Melbourne Tote

Like the rest of the world when I had my annual leave in September I couldn’t go travelling. I decided to do what a lot of people in the sewing community are doing in 2020 and travel through my fabric making a bag using fabric from my Melbourne trip last year. I needed a new tote bag as the bag I had been using for work was falling apart but I’m not calling this my work bag as I don’t want to think of it as that.


The 2 fabrics I used I purchased from Clear It. I brought them for dressmaking as they are both cotton and pretty much because they were cheap. Who doesn’t want to buy fabric that is only $2-$5 per metre? It’s a bargain right, you need to buy it. Upon getting home and thinking about the fabrics I knew I wouldn’t actually wear them in clothing as they were very stiff. I’m really fussy when it comes to clothing, if it isn’t soft or comfortable I won’t wear it. In terms of bag making these fabrics were perfect. They are both lighter weight fabrics but they don’t have much drape so have more structure to them.

I wanted a basic shaped tote bag. Looking at McCalls 6338 which is the pattern I use for my charity bags. I read that view E would be slightly bigger than what I had in mind but it would be ok. For my charity bags I make view D which is a good size for a handbag but too small for me to put my lunch bag and whatever else I carry in it. One of the other reasons for using this pattern is that I know it off by heart and don’t need to read instructions. View E is just a larger version of view D. To use my favourite quote from the cheesy 90’s tv show Diagnostic Murder “I just modified a McCalls” I decided my bag needed pockets on the outside. I carry a couple of sets of keys, my phone, face mask. I want them easily accessible without having to hunt to the bottom of my bag. The pattern actually does have you make both sides of the front with pockets but I don’t like how they have it. I just like a singular area with a pocket not around all of the bag. For handbags they are too uncomfortable if you are holding them close to your body with items in the pockets and they aren’t secure.

Originally I was only going to do one pocket on the front and that was a patch zipper pocket. I could see it in my head but coming sewing wise big failure. I tried sewing different layers together but I couldn’t get my raw edge seams to turn so they would be enclosed on the inside. The reality is I probably should have read the instructions on the Zip and Go bag which I’ve made several times which is like a giant patch pocket. I will go over the raw edges of this pouch with a zig zag stitch and give it to Mr StitchNSew to use as he likes little projects like this that I have made to store bits of his things in. It was sad as I had actually done a really good zipper on this pocket.

Plan B was a patch pocket towards the bottom of the bag like I did in my charity bags this year and for the first time ever an inserted zipper pocket near the top section. In the end I think this was the better option. The patch pocket has the contrast fabric I used for the handles and in the inside of the bag. I didn’t have enough scraps left to use for the inserted pocket so I used the outside fabric. These pockets are great. I can carry my 2 sets of keys in the zipper pocket and I know they are secure. The patch pocket fits my phone and a face mask.

I followed a Youtube clip to make the inserted zip pocket. It was a bit nerve racking trying a new technique but I am really pleased with my first attempt. Once I inserted the zip and turned the fabric to the inside of the bag I discovered my fabric wasn’t going to be long enough for the pocket bag so I did have to add on an extension piece. I’m not bothered as you can’t tell when looking at it or using it. Next time I know to use a longer piece of fabric so when you fold it over the pocket is deep enough.

I mentioned the fabric used for the handles and inside of the bag. I’m glad I never used this fabric for a top like I thought I was going to. The dots do play with my eyes a little as I have trouble focusing on small and busy prints such as dots. In this project they work great It is hard to tell but they are navy dots. I’m not looking at them a great deal so its ok.

Construction wise I used the pattern pieces of the outer bag for both the inside and outside of this bag. Once I had stitched each bag I put them inside each other right sides facing and turned them out through a gap on the top seam. I didn’t want a drawstring top. When it was finished I thought oh wow it is really big! Using it I found out it isn’t that big. The top of the bag does fold down a bit to wear the handles are joined to the front. The handles do slip off my should a bit so I need to hold on to the tops of the handles as I walk. I have problems with all bags falling off my shoulders. I think it is the way I stand and walk with the crutch that my shoulders slant. I can’t wear backpacks that don’t have a clip at the front to hold the shoulders together. I don’t mind that I have to hold this bag as I walk. I have a habit of needing to hold something in my right hand when I have the crutch in the left hand as my right hand naturally curls like it should be gripping an item at the same time.

I love this bag. I had adventures buying the fabric on my fabric crawl in Melbourne. I had adventures making this bag. It is a bag with a story. I like projects that have a story behind them.



Dragonfly Tote

Sorting through my stash I found a piece of “good” fabric that I brought a couple of years ago. It was a 1m piece of dragonfly printed cotton from Japan, I don’t have issues about fabric prices but it wasn’t cheap. To be honest I think I only brought it because it was blue as I am not a dragonfly kind of person. Being only 1m it wasn’t really enough to make clothing with unless I added it without something else. I decided to free it from my stash and use it in a gift. Better to be used then just sitting around doing nothing. This is the first of two items I made from it.

This is a basic tote bag, nothing fancy about it. I based it around the same size a my denim tote bag. I am using my denim one a lot and it folds down really small. This one is just a tad bit smaller due to the amount of fabric I had. This tote bag is different to my denim one in 2 ways. The first way is that the handles on this one are pieced together. Once I cut out the bag portion I realised that I wouldn’t have enough to cut the handles the width of the fabric like I normally do. I had some leftover pieces from when I cut down the bag from the width of the fabric so I used those for the handles. Each handle is made from 2 pieces joined as one strip. I was worried that the join section on each handle would be at the stress point on top of where the bag sits on the shoulder so after doing my initial straight line of stitching to join each piece I did a zig zag stitch along the seam allowance just to reinforce that seam. Each handle was folded into quarters and top stitched down along the edge so they are pretty strong.

The second different thing about this tote bag is that is lined with the same dragonfly fabric. This makes the bag a little bit thicker and little bit sturdier than my denim bag. Even with the extra layer it still folds down small. When constructing this I left my turning gap on one of the sides of the inner bag. I hand slip stitched the turning gap to close it up. It isn’t very noticeable so really there is no right or wrong side of this bag.

I am really happy with this bag for several reasons

  • It is a practical item
  • I can give it as a gift
  • I used fabric from my stash that would be otherwise just be sitting there

Sometimes simple things are the best


Denim Tote Bag

Whilst I had a jeans needle in my sewing machine from making the denim skirt I decided to make a tote bag from stretch denim I had cut out a few months ago. I needed a bag to replace my favourite tote bag which was beyond repair after nearly 10 years of use.

Denim Tote

The finished measurements are 16″W x 15″H Construction wise this bag is very simple as it is just rectangle piece of fabric folded in half. On the ends I did a double fold to hem the raw edges. Once folded in half I did the side seams on the overlocker (serger) The handles are a tube of fabric that I top stitched down the length both sides. They are attached to the outside of the bag. I did a lot of stitching to ensure they were anchored securely to the bag sewing in first a square shape than diagonally across both sides. I didn’t want anything fancy with this bag I just wanted a simple bag I could carry over my shoulder, was light enough to roll up to stick in my handbag or pocket but durable enough that I could stuff it with what ever I need. Hopefully this one will last me the next 10 years.

Tiny Totes

After my jewellery boxes didn’t work out I needed a plan b to present the jewellery I’d made.

Tiny Tote Pink

I went to my scrap fabric stash and looked at what I had on hand and came up with the idea of tiny tote bags. Each side of the tote is a 9 patch made of 2.5″ squares and a 7″ cross grain ribbon handle. The bags were all done on the serger. After deciding on the pattern I stitched up my rows then assembled the rows to form the block. I serged across the top of each block to finish the top edge of the bag. By chance I have purple and pink threads on my bottom serger loops so it looks a bit decorative. Once I had the 2 blocks assembled I serged them together to form the bag. The handles are simply hand stitched into place.

Tiny Totes

These took no time to assemble and look great. I can see the idea being used as a larger bag by either doing more squares or just larger squares. By doing them on the serger you don’t need to line the bag as all seams are finished. For larger bags I will do a stronger handle.