This large weekender tote combines some of our favorite fabric types: natural, nubby twill, soft faux suede, and happy gingham for a pop of color and pattern. It also has the perfect soft feel, which makes it extremely packable. Not so soft and slouchy that it puddles on the floor, but also not so stiff that it seems to stand at attention if you set it down. Fill it up for a weekend getaway. Take it with you on your weekend shopping excursions. Or use it to carry your sewing and craft projects.
The Tote is the focal point bag in our Weekender Trio of travel storables. If you love it, you'll also like the matching Roomy Zippered Wristlet Pouch and the handy Zippered Mini Key Ring Pouch – both of which are featured in some of the images above and below.
Our combination of fabrics makes a wonderful transition to the tones and textures of fall. The elegant faux suede handles are soft to the touch with extra length to easily sling the bag over your shoulder. Clever fabric brackets help hold the straps in place and add an interesting detail. And of course, the signature monogram on the front personalizes and stylizes. The alphabet and brackets is a free download in the six major embroidery formats.
Links are provided below for our fabric choices, but the classic mix of twill, faux suede, and cotton is an easy combination to adjust to fit your favorite colors and patterns.
Our tote finishes at approximately 17" wide x 20" high with a 6" base and sides and a strap drop of about 12".
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot; optional but helpful for precise topstitching and strap seaming
- Satin Stitch foot; optional - another choice for precise topstitching
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ¾ yard of 44"+ wide medium weight twill for the bag's exterior and the back of the straps; we used 58" Organic Eco Twill in Natural
- ⅓ yard of 44"+ wide faux suede for the exterior of the pockets and the front of the straps; we recommend 54" Passion Faux Suede in Walnut
- 1 yard of 45"+ wide medium weight cotton for the lining of the bag, the lining's pocket and the lining of the exterior pockets; we used a 54" Mid-weight Cotton in Small Check Ivory/Charcoal
- ½ yard of 45"+ wide fusible fleece; we used 45" Pellon 987F Fusible Fleece in white
- Stabilizer for the optional embroidery as recommended for your embroidery machine
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- Embroidery thread to match main suede for optional monogram; we used a chocolate brown
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- From the fabric the bag's exterior and the back of the straps (Eco Twill in Natural in our sample), cut the following:
If monogramming, cut ONE rectangle at 18" wide x 21" high; cut ANOTHER rectangle big enough to hoop; it will be cut down after embroidery to 18" x 21"
If not monogramming, cut TWO 18" wide x 21" high rectangles
TWO 40" x 1¾" strips for the straps
FOUR 2½" x 3½" rectangles for the strap tabs
- From the fabric for the exterior of the pockets and the front of the straps (Faux Suede in Walnut in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 18" wide x 8" high rectangles for the exterior of the pockets
TWO 40" x 1¾" strips for the straps
- From the fabric for the lining of the bag, the lining's pocket and the lining of the exterior pockets (Small Check in Ivory/Charcoal in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 18" wide x 21" high rectangles for the lining
TWO 18" wide x 8" high rectangles for the lining of the exterior pockets
ONE 8" wide x 11" high rectangle for the lining's pocket
- From the fusible fleece, cut TWO 18" x 21" rectangles.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Download the free font collection in the proper format for your machine.
- Hoop the twill fabric and stabilizer, and monogram the letter of your choice surrounded by the brackets.
- Trim the finished panel to 18" wide x 21" high, positioning the embroidery so it is centered side to side within the 18" width. The bottom-most curve of the brackets should be approximately 12½" up from the bottom raw edge, which will allow it to sit approximately 2" above the finished pocket.
- Match up each exterior twill piece with its corresponding fusible interfacing piece. Following manufacturer's directions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of each fabric piece.
- Set the fused pieces aside.
- Find the two 18" x 8" pieces of faux suede and the two 18" x 8" pieces of cotton for the pockets.
- Place a suede piece right sides together with a cotton piece. You should have two pairs.
- Pin each pair together along both 18" sides.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch together along both 18" sides. You now have two tubes. Press the seam allowances open and flat, pressing from the cotton side as the faux suede does not like the heat of the iron. You can also use a pressing cloth for extra protection.
- Turn each tube right side out. With the faux suede side facing up, press flat with your hands. The seamed 18" sides should be top and bottom.
- Gently roll the tube down, revealing about ⅛" of the cotton along the top seam line. Very carefully press this cotton reveal in place.
- Thread your machine with thread to match the faux suede in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Topstitch along the top edge, staying as close to the seam line as possible. This will hold the cotton reveal in place, giving it the appearance of piping. The slight roll also hides the bottom seam behind a clean folded edge.
- Repeat to finish the second pocket in the same manner.
- Find the interfaced front twill panel (if you did a monogram, this is the front panel; if not, either panel can be the "front").
- Place it right side up on your work surface.
- Measure 3½" up from the bottom raw edge of the panel and draw a horizontal line with your fabric pen/pencil.
- Place one pocket panel right side up on the main panel, aligning the bottom edge of the pocket with the drawn line. Pin in place.
- Measure to find the exact center of the pocket panel. It should be 9" in from each raw side edge. Mark with pins or a draw vertical line through the center of the pocket.
- If necessary, re-thread your machine with thread to match the faux suede in the top and bobbin. The stitch should still be slightly lengthened.
- Topstitch through all the layers along the drawn/marked vertical line, creating two sections for the pocket panel.
- Edgestitch across the bottom of the pocket through all the layers to secure the pocket in place.
- Repeat with the remaining pocket and the interfaced back twill panel.
Seam and box corners
- Place the front and back twill panels right sides together. Be very careful to line up the edges of the pockets.
- You want the pockets to look like a continuous line around the tote, so it's very important to take the time to make a perfect match.
- Re-thread the machine if necessary if thread to best match the bag exterior 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 6" sides and base. To create this width, we figured our corners at 3".
- Measure and mark each corner.
- Cut out the 3" corner squares along your drawn lines.
- Press open all the seams.
- Flatten the corner and pin the sides together, lining up the side and bottom seams.
- Double stitch across the corner, using a ½" seam allowance.
- Repeat to create the opposite corner.
- Turn the bag right side out and push the corners out into place.
NOTE: If you are new to boxed corners, check out our tutorial for step-by-step instructions.
- Set the exterior bag aside.
- Find the two 40" lengths of twill and the two 40" lengths of faux suede.
- Match up each twill strip with a suede strip. Place the strips right sides together, aligning all the raw edges. Pin in place along the 40" sides.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance (we used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot), stitch both 40" sides. The ends remain open and raw.
- Turn right side out and press flat from the twill side.
NOTE: Take a look at our handy tutorial on turning tubes, using a hemostat.
- Re-thread the machine if necessary with thread to match the faux suede, edgestitch along both long sides of both straps.
- Turn under the raw ends of each strap ½" and pin the folds in place.
- Place one strap on the front panel. The outside edge of the strap should be 4" in from the bag's side seam. The bottom end of the strap should be 5" down from the bag's top raw edge. Follow the same placement for the opposite side of the handle. 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.
- The straps are stitched in place on the exterior panel with a box stitch at each end. There is no additional stitchin gup the sides of the strap – just the box stitch.
- If you are new to making a box stitch, take a look at our X Box tutorial, although in this case, we are leaving out the "X" and just stitching a box. The sides of the box should be stitched directly over the strap's side edgestitching. The bottom of the box should be ¼" up from the bottom folded end of the strap. The top of the box is 1" up from this bottom line of stitching. This top horizontal line will be hidden under the strap tab.
- Repeat to place and stitch the remaining strap on the tote's back panel.
- Find the four 2½" x 3½" twill pieces.
- Fold back each side ½" and press well.
- Open up each corner to create a small faux miter. If you are new to this technique, we have a tutorial that can help.
NOTE: Yes, this is fussy work, but the strap tabs are an important design element and you want to get as crisp a point as possible out of the heavy twill.
- Pin each mitered corner in place. Hand or machine baste in place.
- Repeat to create four tabs.
- Place a tab over one end of one strap. It should be positioned so the bottom edge of tab just covers the top horizontal seam line that secured the end of the strap to the bag. Center the tab so it is perfectly perpendicular to the strap with ¾" extending beyond the strap on each side. Pin in place.
- Make sure your machine is threaded with thread to match the twill in the top and bobbin.The stitch should be slightly lengthened.
- Very carefully stitch the tab in place with an X-Box (this time you are stitching both the outer box and the inner X). You want the outer box to be as close to the edges of the tab as possible. The diagonal lines through the middle of the box should be straight and true.
- We are using our Janome Satin Stitch foot with its helpful red guide arrow. Our Janome machine also has an amazingly precise and powerful feeding system, so we never worry about stitching close to the edge - even through multiple layers. If you are concerned about your machine's abilities, practice first on some scrap layers.
NOTE: If you are worried about your free-form stitching ability, you can draw lines to follow for the diagonals. Just be sure to use a fabric pen or pencil that wipes away easily or vanishes with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron – as you are working on the right side of the fabric.
- Repeat to attach the remaining tabs, being extra careful that they are in perfectly matching positions on both the front and back.
- Remove any basting stitches from all the tabs.
- Fold down the top raw edge of the tote ½" all around. Press in place.
- Find the 8" x 11" pocket rectangle.
- Fold in half, right sides together, so it is now each 8" x 5½". Pin along all three sides, leaving an approximate 3" opening along the bottom for turning.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the lining in the top and bobbin. The stitch length should be standard.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, 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. 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.
- Place one panel right side up and flat on your work surface. Measure to find the exact center of the panel.
- Pin the pocket in place on the right side of the lining panel. The pocket should be centered side to side, and the top of the pocket should be 3" down from the top raw edge.
- Slightly lengthen the stitch. 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. This edgestitching also closes the opening used for turning.
- Place the two lining pieces right sides together, sandwiching the pocket between the layers. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Re-set the stitch length to normal. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- Following the same steps as above for the exterior tote, measure for 6" boxed corners, cutting out 3" squares from each corner.
- Flatten and double stitch.
NOTE: Again, If you are new to boxed corners, check out our tutorial for step-by-step instructions.
- Fold back the top raw edge of the lining ½" all around. Press in place.
- Find the exterior tote. It should be right side out.
- Find the lining. It should be wrong side out.
- Slip the lining inside the main tote so the two bags are now wrong sides together. Align all the seams and the bottom corners. Pin the layers together around the entire top edge.
- The top edge of the lining should extend above the twill by ⅛" all around. If the folded edges of the twill exterior and the lining do not line up to create this ⅛" reveal, adjust the folds as necessary. It is easier to refold the cotton lining. As with the pockets, this ⅛" reveal creates a faux piping treatment.
- Make sure the handles are folded down out of the way of the top seam.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the exterior in the top and to best match the lining in the bobbin. Adjust for a lengthened stitch. Edgesgtitch ⅛" from the top folded edge of the twill, staying on the exterior not the lining. Go all the way around the top of the tote. This secures the ⅛" reveal and keeps the lining from shifting.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild