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Creativity is in the Bag: Toile Tote with Button Accents

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Today, we're talkin' toile ... actually, we're talkin' toile de jouy. It's a fabric best known for covering rich Aunt Ruth's living room chairs (the chairs you aren't allowed to sit on). But we've turned it into a trendy bag with an unexpected pop of color for the lining, coordinating accent ruffle, and major button bling along the sides to attach the straps. Toile de jouy came onto the scene in the mid-to-late 1700s in France. Toile simply means "linen cloth or canvas" in French. Further expanding your knowledge of French (there'll be a short quiz at the end of the project), toile de jouy means "cloth from Jouy-en-Josas" – a town in north-central France near the more famous, Versailles.

Early toiles were mainly florals, but they soon evolved into the designs with which we are more familiar: pastoral picnic scenes, peasants at work on Colonial farms, horses and riders in the French countryside. These motifs are repetitive and usually executed in a single color, such as red, blue or green against a creamy white or ivory background. Oriental and mythical themes are also popular, which is what we went with for our toile bag: Peacock Toile in Chocolate from Fabric.com.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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Our fabric cut recommendations are generous to allow for fussy cutting.

  • 1 yard of 54" wide medium weight toile for the the bag exterior, straps exterior, exterior pocket, and facing: we used 100% cotton, drapery weight Peacock Toile in Chocolate from Fabric.com
  • ¾ yard of 44-45" wide solid fabric for the the bag interior, straps interior, ruffle, and inside pocket: we used Kona Cotton in Aqua from Fabric.com
  • ½ yard of 44" wide medium weight fusible interfacing: we used Pellon 809 Decor-Bond® 
  • Ten - Twelve 1" to 1¼" fancy, big & chunky buttons; we used 10 buttons we found at a local retailer - this project is a great reason to dive into that button box you've been collecting for years!
  • One magnetic purse clasp
  • All purpose thread to match fabrics
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Pattern or tissue paper for fussy cut (optional)

Getting Started

Print templates

  1. Download and print the two templates: Exterior Pocket (print TWO) and Bag Strap End (Print ONE).
    IMPORTANT: Each template consists of ONE 8.5" x 11" sheet. You must print each PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page.
  2. Cut out each template along the solid lines.

Fussy cut exterior bag panels

  1. If you are new to fussy cutting, take a look at our tutorial.
  2. Because toile is traditionally a very busy motif, and we wanted the front and back panels of our bag to be identical, we opted to make a simple tissue pattern the full size of the panel (15" high x 18" wide) with drawn lines showing the ½" top seam as well as the 1½" side and bottom "folds." This allowed us to get our best possible fussy cut.
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  3. From the fabric for the bag exterior, straps exterior, exterior pocket, and facing (Peacock Toile in Chocolate in our sample), fussy cut TWO 15" wide x 18" high panels.

Fussy cut exterior pocket

  1. Fold the front exterior panel in half (so it is now 15" x 9½"), wrong sides together. Make sure the fold is straight; line up all the raw edges.
  2. Using one of the two pocket templates, align the pattern along the fold as indicated on the pattern piece.
  3. The pocket is meant to be centered top to bottom, approximately 4" above and below, but you can adjust the position slightly up or down to best work with your fabric's motif.
  4. Using a pencil, trace a few parts of the fabric's motif onto the pocket template to indicate parts of the printed fabric. This will help you visually line up the print when you cut out the front pocket. Draw as many parts as you feel necessary. In our example, we traced part of the bird's beak, its legs, a little bit of its back, and a little bit of the fern from above.
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  5. Remove the pocket template from the fabric panel and take it over to the remaining toile fabric. Lay the template on the right side of the fabric and move it around until you perfectly match the tracing on the template to the motif on the fabric. Pin in place.
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  6. Find the other pocket template you printed. Flip it over and tape it to the pinned template. Pin this half of the template in place.
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  7. Cut out the entire exterior pocket.
    NOTE: This is my method to achieve the best fussy cut for a perfect match. I prefer to work with just half of the pocket; for me, it's smaller and easier to work with. You could also tape together the two pieces at the beginning and do your fussy cutting with the complete pocket pattern.

Remaining cuts

  1. Still working with the toile fabric (Peacock Toile in Chocolate in our sample), fussy cut the following: 
    TWO 3" x 38" strips for the straps
    TWO 4" high x 18" wide rectangles for the top of the lining
    NOTE: The fussy cutting is not as critical for the pieces above, however, we did go to the trouble to try to find interesting parts of the toile to make all our cuts. And, we worked to best match the lining top pieces with the top of the exterior panels.
  2. From the solid fabric for the bag interior, straps interior, ruffle, and inside pocket (Kona Cotton in Aqua in our sample), cut the following:
    TWO 12" x 18" panels
    ONE 13" x 11"
    TWO 3" x 38" strips for the straps
    ONE 2" x 20" strip for the ruffle
    Using the complete pocket template (both sides taped together), cut one pocket.
  3. From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
    TWO 2" x 37" strips
    ONE 6" x 10" rectangle
    Using the complete pocket template (both sides taped together), cut one pocket.
  4. Layer the two lining strap strips and the two exterior strap strips.
  5. Place the Bag Strap End template on the top end of both sets of layer strips and cut the curve.
    NOTE: Most toile is directional with a distinct top and bottom. These curved ends will be the ends that knot together at your shoulder, so you want to make sure you are cutting the top ends.
    Click to Enlarge
  6. Trim back the End template along the dashed seam line. Use this smaller version to trim one end on both of the 2" x 37" interfacing strips.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Press all fabric pieces to remove any wrinkles.
  2. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing pieces to the WRONG side of all the corresponding lining pieces, To do this, on the exterior pocket piece, align all the edges. On the straps, align the straight end then center the interfacing down the length of the strap. On the interior pocket piece, first fold the fabric in half, making it 6½" x 11. Press a center crease. Open up the fabric again and align the top of the interfacing with the crease line. This will leave ½" of fabric extending along both sides and across the bottom.

Exterior pocket

  1. Place the exterior pocket and the fused pocket lining piece right sides together, aligning all raw edges. Pin in place.
  2. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along the sides and across the bottom, going slowly around the curved bottom to keep the seam allowance consistent. Leave the top open.
  3. Clip the curves, being very careful not to clip into your seam line.
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  4. Turn the pocket right side out and press well.
  5. Fold in the top edge of the pocket ½" all around to create a clean finished edge. Press well.
  6. Set aside.
  7. Find the 2" x 20" ruffle strip.
  8. Fold the strip in half, right sides together, making it 1" x 20". Pin in place.
  9. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch only the two ends. Leave the bottom open.
  10. Trim the seam and clip the corner.
  11. Turn right side out, poking out the corners so they are nice and square. Press well.
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  12. Gather the strip from 19" to approximately 10". If you are new to gathering, take a look at our tutorial.
  13. Insert the raw edge of the ruffle into the open top of the exterior pocket. Pin the ruffle in place between the layers. Take the time to measure and make sure the ruffle reveal is consistent from one side of the pocket to the other.
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  14. Stitch across the top of the pocket to secure the ruffle. We used a ¼" seam allowance.
  15. Place the pocket onto the front exterior panel, matching up the motif on the two pieces. Pin in place.
  16. Find the vertical center line on the pocket and mark with a drawn line, using your fabric pen or pencil, or with a line of pins. We used a line of pins.
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  17. Increase your stitch length (we used 3.0). Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the curved bottom. We used ⅛". Thanks to our Clear View foot, with all its handy markings, it was easy to keep a consistent stitch line.
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  18. Remember to use a generous (but neat!) 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.
  19. Stitch up the center, following your drawn line or line of pins.
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Assemble the exterior bag

  1. Place the back exterior panel and the assembled front exterior panel right sides together, sandwiching the pocket between the layers.
  2. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
  3. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Press the seam allowance flat.
  4. With the bag still wrong side out, the next step is to box the bottom corners.
  5. Using both hands, pinch and pull apart one bottom corner.
  6. As you keep pulling, the fabric will begin to make a little peak with the corner point at the top with the seam line running down the middle of both sides. Precisely match the two seams front to back.
  7. Repeat for the opposite corner.
  8. Our bag is sized for 3" sides and base. To create this width, you need to figure your boxed corner seam at half that finished width. Therefore, in our sample, we measured 1½" from the tip of each corner peak.
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  9. Draw a horizontal line at this measurement on each side.
  10. Pin your folded and measured 'peaks' and stitch along the drawn lines.
  11. Remember, your seams should be perfectly lined up. Check from the outside, then look down inside the bag to check they match there as well.
  12. Stitch back and forth along the line two or three times to reinforce. Trim away the peak on each side to about ¼" from the seam line.
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  13. Turn right side out and push out to form the boxed corners.
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  14. Set the exterior bag aside.

Lining

  1. Find the two lining panels and the two toile bands. Place a band, right sides together, along the top of each panel. Pin in place.
    NOTE: Pay attention to the direction of your toile. As we mentioned above, almost all toile is directional; you want the motif on the band going the right way when you fold it up into position.
    Click to Enlarge
  2. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the band to the panel. Repeat for the second panel.
  3. Press the seam allowance up towards the band.
  4. Topstitch ⅛" from the seam within the band to hold seam allowance in place.
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  5. Find the 13" high x 11" wide fused pocket piece.
  6. Fold in half, right sides together, making it 6½" x 11".
  7. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around all sides, pivoting at the corners.
  8. Leave an approximate 2"-3" opening along the bottom for turning.
  9. Trim the seam and clip corners.
  10. Turn right side out. Push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A chopstick or long knitting needle works well for this.
  11. Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Press well.
  12. Pin the pocket in place on the back lining panel. The pocket should be centered side to side (4" from each edge), 3" from the bottom raw edge, and 2½" from the top seam.
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  13. As you did above on the exterior pocket, mark the pocket's center line with a fabric pen/pencil or a line of pins.
  14. 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, to secure these top stress points.
  15. Stitch up the center, following your drawn line or line of pins.
    Click to Enlarge
  16. Place the lining piece with the sewn pocket and the second lining piece right sides together, aligning all raw edges. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
  17. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
  18. Following the same steps described above for the exterior bag, box the bottom corners of the bag lining.
  19. Following manufacturer's instructions, insert a magnetic clasp into the top band of the lining.
  20. The top of the clasp (not the center point - the top curved edge of the clasp) should be 1¼" - 1½" from the top raw edge and centered side to side on the panel.
  21. It's best to measure and mark both sides. Insert one side into position, then snap the two pieces together and double check the position of the second side. Then undo the clasp and insert this second piece.
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Straps, buttons and buttonholes

    1. Find the two exterior strips and the two lining strips that will become the straps. Place an exterior strip with a lining strip, right sides together, to create two pairs. Match all the raw edges. Pin in place.
    2. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around the entire strap, pivoting at the corners, going slowly and evenly around the curved ends, and leaving a 5" opening along one long side. Remember to lock your seam at either side of the opening.
    3. Clip the curved end and the trim the corners diagonally.
    4. Turn right side out through the 5" opening. We like to use hemostats to turn our narrow tubes.
    5. Push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. Smooth out the curved ends. Press well.
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    6. Hand stitch the opening closed on each strap.
    7. Find the exterior bag.
    8. Flatten it so you can work with the side seams.
    9. Lay out your buttons. The bottom edge of the bottom button should be approximately 1½" from the bottom box corner seam. The top edge of the top button should be approximately 1½" from the top raw edge of the bag. These measurements are NOT the centers of the buttons, but rather the outside edges of the buttons. Arrange the remaining buttons evenly in between the top and bottom buttons. We used five buttons, each of which was about 1" +/-. The space in between ended up being about 1¼" to 1½".
    10. Mark each button position with a pin. We used mostly shank buttons, which are nice because you can actually run the pin through the shank to hold the button in place while you confirm the measurements.
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    11. Securely hand stitch each button in place.
      NOTE: The order of the steps at this point depends on whether your sewing machine has an automatic buttonhole function that stitches based on the actual size of the button. The Janome machines we use in our studio have this function. So, we stitched just ONE side of buttons in place, saving the other set to use to make our buttonholes.
    12. Place a finished strap alongside the sewn buttons. The bottom squared end of the strap should be aligned with the bottom box corner of the bag.
    13. Using the buttons as your guide, mark the position of each of the buttonholes.
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    14. Following the manual for your sewing machine, stitch the buttonholes. We did double-layer buttonholes for extra security since they are taking the weight of the strap.


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  1. Create the buttonholes in both straps.
    NOTE: We used matching thread for our buttonholes. The buttons for this project should be large and chunky, which means the buttonholes will have to be rather large in order to go up and over the buttons. This means you are likely to see either end of the buttonhole beyond the button. For extra spice, you could use the thread that matches the lining... just make sure your buttonholes are pretty and well positioned. It's worth the extra time to make a few test buttonholes on a scrap of the toile/lining to make sure you have everything set up as best you can.
  2. Matching the position of the first side of buttons, hand stitch the remaining side of buttons in place.
    NOTE: Real buttonholes look so much cooler and are an integral part of the look of our design. However, they are not functionally necessary. If you don't want to make buttonholes, no one will yell at you. Instead, you could place each strap into position over the side seam, then hand stitch the buttons in place through ALL the layers, securing the strap in place this way. If you choose this option, we recommend stitching the buttons with a heavy buttontwist thread.

Final assembly

  1. Press under the top raw edge of the bag exterior and the bag lining ½" all around, creating a nice folded edge around both pieces. Press well.
  2. Turn the lining wrong side out and slip it inside the bag so the lining and the bag are wrong sides together.
  3. Align the side seams of the lining and the bag. The top folded edges of the bag and the lining should be flush with one another.
  4. Pin the lining to the bag along these top folded edges all the way around the opening of the bag.
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  5. Edgetitch all around the top opening of the bag approximately ⅛" - ¼" from the folded edges, attaching the lining to the bag.
  6. Button the straps in place.
  7. Tie the straps together in a knot, adjusting the length to best fit your comfort.

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    Contributors

    Project Design: Alicia Thommas and Liz Johnson
    Sample Creation: Liz Johnson

    Section: 

    Comments (9)

    Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
    Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

    @ camile - well then - perhaps Mom has a gift coming soon, yes?

    celotaja said:
    celotaja's picture

    Not so exited about ruffle on the pocket, but buttons on the side are relly cool!

    hollyfri said:
    hollyfri's picture

    very pretty!  very cute and different toile!

    What are the final dimensions?

    alicia.thommas said:
    alicia.thommas's picture

    The bag finishes at 15" wide x 13" tall and 3" deep. It will hold a lot 

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