
    TWO 2½” x 14″ strips
    ONE 4″ x 14″ rectangle
    Using the circle template, cut TWO 8″ circles
  6. Cut the tear-away stabilizer into 4″ wide strips.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Apply the interfacing

  1. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of each exterior piece: the 14″ x 19″ rectangle, the 2½” strips and the two 8″ circles. On each piece, the edges of the interfacing and the fabric should be flush all around.
  2. Find the 4″ x 14″ strip of interfacing. Center it over the the wrong side (the interfaced side) of the 14″ x 19″ rectangle of cotton twill. The 4″ x 14″ strip should be perpendicular to the 14″ x 19″ piece. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
    NOTE: This extra layer of interfacing reinforces the bottom of the bag and supports the purse feet.

Make the ribbon stratas

  1. As mentioned above, a strata is a quilter’s term for a block of pieced fabric made up of strips sewn together side-by-side. The completed strata can then be cut into smaller strips for a project. It’s a wonderful time-saving technique, and we’re using it here for the ribbon units.
  2. If possible, attach a ditch quilting foot or (what we used) Janome’s Clear View Quilting Foot & Guide Set foot, assembled in the ditch quilting position. This handy foot has a flange down the center of the foot, and allows the ribbon to be joined edge-to-edge without overlapping. We used a narrow zig zag stitch (2.5 mm width and 1.0 mm length). This very cool quilting foot set does three tasks in one. You can find out more about it in our article review here.
  3. We’ll make Ribbon Strata A first, which should have a finished width of approximately 3¼”. We cut TWO 36″ lengths of our ⅜” ribbon to match the ONE 36″ length of the 2½” ribbon.
  4. Collect the 4″ strips of tear-away stabilizer.
  5. Center the middle ribbon (the 2½” ribbon in our sample) on a strip(s) of stabilizer.
  6. Then place the ribbon(s) to either side of the middle ribbon (one length of ⅜” ribbon to either side of the 2½” ribbon in our sample). These side two ribbons should be butted together, not overlapped.
  7. Bring everything to your sewing machine. If using a ditch quilting foot, lower the foot so the flange is between two lengths of ribbon.
  8. Using a narrow zig zag, stitch the ribbons together, keeping the edges together as you sew. Add additional strips of stabilizer as needed. The stabilizer is used to keep the ribbons stable; you will tear it away when done, so don’t worry about how it looks.
  9. Stitch together the ribbon along the opposite side using the same technique. In general, anywhere you have two ribbons butting together, drop the ditch flange between the two ribbons and zig zag to secure.
    NOTE: As noted above in the supply list, you can use all purpose thread that closely matches your ribbons or use a transparent thread for an invisible finish
  10. Remove the excess stabilizer from the ribbon, and press. This completes the approximate 3¼” Ribbon Strata A.
  11. Create 20″ Ribbon Strata B, which is approximately 3⅝” in width in the same manner. We used three 20″ lengths of the ⅜” ribbon, one 20″ length of the 1½” ribbon, and one 20″ length of 1″ ribbon.
  12. Arrange the ribbons as shown on the sample handbag or create your own pattern. We arranged the ribbons as follows (left to right): ⅜”, 1½”, ⅜”, 1″, ⅜”.
  13. Stitch the ribbons together using the same technique as outlined above for the Strata A. This completes the approximate 3⅝” Ribbon Strata B.

Pocket circle ends

  1. If possible, change the ditch quilting foot to an appliqué foot or a similar clear view foot. Select a straight stitch.
  2. Find the two exterior pocket pieces, Ribbon Strata A, and the two exterior 8″ circles.
  3. From Ribbon Strata A, cut two 8″ pieces.
  4. With a fabric pen or pencil, mark a line ¼” down from the upper edge of each pocket on the WRONG side of the fabric.
  5. Working with one ribbon unit and one pocket piece, place the top edge of the ribbon piece along the marked line (you are working on the wrong side of the pocket with the wrong side of the ribbon strata against the fabric). Keep the ribbon centered. Edgestitch the top of the ribbon strata in place. For the edgestitching here, and throughout the project, we slightly lengthened our stitch.
    NOTE: Again, you can use all purpose thread to match the ribbon or, our choice, invisible thread
  6. Fold the ribbon along the stitch line, which brings it down and over to the front of the pocket.
  7. Edgestitch the bottom of the ribbon strata in place.
  8. Place the pocket on one 8″ exterior circle. Pin in place. Trim away the excess ribbon strata to match the curved edge of the pocket circle.
  9. If need be, re-thread with all purpose thread to best match the fabric and machine baste the pocket in place within the ½” seam allowance; an approximate ⅜” seam allowance is good.
  10. Repeat to create the second pocket on the opposite end of the tote.

Create the main bag with its zipper

  1. Find the remaining piece of Ribbon Strata A (it should be a 20″ length), Ribbon Strata B, and the 14″ x 19″ exterior piece (which you fused above with the interfacing).
  2. Place the 14″ x 19″ piece right side up and flat on your work surface.
  3. Place Ribbon Strata A across the center of the 14″ x 19″ piece. It should extend ½” beyond the raw edge of the fabric on each end. Pin in place.
  4. Place Ribbon Strata B along the top edge of the 14″ x 19″ rectangle, ⅝” down from the raw edge. This strata should also extend ½” beyond the raw edge of the fabric on each end. Pin in place.
  5. Re-thread as necessary with thread to best match the ribbon or with a transparent thread and edgestitch both ribbon stratas in place along each outer edge of each strata.
  6. Change to a zipper foot. Re-thread as needed with all purpose thread to best match the fabric.
  7. Find the two 2½” x 14″ strips of exterior fabric (which you also fused above with the interfacing) and the purse zipper.
  8. Place the zipper face down along one edge of one of the fabric strips, aligning the edge of the zipper tape with the raw edge of the strip. The zipper has two sliders; to start, they should be closed – meeting in the center.
  9. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the zipper to the fabric.
  10. When you get towards the center of the zipper, stop and lock your stitch.
  11. Remove the pieces from under the needle and move the sliders out of the way.
  12. Replace the project under needle. Drop the needle at the exact point where you stopped. Secure your stitch, then continue the ½” seam to the end of the zipper.
  13. Repeat these steps to attach the opposite side of the zipper to the remaining 2½” x 14″ strip.
  14. Switch back to a regular presser foot.
  15. Press the strips away from the zipper, flip over the unit, and edgestitch both strips in place. You will again need to stop and move the zipper pulls out of the way.
  16. Find the main 14″ x 19″ panel (with the ribbon stratas stitched in place).
  17. Place the zipper unit right sides together with one 14″ side of the exterior panel. Pin in place.
  18. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch in place.
  19. Press the seam allowance toward the zipper unit.
  20. Flip the panel to the right side and edgestitch the seam allowance in place, stitching within the zipper unit.
  21. Stay stitch both long sides (the 19″ sides), running this stitching ½” from the raw edge along either side.

    NOTE: Stay stitching is a single line of stitching that simply helps stabilize the fabric to prevent stretching or distortion. In this project, it will also provide a seam line to follow later in the instructions. 
  22. Bring the remaining raw edge of the exterior panel right sides together with the remaining edge of the zipper unit. You now have a tube (the beginnings of your barrel!).
  23. As above, use a ½” seam allowance to stitch these layers in place.
  24. And, also as above, press the seam towards the zipper and edgestitch the seam allowance in place. You will need to twist and flatten the exterior tube to get it under the needle for this step.
  25. Clip the raw edges of the two open ends of the tube. Clip approximately every ½”, taking care to not cut through the stay stitching.

Strap tabs

  1. Find the 4″ x WOF exterior strip and the two D or rectangular rings.
  2. Fold the strip in half lengthwise, matching the long raw edges. Press.
  3. Open up the strip so the center crease is visible and fold in each long raw edge to meet the center line. Press.
  4. Fold the strip in half again along the original crease line. The folded edges will now be aligned and the finished strip should be 1″ wide.
  5. Edgestitch the layers together along the folded edges.
  6. From the finished strip, cut two 6″ lengths. Set aside the remaining length; it will be used for the strap.
  7. Slip each 6″ strip through one of the rings. Pull the end through approximately 2″ – so one end extends 1″ beyond the other as shown in the photo below. Pin in place.
  8. Fold that extra 1″ on each tab, enclosing the the upper end’s raw edge. Pin in place.
  9. Find the two circular end units (which now have pockets on them from the steps above).
  10. Place one tab on one end unit, centering it above the pocket. The bottom end of the tab should be approximately ½” above the top edge of the pocket. Stitch the tab in place with an X box stitch. If you are new to this securing stitch, check out our full step-by-step tutorial.
  11. Repeat to attach the remaining tab to the remaining end unit.
  12. Place a pin at the exact center top, exact center bottom and top side edge of end unit. Think of it like at clock, with pin points at 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00.
  13. On the main barrel unit, set similar pin points. The corresponding 12:00 point on the barrel unit will be the center of the zipper. Keeping the zipper in the exact center, flatten the barrel to find the opposite 6:00 point. Then, flatten the barrel in the opposite direction to find the 3:00 and 9:00 points. Place marking pins at all these points.
  14. Place the end unit right sides together with circular opening of the barrel, aligning all the pin points. Easing the fabric, fill in the rest of the circle with pins. If you have done garment sewing, this is very similar to putting in a sleeve.
  15. Stitch the layers together, following along the original line of stay stitching.
  16. Trim the seam allowance to ¼”.
    NOTE: If you are new to this technique, we have a full tutorial on setting a flat circle into a tube.
  17. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, add purse feet to the bottom of the purse. Mark the placement for each foot using the backing circle as a template. The marks should be 1″ in from the end unit seam, and ½” from the edge of that original extra center layer of interfacing.
    NOTE: The purse feet are optional.
  18. Turn the completed barrel right side out.

Create the handles and shoulder strap

  1. Find the 3″ x 22″ exterior strip.
  2. Fold the strip in half lengthwise, matching the long raw edges. Press.
  3. Open up the strip so the center crease is visible and fold in each edge to meet the center line. Press.
  4. Fold the strip in half again along the original crease line. The folded edges will now be aligned and the strip should now be ⅝” in width.
  5. Cut a 22″ length from the ⅝” ribbon.
  6. Center the ⅝” ribbon along the folded strip. Edgestitch in place along both sides. The edgestitching also secures the folded layers in place. As above, you can use all purpose thread to match the ribbon or switch to a transparent thread.
  7. From the completed strip, cut two 10″ lengths, centering the ribbon’s motif on each strip.
  8. Fold under each raw end of each strip ½”.
  9. The handles go on either side of the zipper, centered side to side within the zipper strip. You will need to open the zipper in order to be able to flatten the bag enough to slip it under the needle.
  10. Place each end of the handle 2¾” in from the end unit seam, which means the strip will bow up in the center. This is correct since it is a handle and you need to be able to grasp it at the center.
  11. Sew each end of each handle in place with an X box as you did above for the end tabs.
  12. Find the remaining length of strap you set aside after creating the end tabs.
  13. Cut the strap to the desired length plus 6″. We made our finished strap 39″ and so started with 45″.
  14. Attach a swivel clip to each end, using the same fold-through, reinforced-box technique as you used above for the end tabs.

Create the optional zippered pocket in the lining

  1. Find the 14″ x 22″ lining rectangle, the 9″ x 14″ lining rectangle, and the 7″ zipper.
  2. Place one 9″ edge of the pocket right sides together with one 14″ edge of the main lining, centering the pocket side to side and aligning the raw edges.
  3. With the fabric pen or pencil, draw a box 7″ x ½” narrow box. This narrow box should be centered side to side on the pocket and 2″ down from the upper edge.
  4. Stitch around the marked box, using a short stitch length (we used 1.80 mm).
  5. Cut through the center of the box, then clip into each corner.
  6. Turn the pocket right side out through the opening. Press flat.
  7. Place the opening over the zipper, centering the coil. Pin in place.
  8. Edgestitch in place around all four sides.
  9. Fold just the pocket layer in half, bringing the lower edge of the pocket up so it aligns with the upper edge. Pin the sides; do not pin through the lining layer, just pin the sides of the folded pocket.
  10. Move the lining layer out of the way, and using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the sides together.
  11. Machine baste the upper edge of the pocket within the ½” seam allowance.

Create and insert the lining

  1. As you did with the exterior 14″ x 22″ panel, stay stitch each 14″ side of the lining.
  2. Clip to, but not through, the line of stay stitching every ½” – again as you did with the exterior panel.
  3. Press under ½” along the each 22″ edge.
  4. Find the two 8″ lining circles.
  5. Following same method as you did for the exterior, pin the lining to the 8″ circles, leaving a ½” gap at what will be the top of the lining (the 12:00 point).
  6. When inserted into the bag, this gap will allow the lining to smoothly straddle the zipper.
  7. Sew the ends in place, following along in the original line of stay stitching.
  8. Trim the seam allowances to ¼”.
  9. With the completed lining still wrong side out, insert it into the exterior bag. Pin the lining in place along either side of the zipper.
  10. Hand sew the lining in place with a tiny slip stitch.
  11. Clip the strap in place to complete.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler

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