A deep yet bright, nearly navy blue is a classic color and was the inspiration for our Classic Blue Tote – a sleek, soft bag in a traditional curved shape with both carry handles and an adjustable shoulder strap.
In fashion, “classic” is often associated with something understated and restrained. But there’s also the “new classic.” Although it sounds like an oxymoron, a new classic is simply the best of both worlds: the timeless lines of the original with an upstart edginess that adds just the right infusion of fun. We believe our Classic Blue Tote is the embodiment of the new classic vibe.
We created a complete pattern set for this bag. If you’re a S4H regular, you know we like to use regular geometric shapes whenever we can in order to make cutting as easy as possible for you. But when you have a project that relies on curves coming together perfectly, such as how the side panel wraps this tote, pattern pieces are a must.
For the exterior fabric, we recommend a décor or upholstery weight fabric. Not only does the extra heft of this type of substrate add to the wonderfully slouchy shape, these fabrics are generally quite wide, so you need less yardage, and the solid color selection (our choice) in velvets, velveteens, soft wools, etc. is usually quite varied.
The lining adds a pop of color to the interior of the bag. We opted for a cotton sateen, but a standard quilting cotton would work as well. Our bag is designed to be soft, so we don’t recommend anything too crisp that would create a crease. Between the exterior and lining layers is just a bit of lightweight woven interfacing.
You get two ways to carry the Classic Blue Tote. There are handles plus a fully adjustable strap that can be worn over one shoulder or cross-body. We choose to make our strap from a navy and white striped belting; it reminded us a bit of English boarding school uniforms. How’s that for classic?!
As with most commercial bags, for the longest life, this bag is meant to be spot cleaned with a water free agent or professionally dry cleaned. Spraying the outside with a stain repellant, such as ScotchGard or similar is a good protective step.
Our Classic Blue Tote finishes at approximately 14″ wide x 12½” high x 5” deep. The carry handles have an approximate 5” drop and the shoulder strap is fully adjustable to a maximum of about 46”.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Walking or Even Feed foot; optional but best when working with heavier fabrics; you can also engage your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the Janome AcuFeed™ Flex fabric feeding system we use on many of our studio machines
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ¾ – 1 yard of 54”+ wide décor weight fabric for the exterior; we used a 56” wide Upholstery Velvet in Navy
NOTE: Get a full yard if you choose a fabric with a distinct nap, such as we did with our velvet. You need extra fabric to insure all your cuts are made with the nap running in the same direction.
- ¾ yard of 44″+ wide quilting or sateen weight cotton for the lining; we used a sateen weight: Amy Butler’s Idyll in Midnight from her Violette collection
NOTE: Violette is an older collection from our S4H stash and may not be readily available online or in stores. Your best option would to search eBay or Etsy for remaining cuts.
- 3½ yards of 20″+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing (a woven fusible is recommended) for the main body of the bag; we used Pellon Shape-Flex
- Scrap or ¼ yard of 20”+ wide mid-weight fusible interfacing for the lining pocket; we used Pellon Decor Bond
- 1 yard of ⅜” piping cord for the handles
- TWO extra-large (7/16”) grommets; we used Dritz Extra-Large Grommets in nickel – purchasing a kit with the setting tools included
- 1½ yards of 1½” wide webbing or belting; we used a 2-yard pack of 1½” Dritz polyester belting in Navy/White Stripe
- TWO 1½” swivel hooks; we used Dritz 1½” Swivel Hooks in nickel
- ONE 1½” adjustable slide buckle; we used a 1½” Dritz Adjustable Slide in nickel
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
- Large safety pin
- Small hammer to set grommets; we recommend a soft leather mallet or a ball peen hammer
- Heavy metal, stone or wooden block to use as a cutting and hammering surface for the rivets and grommets
Getting Started and Pattern Downloads
- Download and print out our TWELVE pattern sheets, which have been bundled into one PDF to make the download easier. These elements will assemble into the six different pattern pieces; the first page the PDF is an assembly guide to make it easy to see how everything comes together.
NOTE: You will use the Side Panel pieces in two different ways, trimming and assembling the exterior sections to create the pattern for the lining. Although you can get away with just one set with careful planning, we highly recommend printing TWO copies of the Side Panel pages within the PDF (pages 7-10) in order to make all the cutting easier.
IMPORTANT: Each pattern page is ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on each page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
- Cut out each pattern piece along the solid line.
