This very versatile tote is a little like one of those Transformer toys. You think it’s one shape, then it morphs into another – and another! Heavy duty snaps on both side panels let you open it wide – to a full 6” depth – or cinch it down to a handy tapered top. The two-part lining pulls up to form a clever drawstring cover, protecting the contents inside… or just adding a pop of pretty color. Another striking highlight is the bold belting for the handles. We used 1½” Dritz belting in a dramatic black and white stripe.
We recommend a heavy substate for the exterior fabric, similar to the duck canvas we used. Pre-washing softens the fabric and gives it a slightly distressed surface.
We adhered fusible fleece to the main panels to add a bit more stability without sacrificing the bag’s soft slouch. But for the base, we specify the slightly more stable fusible foam. This helps the bag stand up on its own.
The lining is a traditional quilting cotton in two different coordinating prints: one for the main lining panels and one for the cute drawstring cover.
The panels of the exterior are layered wrong sides together with the main lining panels and sewn to produce visible interior seam allowances, which are then bound for a clean finish. This makes construction so much easier and produces very smooth sides on the bag’s interior. We felt this smoothness was important as a contrast to the “puffy” nature of the drawstring cover. You don’t want two layers of loose fabric.
That drawstring cover can be opened all the way so it lays flat against the inside of the tote. Or, cinch it up to produce a little bonnet for your bag – an excellent way to hide and/or protect the contents. We used a colorful baker’s twine for our drawcord, but any ⅛” or narrower string or cording would work.
Our tote features a bold Sew4Home monogram on the front centered between the handle accents. This is optional, but is a nice way to customize the tote for yourself or as a gift. We used two colors to simulate our logo, but a traditional single-color monogram would look great as well.
Although generous when fully opened, the tote is quite compact when snapped at the sides, and it can easily be carried by hand, over your arm, or all the way over your shoulder.
Our Tote finishes at approximately 18” wide x 12” high x 6” deep when opened. The side snaps cinch the top of the side panels down to about 1”.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
- If you wish to add a monogram to the front as we did, you need a machine with embroidery capability, such as the Janome Continental M17, the Janome Skyline S9, or the Janome Horizon Quilt Maker Memory Craft 15000
- We used a standard presser foot throughout, but if you traditionally have issues with thick layers, you might want to opt for a Walking or Even Feed foot; or use your machine’s built-in fabric feeding system, such as the great AcuFeed™ Flex system we use on many of our Janome studio models
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ¾ yard of 54”+ wide mid-weight canvas or similar for the exterior, lining pocket, and top and pocket binding; we originally used 9.3oz cotton duck canvas in white
NOTE: The minimum yardage needed is ⅝ yard, but your cuts would have to be super precise.
- ¾ yard of 44”+ wide quilting weight cotton for the lining; we originally used Red Bias Plaid from the Smitten collection by Bonnie & Camille for Moda Fabrics
- ¾ yard of 44”+ wide quilting weight cotton for the drawstring cover; we originally used Red on Cream Rosy from the Smitten collection by Bonnie & Camille for Moda Fabrics
- ¼ yard of 20”+ wide, one-sided fusible foam; we used one-sided fusible Pellon Flex Foam
- ⅝ of 45”+ fusible fleece; we used Pellon Thermolam Plus
- ONE package (3 yards) of standard extra wide, double fold bias tape for binding the interior seam allowances; we used white
- 3 yards of 1½” Belting/Strapping; we used two packages of Dritz 1½” belting in a black and white stripe
- FOUR 1½” Rectangle Rings; we used Dritz Rectangle Rings in black
- TWO ⅝” Heavy Duty Snaps; we used Dritz Heavy Duty Snaps in black
- Appropriate Setting Tools for the Heavy Duty Snaps; if using the Dritz snaps, you can choose from the Setting Pliers or the Standard Post and Anvil Setting Tools
- Seam sealant for the cut ends of the belting and the snap holes; we used Dritz Fray Check
- 2 yards of baker’s twine or similar for the drawcord
- All-purpose thread to match fabric, bias binding tape, and belting
- Rayon thread for the optional monogram; we used black and red
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Yarn needle (large-eye needle with a blunt tip) for threading the drawcord through the channel
- Cut the Belting into the following lengths:
FOUR 12” lengths for the front and back accent strips
TWO 25” lengths for the handles
- From the exterior fabric, cut the following:
TWO 19” wide x 12½” high rectangles for the exterior front and back panels
TWO 7” wide x 12½” high rectangles for the exterior side panels
ONE 19” wide x 7” high rectangle for the exterior base
ONE 9” wide x 7” high rectangle for the lining pocket
ONE 2” x 49” strip for the upper binding
ONE 2” x 9” strip for the pocket binding
NOTE: Both binding strips were cut cross grain; it is not necessary to cut on the bias.
- From the lining fabric, cut the following:
TWO 19” wide x 12½” high rectangles for the lining front and back panels
TWO 7” wide x 12½” high rectangles for the lining side panels
ONE 19” wide x 7” high rectangle for the lining base
- From the drawstring cover fabric, cut TWO 25” wide x 13” high rectangles.
- From fusible fleece, cut the following:
TWO 18” x 12” panels for the exterior front and back panels
TWO 6” x 12” panels for the exterior side panels
- From the fusible foam, cut ONE 18” x 6” rectangle for the base.
- The bias binding tape will be cut to length during construction.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Fuse the fleece and foam in place and create the optional monogram
- Find all the exterior panels and the fusible fleece and foam panels.
- Place the fusible fleece on the wrong side of the front, back, and side exterior panels. It should sit so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the fleece on the sides and along the bottom. Along the top, the fabric and fleece should be flush. Lightly pin in place.
- The fusible foam should sit against the wrong side of the exterior base panel so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the foam on all sides.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions fuse all the panels in place.
- If adding a monogram, set up your machine for machine embroidery and select your monogram style.
- We recommend centering the monogram side to side with the uppermost point of the monogram 3” down from the top raw edge of the panel.
- To position the embroidery without a template, first set up the desired monogram on the machine. This will give you the dimensions of the embroidery design. In our sample, the finished dimension was 4” wide by 3¾” tall. Divide the height by two to get the center point (1⅞”) and then add that measurement to the recommended positioning of 3” down from the top raw edge (4⅞” in our sample). Mark the center point with a pin. In the photo below, our center point is shown with the green pin.
- Using this center point as your guide, hoop the fabric. Remove the pin prior to starting.
- Thread the machine as required for your monogram and stitch. Our monogram was stitched in two colors to simulate the Sew4Home logo. A single color monogram would also be very striking.
Position the belting accent strips
- Find the four 12” lengths of Belting.
- Apply seam sealant to both cut ends of all four lengths.
- Find the four 1½” Rectangle Rings.
- Slip one end of each length of Belting through one of the Rings. Pull the Belting through 1½” and pin in place.
- Find the front and back exterior panels, both of which should have their fleece panels fused in place and one of which may have an optional monogram.
- Place two accent Belting strips on the front of each panel. The Belting should be centered side to side and the two lengths should be 5” apart. Pin the lengths in place.
- Re-set the machine as necessary for standard sewing.
- Re-thread with thread to best match the Belting in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Edgestitch up one side of one length.
- Stop just below the bottom of the Rectangle Ring. Pivot and stitch across.
- Edgestitch down the opposite side.
- Repeat to attach the remaining length of Belting in the same manner.
- Find the back panel. Position the accent strips on this panel so they are an exact match to the front panel.
- Pin and stitch in place just as you did on the front panel.
- Set aside the front and back panels.
Create and attach the lining pocket
- Find the 9” x 7” lining pocket panel and the 2” x 9” binding strip.
- Fold the binding in half, wrong sides together, so it is now 1” x 9” and press to set a center crease line. Open the strip, wrong side up, so the crease line is visible. Press in both sides so they meet in the middle.
- Fold in half along the original crease line, sandwiching the raw edges within the folds. Press well.
- Slip the binding over the top raw edge (one 9” edge) of the pocket panel.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. Keep a slightly lengthened stitch.
- Edgestitch along the inner folds across the pocket panel through all the layers. Go slowly and carefully so you are catching both the front and back of the binding in this one seam.
- Press back the sides and bottom raw edges of the pocket panel ½”.
- Find one of the main lining panels. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the pocket right side up on the lining panel. It should be centered side to side and the bottom of the pocket should sit 2½” up from the bottom raw edge of the lining panel. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom of the pocket.
- With the same matching thread in the top and bobbin and the same slightly lengthened stitch, edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom. Remember to pivot at the bottom corners and to use a generous backstitch at the top corners. The top corners are the major stress points for a pocket and it helps to have some extra reinforcement.
Layer exterior and lining and stitch the panels together into a tube
- Find the front, back and side exterior panels and lining panels. Layer an exterior panel with a lining panel wrong sides together. Pin in place through all the layers.
NOTE: We placed the lining panel with the pocket wrong sides together with the front exterior panel. This covered up the back of the monogram so there would be no “show through” with the thinner cotton lining fabric. This placement is optional; if you have no monogram or if you prefer your pocket at the back of a bag, you can certainly switch the position.
- Machine baste around the perimeter of each of the panels.
- Stitch all four panels together to create a tube open at the top and bottom.
- To start simply pin a side panel right sides together with a main panel.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the lining fabric. We continued to use white.
- Re-set the stitch length to normal. Using a ½” seam allowance stitch the side seam.
- If necessary, trim back the seam allowance to just under ½”.
- Find the bias binding tape. Cut a length to match the length of the sewn seam.
- Open up the tape and simply slip it over the seam allowance to conceal the raw edges. Pin the tape in place.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the binding tape in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Edgestitch along the inner fold of the binding tape through all the layers. Go slowly and carefully to insure you are catching both sides of the tape in this one seam. If your machine has the ability to adjust the needle position, you can use that feature to move your needle to the left to allow you to get as close as possible to the seam line.
- Continue until all four side seams are stitched and bound in the same manner and you have a full tube, open at the top and bottom.
Add the side snaps
- Find the Heavy Duty Snaps and the Snap Tools.
- Mark for the position of the two snap halves. They are 2” down from the top raw edge of the side panel and 1½” in from each side seam. Make a mark at these two points – on both side panels.
- Using the Snap Tools (we used pliers), punch a hole at each marked point. If you don’t use the pliers, you’ll need to open a hole with an awl and/or small, sharp scissors.
- The image below shows the two holes (there are two for each side panel) cut through all the layers. Again, if you don’t use the pliers, this gives you an idea of the relative size of the opening needed.
- Switch out the tools to set the socket half…
- … and the stud half.
- Remember, the “operational side” of the snap halves should be facing out from the exterior of the side panel.
- The “cap side” of the snap halves should be on the lining side.
NOTE: If you are brand new to setting snaps, you can check out our full step-by-step tutorial.
Create the inner drawstring cover
- Find the two 25” x 13” panels. Place them right sides together and pin along the two 13” sides.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the two seams creating an open tube.
- Press both seam allowances open and flat.
- Fold the tube in half, wrong sides together, so it is now a 6½” high tube. Press well, especially along the folded edge. You want to set a visible crease line.
- Mark for eyelet openings to either side of one side seam (it doesn’t really matter which side the opening is on). The points should be ½” to either side of the seam (so there is 1” between the marks) and ¼” down from the top folded edge.
- Unfold the tube right side up so it is once again its full 13” height and the crease line is visible.
- We have a lovely eyelet buttonhole option on the Janome MC15000 used on this project. It is buttonhole #22 – a slightly oval eyelet. We stitched an eyelet at each marked point, centering the “hole” of the eyelet over the marked point. If you don’t have this feature on your sewing machine, you could use the Dritz Extra Small Metal Eyelets, inserting one over each marked point. Remember, with either option you are only stitching/inserting through just ONE layer.
- If you stitched eyelets, carefully open up the centers with small, sharp scissors.
- Refold the tube along the crease line so it is once again 6½” high and wrong sides together.
- Using a slightly lengthened stitch and a ⅜” seam allowance, stitch all the way around the folded top of the tube through both layers to create the drawcord channel.
- This seam should go directly under the eyelets; it should not go through the eyelets in any way.
- Drop the drawstring cover inside the main tube, aligning the raw edges of the cover with the top raw edges of the main tube. The side seams of the cover should be centered over each side panel of the main tube. Pin in place all around the top.
- Machine baste all around the top through all the layers.
Bind the top edge
- Find the 2” x 49” length of binding.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the exterior fabric. Using a ½” seam allowance and a standard stitch length, stitch the 2” ends together to form a loop. Press the seam allowance open and flat.
- As you did above for the pocket binding, fold this loop in half, wrong sides together, so it is now 1” and press to set a center crease line. Open wrong side up, so the crease line is visible. Press in both sides so they meet in the middle.
- Fold in half along the original crease line, sandwiching the raw edges within the folds. Press well, re-setting that original crease line.
- Open the binding up once again.
- Place the flattened binding against the lining side of the upper raw edges of the tube. The wrong side of the binding is against the right side of the lining. The basted upper raw edges of the tube should sit right along the center crease line of the binding. Pin in place all around top.
- Re-set for a slightly lengthened stitch. Fold the binding down so it now wraps the raw edges of the top of the tube.
- Starting at a side panel seam (aligning the binding’s seam with a side panel seam), topstitch the binding in place through all the layers all around the top.
- You could certainly wrap and re-pin the binding in place all around prior to starting, but we found it easier to simply fold down the binding as we sewed. This allows a bit more control, giving you the ability to adjust and ease the fabric to keep a nice, smooth seam.
Layer and insert the base panel
- Find the exterior base panel, which should have its foam panel fused in place, and lining base panel.
- Layer the fused exterior base panel and the lining base panel wrong sides together. Make sure the raw edges of both the exterior panel and the lining panel are flush on all sides and the layers are smooth. Machine baste all the way around all four sides through all the layers.
- Find the center on each side and mark this point with a pin.
- Then, mark ½” from each corner, or in other words, at the corner of the foam.
- Find the main exterior tube. Gently turn it wrong side out.
- Mark the center points of the bottom raw-edged opening of the tube in the same manner, finding the center points of the front, back, and both side sections.
- Place one side (we like to start with one shorter end) of the base panel right sides together with one side of the tube, aligning the center pin points. It’s a little like you’re setting a lid upside down into the opening of a box. Pin in place, starting and stopping at the ½”-in-from-the-corner points you marked above.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the lining in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Using the outer pin point as your guide, start your seam ½” in and stitch across to the opposite outer pin. You are using a ½” seam allowance. You are stitching right along but no one the foam.
- Remove the project from under the needle.
- In order to create the flattest base possible, clip into each corner of the tube. Snip into the corner at a diagonal at a depth of about ⅜“. You are clipping right up to but not through your stitching line.
- Re-set and re-pin in the same manner to stitch the remaining three sides of the base panel, stitching one side at a time, starting and stopping ½” in at the marked corners. As mentioned, we like to stitch each short side first, then each long side.
NOTE: If you are brand new to inserting a flat base panel, we have a full step-by-step tutorial you can review prior to starting this project: How to Insert a Rectangular Base into a Tube.
- Keep the tote wrong side out.
- Find the remaining bias binding tape. Keep it as one continuous length.
- As you did above when finishing the interior side seams, open and wrap the bias tape around the seam allowance. If you find the tape is not fitting as well as it should, you can trim back the seam allowance just slightly.
- Pin in place around all four sections of the base panel seam allowance. You can fold in each corner at a diagonal, similarly to how you’d handle a blanket corner.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the bias binding tape in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch. If possible move your needle position to the left.
- Edgestitch around all four sides through all the layers, going slowly and carefully to insure you are catching both sides of the tape wrapping the seam allowances. Stitch all the way into each corner, stop, raise the presser foot with the needle in the down position, pivot 90˚, drop the presser foot and continue along the next side.
NOTE: As another option, you can completely stop and lock the stitch at the corner, remove the project from the machine, make the corner diagonal fold, re-set under the needle, drop the needle down at the exact corner point, and stitch to the next corner.
- When you get to the last corner, just before your overlapping finish point, stop and create the corner fold. At this corner, as mentioned above as an option for all corners, you should stop and lock the stitch and remove the project from the machine. Create the final diagonal corner fold and insure that the head/tail overlap is smooth, with the overlap end tucked under for a clean finish. Pin or clip in place.
- Replace the project under the needle, making sure the needle drops back in at that exact 90˚ corner point.
- Edgestitch the last portion, matching the final seam to the original seam.
- Carefully turn the finished tote right side out and push the base down into the corners.
NOTE: We used this same technique on our Fabric Storage Bins with Dritz Faux Leather Handles. If you are brand new to this type of seam finishing, you could review this project, which features a few more photos to help you visualize all the steps.
Handle finishing and drawcord
- Find the two 25” lengths of Belting. Form a loop with each length and feed the raw ends of the loop through the open side of the Rectangle Rings.
- Pull the raw end through about 1½”. Make sure the back side of the “pull through” matches with the opposite accent strip of the Belting. And, double check that there are no twists in your loop.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the belting in the top and bobbin. Keep a slightly lengthened stitch.
- Stitch across the Belting twice to secure. Once across as close as possible to the Rectangle Ring and a second time ½” from this first line.
- Thread the baker’s twine (or similar) through a yarn needle and feed it through the drawcord channel, entering through one eyelet and exiting through the opposite eyelet. Yarn needles have blunt points so it works through the channel easily.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler