Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Knot Another Tote Tutorial

Who else finds themselves sewing gifts at the last minute?  Surely that's not just me.  It seems to happen every time.  My friend Kat recently graduated college (Yay!), and I found myself in the predicament of what to give her.  Since she knits, I knew a project bag would make a great gift.  So three days before her party, I decided to whip up something quick for her using some fabrics I had on hand.  This cute knotted tote was the result.  I love the little faux piping treatment on the handles.  It was so easy to do, and it adds a little bit of interest.  She says it's the perfect tote for everything.  She loved it so much she asked me to sew up a few more to put in her shop.  I thought someone out there internet-land might like to learn how to make one while I'm at it.  I know there are thousands of great tutorials for how to sew a basic tote out there.  But there's a few things I do a bit differently, so I'm making a tutorial anyways.  Click through to get the tutorial.  (There's a lot of pictures, so it may take a minute to load.)

How to make a fully lined tote with pocket, faux piped handles, and a knot accent.

You will need:
1/2 yard of main fabric
1/2 yard of lining fabric 
(I'm using two quilting cottons, a little geometric flower print as the main and a solid yellow as the lining.)
1/2 yard of lightweight interfacing  (I like my tote bags to be pretty squishy; if you like a stiffer bag you can use a heavier weight interfacing.)
Thread to match (Or not match; whatever you prefer.  I like to match my thread to my lining color)
Ignore Bunny's seat in the background.  And my exceptionally dirty ironing board.)
Cut your pieces.  You'll need four 12.5 inch squares (two of the main, and two of the lining), one 18 x 14 inch piece (lining only), and four 2.5 x 15 inch strips (again, two and two). 
I use my handy quilters ruler to make cutting the squares fast and easy.  You can make your pocket size whatever you prefer.  I generally just grab a chunk of scrap that's a decent size and use that as my pocket.  This one happens to be 4.5 x 5.5 inches.
Apply interfacing to the wrong side of all your main fabric pieces (except the pocket).
Prep your pocket by folding the edges in by 1/4 inch.  I like to fold my side and bottom edges first, and then fold the top edge by 1/4 inch, and then another 3/4 inch.
I don't like to clip my corners on patch pockets, because I always get little strings hanging out, so here's how I fold them in.  First fold your sides in as normal.  Then open it back up, and fold the corner up so that the diagonal goes right across the point where the two side folds meet.  Iron it nice and flat, and then fold your edges back in.  Ta da!  Neat and tidy corners.
Stitch the top of your pocket.
Line up your pocket on your lining piece.  I like to just fold it in half to mark the center, and then measure down three inches from the top.  I also fold the pocket in half, and just line up the fold marks.
You can also ignore my extremely wrinkly fabric.  I did iron it, I swear!
Stitch the pocket down.  I stitch around twice, once at an 1/8th inch from the edge, and again 1/4 inch away from the first stitching line.  You can also sew a tag into the lining at this point, if you want.  I like to put mine right above the pocket.
See how nice those corners look?
To make the knotted accent fold your 18 x 14 in piece in half, and stitch it closed.  Turn right side out, and press flat, with the seam on the edge.  Tie an overhand knot in it.  Try to get it close to the center, but don't worry if it's not exact.  There should be enough extra to line it up in the center when you stitch it to your bag.
Mark 4 inches down from the top of one square of main fabric, and baste the knotted strip to the seam allowance.  Trim any extra down.
Make the straps by taking your 2.5 X 15 inch strips and placing them right sides together (one main to one lining).  Stitch along both long edges at 1/4 inch.  Trim your seams and turn right side out.  
Now it's time to make the faux piping!  It's really easy.  After turning your handles they'll look kinda squished up and funky.  Squash them flat, but instead of putting the seams on the edges let it roll to the side a bit.  You can use your seam allowance as a guide by making sure it's folded towards the outside edge.  One side will be your lining fabric with a bit of the main showing, and the other will be the opposite.
Top stitch along the edge of the seam on both sides.  I like to put mine on whatever side the seam allowance is folded towards, right up against the edge.
Now we're finally ready to assemble the bag.  Put your main fabric square and lining squares right sides together, and stitch the sides and bottom at 1/4 inch.  
It's kind of hard to see, but I've backstitched where the black arrows are.
One one side of your lining piece backstitch a few inches from the top, stitch a few inches, and then backstitch again.  (We'll use this spot to turn the bag right side out at the end.)
Instead of turning at the corners I prefer to stitch all the way to the edge, cut, and then move the fabric back and continue stitching straight across.  I get a more accurate seam this way, and we're going to be boxing the corners anyways, so it doesn't matter if they're backstitched or not.  Don't forget to backstitch at the top edges, though!
Box the corners.  I prefer the squash fold method. (If you've ever done origami before you know what I'm talking about.)  Bring your edge seams together so they meet in the middle of your square instead of at the sides, and squash.  The bottom should form a point with two flaps, like this.  At this point I like to iron my seams open.  If you fold one flap up, you should be able to iron the bottom seam, as shown to the right above.
Measure 1 inch up from the bottom point on each flap, and draw a line straight across.  Stitch along the line.  I like to backstitch across the whole line, since this seam will need to hold most of the weight put in the bag.  (Do this on all four points, two for the main and two for the lining.)  
You can see how this really gives the bottom some shape and adds width to the bag.  You'll be able to fit more into your finished tote this way.
Trim the excess.
Attach the handles to your main fabric.  Mark two inches out from either side of the center on both the front and back of the bag.  Line up the edges of the handles with the top of the bag and stitch them down inside the seam allowance.  I like to arrange my handles so that the faux piping is on the outside edge (when the handle is held up).  
Turn the main fabric shell inside out, and place your lining inside.  Line up the side seams and the edges.  Stitch all the way around the top at 3/4 inch.  
Find the spot on the lining seam where we backstitched a couple of times.  Use a seam ripper to open up the stitching between the backstitching, and turn the tote right side out through the hole.  (I like to use this method of stitching and then opening, instead of just leaving an opening, because I think it makes it easier to get the edges matched up once you stitch it closed.)
Push the lining to the inside of the tote, and iron the top so it's nice and flat.  Top stitch around the edge.   I like to stitch around twice, once at 1/8 inch, and then again at 1/4 inch away from the first stitching line.
Hand stitch the opening in the lining closed with an invisible stitch.  (I've also seen this called a ladder stitch, or zipper stitch.)

Done!  I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!  I know there's a lot of steps, but it goes pretty fast once you get started.  Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you make one I'd love to see!

P.S.  If you're in the area then you'll soon be able to find these totes, made by me, at The Thankful Ewe in Minster, Ohio!