eye-catch・ing, adjective: immediately appealing or noticeable. Synonyms: a trio of beautiful totes in fussy-cut quilting cottons. This is what we call a statement bag. It’s specifically designed to make the best use of the chosen fabric’s color and motif. Each bag blends three prints to create the exterior and lining. Our set is particularly striking because we made three, but one bag on its own will draw attention like no other. While shooting our sample photographs, people literally stopped us on the street to ask about them!
We originally used Tula Pink’s Elizabeth collection from FreeSpirit Fabrics, which is no longer readily available. When choosing your favorite cotton trios, look for a depth of color and design. If you are new to mixing and matching, take a read through our helpful article: Top 10 Sew4Home Designer Tips for Blending Colors and Prints.
There is a free downloadable pattern link below for the unique curved “wave” pockets on the front and back of the bag – but that’s the only thing for which you need a pattern. All other cuts are simple rectangles.
The bag handles are created from simple interfaced strips, but to give them some extra oomph, we show you how to fold and topstitch along the top curve. It not only adds strength, it also makes the handles more comfortable to carry.
The front pockets are split into four sections and rimmed with piping. There’s also a pocket inside. As you can see in the photo below, there’s a lot of fun contrast when you work with bold colors and prints. But it is important to carefully fussy cut all your panels to make sure feature motifs are centered and lines are straight and true, such as with our vertical stripes. Yes, fussy cutting does take a bit more time and more fabric, but the fabulous finished look is well worth it!
Our bags finish at approximately 13″ high x 13½” wide with 3″ sides and base, and a 10″ handle drop.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Zipper foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot; optional
- Edge Guide foot; optional, but it made our topstitching easier and more accurate
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1¼ yards of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton for the bag bottom exterior, exterior front and back pockets, and the handles
NOTE: The yardage above allows for fussy cutting; if your fabric does not require a precise fussy cut, you can get by with one yard. If you are new to fussy cutting, remember to check out our tutorial.
- ¾ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton for the bag upper exterior, facing, and the lining pocket
- ½ yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton for the bag lining
- 1 yard of 45″ + one-sided fusible fleece; we used Pellon Thermolam Plus
- ¾ yard of 20″+ lightweight but firm fusible interfacing; we used Pellon 950F Shir-Tailor
- 2 yards of coordinating piping; packaged Wrights Maxi Piping works well and comes in 2½” yard packages
- All purpose thread to match fabrics
- See-through ruler
- Tape measure
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- DOWNLOAD PATTERN: Download and print out ONE copy of each of the TWO pattern sheets for the pocket: Pocket Bottom Pattern and Pocket Top Pattern, which have been bundled together into ONE PDF to made the download easier,
IMPORTANT: Each page within the PDF 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. Butt together the two pieces (do not overlap) following the guide arrows. Tape together to create the full pocket pattern.
- From the fabric for the bag bottom exterior, exterior front and back pockets, and the handles, cut the following:
Using the pattern (which is set up to be cut on the fold), fussy cut FOUR pocket pieces, centering to capture as many main motifs as possible.
TWO 6½” high x 18″ wide rectangles for the bottom exterior bag
TWO 3½” x 28″ strips for the handles
- From the fabric for the bag upper exterior, facing, and the lining pocket, cut the following:
TWO 12½” high x 18″ wide rectangles for the upper exterior bag
ONE 13″ high x 11″ wide rectangle for the lining pocket
- From the fabric for the lining, cut TWO 16″ high x 18″ wide rectangles.
- From the fusible fleece, cut the following:
Using the pocket pattern, first trim along the dotted seam lines to create a pattern that is ½” smaller all around (this will keep the batting out of the pocket seams), then cut TWO pocket pieces.
TWO 16″ x 18″ rectangles for the main body panels
- From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
TWO 1¼” x 27″ strips for the handles
TWO 1½” x 18″ strips for the fold-over facing
- The piping will be cut to fit during the construction steps below.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Create the front and back exterior panels
- Find the two exterior top and the two exterior bottom panels.
- Pin a bottom panel to a top panel along one 18″ edge. If your fabric is directional, make sure you are pinning the bottom raw edge of the top panel to the top raw edge of the bottom panel.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch together.
- Press the seam allowance down towards the bottom panel.
- Flip each sewn panel so it is facing wrong side up.
- Find the two fusible fleece panels. Place one panel against the wrong side of each fabric panel. The sides and bottom edges of the fleece and fabric should be flush, but the top edge of the fleece should sit 2″ down from the top raw edge of the fabric.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the fleece panels in place.
- Set aside the exterior panels.
Create and place the exterior pockets
- Find the four fabric pocket panels, the two fleece pocket panels, and the piping.
- Pin a length of piping to the top curved edge of each pocket piece on the right side. The inside edge of the piping cord should be ½” in from the raw edge of the fabric to accommodate a ½” seam allowance, which means the raw edges of the piping’s insertion tape will not be flush with the raw edge of the fabric. Our piping sat ¼” from the raw edge of the fabric, but you should measure yours to be sure. They key is that you want just the piping cord to be revealed along the top edge of the pocket so measure from the cord to the raw edge of the fabric.
NOTE: We worked with the piping as a continuous length, cutting it flush to the sides of the pocket when fully pinned in place.
- Machine baste the piping in place. We used our Janome Zipper foot.
- Center a fleece pocket panel on the wrong side of the two remaining un-piped pocket panels. There should be ½” of fabric showing beyond the fleece on all sides. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Place each fused pocket piece right sides together with a piped pocket piece. Pin along the top and bottom edges only. The sides remain open.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along the top and bottom of each pair. Along the top, if the piping was placed accurately as shown above, a ½” seam allowance should run right along the inside edge of the piping cord. If needed, adjust the foot and/or the needle position to keep your seam as close to the piping cord and as even as possible. We again used our Janome Zipper foot.
- Clip the curves and press open the seam allowances.
- Turn each sewn pocket right side out through the open sides. Press flat, rolling out the piping into place as needed.
- Find the exact center of each pocket and draw a vertical guide line at this point, using a fabric pen or pencil. We used the pattern piece to insure our center mark was correct.
NOTE: Remember, you are working on the right side of the fabric, make sure your marking tool is one that will easily wipe away or vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
- Make two additional parallel vertical lines; one should be 4″ in from the left raw edge of the pocket and one should be 4″ in from the right raw edge of the pocket. Remember to draw these three vertical guidelines on the front of both pockets.
NOTE: After drawing in our guidelines, we added a Sew4Home label, placing it slightly off-center between the middle and right guidelines and approximately 1″ up from the bottom finished edge of the pocket. We stitched it in place with contrasting thread to match each tote.
- Place each main exterior panel right side up on your work surface. Place a pocket right side up on each panel. The sides of the pockets should be flush with the sides of the main panels. The bottom finished edge of each pocket should be 2¼” up from bottom raw edge of each main panel. Pin the pocket in place along the drawn vertical guidelines.
- Slightly lengthen your stitch.
- Topstitch along each drawn guideline. For the cleanest finish to these pocket divisions, if possible, use a lock stitch to lock the start and finish of each line of topstitching. If your machine does not have this feature, leave your thread tails long and pull them through to knot at the back.
- Edgestitch across the bottom of the pocket.
- We also machine basted the sides of each pocket in place.
Top facing and exterior bag assembly
- Along the top of each main panel, fold back the raw edge ½” and press. We used a Clover Hot Hemmer.
- Fold an additional 1½” and press again.
- Unfold so both crease lines are visible.
- Find the two 1½ ” x 18” strips of interfacing. Place a strip along the top of each panel so one 18″ edge of the interfacing strip butts up against the first crease line of the fabric.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse each strip in place.
- Place the front and back main panels right sides together, sandwiching the pockets between the layers. The edges of the panels should be flush on all four sides. Be extra careful to align the top crease lines and the side edges of the pockets. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- Our bag is designed to have 3″ box corners. To create this width, we figured our corners at 1½”.
- Measure and mark each corner.
- Cut out the 1½” corner squares along your drawn lines.
- Flatten the corner, aligning the side and bottom seams.
- Double stitch across the corner, using a ½” seam allowance.
- Repeat to create the opposite corner.
- Trim the seam allowance to approximately ¼”.
- 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.
- Find the 13″ x 11″ lining pocket panel. Fold it in half, right sides together, so it is now 6½” x 11″
- Pin along both sides and across the bottom, leaving a 4″ opening along the bottom for turning.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom. Remember to pivot at the corners and to lock your seam at either side of the 4″ opening.
- Clip the corners and press open the seam allowances.
- Turn right side out through the bottom opening. Use a long, blunt tool, such as a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner to gently push out the corners so they are nice and sharp.
- Press the pocket flat, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Find one of the two main lining panels. Place it right side up on your work surface.
- Place the pocket on the panel so it sits 3″ down from the upper raw edge of the panel and 4″ in from each raw side edge. Pin in place.
- Edgestitch the pocket along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. This edgestitching secures the pocket in place and closes the original opening used for turning. We used a slightly lengthened stitch. Use a substantial backstitch at the start and finish of this edgestitching – at both upper corners of the pocket – these are stress points for any pocket and it’s good to add some extra security with your stitching.
- Similarly to how you created division lines for the exterior pockets, measure to find the center of the lining pocket and draw a vertical guideline at this point.
- Stitch along the drawn line.
- Place the two lining panels right sides together, sandwiching the pocket between the layers. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- Following the same steps as above, measure for 3″ boxed corners, cutting out 1½” squares from each corner.
- Flatten and stitch, just as you did above. Remember to check out our Boxed Corners Tutorial if you are new to this technique.
- Leave the lining wrong side out.
- Slip the lining inside the main bag so the two bags are now wrong sides together. Align all the seams and the bottom box corners. The top raw edge of the lining should align with the crease line of the fold-over facing of the exterior.
- Fold the facing down into position over the raw edge of the lining. Pin in place around the inside of the tote.
- Edgestitch along the bottom folded edge of the facing all around. We used our Janome Edge Guide foot for a super accurate seam. Also, if your machine has a free arm, now is a good time to use it.
- Edgestitch around the top folded of the bag as well. We switched to our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot for this step (never miss a chance to take the time to change to the right presser foot for the job). Press well all around.
Create and place the handles
- Find the two 3½” x 28″ fabric strips and the two 1¼” x 27″ strips of interfacing.
- Press back each 28″ raw edge of each strip ½”. Then press in each end ½”.
- Press each strip in half lengthwise, aligning the folded edges on all three sides. Press to set a center crease.
- Open up each strip so its crease line is visible. Align the interfacing strip with the center crease line; the opposite edge of the interfacing should be tucked under the ½” folded edge of the fabric strip. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing in place on each handle.
- Refold each strip along the original crease line so the folded edges again align. Press well.
- Find the center of each handle, along the folded edges. Place a pin at this center point. Measure 4½” to the left of center and place a second pin. Measure 4½” to the right of center and place a third pin. Remove the center pin.
- Edgestitch across one end, pivot, then continue edgestitching up to and the past the first pin by approximately ½”.
- Lock the stitch. Then repeat to edgestitch the opposite end of the handle.
- Replace the original marking pins if necessary.
- Fold the handle in half between the marking pins and pin this center section to secure.
- Edgestitch from pin to pin through all the layers to secure the fold. This creates an easy-carry top to the handle. For the best finish, use a locking stitch at the beginning and end of the seam or leave the thread tails long and knot to secure.
- Place a handle on each side of the bag. The bottom edge of each end of the handle should sit 2½” down from the top of the bag and 3½” in from the side seam. Pin the ends in place. Check to make sure there are no twists in the handle loop and that the seam of the center fold of the handle is facing in towards the bag lining (this means the seams of the two handles will face each other when held together).
- Create a 2″ X-Box to secure each end of each handle. If you are new to this technique, we have a full tutorial.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild