Quilted Tote Bag

Last month I went into Joann’s without much of an objective (and a cocktail loosening up my brain - don’t worry, hubby drove 😉). It had been a couple months since I had been in, and I might have gone a little crazy. I bought four nerdy fabrics that I had no specific purpose for, but knew I had to have because finding affordable Disney, Harry Potter and Star Wars fabric that is good for something other than kids or fleece blankets doesn’t always happen!

Photo by my incredibly talented friends, Adam Dooms (www.adamdoomsmedia.com) and Shelby Ilyse

Today’s post is going to focus on the project I came up with for this fun sugar skull Star Wars fabric (I don't see this specific fabric online, but there are quite a few fun options available on Joann's website right now). Usually I do things like skirts, but the style of this print reminded me of purses I’ve been seeing in Disney World (or more recently on Instagram, since I live in Colorado), so I decided to make a quilted tote bag - my attempt at a Vera Bradley style bag.

I have never quilted anything until this project, so I was a bit nervous, but I also figured that the print (with it’s black background) would be very forgiving with me using black thread.

I Googled around for some quilted bag tutorials, and the one I’m adapting from for this project is the Hushabye Tote. This tutorial has internal and external pockets, and says that this bag could work well as a diaper bag (note to self for future gifts). I decided to just make mine an extremely simple tote bag with no bells and whistles, though, because I’ve been wanting one to carry books/music/instruments to my weekly rehearsals. I was actually surprised with how “small” this bag turned out since the original poster said it would make a great diaper bag, and I made my fabric pieces slightly larger than they said to (about 16” squares). Maybe with the pockets it would be good for a diaper bag, but I think I would definitely make it a bit wider to be more similar to diaper bags I’ve seen women use. I also noticed that some tutorials mention putting cardboard in the bottom of the bag, but I decided not to do that, because I like the idea of being able to throw the bag in the washer and dryer (which I might have had to do already, because I spilled chile on it).

So without further ado, here’s how I made my adorable new tote purse!

Supplies:

  • Outer fabric (~½ yard) - This was the Star Wars fabric for me
  • Lining fabric (~½ yard) - You could use the same fabric as your outer, but I went with a plain black quilting cotton
  • Fusible fleece (1 ⅓ yards)
  • Medium-heavyweight fusible interfacing (1 yard)
  • Matching thread (or contrasting, depending on the look you’re going for!)
  1. Wash and iron your fabric. 
  2. Cut two 16” squares of your main fabric, lining fabric, fusible fleece and fusible interfacing. (Note: some my pictures show a rectangle because I was considering making a longer bag, but decided to cut it down after I had finished step 7)
  3. Cut a strip of your main fabric that is ~4” by 42”, and a strip of fusible fleece that is 2.5” by 42”. This is for your strap.
  4. Press the strap fabric in half, then line up the fusible fleece strip down the middle and iron into place. Re-press the strip in half, then press the extra fabric over the fleece on either side.
  5. Sew three seams down the strap piece lengthwise. Cut it in half to make two straps.
  6. Iron the interfacing to the lining, and the fusible fleece to the outer fabric.
  7. Quilt the outer fabric and fleece as desired. I did 1” squares (ish) on the diagonal. They’re not perfect, but the print of the fabric was very forgiving.
  8. Attach one strap each to the right side of the fabric, about 4” from the edges of the fabric, using a scant ¼” stitch (so it lies inside your seam allowance later).
  9. Place the outer pieces right sides together and stitch up the sides and bottom.
  10. Cut out 3” squares from the bottom corners, and box them. Grab the right angles of each piece, and pull them away from each other, which flattens the fabric, giving you a more-or-less straight edge, which you then sew up (I had to google around to fully understand what boxing entailed. It’s not hard, but it’s hard to describe. That's why I’m including pictures!)
  11. Sew the lining pieces right sides together on the sides and bottom, but leave a 6” or larger gap at the bottom, which you will use to turn the bag right-side out.
  12. Box the corners of the lining.
  13. Turn the lining right-side out and place inside the quilted bag (which is still inside out). Line up the seams on the side, and pin in place. Sew all the way around.
  14. Turn bag right side out by pulling through the hole you left in the bottom of the lining.
  15. Stitch up the hole in the lining. If you really care, you can do it by hand, but I figured since I was using black fabric, black thread, and this sat at the bottom of my bag (which hopefully no one will look at too closely), I just used my machine.
  16. Top-stitch all the way around the top of the bag.

The finished product! 

This whole project only took me a few hours (spread out over two evenings), and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! It was a happy accident that it ended up being smaller than I thought, because it works very well for a roomy tote-style purse. I showed it to my parents and both of them were surprised I had made it - which, considering my mom loves Disney bags and I’d never made anything like this before, is high praise!

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