Tiny hands, teeny toes... babies are adorable little packages, but what they lack in size, they more than make up for in volume. Leaving the house with a baby can feel like provisioning for an Arctic adventure. You need a generous diaper bag to handle the task. Our Little Sunshine Tote features wipe-clean cotton laminate on the outside and a PUL lining. With 5" boxed corners, this tote opens wide, and there are plenty of pockets to store all the necessities: two small and two large pockets on the inside plus a handy side bottle pocket and zippered pouch on the outside. It's lightweight but hard-working.
Cotton laminates are showing up from more and more manufacturers, which is great news when it comes to picking your favorite color combos. Our original sample featured sunshine yellow against a classic dot. You may want to check out the super cute laminates from Cloud9; their motif sizes and bright primary colors would be perfect for a diaper tote. If you're ready to shop now, Fabric.com offers a nice selection of cotton laminates from Cloud9 as well as Robert Kaufman and Riley Blake. These are a few of our faves:
If you're new to working with laminates, check out our tutorial: Successful Sewing With Laminated Cottons (And Other Sticky Stuff). There are special considerations that will make both your sewing experience and the end result more satisfying, so if laminates are new to you, we do highly recommend you review the article prior to starting this project.
Our tote has wonderful details, which make it super functional, but don't let all the steps throw you. If you're a Sew4Home regular, you know we specialize in clear, step-by-step instructions and photos. Read through everything a couple times to "make it in your head," then you'll be ready to roll. We know you can do it!
The tote finishes at approximately 16" tall x 15" side x 5" deep.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Teflon® type foot, such as the Janome Ultra Glide foot
- Zipper foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot;optional
- Denim needle; optional, but good for working with laminates
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1¼ yards of 54" wide patterned cotton laminate for the bag top exterior, pocket top exterior, front zippered pocket, handles, and facing
- ⅔ yard of 54" wide coordinating solid cotton laminate for the the bag bottom exterior and pocket bottom exterior
- ¾ yard of 60" wide PUL (polyurethane laminate) for the bag and pocket lining and the bottom insert casing; we used 1 mil PUL in Optic White
- 1¼ yard of 45" wide fusible fleece; we used Thermolam Plus Fusible Fleece by Pellon
- 1 yard of 45" wide mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor Bond
- ONE 7" zipper; we used a decorative 9" neon zipper (purchased locally), which we cut down to fit
- 1½ yards of ⅝" fold over elastic in a coordinating accent color; we used Dritz Solid Fold Over Elastic in Black
- ONE sheet of plastic canvas; you need a 14¾" x4¾" cut
- ONE magnetic purse clasp
- All-purpose sewing thread in colors to match fabric and binding
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- See-through ruler
- Straight pins
- Clips to hold laminate - optional (don't forget to review the Working With Laminates tutorial mentioned above for notes on these clips and other helpful supplies)
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Small safety pin
- Iron and ironing board
- From the patterned cotton laminate for the bag top exterior, pocket top exterior, front zippered pocket, handles, and facing (the dot in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 16" wide x 11" high rectangles for the bag top exterior/front and back
TWO 6" wide x 11" high rectangles for the bag top exterior/sides
TWO 21" wide x 4" high strips for the interior facing
ONE 7" x 7" square for the front zippered pocket base
ONE 7" wide x 2" high rectangle for the front zippered pocket top
TWO 5" x 41" strips for the handle straps
ONE 9" wide x 5½" high rectangle for the bottle pocket top
- From the solid cotton laminate for the the bag bottom exterior and pocket bottom exterior (the yellow in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 16" wide x 9½" high rectangles for the bag bottom exterior/front and back
TWO 6" wide x 9½" high rectangles for the bag bottom exterior/sides
ONE 9" wide x 7" high rectangle for bottle pocket base
- From the PUL, cut the following:
ONE 9" wide x 11½" high rectangle for the bottle pocket lining
ONE 46" wide x 12" high rectangle for the lining pocket panel
TWO 21" wide x 16½" tall rectangles for the lining base panels
ONE 16" x 11" rectangle for the bottom insert cover
- From the fusible fleece, cut the following:
TWO 15" wide x 10" high rectangles for the bag top exterior/front and back
TWO 5" wide x 10" high rectangles for the bag top exterior/sides
TWO 15" wide x 8½" high rectangles for the bag bottom exterior/front and back
TWO 6" wide x 8½" high rectangles for the bag bottom exterior/sides
- From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
TWO 21" wide x 16½" high rectangles for the lining base
TWO 21" wide x 4" high rectangles for the interior facing
ONE 7" x 7" square for the front zippered pocket base
ONE 7" wide x 2" high rectangle for the front zippered pocket top
ONE 9" wide x 5½" high rectangle for the bottle pocket top
ONE 9" wide x 7" high rectangle for the bottle pocket base
NOTE: We chose not to interface our handles because we wanted them to be a bit more flexible. It you would prefer a more "stand-up-on-their-own" handle, also cut and fuse TWO 5" x 41" strips for the bag handles.
