When Vera Bradley's quilted bags hit the fashion spotlight, suddenly the style was all the rage. But those of us in sewing and craft have been quilting bags for years. We already knew it was beautiful and practical. It's still beautiful, still practical, and now it's also very trendy. Our basket-weave tote (so named because of the pretty diagonal quilting) mixes a quilted top with a plain base. We added sleek piping accents, a striking antler toggle button as a closure, and pretty over-the-shoulder straps. Fashion forward and uniquely you!
What's fun about a big bag like this is you have the real estate to mix and match several prints, including bolder motifs. We originally used three prints from the Nature's Palette collection by Marjolein Bastin for FreeSpirit Fabrics, an older collection that is no longer readily available. As an alternative to the two royal blue prints we used for the exterior and the playful word collage print for the lining, we found the following combinations from this season's newest fabrics at Fat Quarter Shop. Click on any swatch to see more.
The straps are made of soft cotton webbing, which we faced with the same print as the base fabric. Mixing large and small motifs as well as textures is a great way to balance your look and bring in variety. To read more about design and blending, check out our tutorial on the Top 10 Designer Tips for Blending Colors and Prints.
The tote finishes at approximately 10" high by 15" wide with a 5" base and sides. It opens wide and the closure is adjustable so you can fill it with all kinds of stuff.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
- Zipper foot
- Walking foot with Quilting Guide Bar; optional, but helpful for the diagonal quilting lines
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ⅜ yard of 44-45" wide cotton fabric for the bag's top exterior and facing
- ⅜ yard of 44-45" wide cotton fabric for the bag's bottom exterior, strap accents, and ties
- ¾ yard of 44-45" wide cotton fabric for the bag's lining
- 1 yard of 45" wide medium weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor Bond
- ¼ yard 45" wide low loft batting
- 2 yards of 1½" soft cotton webbing; we used natural
- ONE 2" horizontal button or toggle; we used a 2" antler toggle, purchased locally
- 2 yards of narrow piping; we used one package of Wright's Maxi piping in Oyster
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- Slightly contrasting thread for quilting lines; we used lavender
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Tape measure
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
- Seam sealant, optional for the ends of the ties
- From the fabric for bag's top exterior and facing (Blue Bouquet in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 7½" high x 21" wide rectangles for the top panels
TWO 2½" x 21" strips for the facing
- From the fabric for the bag's bottom exterior, strap accents, and ties (Purple Caning in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 7" high x 21" wide rectangles for the bottom panels
TWO 1½" x 36" strips for the straps
TWO 1" x 13" strips for the ties
- From the fabric for bag's lining (Cream Words in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 12" high x 21" wide rectangles
TWO 11" high x 9" wide rectangles for the pockets
- From the interfacing, cut the following:
TWO 7" x 21" rectangles
TWO 1" x 36" strips
TWO 11" x 9" rectangles
- From the batting, cut TWO 7½" x 21" rectangles.
- Cut the webbing into TWO 36" lengths.
- Cut the piping into TWO 21" lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the 7" x 21" interfacing pieces to the wrong side of the two 7" x 21" base panels.
- In the same manner, fuse the 11" x 9" interfacing pieces to the wrong side of the two 11" x 9" pocket rectangles.
- Set aside all the fused pieces.
Quilting the top panels
- Pin a piece of batting to the wrong side of each 7½" x 21" top panel.
- Using your see-through ruler, draw a 45˚ diagonal line across the middle of the panel. We used the grid lines on our cutting mat as an additional angle guide. Draw parallel 45˚ lines up from this center line at 1" intervals until you reach the outer edge. Return to the center and draw parallel 45˚ lines down from the center line at 1" intervals.
NOTE: We used 1" intervals because this width matched the caning motif on the bottom panel. You can adjust your width wider or narrower to your liking.
- Thread your machine with the slightly contrasting thread in the top (we used lavender). Lengthen your stitch, and if possible, attach a Walking foot or engage your machine's built-in fabric feeding system, such as the AcuFeed™ Flex system that we use on many of our Janome studio machine. For extra accuracy, you could also attach a quilt guide bar to insure your diagonal quilting lines are precisely spaced.
- Quilt along each drawn line.
- When done, repeat these steps, except draw your lines in the opposite direction so the two sets of quilting lines intersect to form the basket weave pattern.
- Set the quilted panels aside.
Create the straps
- Find the two 1½" x 36" strap accent strips, the two 36" lengths of webbing, and the two 1" x 36 strips of interfacing.
- Center an interfacing strip on the wrong side of each fabric strip so there is ¼" of fabric showing along each long side. The ends of the fabric and interfacing strips are flush. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse in place.
- Fold in each long side ¼", following the edge of the interfacing. Both raw edges will lay over the top of the interfacing. Press in place. The finished width of each strip should be 1".
- Place the webbing strips flat on your work surface. Place an accent strip on top of each webbing strip. Center the accent fabric on the webbing side to side so there is ¼" of webbing showing to either side of the accent fabric. Pin in place the length of each strap.
NOTE: It's worth taking a little extra time to double-check with your seam gauge as you pin to make sure the accent strip stays centered. Eyeballin' it isn't as precise as you might think, and you want the straps to be super straight.
- Re-thread your machine with thread to match the accent fabric in the top and thread to match the twill tape in the bobbin. Keep a slightly lengthened stitch.
- Edgestitch the accent fabric in place along both long sides. It's not necessary to stitch across the ends.
Add piping, stitch top to bottom, attach straps
- Find the two interfaced bottom panels, the straps, and the two lengths of piping.
- Pin the piping along the top 21" raw edge of each fabric panel.
- Fold one panel half or measure to find the exact center. Place a pin at this point along the top (through the piping).
- Measure 3" to the left of the center point and 3" to the right of the center point. Place a pin to mark both of these measurements. This is the spacing for the straps.
- Repeat to mark the remaining panel.
- Place one strap right sides together with each fabric panel. The ends of the strap should be flush with the top raw edge/piping and the inside edges of the strap should be aligned exactly along the two 3" pin marks. Pin the straps in place. Check to make sure the handle loop is a smooth curve; you don't want it to have twisted on itself during your pinning.
- Machine baste the piping and straps in place on both panels, which means your basting across the entire width of each panel.
- Find the two quilted top panels. Place one quilted panel right sides together with each bottom panel, sandwiching the straps and piping between the layers. Pin in place along the top edge.
- Attach your Zipper foot. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch together the interfaced bottom and quilted top through all the layers. Your seam should run as close to the piping as possible, which should be a ½" seam.
- Open up the sewn front and back panels. Press the seam allowance down towards the bottom panel.
- Pull the straps up into place. Pin in position, making sure the straps are perfectly straight up and down and the 6" middle spacing is still accurate.
- Place a pin and/or make a mark 2" down from the top raw edge of the bag body. This is the point at which you will pivot and turn to stitch down the opposite side of the strap.
- If necessary, re-thread your machine with the same thread you used to stitch the accent fabric to the twill. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Topstitch each strap in place, very carefully following the original stitching line on the accent fabric; you want it to look like a single line of stitching.
- When you get to your 2"-from-the-top mark, stop, pivot, and stitch across to the opposite line of topstitching. Stop and pivot again, then carefully follow along the stitching down the opposite side of the strap.
- Repeat to attach the remaining strap on the opposite panel.
Construct the bag
- Place the front and back panels right sides together, aligning all the raw edges. Be especially careful to align the piping. Pin together along both sides and across the bottom.
- Re-thread if necessary with thread to best match the fabrics in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- Our bag is designed to have 5" sides and base. To create this width, we figured our corners at 2½".
- Measure and mark each corner. Cut out the 2½" corner squares along your drawn lines.
- Press open all the seams.
- Flatten the corner.
- Double stitch the corner.
- Repeat to create the opposite corner.
NOTE: If you are new to boxed corners, check out our tutorial for step-by-step instructions.
