With the time change from Daylight to Standard Time across most of North America, we get an extra hour of sleep, but in exchange for this bonus snooze time, we are now faced with several months of ever-encroaching darkness. It’s the perfect time for a bag with built-in reflective capabilities. This high-visibility mini-tote is great for kids who are often headed to school and back home in the dark. We used four different nifty notions from Dritz.
This cute little bag is made from easy-to-sew, pre-quilted material; no need for a lining or any extra batting or interfacing. We added fold over elastic to bind all the raw edges, and fashioned our cool clasp from a key fob and snap (see how easy it is below).
Two widths of fusible reflective ribbon make sure the wearer stands out in street lights and headlights. We used a reflective ribbon from Dritz, but there are quite a few options available for this type of iron-on tape.
Although designed with kids in mind, there’s no reason it couldn’t be used for adults as well. The cross body strap might need to be lengthened, but otherwise, it would be a great mini tote for anyone.
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ½ yard of 44″+ wide double-sided, pre-quilted nylon fabric or similar; we used a pre-quilted double-faced fabric in rip stop nylon, purchased locally
NOTE: We recommend the double-face quilting fabric because it eliminates the need for a lining, and we chose the nylon option for its water-resistant benefit. However, other tough, medium weight fabrics could also work, such as canvas or heavy twill.
- ONE package (you need 1¼ yards) of 1″ fold-over elastic; we originally used red Dritz Fold Over elastic from the Dritz Babyville division.
- ONE package of iron-on reflective ribbon, we used the Dritz option, which contains one yard each of 2″ ribbon, ¾” ribbon and ⅜” – for this project you will use the ¾” and ⅜” ribbon — save the 2″ for future projects.
- ONE key fob hardware set
- ONE size 16 (1.1 cm) metal snap
- ONE SET of snap pliers or similar to set the snap
- ⅓ yard of ⅝” grosgrain ribbon; we used black
- 1¼ yards of 1″ wide polyester webbing; we used black
- ⅓ yard of ¾” wide polyester webbing; we used black
- All purpose thread to match fabric, binding and webbing
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Pressing cloth
- Straight pins or clips – we recommend, and used, clips, which left no marks or holes in either the rip stop nylon or the fold-over elastic
- Standard pliers to clamp key fob
- From the fabric, cut the following:
TWO 11¼” wide x 11⅝” high rectangles for the bag body
ONE 11½” wide x 5½” high rectangle for the pocket
- From the 1″ webbing, cut the following:
ONE 39″ length for the cross-body strap
ONE 4½” length for the top front clasp
- From the ¾” webbing, cut the following, cut ONE 10″ length for the bottom front clasp
- From the ⅜” reflective ribbon, cut the following:
ONE 4½” length for the top front clasp
ONE 5″ length for the bottom front clasp
TWO 5½” lengths for the back accent arrow
- Leave the ¾” reflective ribbon as one 36″ length.
- From the fold-over elastic, cut ONE 11½” length. Leave the remaining FOE as one continuous length. It will be cut to fit the top edge of the bag as shown below.
- From the grosgrain ribbon, cut ONE 9½” length.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Find the pocket piece and the 11½” length of Fold-Over Elastic.
- Using the pins or clips, fold the elastic over the top raw edge of the pocket and pin or clip in place.
- Thread the machine with thread to match the binding in the top and bobbin.
- Edgestitch the elastic binding in place, removing the clips as you go. Stitch slowly, being careful to insure you are catching both the front and back of the elastic.
- Finish the bottom raw edge of the pocket with a simple zig zag or your favorite machine sewn finish.
- Turn back the bottom edge ½” and pin in place.
- Find the front fabric panel
- Place the pocket right side up on top of the front panel. The raw sides of the pocket should be flush with the raw sides of the panel, the top bound edge of the pocket should sit 4½” down from the top raw edge of the panel. Clip the pocket in place.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along the bottom only.
- Find the 5″ length of reflective ribbon and the 10″ length of ¾” webbing.
- Center the reflective ribbon on the webbing, aligning one raw end of the ribbon with one raw end of the webbing. The opposite end of the ribbon will extend just half way up the webbing. Using a pressing cloth, fuse the ribbon in place.
- Using the snap pliers or a similar setting tool, insert one half of the metal snap through the webbing just above the end of the reflective ribbon.
- Place the front panel right side up and flat on your work surface. Remember, the pocket is held in place with just the one line of stitching across the bottom.
- Place the webbing at the exact center point of the pocket. The bottom edge of the webbing (the bottom is where the reflective ribbon and the webbing are aligned) is flush with the bottom raw edge of the panel (not the bottom of the pocket – the bottom raw edge of the panel). The top end of the webbing will extend beyond the top bound edge of the pocket about 3″.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to match the webbing in the top and bobbin.
- Edgestitch the webbing in place through all the layers: webbing, pocket and front panel. As shown in the drawing below, your stitching should go up one side, cross over just below the binding, then continue down the opposite side. Our drawing has the thread highlighted (rather than matching) so you can see its path.
- Find the 4½” length of 1″ webbing and the 4½” length of ⅜” reflective ribbon. As above, center the ribbon on the webbing and fuse in place, using a pressing cloth.
- Find the key fob clamp. Slip one end of the webbing/ribbon into the clamp. Don’t completely squeeze the clamp shut yet. Simply set the webbing/ribbon in place and apply enough pressure to the clamp to hold it closed.
- Pin the raw end of the webbing/ribbon to the exact center of the top raw edge of the front panel. This should put this top portion of the clasp unit directly in line with the bottom clasp unit already stitched in place on the pocket.
- Test the loop of the bottom webbing through the fob to confirm the position of the second half of the snap. When slipped through the fob, the webbing loop should extend above the binding just about ¼”. Adjust the position of the top webbing along the top raw edge of the panel, and make sure the bottom webbing loop completely covers the first half of the snap with about ¼” to spare – you want to well-cover the end of the reflective tape below the snap.
- Using a small flame, melt the end of the bottom webbing loop just enough to seal it.
- Using your determined placement, inset the remaining half of the metal snap. Refer to our awesome Metal Snaps Tutorial, if you are new to this technique.
- Slip the webbing loop through the key fob clamp again and test the overall clasp position one more time. The upper webbing should lay flat against the fabric and the fob should sit about ¼” above the pocket binding.
- With this position confirmed, machine baste the top webbing in place along the top raw edge and trim away any excess webbing.
- Place a pin ¼” above the top edge of the key fob clamp.
- Remove the clamp from the end of the webbing.
- The machine should still be threaded with thread to match the webbing in the top and bobbin.
- Edgestitch down each side of the upper webbing, stopping at the pin mark. This creates a small free end to the webbing.
- Slip the key fob clamp back onto the free end of the webbing and fully clamp in place with a pair of pliers. Be careful with the pliers; the metal is easy to dent. You might want to use a bit of fabric between the pliers and the metal.
NOTE: Why the extra steps? Stitching without the clamp in place allows you to run your seam much closer all the way down. Otherwise, you’d never be able to get close enough without bumping into the clamp with presser foot.
- Find the back panel and the two 5½” lengths of ⅜” reflective ribbon.
- Trim one end of each length of ribbon at a diagonal, so when placed together, their point will form a “V”… well, an upside down V.
- Place the two lengths along the bottom raw edge of the back panel, forming a triangle. The base of the triangle should be approximately 4″ and the top of the triangle should be at the center of the panel. Clamp the ribbon in place.
- Make sure those two points match exactly, and fuse in place, using a pressing cloth.
Stitch front to back and box the bottom
- We used a French Seam to attach the front to the back, which secured the panels and enclosed/finished the raw edges of the seam allowance. We have summarized the steps below, but if you are brand new to this technique, take a look our French Seam Finishing tutorial, which is just one part of our four-part series on machine finishes.
- Place the front and back panels WRONG sides together.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to match the fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Using a ⅜” seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom.
- Trim back the seam allowance to just under ¼” on all three sides.
- Turn the bag so it is now wrong side out and the front and back panels are right sides together. Using a pressing cloth, press the bag flat.
- Stitch again along both sides and across the bottom, using a ¼” seam allowance. This seam encloses the first seam. We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot to keep our seam precise.
- Create 2″ box corners, which means your “box” will be half that size or 1″.
NOTE: If you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial: How To Box Corners.
- Trim the seam allowance at each corner to ¼”.
- Finish the raw edge with your favorite stitch. We used our Janome Overedge foot.
- Turn the exterior bag right side out, push out the corners, and press well.
Add the key ring strap and bind the top
- Find the length of the grosgrain ribbon and the ring from the key fob hardware set.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to match the ribbon in the top and bobbin.
- Slip one end of the ribbon through the ring. Tuck under the raw end ¼” and pin in place.
- Stitch in place with a short horizontal seam.
- The top raw end of the ribbon should sit against the back of the bag, ¾” in from the left side seam. Drop the ring end of the ribbon down into the bag. The ring should hit about 1″ above the bottom of the bag. Adjust the top of the ribbon as needed to get this drop length, trimming away any excess ribbon. Pin the or baste the raw end of the ribbon in place.
- Find the remaining length of fold-over elastic. Starting at a side seam, wrap the elastic over the top raw edge.
- Use pins or clips to hold the top edge in place. Leave about 1″ free at the beginning and the end to join for a clean finish.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to match the binding in the top and bobbin.
- As you did with the pocket binding, edgestitch the binding in place. Stitch slowly, being careful to insure you are catching both the front and the back of the elastic.
- When you get back around to your starting point, remove the bag from the machine and pin the 1″ free ends right sides together.
- Stitch together, running your seam right next to the side of the bag.
- Trim the seam allowance back to ⅛”. Re-fold the elastic over the top edge of the bag, and finish the binding seam, matching your new stitching exactly in line with the original edgestitching.
Attach the strap
- Find the 39″ length of 1″ webbing and the full 36″ length of ¾” reflective ribbon. As above, center the ribbon on the webbing and fuse in place, using a pressing cloth. The reflective ribbon should stop 1½” from each end of the webbing.
- As you did above the pocket loop webbing, use a small flame to melt and seal both ends of the webbing.
- Place the bag front side up on your work surface.
- One end of the webbing goes on the top right of the bag front. It should be positioned 1½” in from the right side seam…
- … and 1½” down the bottom of the fold-over elastic binding.
- Flip over the bag so it is now back side up on your work surface.
- Place the opposite end of the webbing in the same position on the top right of the bag back (which would be the top left if looking from the front).
- The two ends are now on opposite sides of the bag, creating the cross-body strap.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to match the webbing in the top and bobbin.
- Edgestitch both ends of the strap in place with a rectangle, running the seam along the bottom, up one side, back across the webbing just below the binding and back down the opposite side.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild