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Tutorial: Child's Tote

Lately, I have been making several child sized tote bags & matching crayon rolls.  Here is how I made the totes.  Enjoy!

Gather your materials:
* 13" x 29" piece of cotton fabric for the OUTSIDE of the bag
* 13" x 29" piece of matching canvas for the INSIDE of the bag (or you can use regular cotton & iron on some lightweight interfacing to give it a bit of structure)
* 2 - 4" x 20" pieces of fabric (same as you used for the outside of the bag) for the STRAPS
Coordinating thread
Sewing machine
~Seam allowances are 1/4" (for my machine that's the width of the presser foot) unless otherwise noted~

Throughout the tutorial and at the end I will have some helpful hints enclosed in *.  If you're a beginner sewer, it may be helpful to read through all of them before beginning this project.  I hope they help! 

Let's start with making the STRAPS.  Take 1 piece of the strap fabric and fold it in half lengthwise and iron (making the piece 2" x 20").

Open it up and fold each edge into the fold along the center and iron:

Fold the piece in half again and iron: 

You'll have a strap that is 1" x 20".

Pin along the strap (pins perpendicular to the length of the strap) and topstich around entire strap:

*To topstich, adjust to a longer stitch length.  Each machine is different, but on mine I can choose a length between 0 and 5.  For topstiching, I typically use between 4 and 4.5.  Test the stitch length on a scrap of fabric before you get started!* 

Repeat for the second strap.  Here is what you should have:

Now let's work on the BODY of the bag.  Take your outer piece of fabric and fold in half widthwise (making it 13" x 14.5") with RIGHT sides of fabric together.  Pin the open edge on the right side, starting at the fold and working toward what will be the top (open end) of the bag:

*As a general rule in sewing, using more pins= less shifting of fabric.  I prefer to pin from what will be the bottom of the bag (folded edge) to what will be the top.  I do this for both sides.  In case of a little shifting, I would rather it shift to the open end of the bag which I can trim later if need be.*

Sew along edge.
*Remember to adjust to a shorter stitch length than you used with topstitching.*
Repeat for other side of the bag.

Now let's add the GUSSETS to the bottom of the bag.  You'll form a triangle at one bottom of the bag, by opening up the bottom and lining up the sewn side edge with the center line of the bottom of the purse.  It will look like this (the part sticking up is the side seam):

Using your ruler and a pencil, locate and mark the place on the triangle that is 1.5" wide:

Pin the fabric in a few spots to keep it from shifting when you sew.

Sew along the line you drew:

Trim the top of the triangle above the sewing line:

Repeat for the other side of the bag.  The bottom edges of the bag should look like this:

Turn the bag right side out.

Now let's ATTACH the straps.   Place the outer edge of 1 strap 3" from the top edge of the bag.  Pin in place:

* You can leave the straps like this, but I prefer to go ahead and sew them on with an 1/8" seam allowance now and remove the pins.*
*There is technically a right side to the straps - whatever side was up when you were sewing.  It may or may not be noticeable.  If you can tell which is the right/wrong side based on the stitching - when attaching the straps place the right side down (facing the right side of the bag).  When you are finished the straps will have the correct side facing out.*

Repeat until all ends of straps are in place.

Now for the LINING.  Fold the fabric in half widthwise (making it 13" x 14.5") with RIGHT sides together.  Toward the center of one of the side edges, place 2 marks 4" apart:

This will create an opening for the bag to turn it right side out when you're done sewing.

Follow all the same steps as for the outside of the bag, except do not sew between the marks you created.  Sew up to the first mark and backstitch to secure the stitching  Then begin sewing at the second mark, backstitching to secure, then to the open (what will be the top) end of the bag.  When finished with all steps, leave this piece inside out (do not turn right side out like you did with the outside piece of the bag).

Now to FINISH up the bag!  The outside of your bag should be right side out.  The inside of your bag should be inside out.  Place the outside of the bag into the inside of your bag.  Make sure you get the straps in there, too!

Pin around the top of the bag, lining up the top edges of the inside and outside pieces as best you can:

Make sure you don't pin all 4 pieces of fabric together.  This is the top of the tote and will be the opening for the bag.
*  I find it helpful to line up the side seams of both bags and pin at each seam.  Then I hold the bag at both side seams and pull it flat to get all the wrinkles out.  Then I add a pin at the front and back center of the bag and then fill in with more pins.  I find that I can get the entire bag to line up best this way. *

Stitch around the top of the bag.  Remember that opening we left in the lining?  Well, now's the time to use it to turn the whole thing right side out.  Begin by pulling the outside of the bag through the opening:

Then you can pull the lining through, at which point you'll have something that looks like this:

Let's go ahead an close up the opening in the lining.  You can either hand stitch it by using a blind stitch or you can just sew it closed with your machine using an 1/8" seam allowance..  I usually hand stitch, but here is what it'll look like with machine stitching:

Push the lining of the bag into the outside of the bag:

Smooth the inside/outsides out the best you can.  Adjust the fabric at the top of the bag so that none of the lining shows to the outside (and if you're really good it'll be completely even so that the outside doesn't show on the inside of the bag, either).  Iron and then pin along the top:

Toptstich along the top of the bag.
*Remember to change to a longer stitch length.*

You're done!

*It's a good idea to change out your sewing needles frequently.  I've heard as often as every project is advised.  I don't change mine that often, but probably every 4 or 5 projects if they are small (like these bags).*
*Also, it's a good idea to open up your sewing machine and clean out any lint and dust that is in there.  If you are sewing especially linty fabrics (terry cloth for example) it's a good idea to clean it after each project.  I try to remember to atleast peek in there every few projects or so and see if it needs some TLC.  Here's what I found in my machine before starting this bag:

Yes, those are two HUGE balls of lint!  I know that some people use canned air, but that doesn't really get the lint out.  Instead use a little brush to pull the lint out of the machine.*
*I know that many people don't remove pins when sewing.  I have hit way too many pins and broken my sewing needle.  I prefer to pull the pins out right before I sew over them.*

* Backstitching is used to secure the beginning and end of your stitching.  When beginning to sew, sew forward as normal then reverse for a few stitches then continue forward.  At the end of your sewing, reverse stitch for a few stitches then sew forward to the stopping point.  Stitching back and forth a few times will keep the stitches secure.*


Tracy said…
Thanks for the awesome tutorial! I just made a bag and it is just the size I needed :) Now I need to make two more....
Pegasus said…
Thanks for a great tutorial! I plan to make one for my grandson. Can you please tell me what the finished dimensions are? Thanks!!

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