- From the plastic canvas, cut ONE 14¾" x 4¾" rectangle.
- From the fold over elastic, cut ONE 5" length for the bottle pocket and ONE 42" length for the lining pocket.
NOTE: We seamed two carded one-yard lengths of FOE by butting them together and securing with a zig zag. From this assemble length, we then cut the two pieces needed. Some fabric stores carry fold over elastic in bulk so you cut get a continuous 1½ yard cut from which to work.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
NOTE: You will notice we used regular straight pins throughout rather than the traditionally-recommended clips for laminate. We were not worried about our finished product being 100% water-tight (like you might be for something like diaper covers). In addition, we were able to keep the majority of our pins within the seam allowances so any holes didn't affect the body of the bag.
- Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse a piece of interfacing/fleece to the wrong side of each corresponding piece of cotton laminate. In the Getting Started section above, each of the cuts is clearly labeled so it's easy to match up the pieces.
- The interfacing/fleece pieces are smaller than their laminate counterparts. Center the interfacing/fleece on the wrong side of the laminate.
NOTE: If you read through our Working With Laminates tutorial, you noticed we mention avoiding fusible interfacings, however, if you read really carefully, you also noticed we mention there are always exceptions to the rule. You don't want your iron on its highest heat, you do want to keep your iron constantly moving, and you DO want to use a pressing cloth. If you follow these hints, you can adhere the fleece and the interfacing to each of the appropriate laminate pieces without issue. It won't be a super-tight bond, but that is okay as everything will be secured within the seams and between the lining during construction.
Make the straps
- Find the two 5" x 41" strips. Place one strip wrong side up on your work surface.
- Using a see-through ruler, draw a vertical line down the center of the strap, from one end to the other.
- Draw a second vertical line 2" in from the left raw edge, which means the two drawn lines are parallel and ½" apart.
- Draw a third vertical line ½" in from the left raw edge.
- Fold over the right side so its raw edge aligns with the second drawn line (not the center line). Finger press in place or press with a pressing cloth.
- Fold in the left side so its raw edge aligns with the ½" line.
- Fold this folded left edge to the center of the strap, overlapping the raw edge of the first fold – as if you were folding a letter to mail (remember when you used to mail letters?!). Finger press in place. Clip or pin in place. The strap should now measure 2" in width.
- Top stitch down the center of the strap. This creates a decorative seam, similar to a flat felled seam, and will become the front of the strap.
- Repeat to create the second strap.
- Set the straps aside.
Pocket and zipper
NOTE: We were unable to find a 7" zipper in the color we wanted and so used a longer zipper, creating our own stop and cutting it to length when done. Our Zipper tutorial has more about this and other insertion tips.
- Find the interfaced pocket top and pocket base pieces and the zipper. On each of the pocket pieces, draw a vertical line ½" in from both side edges. This mark is where the handles will overlap the pocket. The zipper should be centered between these marks - the zipper pull at one mark, the zipper stop at the other.
- Unzip the zipper. Place it right side up on your work surface with the zipper pull to your left when closed.
- Center the pocket top right sides together with the top of the zipper. Pin in place.
NOTE: Because we had a longer zipper, we actually opened out zipper and moved the bottom half of our zipper completely out of the way. You'll also notice our interfacing is pulling away a bit from the laminate. As mentioned above, that's okay if it happens as all the raw edges of the various pieces will be secured within seams during construction.
- Attach a Zipper foot.
- Stitch the top edge of the zipper to the pocket top laminate piece, staying as close to the zipper teeth as the foot will allow, removing the pins as you sew.
NOTE: If you are working with a shorter zipper and are unable to move the bottom half of the zipper out of the way, you can stitch this step with the zipper just half way open. Stitch to the middle, where you can start to feel you're approaching the zipper pull. Stop with your needle in the down position. Twist your fabric around slightly and carefully close the zipper. Re-position your fabric and finish sewing to the end.
- Repeat these steps, pinning and then sewing the bottom pocket piece right sides together with the bottom half of the zipper.
- On only the bottom half, fold the pocket base down into position, away from the zipper.
NOTE: We are using a Janome Ultra Glide foot. As we mention in our laminates tutorial, if you don't have a Teflon® type foot, you can use wax or parchment paper between the presser foot and laminate.
- Topstitch approximately ¼" from the folded back seam across the pocket base
- Find one of the top exterior bag panels. Place it right side up on your work surface.
- Zip the zipper closed. Center the pocket side to side on the front panel. The bottom raw edge of the pocket base should be flush with the bottom raw edge of the panel. The side edge of the pocket should be 4½" from the raw side edge of the panel. Pin or clip the pocket in place.
- Fold the top half of the zipper down, revealing its back side.
- Fold back the top raw edge of this top piece approximately ½". The raw edge of the laminate should meet the edge of the zipper tape.
- Fold the pocket top piece back up into position. Accounting for the original seam attaching this piece to the zipper and the folded back edge, your top piece should now be about 1" high.
- Pin or clip it in place.
- Still using your specialty foot, topstitch along the top folded edge, approximately ¼" from the top folded edge.
- Then, topstitch along the bottom edge, approximately ¼" from the zipper teeth, matching what you did along the bottom panel of the pocket. As above, when you get to the zipper pull, you'll need to stop with the needle in the down position, lift your presser foot, then move the pull out of the way in order to finish the seam with a nice, straight stitch.
- Because we used a longer zipper, we had an additional securing step. This was to stitch down across the end of the zipper, keeping this short seam close to the raw side edges. If you have a zipper that fits exactly, you already have a zipper stop and so can skip this step.
- If necessary, trim away the excess zipper. You now have a finished pocket in position.
Stitch the straps in place
- Find the two straps.
- Find both the front fused panel with the pocket and the plain fused back panel.
- On the front panel, place one handle so it overlaps the pocket edges ½" on either side. The inside edge on the left side should just touch the the zipper pull, and the inside edge on the right side, should just cover the zipper stop. The raw ends of the handle should be flush with the bottom edge of the panel, and the handle loop itself will extend beyond the top of the panel in a continuous loop. Carefully place the handle so it doesn't twist on itself. And remember, the seam of the handle is facing out as a decorative element.
- Repeat to attach the second handle to the plain pack panel. The positioning of this handle should exactly match the front handle. There should be 6" between the handle straps.
- On each strap (front and back), measure 2½" down from the top raw edge of the bag panel and draw a horizontal line or place a pin or clip.
- Lengthen your stitch.
- With your Teflon® type foot in place, topstitch each handle in place, staying ¼" from the edge. Start at the bottom, stitch up one side, stop at the 2½" mark, pivot, stitch across - stopping ¼" from the opposite edge, pivot, and stitch down the opposite edge to complete. Do this on each side of each handle.
Assemble the front, back, and sides to the bottom panels
- Find the bottom front, back, and side exterior panels (the yellow panels in our sample).
NOTE: We are referring to our sample colors/patterns in the steps below to help keep track of all the pieces.
- Pin the Yellow front panel right sides together with the upper Dot panel (the panel with the pocket in place). Pin along the bottom of the Dot panel and the top of the Yellow panel.
- Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance. Finger press the seam allowance towards bottom panel. Topstitch along the seam within the Yellow panel, keeping your topstitching ¼" from the original seam.
- Repeat to create the two-part sections for the back and the two sides.
NOTE: We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot. With the larger, sharper Denim needle, we were able to use our standard presser feet for many steps without experiencing any drag across the laminate.
- Find the bottle pocket top (Dot in our sample) and bottom (Yellow in our sample), the PUL bottle pocket lining, and the 5" length of fold-over elastic.
- As you did above with the other two-piece sections, pin top to bottom, right sides together, aligning the bottom edge of the Dot with the top edge of the Yellow. Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance. Finger press the seam allowance toward the bottom panel. Topstitch ¼" from the original seam within the bottom Yellow panel.
- Place the PUL lining against the wrong side of the sewn bottle pocket. Pin along the top edge.
- Along this top edge, find the exact center and mark with a pencil or pin. Find the exact center of the fold-over elastic.
- Place the elastic across the top of the panel, aligning the horizontal center line of the elastic with the top raw edge of the fabric. Match up the center points of the fabric and the elastic.
- Fold over the elastic, encasing the raw edge edges of the laminate and the PUL. Stretch the elastic so it fits evenly across the top of the panel. You can pin in place or simply hold in place with your fingers.
- Stitch down the elastic across the top of the panel, using a ¼" seam allowance. This seam adds a slight gather to the top of the bottle pocket.
- Flip the bottle pocket panel so the wrong side (the PUL side) is facing up.
- Find the center of the bottom of the panel and mark with a pin. Measure ¾" to the left of center and ¾" to the right of center. Mark both of these points with a pin. Create a 1½" box pleat by folding in at each ¾" point so the two folds meet at the center point.
NOTE: If you are new to this technique, check out our full tutorial on how to make box pleats.
- Pin the pleat in place.
- Fold back the pleated bottom ½" to create a finished edge. Pin in place.
- Find one of the flat side panels.
- Pin the bottle pocket to the flat side panel, carefully aligning the horizontal seams.
- The bottom of the flat panel will extend beyond the bottom of the bottle pocket. This is correct.
- Edgestitch along the bottom of the bottle pocket to secure it to the side panel and to secure the pleat.
- Baste the sides of the bottle pocket to the sides of the flat pocket, staying within the seam allowance.
Assemble sides to front and back and box the bottom corners
- With right sides together, pin the front panel to each of the two side panels, matching the horizontal seams.
- Then, pin the back panel to the remaining raw edges of the two side panels, again being careful to align the horizontal seams. You've create a large tube, open at the top and bottom, made up of the four panels.
- Stitch all the side seams, using a ½" seam allowance.
- Place the bag on your work surface. It is wrong side out. Flatten so the vertical seams match up along the bottom. Pin along the bottom raw edge only.
- Stitch along the bottom, using ½" seam allowance.
- With the bag still wrong side out, the next step is to box the bottom corners. Our bag is designed to have 5" sides and base. To create this width, we figured our corners at 2½"
- If you are new to boxed corners, check out our tutorial for step-by-step instructions. We recommend a double line of stitching to reinforce the corners in the cotton laminate.
Create the lining and its pocket panel
- Find the two 21" x 4" rectangles for the interior facing and the two 21" x 16½ PUL lining base pieces. Pin a facing strip right sides together along the top 21" edge of each PUL piece.
- Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance.
- Finger press the seam allowance down towards the PUL. Flip to the right side and topstitch ¼" away from the seam within the PUL.
- Place the two lining base panels right sides together, carefully aligning the horizontal facing seams. Pin along one 16½" side.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along the one side. Set the base lining panel aside.
- Find the 46” x 12” PUL pocket panel. Lay it flat on your work surface.
- Using a see-through ruler, mark vertical lines for the pocket divisions.
- Working from the left side, measure 5½" to the right and draw a vertical line. From this line, measure 15" to the right and draw a second vertical line. From this second line, measure 7" to the right and draw a third vertical line. There should be 18½" remaining from the third vertical line to right raw edge.
- Find the 42" length of fold-over elastic.
- As you did with the top of the bottle pocket, find the center of the elastic and the center of the PUL panel. Align these two points, fold the elastic over the top raw edge of the PUL, and stretch the elastic so it lays evenly across the top. Stitch the fold-over elastic in place, using a ¼" seam allowance.
- Along the bottom edge of the PUL pocket panel, fold back the raw edge ½" and pin in place. Machine baste the fold in place.
- From the second pocket dividing line to the right edge of the panel, run a gathering stitch. This gathering stitch runs across the two right most pockets on the panel. We used a dark thread so you could see our stitching.
NOTE: If you are new to these techniques, check out our tutorials on machine basting and machine gathering.
- Find the PUL lining base panel. Open it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the pocket panel right side up on the base panel. The top edge of the pocket panel (the elastic edge) should run right along the bottom edge of the facing. Pin the left edge of the two layers in position. The base panel will extend beyond the bottom of the pocket panel. This is correct because you'll need that extra to create box corners in the bottom of the lining.
- Pull the pocket's gathering stitch evenly until the two right edges of the panels align.
- Pin the right edge in place. Then pin along the bottom folded edge of the pocket panel and down the lines marking the pocket divisions.
- Stitch along each of the drawn vertical lines, through both layers, to create the pocket divisions.
- Stitch along the entire bottom of the pocket panel to secure it to the base panel, using a ¼" seam allowance. Remove the gathering stitch when complete.
- Fold the lining in half and pin along the remaining side, matching up the raw edges of all the layers and aligning the horizontal facing seams.
- Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance.
- Pin along the bottom of the bag, leaving an 8" - 10" opening at the center. We'll use this at the end to turn our finished bag right side out. Sew together using ½” seam allowance
- With the bag still wrong side out, follow the same steps as above to create 5" boxed corners.
Attach the lining to the exterior and add the magnetic snap
- With the lining wrong side out and the exterior right side out, slip the exterior inside the lining so the two are now right sides together. The straps are hanging down and sandwiched out of the way in between the layers.
- Align the upper raw edge of the lining facing with the upper raw edge of the exterior. Adjust all around, matching the seams and the bottom corners. Pin or clip in place all around the top.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the exterior bag to the lining all around the top opening.
- Pull the exterior bag through that 8" - 10" opening you remembered to leave in the bottom of the lining.
- Following manufacturer's instructions, insert the magnetic snap. Each side of the snap should be approximately 1¼" down from the top (giving you plenty of room for the final top stitching) and centered side to side, which should be approximately 10" in from each side as our finished bag is 20" wide when pressed completely flat.
- You can use the opening in the bottom of the lining (the opening you used to turn everything right side out) to reach up inside and affix the back of each snap.
NOTE: For extra reinforcement, you can use a small scrap of lightweight cardboard or a small circle of heavyweight interfacing to reinforce the back of the snap against the soft cotton laminate. It won't be seen between the layers. If you are new to this type of snap, we have a full Magnetic Snap tutorial you can review.
- Fold in the raw edges of the opening in the bottom of the lining so they are flush with the sewn seam. Pin and edge stitch closed.
Finishing with the bottom insert
- Push the lining down into the inside of the bag. Fold down the straps so they are out of the way.
- Topstitch around the entire top edge of the bag to finish. We used a ¼" seam allowance.
- Find the 16" x 11" lining piece, which is the bottom insert sleeve. Fold it in half so it now measures 16" x 5½". Pin in place along one end and the long side.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along one end and the long side, pivoting at the corner and leaving the opposite end open.
- Clip the corners, turn the sleeve right side out, and press flat, using a pressing cloth.
- Slip in the plastic canvas.
- Fold in the raw edges of the top opening ½". Align the folded edges and pin closed.
- Edgestitch or handstitch the opening closed.
- Place the insert into the bottom of the bag to give it a sturdy base.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild