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Quilted Yo-Yo Tote in Metallic Linen

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The front of a bag is a bit like a blank slate. It’s a lovely flat surface that can evolve into any number of wonderful looks. We started with a gorgeous metallic linen blend from Robert Kaufman, then added a quilted windowpane grid, and finally, arranged twelve tone-on-tone yo-yos as the perfect dimensional accent. It’s elegant and fashionable with just the right pinch of whimsy.

Most often reserved for the world of quilting cottons, yo-yos have recently captured our attention, and we thought, “Why just a vintage look? Why not highlight their texture?” Why not indeed?! When done in the slightly heavier linen blend metallic, the gathers are more distinct and the yo-yo itself is much more stable and dimensional. 

We added a pom pom in the middle of each yo-yo, simulating the look of the raised center of a coneflower or daisy. Shorter stitches and a looser gather allows a larger center opening on the yo-yo. If you are new to making yo-yos, we have a full tutorial you can review prior to starting this project.  

Follow our placement pattern, which is made up of twelve yo-yos in three different sizes, or create your own bouquet. The windowpane quilting gives you a perfect grid to work with to determine position. As shown on our sample, overlapping the yo-yos is allowed, and actually produces a more realistic floral effect. 

Robert Kaufman has a lovely selection of Essex Yarn-Dyed Metallic in eleven different colors. A linen blend, the collection is 50% linen, 40% cotton, and 10% Lurex Y/D Cloth. 

This is a stunning fabric with a wonderful drape, but it is not heavy enough to create a finished bag shape all on its own. We used a fusible fleece on the exterior as well as the lining, then added a plastic canvas base panel between the layers.

The windowpane grid has a tone-on-tone effect – just like the yo-yos. The precision of this quilting is very important to the overall elegance. The bag is created as a single panel, so there’s no seam to interrupt the lines from the front, across the bottom, and around to the back. And, if you follow our stitching diagram below, the side seams and boxed corners will also come together beautifully to maintain the continuous intersecting lines. 

We used a real leather strap for our handle, riveting it in position. The length is designed to allow you to carry it as a handbag or to slip it over the shoulder where it rests against your body, tucked right under your arm. 

Our Yo-Yo Tote finishes at approximately 8” high x 12" wide with a 4" base and sides and a 7” handle drop. 

Sewing Tools You Need

  • Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
  • Edge Guide foot; optional but helpful for the finish stitching around the top of the tote
  • Walking or Even Feed foot; optional; we used the built-in AcuFeed™ Flex fabric feeding system on the Janome Skyline S7
    NOTE: A Quilt Bar attachment for your Walking foot is also helpful, and is what we used to allow us to help achieve our perfect quilted grid.

Fabric and Other Supplies

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for the exterior (the Metallic Linen in our sample), cut ONE 17" wide x 21" high rectangle.
  2. From the fabric for the lining (the Kona Raffia in our sample), cut the following:
    ONE 17" wide x 21" high rectangle
    ONE 9” wide x 11” high rectangle for the pocket
  3. From the quilt backing fabric (the Kona White in our sample), cut ONE 17" x 21" rectangle.
  4. From the fusible fleece, cut TWO 16” x 20” rectangles. Then sub-cut EACH rectangle into TWO 16” x 8” rectangles and ONE 16” x 4” rectangle. 
  5. From the mid-weight interfacing, cut the following:
    ONE 8” x 5” rectangle for the pocket
    TWO 2” x 2” squares to reinforce the magnetic snap
  6. From the plastic canvas (if using), cut ONE 12” x 4” rectangle. 
  7. If using pom pom trim, cut off enough individual poms to create a center for each yo-yo – we cut 12.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board


  1. Find both the exterior and the lining panels and the six pieces of fusible fleece. 
  2. Following the diagram shown below, center three fleece panels on the wrong side of each fabric panel. There should be ½” of fabric extending beyond the fleece along the outer edges and a slight “crack” between the panels. This slight separation is what allows the base of the tote to fold up into place more smoothly. 
  3. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the fleece in place on both panels. 
  4. Find the lining pocket panel and the mid-weight interfacing panel. Fold the pocket in half, right sides together, so it is now 9” wide x 5½” high. Press to set a center crease. 
  5. Open the pocket panel wrong side up on your work surface so the crease line is visible. Place one edge of the interfacing along the center crease line. There should be ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on the other three sides. 
  6. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing in place.