- Find the two lining panels and the two facing strips. Place a facing strip right sides together along the top of each lining panel. Pin in place across the top edge only.
- Re-thread your machine as necessary throughout the lining construction so your thread is the best match to the lining fabrics.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the facing to the lining panel. Press the seam allowance up towards the facing. Edgestitch along the seam within the facing. This will hold the seam allowance in place and give the facing a bit more stability.
- Find the interfaced 11" x 9" pocket rectangles.
- Fold each in half, right sides together, making each 5½" x 9". Pin along all three sides, leaving an approximate 3" opening along the bottom for turning.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around all sides, pivoting at the corners. Lock your seam on either side of the 3" opening. Clip the corners and press open the seam allowance.
- Turn right side out through the bottom opening. Push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A chopstick, long knitting needle or point turner works well for this.
- Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Press well.
- Find the two lining panels again (with the facings in place).
- Place one panel right side up and flat on your work surface. Fold in half or measure to find the exact center of the panel.
- Pin one pocket in place on the right side of the lining panel. The pocket should be centered side to side and the top edge of the pocket should sit 1" below the facing seam. Measure to find the center of the pocket. Draw a vertical line or run a line of pins to follow. This marks where you'll stitch the pocket dividing seam.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners and with a generous backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam, ie. at the pocket top. This is a stress point for the pocket and it's smart to secure the seam well. The edgestitching closes the opening used for turning.
- Stitch along the marked center line to create the pocket division. If possible, use a lock stitch to start and end your seam or leave your thread tails long and knot them to secure. This will look tidier than backstitching.
- Repeat to place the remaining pocket on the remaining lining panel.
- Place the two lining pieces right sides together, sandwiching the pockets between the layers. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom, leaving an approximate 5" opening along the bottom.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners and locking your seam on either side of the 5" opening.
- Following the same steps as above, measure for 5" boxed corners, cutting out 2½" squares from each corner.
- Flatten and double stitch.
Make and attach ties
- Find the two 1" x 13" strips.
- Press the strip in half lengthwise, fold in each edge towards the center crease, then fold together to make a finished skinny tie. Repeat to create a second skinny tie.
- Edgestitch the length of the tie. The ends remain raw.
- Along the top of one side of the lining bag, measure to again find the exact center and mark with a pin. This is where you will attach the ties.
- Place one tie ½" to the right of the center mark and the other tie ½" to the left of the center mark. The seamed edges of the ties should be facing out – towards the sides of the panel. It looks better if the ties are not equal length, so bring one tie approximately 1" up from the raw edge. Pin in place. Then machine baste in place. Trim the excess tie flush.
Stitch together the lining and the exterior
- Find the exterior bag. It should be right side out.
- Find the lining bag. It should be wrong side out.
- Slip the exterior bag inside the lining bag so the two bags are now right sides together. Align all the seams and the bottom corners. Make sure the handles are folded down, out of the way of the top seam.
- Pin around the entire top of the bag.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around the entire top of the bag. Press the seam allowance open.
- Turn the bag right side out through the opening you left in the bottom of the lining.
- Press the lining down into place, smoothing the exterior. Press flat around the top of the bag.
- Topstitch through all the layers all around the top of the bag. Your seam should be ¼" from the top edge of the bag. Make sure you pull the ties up and out of the way of the seam.
- Pull out the bottom of the lining. You can either edgestitch the opening closed or hand stitch it closed. We chose to simply pin and edgestitch closed.
- Pull the two skinny ties away from the bag. Place them side by side and make sure they are laying flat. Measure approximately 6" up from the longest tie and place a pin at this point.
- Stitch horizontally across the both ties at the marked point. Go back and forth several times to secure. This turns the ties into a handy loop. Tie a simple knot into the end of each tie.
- We did not finish the ends of the ties since they were so skinny. You could dab some seam sealant on the ends to prevent raveling.
- On the bag front (the panel that does not have the ties in the seam), hand stitch the button in place. It should be in the exact center, approximately 1" down from the bag's top edge.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild