Monday 29 September 2014

Tote bag tutorial

So last weekend I made yet another tote bag - what can I say?  I'm obsessed!

Tote bag tutorial

While I was making it I took some photos so I could write up a tutorial - here it is.  Warning - may spark obsession with tote bags!

You will need:

- half yard main exterior fabric
- fat quarter contrast exterior fabric
- half yard lining fabric
- half yard Soft and Stable (you can find it at By Annie's website, and for kiwis, Stitchbird now has it in stock)
- 2 yards webbing strap (I used 1.5" wide webbing)
- pins
- large quilting ruler
- scissors
- thread
- rotary cutter
- cutting mat
- sewing machine (preferably with walking foot)
- Clover wonder clips (optional but very helpful)

All seams are 1/4" unless otherwise specified.

Step 1 - Create the fabric exterior of your bag.

If you are using a non-directional fabric for your main exterior fabric, cut a piece 22" by 16.5".  If you are using a directional fabric for your main exterior fabric, cut two pieces 11.25" by 16.5".  Sew the two pieces together along the long side so that when the seam is at the bottom of the bag, both pieces of fabric will be facing the correct way.  Cut two pieces of your contrast exterior fabric 5.5" by 16.5".  Stitch one piece of your contrast fabric to each end of the long strip of the main exterior fabric.  Press all the seams neatly - on this project I recommend pressing to the side rather than open for extra strength.

Step 2 - Add the Soft and Stable.

Lay your exterior panel out on the Soft and Stable, and trim away any excess so you have a piece of Soft and Stable that is bigger than your exterior panel by approximately 1" all around.  If your Soft and Stable is not very flat after being stored folded, you can iron it flat.  I use the wool setting on my iron, and steam, with good results.  Bear in mind that the Soft and Stable is synthetic material so should not be ironed at full heat - I haven't tried it but I expect it would melt.

Smooth your exterior panel flat on the Soft and Stable, and pin in place.  If you are going to quilt the exterior, you will want to use a good number of pins - spaced about every 4", to ensure that the fabric does not shift around too much as you are quilting.  If you are not planning to quilt the Soft and Stable, you can use fewer pins.

Tote bag tutorial

For this sample, I decided not to quilt the exterior of the bag.  Instead, I simply stitched around the very edge of the exterior panel, using a longer than usual stitch length.  The stitching is within 1/8" of the edge of the fabric, so it will not be visible when the bag is finished. Either do this (using your walking foot) or quilt the exterior panel to the Soft and Stable using your preferred design (also using your walking foot).

Tote bag tutorial

Using your rotary cutter and ruler, trim away any excess Soft and Stable.

Step 3 - Add the straps.

Cut the webbing into two pieces, each approximately 1 yard long.  This length should give you a bag that you can carry over your shoulder or in your hand.  That said, the best strap length for you will depend on your own height, so you may wish to experiment with the strap length by pinning the strap onto the bag in approximately the right position and seeing how it feels.

At each end of your bag, measure 4.5" from each side of the bag, and make a small mark.

Tote bag tutorial

To prevent fraying, tuck each end of the straps underneath by about 1/4" to 1/2". Pin one strap to each side of the bag, aligning the outer edge of the strap with the mark you made, and aligning the bottom of the strap with the seam between your contrast and main fabrics.  Stitch each strap in place, making sure you leave at least 3/4" at the top of the bag where the strap is not stitched downI like to stitch a rectangle with an X in the middle.  I also usually change my thread colour so it matches the strap so that the stitching is almost invisible.

Tote bag tutorial

Step 4 - Complete the exterior.

Fold the exterior panel in half, right side in.  Pin or clip along the sides, making sure that the seams are aligned.  Stitch along the sides using your walking foot, backstitching at the start and end of each seam.

Tote bag tutorial

I generally prefer to stitch from the fold to the top of the bag - this way there is less chance of having a pucker at the fold. I also usually stitch along these seams twice, for additional reinforcement (alternatively you could stitch a straight seam and then a zig-zag seam right at the edge for reinforcement - I didn't do this because I was working on my Juki which is straight stitch only).  Remove pins or clips from bag.

Tote bag tutorial

Box the corners of the bag by pushing the corners out and aligning the side and bottom seams.  Using your ruler, draw a line perpendicular to the side seam, 1.5" away from the point of the corner.  Most quilting rulers have a 45 degree line on them which should help with this step.

Tote bag tutorial

Pin so that the corner of the bag is sticking out and you can stitch along this seam.  Repeat for the other corner of the bag.

Tote bag tutorial

Stitch along each line, using your walking foot, and backstitch at the start and end of each seam.  Again, I like to stitch these seams twice for extra reinforcement.  Trim away the excess by cutting 1/4" from each drawn and stitched line.

Tote bag tutorial

Turn your exterior right sides out.

Step 5 - Create the lining.

Cut a piece 31.5" by 16" for the lining (yes, this is slightly smaller than the fabric you cut for the exterior).  Fold in half, right sides together.  Pin or clip along the sides. Stitch along one side, backstitching at the start and end of each seam.    For the other side, stitch the first 5" or so as normal, then backstitch a couple of stitches.  Increase your stitch length to almost the maximum, and then stitch another 5" with the longer stitch length.  Return your stitch length to normal and backstitch a couple of stitches again, and finish the seam with a normal stitch length.  The part with the long stitches will be unpicked at a later stage for use as a turning gap - I simply find this easier than leaving an actual gap. As with the exterior, I generally prefer to stitch from the fold to the top of the bag.  Box the corners of the lining in the same way as you did for the bag.  Leave the lining with the right side facing in.

Tote bag tutorial

Step 6 - Add the lining to the bag.

Pin the loose part of the strap to the exterior of the so it does not get in the way at this stage.

Tote bag tutorial

Put the exterior part of the bag inside the lining, so the right sides of both are touching.  Align the side seams of the lining and the exterior.  Pin or clip along the raw edge to hold the two in place.

Tote bag tutorial

Stitch the exterior and the lining together at the top of the bag using your walking foot, and going slow and carefully because of the bulk in certain places.  Unpick the long stitches on one side of the lining, and turn the bag out through the gap.  Push the exterior and the lining out.

Tote bag tutorial

Close the turning gap by tucking the raw edges inside and stitching close to the edge.

Tote bag tutorial

Push the lining inside the exterior of the bag.

Tote bag tutorial

I often find it's useful to press along the top of the bag at this stage to get a neat seam, but be careful of touching the straps with your iron.  Clip or pin along the edge, and then top stitch using your walking foot and a slightly longer than usual stitch length to create a neat finished edge at the top of the bag.  Stop and start your top stitching so it is under a strap for maximum neatness.

Tote bag tutorial

Voila - you have a nice structured but light tote bag ready for use.

Tote bag tutorial

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial - let me know if you have any questions.  If you make a bag using this tutorial, I'd love to see it - you can add it to my flickr group or flick me an email directly.

Follow on Bloglovin

Saturday 27 September 2014

Caturday Wisdom #87

It's ok to choose comfort over style. Ralph

This little cat house thing is pretty ugly but they absolutely love it. If they don't greet me at the door when I get home they're almost always in here. It's good in winter but I've seen them in it during the height of summer when the sun's been coming through the windows all afternoon and it's boiling. It can't seem to get hot enough for them, I've never found them cooling off in the bathroom sink anyway. I would like to!

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Christmas stockings

I wouldn't normally make Christmas things in September, but I'm teaching a quilted Christmas stocking class at Nancy's Embroidery in November so I needed to get some samples ready.

Christmas stockings 

I'm totally thrilled with how these samples turned out.

Christmas stockings 

This clean and simple version is the kind of thing I'd probably make for myself (and in fact it's kind of similar to the one I made last year).  When I teach free motion quilting, loops are my favourite thing to start off with, and I think they look really effective on this stocking.

Christmas stockings 

These stockings are fully lined and should last for ages.  They're also pretty roomy, so they're not just for decoration.

Christmas stockings 

I wanted to try and cover a couple of different styles with my samples.  I wasn't 100% sure how this one was going to work out, but in the end I really love the lush patterned fabric and the richness that the ribbons add.  I don't think any of the materials in this stocking are technically Christmas specific, but I think it looks totally Christmassy anyway.  This one is quilted with straight lines - I wanted samples that demonstrate both techniques I'll be teaching.

Christmas stockings

My class is on at Nancy's Embroidery on Sunday 9 November, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  I've done one full day class like this before and it was a blast - it's a nice chance for people to learn heaps and get a whole project done in the session.  If you're in Wellington, these samples are now hanging out at Nancy's so if you pop in, you'll be able to see them for yourself.

I'm going to link up this finish with crazy mom quilts.  And I might be plotting some more Christmas stockings...

Follow on Bloglovin

Monday 22 September 2014

Framed stars (and a winner)

Last week I showed you Scaled Stars blocks made by other people - now here are some that I made myself (umm, and also some made by others...).  I made the top right and bottom left blocks in this photo, and my friends Anne and Jeanie made the top left and bottom right blocks respectively.

Framed stars

These are samples for our local guild block of the month - the idea is that people make a 6.5" scaled star block following my tutorial and then add more fabric so the block finishes at 9.5" square (this also means that there's a certain margin for error if the star block doesn't quite finish at 6.5" square!).  Hopefully once lots of blocks have been made it will look like stars sprinkled across the night sky.

I also promised a winner for my Westwood Acres giveaway. chose number 172, so the winner is tlcala4me - congratulations!

I hope everyone has had a great weekend!  I spent the weekend at our annual guild retreat and it was lovely.  It was also quite productive so I have lots of things to share on the blog soon.

Follow on Bloglovin

Saturday 20 September 2014

Caturday Wisdom #86

The key is to let them think they're in charge. Mojo
It's election day! Go vote!
Mojo is a (colleague's) Maine Coon who is also the ruler of Lower Hutt.

Thanks to everyone for all your friendly comments on my non-quilty post!

Thursday 18 September 2014

Non-quilty Guest Post

Hello everyone!
Adrianne has been super busy doing lawyer things this week/weekend/all the time so she asked if I wanted to sew something so that she had some content. I'm pretty sure she was joking but nevertheless here are some pictures of a top I adjusted in a fairly slap-dash manner.

If you buy clothing online like I do, you'll know that it can be a bit hit-and-miss in terms of how things fit and what they actually look like in your hands. This top is actually from a local chain (Glassons) but you got a discount for your first online order and since I was going to buy it anyway I figured I may as well get it for a bit less. It's a t-shirt in style but it's made of a non-stretch silky polyester. It has a cute print of little stars, crabs and sharks on it BUT it's quite long and made for a lady with rather different proportions to me. Thus, its fits weird: 

So tight.

I've been wearing it tucked into stuff at the waist but I don't get that much use out of it because I can't just wear it with anything. I've been adjusting a few things lately and decided this probably wouldn't be too complicated of a project. 
It has a stepped hem with a little 3" split up the side which was handy as it meant that I could just move the start of the split up a little bit, trim a few inches of the bottom (lucky it was long to begin with) and the split would leave me hip room. 

I unpicked the sides a random amount, tried it on an then marked where the split would start. Having a sewing obsessed sister who has everything including the sewing machine you learnt to sew on made everything quite easy. I sliced the extra fabric off with her rotary cutter and it was so much easier than marking a line and snipping with scissors. The fold from the side seam meant I could just stitch these down to re-form the split and then I hemmed the bottom with your basic fold-twice-then-sew technique.

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, I'm definitely not an expert and I (mostly) know my limits. I never try to do anything with knits 'cause that stuff is tricky! Now that disclaimer is out there, the results:
The comfort.

The freedom. I did actually iron it...

I'll be back on Saturday with some cat pictures.
PS it's Adrianne's birthday - wish her a happy one!

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Introducing Westwood Acres (and a giveaway!)

Today I'd like to welcome Westwood Acres as my newest sponsor.

Westwood Acres is run by husband and wife team Amanda (who blogs at A Crafty Fox) and Weston. They started out on Etsy but now have their very own sparkly new website.  Westwood Acres specialises in fabric bundles, combining a selection of designer bundles with well curated custom bundles.

One of my favourite things about Westwood Acres is how they do co-ordinating solid bundles which match beautifully with a designer collection, like this Pretty Potent co-ordinating solids bundle.

Amanda has also collated a series of low volume bundles which have been very popular.  The Inside Voices Low Volume Club is fully subscribed at the moment, but you can sign up for the wait list.  

Westwood Acres also runs a Liberty Tana Lawn Club.  I've been receiving bundles since the latest round started in June, and they're just delightful. 

Personally my favourite thing about Westwood Acres is the truly excellent customer service.  When I've been in touch about an order, the response has always been really prompt and helpful.

Westwood Acres is generously giving away a $45 gift certificate to be used on fabric of the winner's choice.  To enter, head over to Westwood Acres and then let me know what you'd use your voucher on if you won.  I think I'd be choosing between this First of Infinity text fabric bundle...

...this Cherie Fat Quarter bundle from Art Gallery Fabrics...

... or maybe a couple of these scrummy Cotton and Steel co-ordinating solids bundles (the one on the left co-ordinates with August and Homebody, and the one on the right co-ordinates with Mustang and Hatbox).


If you follow my blog, you can get a second entry by leaving a second comment. This giveaway is open to everyone (including international participants), but if I can't contact you, you can't win. If you are a no-reply blogger, please leave your email address in the comment.

The giveaway will stay open until around 10am Monday 22 September 2014 (New Zealand Time), and I will use the random number generator at to pick a winner then. Good luck everyone!

Follow on Bloglovin

Monday 15 September 2014

Other people's scaled star blocks (and an update to the tutorial)

It's been super exciting to see a few people using my Scaled Stars tutorial to make blocks.

Megan from Jaffa Quilts made these gorgeous 12" blocks using low volume backgrounds and super saturated fabrics for the stars.  She's used a lot of Anna Maria Horner fabrics, which of course, I love.   I'd find it hard to explain why, but these colours remind me of sour lollies - yum!

6" Scrappy Scaled Star

The lovely Julie from JulieLou made this 6" version, which is fussy cutting perfection.  I love how she kept the block really monochromatic as well.

Deb from Works in Progress shared some 6" blocks she'd made on instagram just this weekend - I love how she switched things up and used a solid for just the star points.  The scrummy Cotton and Steel fabrics she used don't hurt either.

To make life a bit easier for anyone using this tutorial, I decided to write up my own directions, with diagrams, and pop it all into a pdf version of the tutorial.  Click on the link to download it - it's still free, and I've added some extra block sizes (15" and 18" as well).

Hopefully next week I'll have some more scaled star blocks of my own to show you!

Follow on Bloglovin