- The Side Pocket pattern is a single piece.
- Following the Pattern Assembly Guide as well as the arrows printed on the individual pieces, assemble Tote Front parts A, B, D, and D into the full Tote Front pattern.
- Following the Pattern Assembly Guide, assemble the THREE individual sections of the the Side Panel. Each section consists of TWO pieces. Assemble each of these pairs, aligning the printed arrows, to create the full Side Panel 1, Side Panel 2, and Side Panel 3 patterns.
- Following the Pattern Assembly Guide as well as the arrows printed on the individual pieces, assemble the FOUR sections of the Facing pattern.
- In all cases when assembling, butt together the pieces, do not overlap, and tape to create a full pattern piece.
- From the fabric for the bag exterior, cut the following:
NOTE: As mentioned above in the Supply List, if you are using a fabric with a nap, such as we did with the velvet, remember to carefully lay out your pattern pieces so the nap is running in the same direction on all the elements.
Using the Tote Front pattern, cut TWO; along the upper edge of each panel, transfer the two dots from the pattern to the fabric that indicate the position of the handles. We clipped into the edge of the fabric to mark; you could also use a fabric pen or pencil.
Using EACH of the three Side Panel patterns, cut ONE (one of each)
Using the Facing pattern, cut ONE
Using the Side Pocket pattern, cut TWO
TWO 2¼” x 13” strips on the bias for the handles
- Before moving on to the lining cuts, you need to adjust the pattern for the side panel. The exterior is cut as three separate sections as described above, however, the lining is cut as one piece.
- Using the second set of pattern pieces we recommended printing above, assemble the Side Panel 1, Side Panel 2, and Side Panel 3 patterns. Next, you must assemble these three patterns into one continuous pattern. But first, TRIM THE FOUR INNER EDGES along the dotted seam allowance lines. Then, assemble the three sections, aligning the triangle marks: two triangle marks align Part 1 and Part 2; one triangle mark aligns Part 2 and Part 3. As above, butt together the pieces, do not overlap, and tape to create a full LINING version of the Side Panel pattern.
- From the fabric for the lining, cut the following:
Using the Tote Front pattern, cut TWO — Cut the top along the dotted seam allowance line
Using the assembled Side Panel Lining pattern, cut ONE
Using the Side Pocket pattern, cut TWO
ONE 10” wide x 13” high rectangle for the lining pocket
- From the lightweight fusible interfacing, cut the following:
Using the assembled Side Panel Lining pattern, cut TWO — cutting on the dotted seam allowance line all around
Using the Tote Front pattern, cut FOUR — cutting on the dotted seam allowance line all around
Using the Facing pattern, cut ONE — cutting on the dotted seam allowance line all around
Using the Side Pocket pattern, cut TWO— cutting on the dotted seam allowance line all around
- From the mid-weight fusible interfacing, cut ONE 9” x 6” rectangle for the lining pocket.
- Cut the piping cord into TWO 13” lengths.
- Cut the 1½” Belting into ONE 50” length.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Main panel fusing
- Find the front/back exterior panels and the front/back lining panels along with the four coordinating panels of lightweight interfacing.
- Place an interfacing panel on the wrong side of each exterior panel, centering it so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing all around. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Place an interfacing panel on the wrong side of each lining panel. Remember, you trimmed along the top seam allowance for the front/back lining panels, so in this case, the interfacing panel should be flush with the fabric along the top edge and there should be ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing around the remaining three sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
Create the side pockets
- Collect the pieces for the two side pockets: two each from the exterior, the lining, and the lightweight interfacing.
- Place an interfacing panel on the wrong side of each lining pocket panel, centering it so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing all around. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Place an exterior panel and a fused lining panel right sides together. Pin along the top edge only through all the layers.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across the top edge only.
- Press the seam allowance open and flat.
- Bring the lining around to back so the two panels are now wrong sides together and the seam is straight along the top edge. Press flat.
- Repeat to create the second side pocket.
- We also machine basted the side edges of the pockets in place, staying very close to the raw edge, to make sure there was no shifting during the remainder of the construction process. This is optional.
- Set aside the side pockets.
Assemble and fuse the exterior side panel
- Find the three exterior pieces that make up the exterior side panel. Place the two side sections (Side Panel Part 1 and Side Panel Part 3) right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Find the finished side pockets.
- Place a side pocket right side up on one side section, aligning the bottom raw edges of the pocket with the inner raw edge of the side section. Pin the pocket in place.
- Find the remaining side section (Side Panel Part 2 – the largest of the three sections.
- Layer it over the side section with the pocket in place right sides together and pin in place through all the layers, sandwiching the bottom of the pocket between the side section layers.
NOTE: The photo below might be a little confusing. The folded back panel is Side Panel 1, underneath it is the Side Pocket, underneath that is Side Panel 2. Just remember that the pocket should sit right side up on Side Panel 1, and Side Panels 1 and 2 are right sides together. You are making a sandwich of the panels with the pocket in between.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across through all the layers. You are stitching through four layers.
- Repeat to place the remaining side pocket in place on the remaining side section. Pin the remaining raw edge of the center side panel in place, once again sandwiching the bottom of the pocket, and stitch in place.
- Press open the two seam allowances. Press well from both sides.
- Find one of the two side panel interfacing panels.
- Place the interfacing panel on the wrong side of the now-assembled exterior side panel, centering it so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing all around. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
Attach the exterior side panel to the front and back exterior panels
- Fold the assembled side panel in half to find the exact center point. Mark this center point with a pin on both outer edges of the side panel.
- Fold both the front and the back exterior panels in half to find the center point along the bottom edge of each panel (the bottom is the edge with the curved corners).
- Using these marked center points as your guide, align one side of the side panel to the front panel. Pin together first at the aligned center points, then continue pinning from the center point out, around the curved corner, and up the side.
- Repeat to pin from the same center point, out and around the opposite curved corner, and up the opposite side.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch from one upper corner, down the side, around the first corner, across the bottom, around the second corner, and up the opposite side.
NOTE: You can clip into the corners curves a bit to help the panel ease to fit against the side panel, but do this sparingly. You can also re-set for a shorter stitch length around the curve. For more tips on sewing successful curves, check out our full tutorial.
- At the top, the straight edge of the side panel should be flush with the straight edge of the front panel.
- Repeat to pin and stitch the back panel to the remaining raw edge of the side panel in the same manner.
Create the lining
- Find the 10” x 13” lining pocket panel and the coordinating piece of mid-weight interfacing. Fold the pocket panel in half, wrong sides together, so it is now 10” x 6½”. Press well to set a crease.
- Unfold wrong side up so the crease line is visible.
- Place the interfacing on one half of the wrong side of the pocket panel. One edge of the interfacing should be flush with the center crease line and there should be ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on the remaining three sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Re-fold along the center crease line, but this time you are folding right sides together. Pin along both sides and across the bottom. Leave an approximate 3”-4” opening along the bottom for turning.
NOTE: We used the same color thread for both our exterior and lining stitching. If your lining fabric varies dramatically from your exterior fabric, remember to re-thread as necessary as you move from one section to another.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom. Remember to sharply pivot at each corner and to lock your seam at either side of the 3”-4” opening.
- Press open the seam allowance and clip the corners.
- Turn the pocket right side out through the opening in the bottom seam.
- Use a long, blunt tool to gently push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A long knitting needle, chopstick or point turner works well for this.
- Press flat again from the right side, making sure the seam allowance at the opening is flush with the sewn seam.
- Find the back lining panel (both lining panels are the same, simply choose one to be the back). Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Find the pocket. Place it right side up (the side with the interfacing fused in place should be facing up) on the lining panel. The pocket should be centered side to side and the top edge of the pocket (the folded edge is the top) should be 4” down from the top raw edge of the back lining panel. Pin the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Slightly lengthen the stitch. Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. This seam secures the pocket and closes the opening used for turning.
- Find the lining side panel and the remaining side panel interfacing. Place the interfacing on the wrong side of the lining side panel, centering it so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Following the same steps as above for the exterior, pin and then stitch the side panel to the front and back panels.
Make and place the handles
- Find the two 13” bias cut fabric strips, the two 13” lengths of cording, and the large safety pin.
- Fold each strip in half and pin.
- Using a ⅜” seam allowance, stitch along the 13” pinned edges of both strips, forming a tube with each folded strip. The ends remain raw.
- Turn the two tubes right side out through their open ends.
NOTE: If you have trouble turning skinny tubes, we have a good tutorial that shows how to use a hemostat!
- Attach a safety pin to one end of a length of cording. Feed the pin into the end of the tube and use it to pull the cording through. This is similar to how you might feed elastic into a casing.
- Once through, the cording should be flush with the tube on both ends. Adjust the tube as needed so the seam is centered at what will be the back of the handle.
- At each end, push back the fabric about ¾” to reveal the cording.
- Use your scissor to cut away some of the “fluff” from the center of the cording. This allows the ends of the handle to lay flat inside the seam once the facing is in place.
- Pull the fabric back over the cording.
- Using the positioning marks you made when cutting the front and back exterior panels, align an end of the handle at each mark both front and back.
- Pin both ends of both handles in place. As you can see in the photo below, the handles should be right sides together with the front and back panels. This means the center back seam will be facing up.
- We recommend machine basting the ends in place so they are completely secure during the remainder of the the construction.
Place the facing
- Find the facing panel cut from the exterior fabric and the coordinating piece of lightweight interfacing.
- Place the interfacing panel on the wrong side of the fabric panel, centering it so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing all around. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Press up one long edge of the facing ½”.
- Place the ends of facing right sides together, unfolding the ½” fold so the raw edges are flat top to bottom. Pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the ends together, forming the facing into a loop. Press the seam allowance open and flat. Refold along the original ½” fold all around and press again.
- Find the exterior bag. It should be right side out.
- Slip the facing over the bag so the facing and the bag are right sides together.
- The facing’s seam should be at the exact center back of the bag. The raw edge of the facing should be flush with the top raw edge of the bag. The folded edge of the facing is hanging down. Pin all they way around the top of the bag through all the layers.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch all the way around the bag, starting and stopping at the facing’s seam. Go slowly and carefully over the handles.
- Press open the seam allowance, grading the seam to help reduce bulk. We trimmed back the heavier exterior fabric.
Assemble exterior and lining, topstitching the facing into position
- Find the exterior bag; it should be right side out.
- Find the lining and make sure it is wrong side out.
- Slip the lining inside the exterior so the two layers are wrong sides together.
- Adjust the lining inside the exterior so the side panels are flat against one another. The lining pocket should sit against the back exterior panel.
- Fold down the facing into position on the inside of the bag. The folded edge of the facing should cover the raw edge of the lining by at least ½” all around. Pin the facing in place.
- Slightly lengthen the stitch. Although we’ve used it throughout most of this project, at this point, we strongly recommend attaching a Walking or Even Feed foot or engaging your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the Janome AcuFeed™ Flex fabric feeding system we used.
NOTE: To insure the smoothest finish to your facing, you may also want to consider hand or machine basting the facing in place rather than relying only on pins. Even with a feeding system, tricky and/or thick fabrics like velvet tend to want to shift and twist. Securely basting the facing in place, as well as going slowly as we always recommend, helps keep this to a minimum.
- Topstitch all around the top approximately ¼” from the top seam of the bag.
- Then topstitch around again approximately 1⅝” below the first line of topstitching. This second seam secures the bottom edge of the facing in place; measure carefully to insure you are evenly catching the folded interior edge of the facing all around.
- As an optional step, you can choose, as we did, to tack the lining to the exterior to help hold the lining down inside the bag. To do this, thread a hand sewing needle with matching thread and take a few tacking stitches through both the exterior and lining layers, hiding the stitches along the side panel seams.
Insert the grommets
- Using the original side panel paper pattern as a guide, mark the position for the two grommets. One grommet is placed at each side, directly above the center of the side pocket.
- If you are new to working with metal grommets, check out our full tutorial prior to starting the project. It’s easier than you think, and you get to hit something with a hammer!
Create the adjustable strap
- Find the 50” length of belting, the two swivel hooks, and the adjustable slide.
- Feed one raw end of the belting through the open end of one of the swivel hooks.
- Feed this same end up and over the center bar of the adjustable slide.
- Pull the end back on itself about 1” and pin in place.
- Stitch the end in place around the center bar through both layers. You may want to double or triple stitch this seam for extra security.
- Feed the free end of the belting up and over the center bar of the adjustable slide, going over the top of the previous layer of belting. This creates the adjusting loop.
- Finally, feed the free end through the open end of the remaining swivel hook, pulling it back on itself and stitching to secure in the same manner as you did above when securing the opposite end around the center bar of the slider.
NOTE: We’ve summarized the steps of this technique here, but if you are brand new to making an adjustable strap, we have a full step-by-step tutorial you can review prior to starting the project.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild