Archive for the ‘Tutorial’ Category

So I showed you a basic tote bag. I showed you different things you can do to your tote bag to make it even more awesome.

As I mentioned before, the city I live in passed an ordinance about plastic grocery bags. This is sorta a bummer as I do happen to reuse them– to put soggy kid clothes in, as liners for small trash cans, also as crafty items. But hey, powers that be will be and they said get rid of them. However, that’s not what drives me to distraction.

What does… are those plastic bags for produce or for meat. You know the ones I’m talking about– usually transparent, very thin, will tear apart if you look at them cross-eyed. HATE THEM. And these are truly one-use bags, which I will put in recycling when I’m done because I can’t really reuse them for anything.

So I’m playing on TEH INTERNETZ when I came across a bunch of bag tutorials, so many cute and neat and all sorts of interesting.  One of these awesome tutorials is from a fabric designer, Daisy Janie, for a produce bag that she designed for a no-plastic bag challenge. Here’s her Tutorial, which links you to a free pdf pattern and instruction file. I squee’d, I chairbopped in front of my computer at how neat and cute and righteous these are. “FINALLY,” I thought, “I can get corn on the cob and the bag won’t rip open!”

You can use either a fat quarter or an 18″ square. Poor Hubs asked what a fat quarter was, and I think I confused the poor man even further with the explanation. I made up two, using two different fat quarters and stitched them up, playing with the orientation of the stitch guide:

They are also a fast project. Maybe in all, given that I had kids that needed attention and I was working slower since it was a “new” pattern, it took about an hour for both.

As a test run, I took them yesterday to a farmer’s market-esque store. I was a little concerned; after all, they did not seem very big. It would be one thing for someone who might be buying a few items. I have three kids, one of which is on swim team, and three adults to buy for. Would these bags be good for a full house?

This bag is holding 8 apples. It’s only half-full, and kept closed thanks to the loop construction.

And here’s a closeup of a bag of nectarines! OH BOY! Preschool Rockstar loved helping me by holding the bags while I put the produce in them, and she was able to close them on her own. Yay for self-sufficient lessons!

The cashier had no problems with the bags either, which was another concern. She also LOVED them, so I happily directed her to the Daisy Janie site. I also dig the fact that they are washable. I’m so tempted to make about twenty, so I always have my produce bags and help to reduce waste.

Daisy Janie sells lots of cute organic fabric (I have a metric TON of fabric and I was impatient so I used my own). She also has other tutorials that I was eyeing, so please! Go to her site, give her some love, and tell her a wee squirrel sent you there.


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Otherwise known as the Totes Awesome Tutorial, 2.0

Last week we had the most excellent tutorial on making a totebag using the fabric panels. “But!” You may have remarked, “I don’t know how sturdy this will be and I have a lot of crap to tote around. I would have many sad moments if my bag was to rip apart like JLo’s marriage…” or perhaps you thought, “Wow! The outside of my tote is amazing to look at! But the inside is a worse mess then those Desperate Housewives series…”

Fret not! For this is my method on how to make a liner, set a flat bottom, put a pocket in, and make smaller side handles. There might be easier ways but this is what works for me.

When I made my first bag, I was left with two lonely panels. I cut those apart as well and renamed them Fashion Fabric (or FF). Using them as my template, I cut two panels out along  two strips 5″ by 20″ (I used both patterned strips in the first tutorial) and a 5×7″ rectangle for the pocket. For this bag, I’m using a linen-cotton blend as my lining. You can use denim or canvas for strength or another cotton or some other lightweight fabric to make the inside pretty and reversible. Whatever fabric you do end up using, do take the time to prewash it in the warmest water it can stand, as different weights of fabric can shrink in different ways. And it would be a shame to put the time and attention to a project… And have it get ruined because the fabrics shrunk into two different sizes from being washed.

To make the pocket I first overlocked-stitched around the perimeter of the pocket, mostly because I can use that to anchor the edges and achieve a good narrow hem. Depending on your material, this might be a necessary step to help keep the edges from fraying.




Turn down the top of the fabric rectangle about a half inch, then turn the overlocked edge under that and sew a narrow hem for the top of the pocket.





To pin the pocket onto the lining, turn under the overlocked edges, pin to the fabric where you want the pocket to sit. I placed mine about three inches from the top of where the totebag was going to be.





Sew a straight stitch close to the edge of the pocket. You now have a mini tote within your tote!

You can also do this with your fashion fabric side if you so wish. I have a design on both sides, So I elected to not put a pocket on the outside.




Now to assemble the bag itself:
Put the right sides of the FF together, sew up the sides and the bottom with a 1/2 inch hem. Do the same with the liner, except for a good 4 to 6 inch gap on the bottom (this is important for later). Trim your seams if you are so inclined.

If you want a flat bottom (on your bag, that is), line up your side seam with your bottom seam, making a point with the corner. Depending on how boxy you want your bottom to be, measure out the distance on each side as shown. I tend to go four or five inches, but it depends on how big a bag I am making. Mark your line with chalk or crayon. The clear rulers you can find in the quilting sections of your fabric store are really good for this kind of thing, since they are transparent you can see where the designs are. I got mine when they were being clearanced out; keep your eyes open for that great sale!

Sew along your mark; you can either tack the points to the bottom or trim it off. I’ve done both, and I tend to trim. Your bag will now have a nice bottom to rest on the ground. Some people will put a hard bottom in (like fabric-covered cardboard or even fabric-covered plastic canvas) but I tend to not bother because it’s one more piece to have to keep track of; and unless you can be positively sure you aren’t going to get anything on your totebag, the cardboard/whatever you use will diminish the washability of your tote. I got kids. Therefore, I need to wash.

At this point we can work on the straps. Simplest way is fold in half with the nice side facing each other, sew the seam, turn right side out, topstitch and call it lovely.

Putting it all together: measure three inches in from the side seams, and pin straps on the right/finished side of the lining. I will set about an inch off the ends of the handles into the bag for extra security.





Do the same for all four ends of your handles… and in the long, long parental tradition of Do As I Say, Not As I Do… yes, I pinned the handles on the wrong side of the lining. Yes, I didn’t notice until after I stitched everything together. This is why you keep your seam ripper close by and carefully choose your curse words for little ears.




Turn your FF right side out, fit it into the lining, and pin the top, matching the side seams together (at this point, the handles for the bag should be between your lining and the FF). I usually use a basting stitch– which is setting your straight stitch setting on your sewing machine for the longest-size stitch length. Here is where I fixed my mistake and am showing how it SHOULD look like if you did it right the first time. Ahem.


Pull the FF through the hole in the bottom of the lining– see why it was important? Topstitch around the top of the bag. If you so choose, also do a reinforcing stitch around where the ends of your handles  are to give additional strength (I didn’t on this one).




Either handsew the lining closed, or choose to be lazy ike me and quickly sew it up with a straight stitch. Or keep it open and have a secret compartment! Like James Bond… if he were to carry a tote bag with a unicorn on it…




Fluff your bag out, and enjoy! Or at least enjoy the fact that I tormented Eldest Daughter to once again model another bag.








I hope that helps expand your toting capabilities! Again, any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

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Today is Friday! Wheee! And I have a wee little tutorial to show for it!

I’ve ben in a bag-making mood these past couple of months. My city passed an ordinance that the “disposable” plastic bags were banned from being distributed at stores that sold groceries and at farmer’s markets (and yet… I can get them from other stores. A rant for another time…). Furthermore, if you have need for a bag, the store has to charge you ten cents for a paper bag. This has not made a lot of people Very Happy.

Now, all the stores do sell reusable bags. However, you can’t really wash these bags (and you need to after every use since bacteria and other lovely stuff grows and flourishes), plus many of them have store logos, and aren’t all that cute. So I’ve been making bags.

In my stash I have some fabric that has panels. These are usually for things like pillowcases, but I made a bag, and several ladies thought it was tres cute and asked if I could make a tutorial for these. And so here it is:

Squirrel’s Totes Tute!

Yesterday I went to the fabric store. Usually the panels are found in the novelty cotton areas– and a yard will usually give you about four panels. What you’ll need for this is a pair if scissors, a measuring tool of some form (I used a hem marker), and a sewing machine. You can also use a rotary cutter and mat (since you are just making straight cuts) and a serger.

 Here’s the basic layout: Panels, and most times the fabric will have a sort of border along the sides (this picture does not show the border well, but it’s there! I swear!):

Measure the area between the panels, and make your cut:

I measured the space between the panels as two inches, and since I liked the fabric pattern, I went ahead and cut in the middle. If you would rather only show the panel, trim the panel so you have a half an inch seam allowance of “waste” fabric. Here’s the fabric right before I cut it; I included the picture so you could see the border better:

After cutting out one side, this is what you are left with (I’ll use the other side for a tutorial on how to line your totes awesome tote):

Now comes construction! Pin your fabric with the wrong sides facing out. If you have a serger or a sewing machine with an overlock stitch, use that to give a strong seam. If you have a basic sewing machine, you can make a servicable mock overlock by sewing your seam first with a straight (or running) stitch, then going over your seam with a zigzag:


I made a flat bottom on my bag, but for some reason the pictures got lost in the ether. I’ll have to show it in the tutorial next week (SORRY!).

Strap construction: Sometimes the border fabric can inspire you to what sort of strap you want on the bag. Since the border is so intricate on this particular fabric, I decided to make a shoulder strap. You can use interfacing to give a little more body (or stiffness) to your strap but I’m lazy. I stitched up the long sides with the right sides of the fabric facing each other. Unlike the bag, I didn’t want to leave any of the waste fabric to show, so I used the border of the design as my guide:

Then I trimmed close to the overlock stitch,turned right-side out and top-stitched close to the edges to help make the strap lay flat.

To attach the strap to the bag: I made a narrow hem on the top of the bag (it’s essentially a rolled hem: I measured a quarter of an inch from the cut edge and folded over twice and sewed in place). I then took one end of the strap, folded the two corners to meet together like so…

Which is then folded up, so that the raw edge is covered. I then put the middle of the strap to the side seam, and sewed onto place.

Repeat for the other side, and you now have a stunning tote bag for trips to the library, to a stitching circle, or whatever you decide to use your bag for!

Next week will be Totes Awesome Totebag 2.0 as I show how to put in a lining, create a flat bottom, and show the bag with side handles (as opposed to a shoulder strap). Hope you liked the tutorial, please let me know if there are any questions.

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