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Quilt A Tote Bag Made Easy-metal spring tape closer

Updated on April 3, 2012

The materials you will need

This was really my first quilted tote bag. I have made many different styles of totes without patterns. A bag is really just a piece of material folded in half and the sides can be sewn and the bottom is the fold or you can sew up the open side(always right sides together) and then accross the bottom opening and turn inside out....voila-la bag! then all it needs is handles.... so in a future article we will talk about all the choices of handles and materials to use for the bags etc.

Now we will talk about the one in the picture and the materials needed. The bag in the picture is 1/2 yard of a large flowered cotton print and 1/2 yard of a solid bright lime green cotton. There was also 1/2 yard of Batting used of the same size, but the batting I used was called Warm and White, which comes by the yard and 90 inches wide. 1/2 yard of batting would do two bags unless you wanted the batting to be really thick. I was experimenting both in the quilting of the bag and the way I was making the bag. In this bag we used two layers of batting. It was also the same size as the personalized casserole dish that was going to be put in it as a gift, so it was doubled for insulation if it was going to be used with the casserole dish. Probably won't be, but again I want to repeat on many things you will see these hub articles about.... I am experimenting for you to reap the benefit.

The second ingredient that was not material was an old metal measuring tape. Old in age, but clean as if not used as I used to carry it in my car in case someone wanted to measure something in a house for Real Estate. This was a great metal measuring tape to use for this because it is very long and it seems I may be able to use it for the casing in the top of about 5 bags. Why the metal measuring tape?... Well, I saw a video on a site using it to make the bag snap shut. Depending on how thick your metal is it snaps tighter, but this makes a little snap sound when you open and shut the bag. The metal measuring tape was cut with my needle nose pliers that I use for beading wire cutting..... DO NOT USE YOUR GOOD SEWING SCISSORS ON ANYTHING BUT FABRIC.....Note the way the bag opens in the bottom picture. That is because the metal tape in the casing only bends. It adds stiffness to the top of the bag. I would not throw this bag in the washer because the metal tape may rust. I am not sure, and I did not look real close at its description as it was an experiment and I am not guaranteeing the bag to throw in the washer... I was just making something pretty and nifty.

The handles on this bag are also the same materials torn in strips and folded in and topstitched like pieces of bias tape and then braided together to give a different texture effect but also to match the bag without being boring.

The quilted bag step by step

This is the finished bag on one side.
This is the finished bag on one side. | Source
This is the finished bag on the other side
This is the finished bag on the other side | Source
This is the finished bag showing the bright lining and the braided handles
This is the finished bag showing the bright lining and the braided handles | Source
This is a picture showing you how the bag wants to snap shut on its own.
This is a picture showing you how the bag wants to snap shut on its own. | Source
Click to see close up of tiny braided handles or I will try to add a picture later of just handles and how they are made....
Click to see close up of tiny braided handles or I will try to add a picture later of just handles and how they are made.... | Source

First put your bags together

You decide how wide you want your bag and how tall. In this case the cotton material comes in 44 inches wide. That means when it is folded in half the same way you purchase it-one half yard will be 18 by 22 inches. This tote bag then dictated it's own size by my needed fabric for the handles and making it the easiest way possible. The bottom of this bag was the folds. That was all three ingredients. The flowered print, the lime green lining or inner fabric and the batting-all cut to the same size.

*** In the case of cotton you can always rip. This way you know all sides are even. Cotton rips on the grain unless you got something cheap. This fabric came from G Street, all the fabrics and the batting. The metal measuring tape came out of my car door pocket.

So you look at your piece of fabric that is 22 inches high and you bought 18 inches. (1/2 yard)

If they cut instead of tearing, maybe you didn't get a true 18 inches... oh that is a thought. Now, you might like the 18 inches in width of your bag, but you don't need it to be quite that big, so allow for your seam. If you don't want a raggy seam anywhere just use an overlock on your regular sewing machine over the edge, then no cutting raggie seams necessary, or you can make a seam on the edge wrong sides together on both sides and then turn right sides together and sew right past that edge. When you turn it back right side out you will have a bag with a finished edge. If your fabric is nice on both sides like in a batik you don't have to line if you don't want to quilt it. You will have a nice finished seam on the sides. Now flip it back right side out again and fold your bottom ends so you have the same size straight line forming a triangle to the point <[ ]> Once again use an overlock for that straight line to make it a strong seam and then trim that triangular piece off. That will give your bag a flat bottom as in my picture... see it is standing on it's bottom. This one has no foam board piece in it, but it has the batting quilted around a flower on the bottom and it adds strength to the bag. You do the same thing to all three for three bags... only you are turning the lining or in my case the lime green one the opposite direction of the flowered so you can set it inside. First flowered bag, then batting bag, then lime green bag... Ewwww..... It's getting there....

Now this is the part that is the first time experimenter ... so do as I say and not as I did. You should really sew the three layers together and quilt around the flowers as desired before you sew the bag shape together, but I did as I just described before. I made the three bags slid them together. I took the top edge and snipped it about 1.5 down from the edge of the two cotton bag edges and ripped. This gave me a strip to rip into 3 strips. Those three were then folded in on each edge about 1/8 and topstitched to give you strips of material to braid. I used only the flowered material for this. The basic braiding of 3 strips. Then I stitched over the end of each braid at the desired length to use for a handle. I used wide decorative embroidery stitch and then topstitched over the end and edge.

The batting was trimmed to be about 1.5 inch shorter than the two cloth bags so you could then fold over the ends first in 1/4 inch and then 1 inch. On this bag I folded the flowered edge down over the lime green lining edge. Before I did any sewing I cut the measuring tape into two strips the same width as 1 side of the bag. I inserted the metal srips into the fold of each side and then topstitched right below the metal but leaving just enough space to be able to topstitch the edge of the bag all the way around he edge. The third row of stitching I used an antique embroidery blanketstitch on my sewing machine. This stitch looks like this / on one side and then \ the other side of the straight stitch. This stitch is good because it catches both edges of anything if you are top stitching a double edge. It also adds a little decorative look while being useful.

The tricky part was after everything was put together I pinned around the larger flowers and a few small ones as I desired the effect. I then put my freemotion quilting foot on the sewing machine and clicked the button on my embroidery quilting stitch chart so I could sew around each of these flowers through all of the layers. I used the outline of the flowers for the guide of quilting it randomly. I thought it came out beautifully. This was all an experiment. I am trying to work up to making a quilted jacket by Mays Quilt Club at G Street where they will be having a quilted jacket fashion show meeting. We will see. It just gives me a little goal setting. You must try making one of these bags. You don't have to do the metal top, it could have nothing in the top edging at all and still be quite functional. The one in my first article that I made out of waterproof fabric had belting in the top to give it a heavy edge. Neither are necessary, you can just fold under 1/4 inch and then whatever size you want your edging look and topstitch at the turn under and the edge. I thought the little braided handles were a terrific accent on this one and they were very strong because of the braiding. Just be sure to stitch the attached ends on you bag well and I usually top stitch the edge of the bag through the handles to give them added support.

Think how much nicer the wrapping would be as a tote on a gift than old gift wrap paper that gets thrown away. Wrapping paper can be expensive and then, of course you need bow accents and scotch tape and eh?... I think I might go for fabric wrapping from now on. Wrap the small presents in matching cloth napkins and the big one in a tablecloth you make... only have a small gift use basket and wrap the present in the pretty basket liner that doubles the basket as napkin holder or bread warmer.

Happy Toting .... or just happy gift giving.

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