Top: Calendar Patchwork Tote, designed by Susan Wasinger. Bottom: Mudcloth Tote, designed by Zelda Grant.
Fast and Fabulous Bags
it's true that I sew all year-round, let's face it, my summertime
sewing time drops off a bit. It's hard to stay inside when it's so nice
outside! So I tend to sew more quick and easy projects in the summer-the
type of projects you can finish in an afternoon or two. My favorite
fast and fabulous project is BAGS! Tote bags to be exact. How is it
possible that no matter how many tote bags you have, you can always use
more? They are so quick and easy to sew, making them a great weekend
project, or the perfect last-minute gift.
the basic construction of a tote bag is pretty simple, it leaves lots
of room for customization. So you can make one as simple or as fancy as
you like. We always get lots of fun bag project submissions for Stitch,
and I'm amazed at all the creative ways designers come up with for
elevating a simple tote to something really cool by approaching it as a
blank canvas. Here are a few ideas for turning an ordinary tote into a
Combine old with new-
Mix and match fabric from vintage linens, handles, and hardware from a
classic handbag or appliqué cutout motifs from vintage clothes and home décor fabrics to add a unique accent to your new tote.
Focus on the fabric
- Make a simple tote special by using an unusual fabric. Take that
small amount of specialty fabric you picked up during your travels or at
a remnant sale and make it into an outstanding bag. The fabric will be
all the decoration you need.
Creative contrasts - Play with contrasts by using a different fabric for the lining, the handles (both sides), and pockets.
Playful piecing - Patchwork and fabric piecing are great ways to add a graphic element to your bag, plus you use up some of your stash as well!
Appliqué your way - Add motifs from your favorite fabrics with appliqué or get fancy with reverse appliqué for a fun embellishment.
Stitch it up
- Machine and hand embroidery can add interesting texture and line on a
simple bag in no time. Use contrasting thread for greater effect. And
don't forget the handles!
Two bags in one - Our cover bag from the summer issue of Stitch
featured different fabrics and a unique design on either side.
Plus, the sides featured handstitching. Remember you have many
sides to play with on your bag so have fun and make each one unique.
Strong and beautiful
- To minimize wear and tear on seams plus add a decorative
element, topstitch seams with contrasting thread. When attaching exposed
straps or handles, topstitch a square on the strap/handle, then
topstitch an X shape through the middle of the square.
Organize in style -
Consider creating multiple inside and outside pockets to keep all
your stuff from falling to the bottom of the bag. To keep keys
close at hand, in the side seam near the top edge of the bag, sew a
length of sturdy cord or trim to create a small loop. Use a
key-chain clip to attach your keys to the loop for quick access.
Odekake Tote by Ayumi Takahashi.
Practical meets pretty -
If your bag will be used for carrying food and drink or other
liquids such as sunscreen or makeup, use a water-resistant or waterproof
lining fabric such as rip-stop nylon or laminated cotton.
possibilities for personalizing bag sewing patterns are endless, so
have fun and experiment. And if you are looking for more ideas, check
out the bags in our e-pattern store.
You'll find lots of projects to keep you sewing on those summer
afternoons with plenty of time left over to get outside and play.