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  • Writer's pictureShelley Barnett

The Temptation of Totes

From first glace, I loved my friend's homemade tote bag. Her fabric choices were subtle yet playful and the bag was a great size to use as a purse, project bag or for ANYTHING. I love bags and was really drawn to this one. Often sewn with bright, fun fabrics, but with the option to tailor them to any mood or personality, I was totally tempted by the Bucket Basket Tote.

photo by Jeanne, Happy Valley Fiber Arts

Using the pattern by Very Shannon, my friend, Jeanne, has sewn many wonderful totes. She now has an Etsy shop, Happy Valley Fiber Arts , where she sells her totes and other homemade bags. This is perfect given her self-proclaimed obsession with "fun yet functional bags." Being similarly obsessed with bags, I could relate.

Happy Valley Fiber Arts, Etsy Shop

Thinking about these totes reminded me of fabric I bought a few years ago. It was time to bring out the snails.

I had fun selecting coordinating fabrics and was soon ready to make my first tote.

I downloaded the free Bucket Basket Tote pattern from Very Shannon,

cut out the bag pieces,

and laid them out to be sure I was happy with the effect.

Then I cut out the corresponding pieces of fusible interfacing and fleece which would give the bag its shape and structure.

Using heat and steam, I fused them to my fabric but set aside the interfacing for the outer bag.

After getting some sewing tips, I took the leap and sewed my first tote.

Jeanne suggested using white or off-white thread to sew the bulk of the bag and only switching to matching colored thread for the topstitched seams that would show.

I began by pinning the pocket pieces, right sides together, and stitching around the outside, leaving a 2" opening. Then I used this opening to turn the pocket right side out.

While pressing the pocket I turned the edges of the opening under and pinned them.

Finally, I topstitched along the upper edge of the pocket which sewed the opening closed.

The straps were lined with fusible fleece to give them padding and bulk. I folded them lengthwise with the right sides facing in and stitched the seams. After turning the straps right side out, I pressed them so the seam was along one edge of each strap.

Lastly, I topstitched along both sides of the straps in a matching green thread.

I pinned the ends of one strap to a top piece, 5" away from the outer edges, and repeated for the other top piece.

I basted the strap to the top with a 1/8" seam allowance.

Next, I pinned the middle and bottom pieces together, right sides facing in,

and stitched and pressed the seams toward the darker fabric.

I pinned the top pieces to the middle pieces, right sides facing in,

stitched and pressed the seams.

Then I fused my remaining interfacing to the wrong sides of the outer bag pieces.

To secure the straps I sewed a box with an "X" through it at the base of each strap. Remember to keep the box 1/3" away from the top of the bag so you will have space to do the final topstitching. I did not leave enough space on this first tote which made the final step difficult.

Laying one lining piece face up, I measured 2.75" down from the top center. With my pocket pinned in the center, I topstitched along three sides leaving the top of the pocket open.

I pinned and stitched my lining pieces together, right sides facing in.

Then I pinned and stitched my outer pieces together, right sides facing in.

To make the box corners I took the outer bag, inside out and flattened the corners, lining the seams up in the center. I measured 1.25" away from the corner point then drew a line from edge to edge. I stitched along the lines.

I turned my bag right side out to check the corners. Since I was happy with them, I turned it back and trimmed the corners off leaving a 1/4" seam allowance. I repeated the process for the bag lining.

I joined the outer bag and lining together by leaving the outer back inside out, with the straps inside, and turning the lining right side out. I placed the lining inside the outer bag and pushed the corners together. I carefully aligned and pinned the top edges, sewing along the top of the bag but leaving a 6-8" opening.

I turned the bag right side out through the opening and pushed the lining down into the outer bag.

While pressing the top seam, I pinned the opening closed.

Finally, I topstitched around the entire bag, keeping the straps folded out of the way. This stitched the opening closed.

NOTE: I prefered to sew this final step with my needle going down through the outer bag. This was opposite to the pattern instructions. Since the topstitched seam would show on both sides of the bag, I used coordinating but different thread for my main AND my bobbin threads. When sewn in this way, the main thread showed on the outside of the bag and the bobbin thread on the lining side.

I finished my first bucket basket tote!

My temptation with totes continues and multiplies which is fine since they make such wonderful gifts. These totes never fail to bring a smile to my face.

Sew a tote and spread the joy. Smiles will follow.

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