Designer fabric is amazing and the variety of colors and motif styles is endless, but sometimes… working with a solid color can be dramatic in a different way. It allows the lines and details of a bag’s design to shine, like the pleats, curving sidewall, front flap, and twin needle stitching on this black linen tote. A solid color is also a true test of a machine’s power and precision.
Thanks to being a Janome Exclusive Studio, we always sew with the best, including the Horizon Memory Craft 9450 we selected for this project. Its huge bed space means we don’t have to worry about scrunching up layers while working. Plus, the needle penetration power is strong and consistent – a must when you’re dealing with lots o’ layers. We used the machine’s built-in AcuFeed™ Flex fabric feeding system throughout construction, which means the fabric was being smoothly fed from both the top and bottom at all times. No shifting. No bunching. No sliding. No kidding!
Our beautiful solid is an Essex Linen blend by Robert Kaufman from Fat Quarter Shop. You might not think of selecting linen for a bag since it isn’t a very heavy substrate and, as we all know, linen can be prone to wrinkling. However, we show you how to incorporate a variety of stabilization to keep everything firm yet still supple enough to allow for the inverted pleats on the front pockets. We blended fusible fleece, lightweight fusible interfacing, and mid-weight fusible interfacing. Once pressed upon completion, the bag really holds its shape nicely.
About those cool pleats – if you’re brand new, don’t worry. We provide lots of details below and include a link to our additional step-by-step pleating tutorial. One of the things we love about pleats is how they allow a pocket to expand as needed to hold whatever you drop in, but when empty, they pop back to a flat finish.
Our double pleated pockets also feature a unique front flap that covers the tops of the pockets to help protect their contents. The flap has a slight outward bow to it so it’s easy to lift up to access either pocket.
One detail that really stands out against the solid color is our contrasting topstitching, done with both a single needle and twin needle Triple Stitch. A Triple Stitch is a Janome utility stitch that moves the needle back and forth multiple times as each stitch is formed, resulting in a thicker finish. Your machine may have a similar style. If not, another option would be to increase the weight of the thread. We used a 40wt rayon in a matte silver, which tied in nicely to our stunning striped webbing. You could try a 30wt or heavier. As with any kind of decorative stitching, always practice first on scraps to make sure your thread, stitch selection, and stitch settings are going to give you just the look you want. We never cease to be amazing by the Janome stitch precision, but that doesn’t mean we don’t practice –– we do!
This tote can be carried with the looped handles or over the shoulder or cross body with the adjustable strap. The strap can also be completely removed. There are D-ring tabs riveted at each side and swivel clips at each end of the strap.
We recommend a standard polyester webbing in a color to match your solid exterior for those side D-ring tabs, but you can then go all out with a patterned webbing for the handles and strap. We chose a heavyweight nylon webbing in a bold black and white stripe from Renaissance Ribbons. The stripes echo the clean lines of the bag itself. This webbing is a super popular item, which tends to sell-out now and then, but don’t be deterred; Renaissance Ribbons can always notify you when it’s back in stock.
As a playful contrast to the solid color exterior, we used a beautiful coordinating print for the lining. Keep the pattern subtle with hints of the exterior color to add just the right dash of fun. There’s a lining pocket, and we include a link below to our full tutorial that explains how to fussy cut to perfectly match a pocket to a background panel.
Our Sleek Linen Tote finishes at approximately 12″ wide x 13” high with a 3” deep sidewall. The carry handles have an approximate 3½” drop and the shoulder strap is fully adjustable to a maximum of about 44”.
Our thanks to Janome America for sponsoring this project and allowing us to bring the pattern to you free of charge.
For more information about the Janome Horizon Memory Craft 9450 or any of the other amazing Janome models, visit the Janome America website or contact your local Janome America Dealer to see it and sew with it yourself!
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
- Edge Guide Foot; optional, but helpful for precise topstitching
- Walking or Even Feed foot; optional, but makes handling the thicker layers much easier – you could also engage your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the AcuFeed™ Flex system we use on many of our Janome studio machines
- Twin Needle; optional, but makes the prominent double rows of topstitching faster and more precise – if you have a Janome machine, you likely have an appropriate Twin Needle in your standard needle pack
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: Our recommended yardages account for extra to allow all the sidewall pieces to be cut as continuous strips.
- 1½ yards of 44”+ wide solid color linen/cotton blend or similar for the bag exterior; we used 44” Essex Linen by Robert Kaufman in Black from Fat Quarter Shop
- 1½ yards of 44”+ wide quilting weight cotton for the lining – we recommend a bold print that compliments the solid of the exterior; we used a blue and black medallion print from the S4H stash, originally from David Butler’s Parson Gray World Tour collection
- 1½ yards of 45”+ wide fusible fleece; we used 45” Pellon Thermolam
- 1 yards of 20”+ lightweight fusible interfacing; we used 20” Pellon Shape-Flex
- Scrap of ¼ yard of 20”+ wide mid-weight fusible interfacing, you only need about 8” x 7”; we used 45” Pellon Décor Bond
- ¼ yard of 1” wide solid webbing to match the solid color of the exterior; we used black
- 2 yards of 1” wide patterned webbing for bag handles and adjustable strap; we used stylish black and white heavyweight nylon webbing from Renaissance Ribbons
- FOUR double cap rivets; we used silver
- Rivet setting tools for your rivets; we like to use Dritz Double Cap Rivets and their Rivet Setting Tools.
- TWO 1” swivel clips; we used silver
- ONE 1” slide adjuster; we used silver
- TWO 1” D-rings; we used silver
- NOTE: This type of hardware can be found from multiple sources online and in-stores. Brands can be purchased in sets or mixed and matched, but it is important that all the finishes match.
- All purpose thread to match fabric and webbing
- Heavier-weight thread in a contrasting color to coordinate with the patterned webbing for all the topstitching detail; we used 40wt rayon in a matte silver
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors and/or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Wonder Clips or similar as an option to help hold some of the thicker elements in place
- Lighter to melt/finish the ends of the solid polyester webbing
- Small hammer to set rivets; we recommend a ball peen hammer
- Heavy metal, stone or hard wooden block to use as a cutting and hammering surface; we like to use a small granite block
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- Download and print the pattern elements: main exterior body, exterior pocket, and flap, which are made up of TEN pieces to assemble and have been bundled into ONE PDF to make the download easier.
IMPORTANT: You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There are guide rules on each page to confirm your print out is to size.
- Cut out each of the pattern pieces along the solid lines.
- For the main exterior body pattern, aligning the printed arrows, assemble the FOUR pieces into the complete body pattern.
- For the front pocket pattern, aligning the printed arrows, assemble the FOUR pieces into the complete pocket pattern; you’ll notice there are handy guides printed on the bottom two pieces indicating pleat placement. A center seam line within construction will divide the pocket panel into two sections.
- For the flap pattern, aligning the printed arrows, assemble Part A and Part B into the complete flap pattern.
- For all the patterns, always butt together the pieces; do NOT overlap. Then tape in place.
- From the exterior fabric (the black linen in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 4” wide x 50” long strip for the sidewall
NOTE: This will be trimmed for an exact fit within construction to approximately 46”, but it’s best to start with a longer strip for ease of insertion.
Using the assembled exterior pattern, cut TWO
Using the assembled pocket pattern, cut ONE
Using the assembled flap pattern, cut ONE
- From the lining fabric (the medallion print in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 4” wide x 50” long strip for the sidewall
NOTE: As above, this will be trimmed for an exact fit within construction to approximately 46”, but it’s best to start with a longer strip for ease of insertion.
Using the assembled exterior pattern, cut TWO
Using the assembled pocket pattern, cut ONE
Using the assembled flap pattern, cut ONE
Fussy cut ONE 9” wide x 15” high rectangle for the interior lining pocket
NOTE: We took the extra time to match our pocket to the back lining panel. If you are new to this technique, take a look at our full tutorial on Matching a Pocket to a Background Panel.
- From the fusible fleece, cut the following:
ONE 3” wide x 50” long strip for the sidewall
Using the assembled exterior pattern, but cutting along the dotted seam line rather than the exterior solid line, cut TWO
Using the assembled flap pattern, but cutting along the dotted seam line rather than the exterior solid line, cut ONE
- From the lightweight fusible interfacing, using the assembled pocket pattern, but cutting along the dotted seam line rather than the exterior solid line, cut TWO.
- From the mid-weight fusible interfacing, cut ONE 8” x 7” rectangle.
- From the solid webbing, cut TWO 4” lengths.
- From the patterned webbing, cut the following:
TWO 11” lengths for the handles
ONE 48” length for the adjustable strap
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Center a fusible fleece panel on the wrong side of the front and back exterior panels and the exterior flap panel. In all cases, there should be ½” of fabric showing beyond the fleece on all sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Center the 3” x 50” fusible fleece strip on the wrong side of the 4” x 50” exterior sidewall strip. There should be ½” of fabric showing beyond the fleece along each long side, but the fleece and fabric will be flush at the ends. This is because the strip will be cut to precisely fit during construction. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Center a lightweight fusible interfacing panel on both the exterior pocket panel and the exterior pocket’s lining panel. As above, there should be ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all sides.
- Center the mid-weight fusible interfacing panel on one half of the interior lining pocket panel. The interfacing should sit on the wrong side of the pocket panel so there is ½” of fabric showing along the top and both sides. The bottom edge should sit at the center of the panel. If you have a directional fabric, as we did, this interfacing panel should be against what will be the top of pocket once the panel is folded and stitched in place.
Create the flap
- Find the exterior flap panel, which should have its fleece interfacing fused in place, and the flap lining panel, which has no interfacing.
- Place the two panels right sides together aligning all raw edges. Pin along the bottom edge only (the longest side).
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across the bottom edge only.
- Press the seam allowance open to flatten it.
- Bring the panels around so they are now wrong sides together. Press well again, being careful to insure the seamed edge is straight and true across the bottom of the flap.
- For the best results, set up your machine for twin needle stitching using a Triple Stitch or similar multi-stitch utility setting. We slightly lengthened our Triple Stitch.
- Re-thread the machine with the heavier-weight contrasting thread (we used 40wt rayon in matte silver) in the top and thread to best match the exterior in the bobbin – we used all-purpose black.
NOTE: As always, when adding topstitching that will be very prominent, test your stitches first on scraps to confirm all your settings. We like to use the Janome Start/Stop button for this type of stitching as it feeds smoothly and evenly – more so than you can achieve with a foot pedal as we’re all guilty of varying the pressure when using a foot pedal.
- Topstitch all the way across the seamed bottom edge of the flap.
NOTE: If you are brand new to twin needle stitching, check out our full tutorial. Most machines allow twin needle stitching, but if for some reason yours does not or you simply choose not to use a twin needle, you can instead run two very close lines of parallel edgestitching along the bottom of the flap.
Create and place the exterior pocket with its double pleats and flap
- Find the exterior front pocket panel and the exterior front pocket lining panel, both of which should have a layer of lightweight interfacing fused in place. Place the two panels right sides together, aligning all raw edges.
- Re-thread with matching, all-purpose thread in the top and bobbin, re-set for a standard straight stitch, and re-insert a standard needle.
- Pin along the top and both sides; leave the bottom edge open, it will be secured later within the sidewall seam.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along the top and both sides.
- Clip the upper corners and press open the seam allowance.
- Turn the sewn panel right side out through the open bottom. Gently push out the upper corners so they are nice and sharp. A long, blunt tool works well for this, like a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner.
- Press the sewn panel flat.
- Using the original paper pattern as a guide, mark for the two sets of inverted box pleat. You are marking FIVE lines: three solid and two dotted. You can mark these in different colors or simply keep track in your head which is which.
- For the first set of pleats, bring together one outer solid marked line with the center solid line. This means you are pinching the fabric from behind ,keeping the exterior and lining layers together, and folding along the dotted line.
- Repeat to pinch and fold over the opposite side so your two folded edges now meet exactly along the center line. It helps to press and lightly pin to keep the pleat in place.
- Repeat with the second set of pleats on the other side of the pocket panel.
- For the flattest finish to our tote’s pocket, we wanted to secure the base of our box pleats. To do this, flip the panel to the lining side and flatten the bottom of the back fold from a box into a simple flat fold. You are folding along the marked center line to flatten.
- Using the pattern once again as your guide, mark the upper limit of the stitching, which should be the length of the pleat lines – 2” up from the raw edge. You can see in the photo below that we both placed pins to hold our flattened fold and used a marking pencil to place a dot at the 2”-up measurement.
- Stitch from the bottom raw edge up to the 2” marked point. You are stitching 1” in from the folded edge. Make sure to backstitch or lock stitch at the top of the seam.
- Repeat to secure the bottom of the second inverted box pleat.
- Flip the pocket panel back over to the exterior side and re-press, allowing the secured bottom of the pleat to once again release into its box shape so the pleat lays nice and flat from bottom up to the top.
NOTE: This type of pleat is a fairly standard inverted box pleat style, but the folding, then flattening, then re-folding might seem a bit confusing if you are brand new to the technique. We have a full tutorial on these type of pleats that you may want to review prior to starting. In addition, it can be helpful to try your folds first on the paper pattern itself to understand the process.
- Find one of the main exterior panels. The front and back panels are exactly the same at this point, so you can use either one. The panels should have their fleece already fused in place.
- Set the exterior panel right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Set the pleated pocket panel, also right side up, on top of the main panel. Center the pocket panel on the main panel so there is approximately 1½” to either side of the pocket. The bottom raw edge of the pocket should be flush with the bottom raw edge of the main panel.
- Pin along both sides of the pocket through all the layers.
- Re-thread the machine with the heavier-weight contrasting thread in the top and all-purpose black in the bobbin. Re-set for a slightly lengthened Triple Stitch or similar.
- Edgestitch along each side of the pocket.
- Find the exact center of the pocket and draw in a guide line at this point.
NOTE: Remember, any time you are working on the right side of your fabric, make sure your marking tool is one that will easily wipe away or will vanish with exposure to air or the heat of an iron.
- Keep the machine threaded with the heavier-weight contrasting thread in the top and all-purpose black in the bottom. Change out from a standard needle to a twin needle.
- Add a few pins along the drawn line to keep the pocket flat against the main panel.
- Stitch along the drawn line from bottom to top with the twin needle and the same slightly lengthened Triple Stitch you’ve used previously. You now have two matching pocket sections.
- Find the finished flap. You will notice it is slightly wider than the main panel itself. This is purposefully designed so the flap covers the top of the pocket yet bows out slightly so it’s easier to lift up the flap and reach in to retrieve the contents from either pocket.
- Place the flap across the top of the front panel, aligning the top raw edges and side raw edges, which will create that slight bow to the flap.
- Pin the flap in place along the top and sides.
- Re-thread the machine with all-purpose thread to best match the exterior in the top and bobbin. Re-insert a single standard needle. Set for a basting stitch.
- Baste the flap in place across the top and along both sides.
Add the exterior sidewall
- Find the exterior sidewall strip, which should have its fusible fleece in place.
- Starting at one corner, and with right sides together, pin one raw edge of the sidewall to the front exterior panel.
- As mentioned above, the sidewall strip is longer than necessary so you have extra with which to work to ease around the corners. This means, one pinned, your opposite end will extend beyond the top of the panel.
- Easing around the curved corners might take a bit of “futzing” – don’t be afraid to use extra pins and/or clip into the curve of the main panel to allow it expand to fit against the sidewall.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the sidewall in place against the front panel.
- You now have one free edge of the sidewall remaining. Pin and then stitch this free edge right sides together with the back exterior panel in the same way you handled the front. The only difference is the need to leave an approximate 4-5” opening along the center bottom for turning right side out later in the process.
- With the sidewall in place, trim away the excess sidewall so it is flush with the top of the main panels. The top raw edges of the sides, front, and back should be even all around.
Create the lining with pocket and matching sidewall
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the lining fabric in the top and bobbin.
- Find all the lining elements. Only the lining’s interior pocket has interfacing fused in place.
- To create the pocket, fold the panel in half right sides together so it is now 9” x 7.5”.
- Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom. Leave an approximate 3″ opening along the bottom for turning.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Lock your seam at either side of the 3″ opening.
- Clip the corners and press open the seam allowance.
- Turn the pocket right side out through the opening. Gently push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. Press flat, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Find one of the two lining panels. It doesn’t matter which one at this point, unless you matched your pocket to a specific panel. If so, grab that panel.
- Place the pocket on the right side of the panel. The pocket should be positioned 2½” up from the bottom raw edge of the panel and centered side to side.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. This closes the opening in the seam. For the cleanest finish, use a lock stitch to start and end your seam or leave your thread tails long, pull them through to the back, and hand knot to secure.
- Following the same steps as above for the exterior, pin the lining sidewall strip to the front and back lining panels.
- Stitch using a ½” seam allowance. First attaching one raw edge of the sidewall and then the other.
- Remember to ease and clip around the bottom corners as needed.
- And, trim away the excess sidewall fabric as you did above with the exterior construction.
Add handle loops and assemble lining and exterior
- Find the exterior bag and the two 11” lengths of patterned webbing.
- Carefully turn the exterior bag wrong side out.
- Measure to find the exact center of both the front and back panels. Place a marking pin at each center point.
- Curve each length of webbing so each end of the webbing loop sits 2¼” from the center marking pin. Pin or clip each end of each webbing loop in place. You are pinning the loops in place against the wrong side of the exterior bag. In other words, the loops hang down against the inside of the exterior bag.
- Machine baste each end of each loop in place.
- Find the completed lining. Make sure it is right side out.
- Keep the exterior bag wrong side out.
- Slip the lining inside the exterior so the two bags are now right sides together. The pocket of the lining should be against the plain back panel of the exterior.
- Adjust the lining so it is as flat as possible inside the exterior. Make sure the seams of the exterior and lining sidewalls are aligned. The top raw edges of the lining and the exterior should be flush. Pin all around the top.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch all around the top of the bag. We recommend starting and ending your top seam at one of the sidewall seams.
- Find the opening you left in the exterior along the bottom of the back sidewall.
- Gently pull the bag right side out through this opening.
- Push the lining down inside the exterior then press the bag flat, pressing especially firmly along the top seam.
- Re-thread the machine with the heavier-weight contrasting thread in the top and all-purpose black in the bobbin. Re-set for a slightly lengthened Triple Stitch or similar. Re-insert the twin needle.
- Topstitch around the entire top of the bag through all the layers. We recommend starting and stopping your seam at the center of one sidewall where this start/stop point will be hidden behind a D-ring tab.
- Pin closed the bottom opening in the back sidewall. Hand stitch closed using an invisible ladder stitch.
Add riveted side loops
- Find the two 4” lengths of solid webbing and the two 1” D-rings.
- Using a lighter, melt each end of each length of webbing. It doesn’t take much to melt, simply pass through the flame a couple times.
- Slip a length of webbing through each D-ring.
- Pull the webbing through until the ends of the webbing are flush. Pin or clip the ends together.
- Place a tabbed D-ring at the exact center of one sidewall. The bottom ends of the tab should be 1¼” down from the top seamed edge of the bag. The looped end with the D-ring should extend about ½” above the top seamed edge of the bag. Pin or clip in place.
- Mark the position for two centered rivets within the bottom 1” of each tab. One rivet on top of the other with about ⅛” between.
- Using the rivet tools, cut holes for two rivets through all the layers: both of the webbing layers as well as the layers of the bag’s sidewall.
NOTE: When inserting rivets through very thick layers such as you have here, it is best to mark and then cut through each layer independently in order to create a clean opening all the way through.
- Insert the top rivet from the exterior through to the lining. The post of the rivet should just be visible through the hole I’m the lining layer.
- Set this first side of the rivet onto the anvil, snap the other half of the rivet onto the post from the lining side, place the setting tool’s post into position, and hammer with several small, smooth whacks from a hammer.
NOTE: We have a full tutorial on riveting you can review prior to starting. As mentioned in the supply list, we like to do our riveting against a small block of granite. Part of the trick to getting a strong seal of the double cap rivets is a hard surface on which to hammer.
- Repeat to attach the opposite tabbed D-ring into place against the opposite sidewall.
Create the adjustable strap
- Find the 48” length of 1” patterned webbing along with the two 1” swivel clips and the 1” adjustable slider.
- This is a standard adjustable strap with double swivel clips. If you are brand new to the ins-and-outs-overs-and-unders of adjustable straps, check out our full step-by-step tutorial.
- The keys to keep in mind are to stitch the adjustable slider in place, keeping the seam as close to the hardware as possible.
- Remember to bring the second layer of webbing up and over the first layer. This is what creates the adjustability.
- And finish with a loop through the remaining swivel clip.
Project Design: Anne Adams
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild