When Spring and Summer hit, we’re ready to jump into action. It’s the time of year my family calls, “biggin’ out.” Stormy days are good for puttering around with little projects, but these are the seasons for biggin’ out with makeovers, home and yard remodels, wardrobe updates, and décor freshening. If you’re tackling a sizable project, you need a terrific tote. This amazing Feed Sack Big Bag is here to help. We turned to the wonderful 1½” Belting and Hardware from our friends at Dritz to fashion a versatile carryall with room to spare. We took some inspiration from the heavy duty feed sack fabric of the early 1900s to create a look that’s nostalgically trendy and eye-catching but in a hardworking modern canvas substate.
Our thanks to the experts at the Buchanan County, Ohio Historical Society for this interesting backstory about feed sack material. In 1846, the invention of the stitching machine made it possible to sew double locking seams strong enough to hold the contents of a bag, allowing millers to move from barrels to feed sacks to package flour, sugar, meal, grain, salt, and animal feed. A farmer could bring back the empty sacks to the mill to be re-filled. The brand name of the mill was discretely printed on the side of the bag, and women quickly discovered these bags could be used as fabric for quilts and other needs. It took a while for feed and flour sack manufacturers to realize how popular these sacks had become, but eventually they saw a great opportunity for promoting their use. Feed sacks first began to be sold in colors, then, around 1925, colorful prints for making dresses, aprons, shirts, and children’s clothing started to appear. By the late 1930s, manufacturers began competing with one another to produce the most attractive and desirable prints, hiring artists to design the sacks. Some displayed lovely border prints for pillowcases, scenic prints were also popular, and there were even options with preprinted patterns for dolls, stuffed animals, appliqué, and quilt blocks. A 1942 estimate showed three million women and children of all income levels were wearing garments made from printed feed sacks.
Our striking feed sack fabric is a reproduction we found at Spoonflower Fabric, and we’ve included a direct link below in our supply list. As always, you are welcome to choose whatever type of large design you’d like as your focal point fabric, but we do recommend staying with a light to mid-weight cotton canvas or canvas/linen blend to give the bag the appropriate “heft.” A cutting guide is included below so you can follow our exact fussy cutting plan.
Bringing everything together is the Dritz Belting and Hardware in the 1½” width. This size is perfect for bag making. Traditionally, belting/webbing has been most commonly found in either 1” or 2” widths. 1” often seems too narrow, especially for a larger bag, but jumping all the way up to 2” can seem too big. 1½” is just perfect, plus this Dritz Belting has a look and feel very similar to a natural fiber, although it’s actually tough 100% polyester. One of our favorite things about the product is its variety. No more limitation to only white, natural, or black! Dritz 1½” Belting comes in 13 colors and 4 stripe combinations, and the Hardware options are available in both matte black and nickel.
Our Supply List below gives you the full compliment of hardware required: Swivel Hooks, Rectangle Rings, D-Rings, and Adjustable Slide Buckles. We also used Dritz Curtain Grommets to hold the handles. That’s right, plastic curtain grommets! They are large, sturdy, super easy to use, and available in a variety of colors. We selected a matte black that was a perfect match to the hardware.
There’s a unique hanging pocket in the lining with a full zipper. This gives you a handy place to store small items within such a big bag.
You’ll find a free downloadable pattern for the upper accent band where the Dritz Grommets are inserted. The soft curves of this band arc up and over the circular grommets, a lovely juxtaposition to the straight angles of the rest of the bag.
The panels of the exterior are layered wrong sides together with the lining panels, with fusible fleece between, then sewn together to produce visible interior seam allowances that are bound for a clean finish. This makes construction easier and produces very smooth sides on the inside of the bag. It also allowed us to add the pretty twin needle quilting that accents the side panels and base panel. Downloadable templates are included to get our perfect diamond pattern.
This tote is meant to be soft and slouchy so it can flex to hold whatever you need to carry. Because of this, we didn’t want the top to be too tightly structured; it should be able to open wide or cinch down, depending on the task. Our closure solution is a mini adjustable strap that loops from the back to the front and clips closed with a Swivel Hook and Rectangle Ring. It’s fussy cut from the feed sack fabric to feature the words, “ONE BUSHEL.”
Our Feed Sack Big Bag finishes at approximately 21” wide x 16” high x 6” deep with both handles and a fully adjustable shoulder strap.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
- Twin Needle for the side and base panel quilting
- Zipper foot
- Walking or Even Feed foot; optional for the thicker layers – or use your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the great AcuFeed™ Flex system we use on our Janome models
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1 yard of 54”+ wide light to mid-weight canvas for the main exterior panels, bottom accent lining panel, and front adjustable strap; we used a 54” linen/cotton canvas Feed Sack print from Spoonflower
NOTE: As mentioned above, the minimum yardage needed is approximately ⅝ yard, but precise fussy cutting and the specific print we selected required an entire yard to achieve the proper cuts. You can, as always, select your own fabric, but we do strongly recommend the wider 54”+ width and buying extra to best accommodate your feature motif.
- ¾ yard of 54”+ wide lightweight canvas or similar in a darker coordinating solid for the exterior side and base panels and the top accent band; we used 54” Multi-Purpose Décor Fabric in Indigo
- ¾ yard of 54”+ wide lightweight canvas or similar in a lighter coordinating solid for the lining, lining pocket, and lining seam binding; we used 54” Lightweight Décor Fabric in Natural
- 1 yard of 45”+ fusible fleece; we used Pellon Thermolam Plus
- ½ yard of 45”+ mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Decor Bond
- ONE 9” polyester zipper in a color to match the hanging pocket (lining pocket)
- 4 yards (two packages) of 1½” Dritz Belting/Strapping; we used Charcoal
- ONE 1½” Dritz Rectangle Ring; we used Black
- TWO 1½” Dritz D-Rings; we used Black
- THREE 1½” Dritz Swivel Hooks; we used Black
- TWO 1½” Dritz Adjustable Slide Buckles; we used Black
- FOUR 1-9/16” Dritz Home Curtain Grommets; we used Matte Black
- Dritz Fray Check seam sealant for the cut ends of the belting and the grommet holes
NOTE: You’ll notice Dritz Double Cap Rivets and Tools in our ingredients photo above. This is an option for securing the side panel “mini tucks” that help hold in the top opening of this large bag. We machine-stitched ours, but rivets could be used as an alternative.
- All-purpose thread to match fabric and belting – choose one color as the contrasting color with which you’ll do all the topstitching; we chose natural
- See-through ruler
- Measuring tape
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- Download and print out the FOUR pattern pieces that make up the top accent band and the FIVE pieces that make up the side panel and base panel quilting templates. These NINE pages have been bundled into one PDF to make the download easier.
IMPORTANT: Each of the pages within this PDF is ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on each page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
- Following the arrows on the pattern pieces, butt together (do not overlap) Grommet Top parts A, B, and C to create the full Top pattern. The Top sides are a separate pattern piece. We provided two copies of the side pattern so you could place/pin/cut both pairs at the same time.
- Following the arrows on the pattern pieces, butt together (do not overlap) Base Panel Quilt Guide parts A, B, and C to create the full base panel template.
- Following the arrows on the pattern pieces, butt together (do not overlap) Side Panel Quilt Guide parts 1 and 2 to create the full side base panel template.
- Cut the Dritz Belting into the following lengths:
TWO 36” lengths for the handles
ONE 62” length for the adjustable strap
- From the exterior fabric, fussy cut the following:
TWO 22” wide x 15” high rectangles for the exterior front and back panels
ONE 22” wide x 7” high rectangle for the exterior base
TWO 2” x 13” strips for the top adjustable closure strap
ONE 4” x 2½” strip for the front rectangle ring (we simply cut from a plain area remaining on our feed sack fabric)
NOTE: Below is a cutting diagram showing our fussy cut plan.
- From the darker accent fabric, cut the following:
TWO 7” wide x 15” high rectangles for the exterior side panels
ONE 22” wide x 7” high rectangle for the exterior base
From the assembled Grommet Top pattern, cut FOUR
From the Grommet Side pattern, cut FOUR
ONE 4” x 5” strip for the D-Ring loops
- From the lighter lining fabric, cut the following:
TWO 22” wide x 15” high rectangles for the lining front and back panels
TWO 7” wide x 15” high rectangles for the lining side panels
ONE 11” wide x 17” high rectangle for the hanging pocket
FOUR 2” x 15” strips for the side seam allowance binding
ONE 2” x 60” strip for the base panel seam allowance binding; cut these strips from the remaining fabric, keeping the lengths as long as possible in order to seam together to equal the final required 60
- From fusible fleece, cut the following:
TWO 21” x 13¾” rectangles for the front and back panels
TWO 6” x 13¾” rectangles for the side panels
ONE 21” x 6” rectangle for the base panel
- From fusible interfacing, cut the following:
ONE 10” x 8” rectangle for the hanging pocket
ONE 1½” x 12” strip for the top adjustable closure strap
ONE 2” x 5” strip for the side D-Ring loops
ONE 2” x 2½” strip for the front Rectangle Ring loop
From the assembled Grommet Top Pattern, cut TWO – cutting on the stitching line
From the Grommet Side Pattern, cut TWO – cutting on the stitching line
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Sandwich and quilt front, back, sides, and base
- Each of the main sections is made up of a three layer sandwich (lining/batting/exterior) that is then quilted. Gather the three pieces for each section: front, back, both sides, and the base. The fleece should first be fused to each exterior piece, then layer the exterior and lining pieces wrong sides together.
- On the base panel, the fusible fleece should be centered on the fabric panel so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the fleece on all sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- On the main panels and the side panels, the fusible fleece should be centered so there is ½” showing along either side and across the bottom and ¾” showing along the top. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Pin together each of the layered sections. You want the layers to be nice and flat against one another so there will be no puckering in your quilting. Pin as necessary along the edge and through the center to achieve this.
- Start with the side and base panels. Find the assembled templates. Trim the templates along the dotted line. Center the template on the layered panel – remember, there is one template for the sides and one for the base. With the template centered, trace the ends of the diamond pattern stitching lines onto the fabric along each edge.
- Remove the template and connect the drawn lines to create the full set of intersecting diagonal lines to follow.
NOTE: Any time you are working on the right side of your fabric, remember to choose a fabric tool whose marks can be easily removed or that will vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
- Thread the machine, top and bobbin, with the contrasting thread you’ve chosen for all your topstitching. We used natural. Insert a twin needle. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Stitch along the drawn lines through all the layers. Repeat to quilt both side panel sandwiches and the base panel layered sandwich.
- For the front and back main exterior panels, the quilting is much simpler and the exact position will depend on the motif of your chosen fabric. You need only two or three horizontal lines across each of the panels to sufficiently hold the layers. We chose to run two horizontal lines across our motif: one running above and one running below the main words “SEED CORN” and following the lines within the design. We switched back to a single needle but kept the slightly lengthened stitch.
Create the hanging pocket for the lining
- Find the 11” x 17” rectangle of lining fabric, the 10” x 8” panel of fusible interfacing, and the 9” zipper.
- Place the interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric so it is ½” down from the top raw edge of the fabric and centered side to side. It will, of course, only extend half way toward the bottom of the fabric panel. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Measure 3″ down from the top raw edge and cut across horizontally, dividing the panel into two sections. The zipper will go between the two sections.
- Place the smaller top section right sides together with the top edge of the zipper tape. Pin in place.
- Make sure the machine is threaded with thread to match the fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch across. You can use a Zipper foot if you have trouble getting in close enough. We used our AcuFeed™ Flex foot with the needle set all the way to the left.
- Press the fabric up and away from the zipper. Edgestitch along the zipper through all the layers.
- Repeat to stitch the top edge of the larger bottom section to the bottom edge of the zipper tape.
- And, repeat the edgestitching.
NOTE: As always, when working with zipper insertion, you’ll need to start with the zipper about half way open. Stitch up to the zipper pull, then stop – with the needle in the down position – raise the presser foot and gently twist the fabric to access the pull. Move the pull out of the way of the foot. Straighten the fabric, drop the presser foot, and continue stitching to the end of the seam.
- Fold up the bottom raw edge of the pocket panel to align with the top raw edge, sandwiching the zipper between the layers. Pin along both sides.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the sides, being careful as you pass the zipper stops at either end.
- Trim the seam allowances back to just under ¼”.
- Turn the pocket right side out through the open top and press. Use a long, blunt tool to gently push out the bottom corners so they are nice and square. A chopstick, knitting needle or point turner works well for this.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, topstitch along each side. This will enclose the unfinished edges of the pocket so there are no exposed edges inside the pocket. A bit like a French seam, but in reverse.
- Set aside the pocket.
Create the binding for the inner seam allowances
- Find the four 2” x 15” strips for the side seam allowance binding as well as the multiple strips cut to create the 2” x 60” strip needed for the base panel seam allowance binding.
- Seam together the base panel strips to create your finished 60” length.
- For all five strips, fold in half and press to set a center crease line. Unfold wrong side up so the crease line is visible. Fold in each side to the center line. Press well. You should end up with three folds.
- Re-fold along all the folds and press well once again to form the finished binding strips.
- Set aside the strips.
Stitch the front and back panels to the sides and insert the base
- Collect all the panels that make up the main body of the bag – all of which should be layered and quilted: front, back, sides, and base. Pin the sides to the front and back.
- Stitch each of these four seams with a ½” seam allowance to create a tube open at the top and bottom.
- Find the base panel. On each side, find the center point and mark this point with a pin.
- Then, mark ½” from each corner, or in other words, at the corner of the fusible fleece.
- Find the exterior tube. Gently turn it wrong side out.
- Mark the center points of the bottom raw-edged opening of the tube in the same manner, finding the center points of the front, back, and both side sections.
- Place one side of the base panel right sides together with one side of the tube, aligning the center pin points. We like to start with one short side. It’s a little like you’re setting a lid upside down into the opening of a box. Pin in place, starting and stopping at the ½”-in-from-the-corner points.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the lining in the top and bobbin.The stitch length should be normal.
- Using the outer pin point as your guide, start your seam ½” in and stitch across to the opposite outer pin. You are using a ½” seam allowance.
- Remove the project from under the needle.
- In order to create the flattest base possible, clip into each corner. Snip into the corner at a diagonal at a depth of about ⅜“. You are clipping right up to but not through your stitching line.
- There are more layers that usual at the corners of this bag. We recommend further grading the layers to reduce bulk.
- Re-set and re-pin in the same manner to stitch the remaining three sides of the base panel, stitching one side at a time, starting and stopping ½” in at the marked corners.
NOTE: If you are brand new to inserting a flat base panel, we have a full step-by-step tutorial you can review prior to starting this project: How to Insert a Rectangular Base into a Tube.
Bind the inner seam allowances and place the lining pocket
- Find all five lengths of binding created above.
- Start with the 15” lengths for the four side seam allowances.
- Open up the binding and simply slip it over the seam allowance to conceal the raw edges. Pin in place. You are just wrapping the seam allowance.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the binding in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Edgestitch along the inner fold of the binding through all the layers. Go slowly and carefully to insure you are catching both sides of the binding in this one seam. Remember, you are just stitching the binding around the seam allowance; you should not be stitching onto the main panels at all. If your machine has the ability to adjust the needle position, you can use that feature to move your needle to the left to allow you to get as close as possible to the seam line.
- Continue until all four side seams are stitched and bound.
- Repeat to bind the base panel seam allowance with the 60” length of binding. For this seam allowance, you will be working around the bulk of the side seam binding at each corner so you’ll need to fold and wrap accordingly. And, as you did when inserting the base panel itself, it’s best to stitch each side independently rather than trying to pivot at the bulk of the corner.
- It’s a wrap-and-fold that will be slightly open at the very point of the corner, but the folds will hold and the finished corners are deep inside the bag where they will not be seen. Don’t stress out about perfection here – just do the best you can.
- To finish, tuck under the raw end…
- … and overlap.
- Turn the bag right side out. Find the center point along the top raw edge of the back of the bag.
- Find the hanging pocket. Find the center along the top raw edge of the pocket. Align the center of the pocket with the center of the main back panel. Pin the pocket in place.
- Machine baste the pocket in place.
NOTE: We opted to zig zag the pocket in place along the top raw edge, and then continued this zig zag stitch around the entire top raw edge of the bag. This helped hold all the layers together throughout the remainder of construction and kept fraying to a minimum.
Create and place the top adjustable closure
- Find the two 2” x 13” strips (our strips were fussy cut to center the words ONE BUSHEL) and the 1½” x 12” interfacing strip. Also collect one Dritz Swivel Hook and one Dritz Adjustable Slide Buckle.
- Place the interfacing on the wrong side of one of the fabric panels, centering it so there is ¼” of fabric showing to either side and ½” of fabric showing top and bottom.
- Pin along both long sides. Using a ¼” seam allowance, stitch both sides.
- Turn right side out through an open end and press flat. Edgestitch along both sides.
NOTE: The adjustable components are attached in the same manner as for any adjustable strap – this one just happens to be a very short strap. The steps are summarized below; if you are brand new to the process, you can check out our full tutorial on How to Make an Adjustable Strap.
- Slip one raw end through the center of the Adjustable Slide Buckle, pulling it back on itself approximately ½”.
- Stitch this raw end in place. We opted for a zig zag stitch to minimize fraying, and since our bag has a casual feel we weren’t concerned with the zig zag showing. You could also turn under this raw end about ¼” and use a straight stitch to secure.
- Feed the opposite raw end through the Swivel Hook.
- Bring this raw end up and over the center bar of the Adjustable Slide Buckle – on top of the original layer.
- Pull the raw end through. For this application, the end remains raw and is secured in the top seam.
- Find the bag. Place the finished strap right side facing out against the right side at the back of the back. You just pinned and stitched the hanging pocket on the lining side of this back panel and are now pinning the strap on the exterior side.
- Machine baste in place to secure.
Create the loops for the front Rectangle Ring and the side D-Rings
- Both of these small tabs are created in the same manner.
- Find the 4” x 5” strip for the side D-Rings, the 2” x 5” strip of interfacing, and the two D-Rings. Center the interfacing on one half of the fabric, and following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Fold in half and pin together.
- Stitch with a ½” seam allowance.
- Turn right side out, and press flat. Edgestitch along each edge. We used the contrasting thread in order to match all the other topstitching.
- Cut the strip in half and slip one half through each of the two D-Rings.
- Find the 4” x 2½” strip for the front Rectangle Ring, the 2” x 2½” strip of interfacing, and the one Rectangle Ring. Center the interfacing on one half of the fabric, and following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Fold in half and pin together.
- Stitch with a ½” seam allowance, turn right side out, and press flat. Edgestitch along each edge. Slip through the Rectangle Ring.
- Pin the raw ends of the D-Ring tabs in place and set aside.
- Pin the raw ends of the Rectangle Ring tab together and place against the exterior front panel at the exact center. Machine baste in place.
Create the top accent grommet panel and attach it to the bag
- Find all the elements of the top grommet panel along with their matching interfacing pieces.
- Center an interfacing panel on the wrong sides of one set of top pieces. This set will be the “facing set.” The interfacing should be centered so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Assemble this interfaced set into a ring, pinning the side panels between the front and back panels.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both short side seams. Press open both seam allowances.
- Find the second set of top pieces, which are not interfaced. This set will be the “exterior set.” Fold up the bottom raw edge on each piece ½”. Press well.
- Stitch these pieces into a loop as you did with the other set, but remember to unfold that ½” hem so you stitch the full side seam top to bottom. Re-fold and re-press when the seaming is done and press open the seam allowances.
- Pin the two accent loops right sides together. Be especially careful to perfectly align the upper curves.
- Also be careful to align the side seams.
- Find the two D-Ring tabs. Insert one between the layers at each side seam.
- Be careful about your placement; these are not simply centered over the side seams as you might traditionally do. Because of the size of the bag, it’s best if the loops are slightly off-set to distribute the weight evenly. Place one tab in line with and to the front of the side seam and the opposite tab in line with and to the back of the opposite side seam.
- Stitch together all around, using a ½” seam allowance.
- Grade the seam allowance back to ¼”, using pinking shears if possible. This pinking creates a very smooth curve. Turn right side out, smoothing that curve with a long, blunt tool, and press well. Re-press that bottom ½” hem on the exterior as needed.
- Find the main bag. Turn it wrong side out.
- Open up the accent band and place just the raw edge of the facing (the non-folded, interfaced side) right sides together with the top raw edge of the lining – right side of the accent band is against the right side of the lining.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the band in place all around. We recommend stopping and backstitching across the side tabs for extra security. Press the seam allowance up.
- Turn the bag right side out.
- Bring the accent band up and over to the exterior of the bag. The bottom folded edge should now just cover the seam line you just made. Take the time to measure the width of the band at several points to insure the accent band reveal is even all around. Pin in place.
- Re-thread the machine if necessary with the contrasting topstitching thread in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch. Stitch all the way around staying close to the bottom fold. Go slowly and carefully, keeping your stitch line straight and making sure you are catching both the front and back evenly in this one seam.
- Make sure the side D-Ring loops are pulled up and out into position.
- Re-set the presser foot to edgestitch around the top of the bag in the same manner. For the best look, start and stop your stitching at a side seam.
Create the upper grommets and attach the handles
- Find the four Dritz Curtain Grommets and the two 36” lengths of Dritz Belting.
- Using the original paper pattern as a guide, draw in the circle placement for each grommet – two on the front, two on the back, each centered in a curve of the top accent band.
- Stitch around the drawn circle, using a zig zag.
- Repeat for each of the four positions.
- With small, sharp scissors, cut out each circle, staying just inside the stitching.
- Pop apart the Dritz Grommet. Insert the back piece into place from back to front.
- Snap the front onto the back.
NOTE: It really is just that simple to insert these kind of large Dritz Curtain Grommets, but if you are brand new, you can check out our full step-by-step tutorial on the process prior to starting.
- Find the 36” lengths of Dritz Belting. Slip the raw end through the grommet, pull it through so it about 3”, and pin in place.
- This raw end is behind and against itself. The raw end should be facing the inside of the bag.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the Belting in the top and bobbin. Set for a zig zag stitch.
- Stitch across through both layers to secure. This line of stitching should be about ¼” from the raw end.
- Run a line of seam sealant along the cut end of the Belting.
- Repeat to attach each end of the handle through a grommet. Make sure there are no twists or turns in your handle loop prior to securing.
Optional side tucks
- As mentioned above, because of the size of the top opening, we suggest adding a mini tuck at the center of each side panel to help the bag naturally want to fold inward, similar to how a paper bag folds at the sides.
- To do this, find the exact center along the top of each side panel and pinch about ½”. Take care to keep the top edgestitching aligned. Pin and/or clip in place.
- Make a ¾” seam through all layers to secure the mini tuck. You are simply stitching straight down from the top of the bag ¾”. Lock the seam at both ends.
- If you have trouble sewing bulky layers, you could use Dritz Double Cap Rivets to secure this tuck.
- The adjustable strap is made in the same manner as the top adjustable closure strap above. The only difference is there is a Swivel Hook at each end, which is, of course, the traditional strap method. You’ll need the 62” length of Dritz Belting, the remaining two Swivel Hooks, and the remaining Adjustable Slide Buckle.
- Follow the same process as above, or as mentioned, take a look at our full Adjustable Strap tutorial prior to starting.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild