There is fine, and then there is Aurifil fine! Aurifil’s 80wt super fine is a 100% cotton wonder. We were thrilled to be able to experiment with this lovely thread, putting it through its paces outside of the world of quilting. Our stunning Lion’s Head Handbag Tote features a detailed machine embroidery design in the style of the popular adult coloring book illustrations.
With the super fine Aurifil 80wt, the complexity of the stitches possible in a small area is astounding. Our Lion’s Head finishes at approximately 4¾” wide x 5½” high with 28,625 stitches. The precision and detail is incredible!
We stitched the design on the front pocket of our handsome mini tote that would be great as an everyday handbag. We kept the selected fabrics in coordinating neutrals to focus all the attention on the embroidery. Even with just three colors, the detail in our Lion’s face and mane is impressive.
Because Aurifil 80wt is 100% cotton, it has a beautiful matte finish. Developed as an alternative to silk, we found the 80wt to be much stronger and virtually lint free – even with the high concentration of stitches.
Our bag features some cool accents specifically chosen to blend with the Lion’s Head design. We used real leather straps for the handles, riveting them in place.
These same rivets, in an antique copper finish, also hold the stylish pleat in place along each side. If you’re new to working with rivets, don’t shy away. They’re actually easy to install and a great solution for all types of thick joints where sewing machines just can’t maneuver. Of course, we offer a link below to our full, step-by-step riveting tutorial if you’re new to the technique.
We recommend staying at a maximum embroidery speed of 600 stitches per minute for our Lion’s Head design. This is a common speed for most embroidery models, and the slightly slower pace insures the most even coverage.
Our samples were made on the top-of-the-line Janome Memory Craft 15000 sewing and embroidery model, but we did also do test stitch-outs on both a lower-end Brother embroidery machine and a Bernina embroidery machine with lovely results.
Our thanks again to Aurifil for underwriting the free embroidery downloads. Use the links below to go to our special Download Page to retrieve our custom Lion’s Head design in any of six major embroidery formats (ART, EXP, JEF, PES, VIP and VP3).
Sewing Tools You Need
- Embroidery/Sewing machine (or an embroidery-only machine in combination with your sewing machine)
- For the construction steps, we suggest engaging your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system (we used the AucuFeed™ Flex Fabric Feeding System on our Janome MC15000) or use a Walking or Even Feed foot to handle the thicker layers.
- We used a No. 12 Universal Needle for embroidery and a No. 14 Universal for construction with the heavy twill fabric
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ⅝ yard of 44”+ wide mid-weight cotton twill or similar in a solid light color for the exterior; we originally used Ventana Twill by Robert Kaufman in Sand Beige
- ½ yard of 44”+ wide mid-weight cotton twill or similar in a solid dark color for the exterior; we originally used Ventana Twill by Robert Kaufman in Brown
- ⅜ yard of 44”+ wide quilting weight cotton in a coordinating print for the lining; we originally used Weave in Brown from the Wild by Nature collection by Maywood Studio
- 1 yard of 20″+ wide mid-weight interfacing; we used 45″ Pellon Décor Bond
- ¼ yard of 20″+ wide lightweight interfacing; we used 20″ Pellon Shape Flex
- Tear-away stabilizer as recommended for your embroidery machine
- Aurifil 80wt thread for the embroidery – we used:
- We also recommend Aurifil 80wt thread in the bobbin for the machine embroidery; wind a bobbin to match each of the three main colors (beige, brown and black)
- Aurifil 50wt thread is recommended for the construction; we used Ecru 2310
- TWELVE apx. ¼” rivets; we used small, double cap Rapid Rivets in antique copper from Tandy Leather
- 50” of ½” leather strapping or similar for the handles; we used ½” cowhide straps from Tandy Leather
- ONE magnetic snap; optional – we used antique brass
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
Getting Started and Embroidery Download
- From the light colored twill, cut the following:
ONE 12” x 12” square for the exterior pocket; this is over-size and will be trimmed after the embroidery is complete
ONE 13” wide x 12” high rectangle for the interior pocket
TWO 7½” wide x 10½” high rectangles for the center panels
TWO 7½” x 4” strips for the top band
- From the dark colored twill, cut the following:
FOUR 5” wide x 10½” high rectangles for the side panels
TWO 9” x 4” strips for the top band
ONE 12½” wide x 4” high rectangle to the base panel
- From the lining fabric, cut the following:
ONE 7½” wide x 9” high rectangle or the exterior pocket lining
TWO 15½” wide x 10½” high rectangles for the main front and back lining panels
ONE 12½” wide x 4” high rectangle for the lining base panel
- From the mid-weight interfacing, cut the following:
ONE 12½” x 4” rectangle to the base panel
FOUR 5” x 10½” rectangles for the side panels
TWO 7½” x 10½” rectangles for the center panels
TWO 7½” x 4” strips for the top band
TWO 9” x 4” strips also for the top band
- From the lightweight interfacing, cut ONE 7½” x 9” rectangle for the exterior pocket lining.
- Download the Lion’s Head embroidery design in the appropriate format for your machine. Save the design to a memory stick. You should also print the PDF file with the design cross hairs for placement.
- Our Download Page also contains all the Color Chart information with the color change steps. This information has been repeated below as well.
- Wind a bobbin in each of the three specified colors of Aurifil 80wt for the machine embroidery: Beige 2312, Brown 2372, and Black 1130.
NOTE: Often, one color (usually black or white) is used in the bobbin for an entire embroidery design. We are recommending changing the bobbin thread to a matching color for each step in this design. The stitching in this design is so precise and tight that even a tiny bit of bobbin show-through would be noticeable if not in a matching color. It’s worth it to take the extra time to change thread for the best possible finish.
- Set up your machine for embroidery.
- For the Lion’s Head design, the first color used is Aurifil 80wt Brown 2372. Find and insert the Brown 2372 bobbin.
- Hoop a piece of tear-away stabilizer and attach the hoop to the machine.
- Center the 12″ square of fabric over the hoop. Secure in place with pins or use the baste function on your machine to secure the fabric to the stabilizer. We love that our Janome Memory Craft 15000 has a baste function; it makes the layering easier and keeps things much flatter.
- Embroider the first color, which is the lion’s mane.
- Remove the hoop from the machine and change the bobbin to the second color, Aurifil 80wt Beige 2312.
- Replace the hoop and embroider the second color, the lion’s face and ears.
- When the second color is complete, remove the hoop and replace the bobbin with the third and final color, Aurifil 80wt Black 1130.
- Embroider the outline and details to complete your embroidery. This is a wonderful embroidery design to watch come into being… it’s mesmerizing with the tiny, precision stitching.
- Remove the hoop from the machine and the fabric from the hoop. Tear away the excess stabilizer and press from the wrong side.
- Trim the original 12” x 12” square down to its finished size of 7½” x 9”. To do this, first measure 2” up from the top of the embroidery and trim across horizontally to create the top edge.
- From this new cut edge, measure down 9” and trim across horizontally to create the bottom edge.
- Place your ruler vertically along the exact center of the embroidery. Slide the ruler and embroidery along your cutting line so the ruler aligns with a vertical grid line on the mat.
- Measure 3¾” to the right of the center line and trim vertically to create the right edge of the pocket. Then measure 3¾” to the left of the center line and trim vertically to create the left edge of the pocket.
- With your pocket now exactly 7½” wide x 9” high, gather up all your cut pieces and re-set your machine for sewing.
Below is a Color Chart summary
LION HEAD – 28625 Stitches, 118 mm x 139 mm
- Brown 2372 Mane
- Beige 2312 Lion’s face and ears.
- Black 1130 Outline and decorative stitches
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Find the appropriate piece of mid-weight interfacing for each of the exterior center panels, exterior side panels, exterior top band sections, and the exterior base panel.
- Place the interfacing against the wrong side of each exterior panel and, following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Repeat to fuse the lightweight interfacing the wrong side of the exterior pocket lining panel.
Finish the exterior pocket
- Place the pocket panel lining and the embroidered pocket panel right sides together. Our embroidery is so precise, it’s hard to see in the photo below that we have the wrong side of the design facing up, but it really is – your exterior and lining should be right sides together. Pin along the top only.
- Thread the machine with Aurifil 50wt Ecru 2310 in the top and bobbin. If you have a sewing/embroidery machine, you should have already switched your settings from embroidery to regular sewing.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across the top edge only.
- Press flat, pressing the seam allowance up toward the lining.
- Fold the lining back down into position, so the exterior and the lining are now wrong sides together with the seam across the very top edge.
- Topstitch across the top of the pocket ⅜” from the folded edge.
- Then edgestitch across, staying as close to the folded edge as possible.
NOTE: For all our topstitching and edgestitching, we used a lengthened stitch for the nicest look. If you choose to lengthen your stitch, just remember to re-set the stitch length to normal for your construction sewing, and then re-set again as needed when you switch to topstitching and/or edgestitching.
Assemble the front and back panels
- Find one of the 7½” x 10½” center panels. Place it right side up on your work surface. Place the pocket, also right side up, over the center panel, aligning the raw side edges and the raw bottom edges. Pin in place.
- Find two of the four 5” x 10½” side panels. Pin one panel to either side of the center pocket panel.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch each vertical seam. Press the seam allowance towards the side panel.
- Along both vertical seams, topstitch ⅛” from the seam within the side panel and then stitch again ⅜” from the first line of stitching.
- Repeat to create a matching back panel, but without the pocket steps.
- Pin the completed front and back panels right sides together.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the two side seams.
- Press open both seam allowances.
Insert the base panel
- Find the fused exterior base panel.
- Find the exact center of each 4″ side of the base panel and place a pin at this point.
- Find the exterior tube (the body of the bag). Turn it wrong side out.
- Starting on one side, pin the base panel right sides together with the body of the bag. Align that center pin point of the base panel with the side seam of the body of the bag. Pin in place.
- Starting ½” in from the corner of the base panel, and using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along this first short side. Stop the seam ½” from the opposite corner. In other words, your seam is starting and stopping ½” in from the edge of the base panel.
- Remove the project from the machine. Turn the corner and pin along the next side of the bag. To help make the turn, clip the bag at the corners. You are clipping into the corner at a diagonal at a depth of about ⅜”. This frees up the seam allowance so you can stitch each side of the bag independently.
- Stitch along each side of the base panel in the same manner, using a ½” seam allowance, starting and stopping ½” from each corner, and carefully clipping into each corner to make the turn.
- Trim the base panel corners at a diagonal and turn the exterior body of the bag right side out.
NOTE: The steps for inserting the base panel are summarized here. If you are brand new to this technique, take a look at our full tutorial prior to starting the project: How to Insert a Rectangular Base into a Tube.
Create the lining
- Find the 13” x 12” interior pocket panel. Fold the panel in half lengthwise so it is now 6½” x 12”. Pin along the side and across the bottom.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along the side and across the bottom, pivoting at the corner. Trim the corner.
- Turn right side out through the open end and press flat.
- Edgestitch along the bottom seamed edge.
- Fold up this bottom edge to create a 5” deep pocket.
- Edgestitch along both sides.
- Find one of the 15½” x 10½” lining panels. Place it right side up on your work surface.
- Center the pocket, also right side up (pocket side up), along the top raw edge (the top 14” edge) and pin in place along the top only. The pocket is designed to hang free inside the tote.
- Baste the top edge of the pocket in place
- Place the two main lining panels right sides together, sandwiching the pocket between the layers. Pin along each side.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch each side seam.
- Insert the lining base panel in the same manner as the exterior base panel.
NOTE: Remember, if you’re new to this technique, we have a great step-by-step tutorial: How to Insert a Rectangular Base into a Tube.
- Keep the completed lining wrong side out.
- Find the exterior bag. It should be right side out.
- Place the lining into the bag so the two layers are now wrong sides together. The interior pocket should be at the back of the tote.
- Align the side seams and push the lining all the way down into the bag so the base panels are flat against one another.
Create and attach the top band
- Find the four top band 4” strips.
- Stitch them together end-to-end, alternating colors, to form a loop. Press open all four seam allowances.
- Within the darker sections, create two lines of topstitching to match the topstitching on the body of the bag: ⅛” from the seam and then ⅜” from the first line of stitching.
- Press back one edge of the loop ½” all around.
- Place the band inside the bag so the right side of the band is against the right side of the lining. The folded edge is facing down toward the bottom and the upper raw edge of the band is aligned with the upper raw edges of the bag. Match the seams of the band with the seams/colors of the exterior bag and pin in place all around.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch around the top of the bag.
- Press the seam allowance up toward the band.
- Fold the band into place against the right side of the exterior of the bag. The folded edge of the band should just cover the upper seam. Press in place.
- Before stitching in place, you can insert a magnetic snap. This is optional, but is a nice finish for the top of the bag.
- Un-fold the top band and insert each half of the magnetic snap, from back to front, through the inner portion of the band. When folded back into place, the snap with be centered at the front and back along the top band of the bag.
NOTE: If you are new to magnetic snaps, Sew4Home to the rescue. We have a full tutorial you can review.
- Flip the bag to the right side and stitch two lines of topstitching around the entire top of the bag to secure the band in place. One line of stitching should be along the bottom fold and a second along the very top folded edge.
- When stitching over the extra bulk of each center panel seam, it can help to insert a hump jumper (standard with most Janome machines) under the back of the presser foot to level the foot and make it easier to stitch up and over the seams. If you don’t have a hump jumper, you can use a folded piece of fabric.
- We also recommend switching to a Zipper foot for these final seams to make it easier to stitch past the magnetic snap if you chose to insert one. Our Janome MC15000’s AcuFeed™ Flex system has a narrow foot option that is perfect for this!
Attach the handles and rivets to finish
- Cut two 25” lengths from the leather strap for the handles.
- The ends of each handle loop sit ½” in from the center panel seams. This should give your loop a 5” span (on center). A 25” strap yields a 9½” – 10” drop. If you’d like a longer or shorter strap, cut your lengths accordingly.
- Rivet each end of the handle in place with two rivets. The first rivet is placed ½” from the raw end. The second rivet is approximately ½” up from the first. We are measuring from the center of the rivet in both instances.
- The finishing touch is to make a 1” inside tuck at each side seam. Secure the tuck with one or two rivets. We used two.
NOTE: New to inserting rivets? Check out our tutorial for an easy step-by-step.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Lion Head Design and Digitizing and Sample Creation: Michele Mishler