Quilting the exterior

  1. Flip the fused exterior panel so it is right side up and flat on your work surface. 
  2. Because it’s very important to the bag’s design that your quilting grid pattern be exact, we recommend drawing in all the grid lines to follow. Remember, you are working on the right side of the fabric, so make sure you are using a marking tool that will easily wipe away or will vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron. 
  3. As shown in the drawing below, draw in your horizontal and vertical center lines first. Half of the 21” height is 10½”. Draw a horizontal line 10½” from the top raw edge of the panel. Half of the 17” width is 8½”. Draw a vertical line, 8½” in from the right raw edge of the panel. 
  4. With these intersecting center lines in place, draw in the remaining grid lines at 1” intervals: SEVEN lines from the center out to the left, SEVEN lines from the center out to the right, NINE lines from the center down, NINE lines from the center up. As you can see, there is room to do one additional line at each outer edge, but do not do any more lines than shown. The extra space is on purpose; when the side seams are done, the quilting will appear nearly continuous – without any random quilting stitches peeking out from the seams. You are so clever!

  5. Place the backing panel in position to create the quilt sandwich. The backing panel and the exterior panel should be flush on all four sides.
  6. Pin in place through all the layers along each of the vertical lines.
  7. Thread the machine with thread to best match the exterior in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch. 
  8. Stitch along each vertical drawn line. When quilting, it is best to stitch each line in the same direction. We stitched from top to bottom – first from the center to the right, then from the center to the left. 
  9. Rotate the panel 90˚ to stitch the horizontal lines in the same manner. 
  10. If you are a straight quilting pro, you can simply draw in your center line and then use a quilt bar to set your 1” intervals. But remember, it is super important that your finished grid is made up of perfect 1” squares.

Make and place the yo-yos

  1. Following our placement pattern (shown below) or creating your own design, make the appropriate number of yo-yos in the exterior fabric. We made four each of the Small, Large and Extra Large Clover Yo-Yos. 

    NOTE: If you are new to making yo-yos, we have a full tutorial on this very easy embellishment.
  2. Pin the yo-yos in place, using the quilted grid pattern to help you position each. 
  3. When you have a grouping you like, hand stitch each yo-yo in place through its center hole. You are stitching through the fabric and the fleece. As shown, it’s okay to overlap the edges of the yo-yos. 
  4. Along the top, don’t forget that you’ll need to fold down the raw edge ½” and edgestitch to finish. Don’t place your yo-yos too close to that raw edge.
  5. Once all your yo-yos are stitched into position, add the pom centers. 
  6. The pom centers should stand up a bit from the yo-yo, like the cone of a flower. 

    NOTE: The Kaufman metallic linen was stable enough to hold its shape with just the center stitch point. If you use a lighter weight fabric for your yo-yos, you may need to lightly tack the outer edges of the yo-yos to make sure each remains flat and does not droop forward.

Form the exterior panel into a box

  1. Fold the exterior panel right sides together, sandwiching the yo-yos between the layers. 
  2. It is extremely important that your quilting aligns perfectly along each side. Pin in place.
  3. Re-set the stitch length to normal. 
  4. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both side seams. 
  5. With the exterior still wrong side out, the next step is the box the bottom corners. 
  6. Using both hands, pinch and pull apart one bottom corner, forming a peak at the corner with the seam running down the exact center.
  7. Our boxed corner depth is 4”, which means you measure vertically from the corner point of your seam (the actual end point of the seam – not the tip of the fabric) down along the seam line, HALF the width of your finished corner – or 2" in our sample. Because you did such an amazing job stitching your grid lines, you actually have an already-formed stitch line to follow at precisely the right height. Yay!
  8. Stitch across the corner along the stitched line.
  9. Stitch across again just to the right of the previous line for extra security .
  10. Trim away the peak to ¼" from the line of stitching.
  11. Repeat to create a matching boxed corner on the opposite side.
    NOTE: If you are brand new to boxed corners, take a look at our full, step-by-step tutorial on the technique.

Create the lining

  1. Find the fused lining panel and the fused pocket panel.
  2. Fold the pocket panel right sides together along the original center crease line. Pin along both sides and across the bottom, leaving a 3-4” opening along the bottom for turning.
  3. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the lining in the top and bobbin.
  4. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom. Remember to pivot at each corner and to lock your seam at either side of the 3-4” opening. 
  5. Clip the corners and press open the seam allowance. 
  6. Turn right side out through the opening. 
  7. Using a long, blunt tool, gently push out all the corners so they are sharp. A chopstick, knitting needle or point turner works well for this. 
  8. Press flat, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
  9. Find the lining panel. Place it right side up on your work surface. 
  10. Place the pocket right side up on the lining panel. The pocket should be centered side to side and it's folded top edge should be approximately 2½” down from the top raw edge of the lining panel. Pin the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom.
  11. Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. This seam closes the opening used for turning.
  12. Measure to find the exact center point along both the top and the bottom edges of the lining panel. 
  13. Find the two 2” squares of mid-weight interfacing. 
  14. Along both the top and bottom edges, gently peel back the fusible fleece at the center point and slip a square of interfacing behind the fleece. The top edge of the interfacing square should be flush with the top of the fleece. 
  15. Fuse the interfacing square in place lightly. The, place the fleece back into position and fuse again. 
  16. Insert each half of the magnetic snap at these center points. The center of the snap should sit 1½” down from the raw edge of the panel. Use the plate to mark this position for each half on the right side of the lining. 
  17. Cut small slits through the fabric and fleece at the marked lines. 
  18. Insert the snap half from front to back. Place the plate over the prongs. Flatten the prongs to secure.
  19. One half should be centered along the top of the panel and the opposite half should be centered along the bottom of the panel. Make sure the halves line up perfectly before securing them. 
    NOTE: If you are brand new to inserting magnetic snaps, we have a full, step-by-step tutorial you can review before you begin this project. 
  20. Fold the lining panel in half, sandwiching the pocket and the snap between the layers. Pin along both sides. 
  21. Using a ½” seam allowance stitch both sides. 
  22. Form matching boxed corners following the same steps as above for the exterior. 

Assemble exterior and lining

  1. Find the exterior box. It should be right side out. 
  2. Press back the top raw edge of the exterior ½” all around.
  3. Find the plastic canvas panel. Place it inside the exterior box against the base panel. Our panel was a snug fit so nothing else was needed to hold it in place. If you feel your panel is less stable, you can adhere it in place with fusible seam tape or similar. 
  4. Find the lining box. It should be wrong side out. 
  5. Press back the top raw edge of the lining ½” all around. 
  6. Slip the lining inside the exterior so the two are now wrong sides together. Align all the seams and the bottom boxed corners. The pocket should sit against the back of the bag, opposite from the yo-yos.
  7. Align the top folds of the exterior and lining. These folds should be flush. If they are not, adjust the lining until you have a perfect match. Pin all they way around the top. 
  8. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the exterior in the top and to best match the lining in the bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch. 
  9. Edgestitch around the entire top to secure exterior to lining. We used our Janome Edge Guide foot to keep a precise, narrow seam. Be careful as you stitch past the yo-yos so you don’t catch any of their edges. Lift up the edge of any yo-yos that are particularly close to the top to allow the foot to pass by.

Rivet the handle in place

  1. Find the leather (or similar) strap. Our bag is designed with an approximately 7-8” handle drop, which is enough to allow you to slip your arm through and carry the bag snug against your body. You could cut it slightly longer to best fit your arm, but don’t cut it too long as the stiffness of the wider leather strap is not conducive to a super long strap. We cut our strap at 21”. Since leather does not fray, we did not need to finish our cuts. 
  2. Center one end of the strap over one side seam. The cut end should sit 1⅜” down from the finished top of the tote. Clip the strap in place.
  3. The center of the rivet should be ½” up from the cut end of the strap and centered side to side across the width of the strap. Mark this point then use the point of an awl to create an initial hole through the strap and into the fabric. 
  4. Repeat on the opposite side of the tote with the opposite end of the strap. 
  5. Un-clip the strap and use a leather hole punch to finish the hole in both the strap…
  6. … as well as through the fabric.
  7. Place the strap back into position against the tote, lining up the holes, and insert a rivet from front to back at each side through all the layers. 
  8. Attach the back cap and hammer into position to secure.

    NOTE: If you are new to installing rivets, we have a full tutorial. It shows the steps for a standard rivet, but a double cap rivet follows the same process just with slightly different tools to accommodate the caps at both the front and back. 


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild


Comments (4)

Janine Taale said:
Janine Taale's picture

I wish I could upload a picture of my finished bag... my first time quilting fabric and first time yo-yo's and first time that my rivets worked. I did not use leather but 'faux-leather' in silver ready-made and I messed up the first 12 yo-yo's, only because I missed one detail which was actually very clear from your tutorial, but whichnI overlooked. So I did them all over again (haha). Thanks to your excellent description and tutorials the bag looks absolutely magnificent. Thanks again!, Janine from France

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

@Janine - we are thrilled to hear about your first time success! You're right, we don't use photos in our comments, but if you follow us on social media, please post a picutre - we'd love to see it and to share your inspriation. There are icons to click at the top right of every page to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and/or Instagram. Thanks so much!

DebS said:
DebS's picture

I absolutely love this tote. Not too small and not too big. The only part that I will have trouble with is the quilting. I'm definitely not an expert there, but I'm willing to try!

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

@DebS - You can do it. The panel is quilted as one flat piece, and if you follow our diagram and draw in all the lines, you should be spot on!