Sewing Solo : Tote Bag

I was in the Sewing Shop admiring the treasures within when I spotted some lovely tote bags hanging up so I bought a bit of fabric to have a go myself as I figured it was all straight lines :) Thanks to Louise’s tuition, I understood the bag construction a lot better so got our sewing machine out for a go.


I ironed both outside and inside pieces as they’d been lurking in a bag for quite a while.


I was a little uncertain about what to do with the interfacing so I put it between both fabrics with a bit of dampness. It seemed to stick!


I took a moment to figure out what I was going to do with the strap. In the shop, the strap was long and on the outside of the bag. I found this tutorial for a placemat tote bag which was like what I wanted to do. I had tried out roughly how long I wanted in a handle at the shop by asking the shop assistant to measure what was on one of the sample bags. I had a long piece of webbing so I carefully cut the piece in half making sure I had to equal length pieces.


A bit of measuring and drawing on the line where I’d cut out the fabric. Not all fat quarters are created equally it would seem :) I saw some measurements of 13.5 x 14 inches for this reversible tote but I thought it seemed a tiny bit small for what I wanted as was planning a 0.5 inch seam allowance.


I ended up with measurements of 15 x 16 inches. Those chalk pencils that Louise recommended came in really handy and I got another set for Christmas. I cut two long pieces of fabric the full length of the bag as I folded the fabric so I only had to cut one side so 15 x 32 inches.


I turned all the fabric inside out and made a sandwich of wrong-side facing fabrics and sewed each end up with a 1/2in seam.


I ended up with a long tube which I turned right way out. I pressed the seamed edge to neaten it up and make it crisp.


As it was putting the handle on the outside of the bag, I had to incorporate the webbing into the seam at the bottom so I had to create a seam. If I had just put a normal handle on, I would have probably have just left the fold at the bottom but I also wanted to make a flat end for the bottom of the bag so it was more tote-like than magazine-bag-like. So I carefully folded the tube in half and cut along the centre to create two pieces.


I pinned on my handles at 3 inches from the edge on both main colour sides. I made sure I was very careful not to twist the handle round or my bag would not have hung very well or looked that good.


I sewed the webbing on very carefully trying to follow a very thin line of the edge of the sewing machine foot.


Yes, the sewing on the back isn’t that straight but you can’t really see it on the webbing on the front. I cut out 2 2×2 inch notches at the edges of the bag at the bottom to create the flat bottom.


I had to call for some technical assistance as I wasn’t too sure about refilling the bobbin and did it by hand. The feed dog (?) wasn’t pulling up the bobbin thread so I had to get pao to take a look. We’ve since decided that the feed dog needed a clean and pao took it apart to give it a good service – he said it was pretty dirty. Don’t do what I do and sew round the notches. I eventually remembered that I was folding the wing bits out and sewing in a diagonal.


Luckily I had a bit of thinking time as my glamorous assistant took at drink out of my glass so I didn’t go mad and cut out a straight seam which I was going to do when I was looking at my strangely notched bag. Luckily, I had only sewed one side up before I ran out of bobbin thread so I had a chance to fiddle about with it and examine the construction before I started sewing again.


pao went to bed not able to get the bobbin to pop the thread through the tiny hole so I tried a different bobbin and it seemed to work ok. The tension was a little off but it did manage to sew ok.


Of course, I had to wake Sirius up to take a look at the bag. He wasn’t all that impressed so I’ll have to try harder next time. It’s not perfect but I figured it was good enough to tote some lunch around and it has been a good experiment to see if I could do something by myself.

7 Responses to “Sewing Solo : Tote Bag”

  1. Louise Says:

    Yeah it looks great! You might have had the bobbin in upside down! If the thread doesn’t come off the bobbin from the side facing the back of the machine it won’t catch. Now you need to make a second !

  2. Lorraine Says:

    Mrs. Pao- It turned out great.

    When instructions say “simple” I never believe it.

  3. Jeanne Says:

    Wonderful!

  4. Pao Says:

    You did a good there. Got a load more dust and muck out as well. Perhaps I should schedule a weekend to completely strip and clean the machine.

  5. lynne s of oz Says:

    Dude! See, you can sew too! Nice tote. Don’t worry about not sewing straight – I have been trying for years and after over 30 years still can’t sew a perfectly straight line.
    Happy New Year to you too :-)
    BTW, Jessalu has an old Singer – look her up and she might be able to help. If the needle isn’t picking up the bobbin thread, the needle might be blunt or it could just be the amount of crud in the bobbin race (the area that the bobbin sits in).

  6. Kristi aka FiberFool Says:

    It looks great! How fun was that?

  7. Nicole Says:

    I think it looks fabulous! And it reminds me that I wanted to make a tote for my sister’s birthday this month… Better get cracking!

mumblings from the beleagured mrspao