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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Sentimental DIYs

Last week I had my 3rd wedding anniversary. We're at a point in our lives where 1) we've given each other a LOT of gifts so coming up with something original is hard, and 2) we don't have a lot of extra money laying around.

A few months ago I was reading Spoonflower's blog, which gave me the idea to write my vows out by hand and turn them into a pocket square for my husband. I loved this idea because it was unique (literally no one else will give him this) and I hadn't yet given him a pocket square. It was also surprisingly affordable. I ordered two fat quarters of high quality, custom fabric for under $30.

For the side with the handwritten vows, I just used a dark black sharpie pen and carefully wrote them out, then scanned them into my computer. For the patterned side, I found some fun Doctor Who fabric (because I will be making him a TARDIS blazer at some point in the next few months!). I ordered each printed on the Organic Cotton Sateen, but you could get silk if you want something fancier, or I'd imagine you could use other fabrics they offer, too.

I followed the instructions laid out in this blog, and opted for the top-stitched finish for my project. The actual cutting and sewing took less than 45 minutes (I wanted it to be perfect), and I couldn't be happier with out this turned out. 😍

The uncut yard of fabric used to make 4 custom tea towels

Because I subscribe to Spoonflower's blog, I get a lot of fun DIY emails from them, and another project I ended up doing semi-recently is actually quite similar to the pocket square. For Christmas I made tea towels for my parents and my mother-in-law.

For my parents, I found a couple fractals (my dad makes them using a computer program he wrote, I've posted about making scarves with them in the past) and put a black border around them, and for my mother-in-law, I scanned hand-written recipes from her mom, and put a brown border on them (the brown complimented the color of the recipe cards). The borders on each were 1.5 inches, which worked great with the thicker linen and double fold hem.

I ordered just one yard of Linen Cotton Canvas Ultra and uploaded one image with two fractals and two recipes, which fit perfectly! That means that 4 towels cost me less than $30, and as far as sewing skill goes here, it's nice and easy - lots of straight lines. The most challenging part was the corners, because they got pretty thick with the double fold hem on each side.

What I love about both these DIY's is that they're both nice and simple, but have the potential to be extremely meaningful. I could just buy "normal" fabric and create the same projects without the sentimentality attached, and I'm sure people would still be happy to receive these as gifts. The handwritten notes, recipes, and works of art are the cherry on top, making these creations unique and meaningful.

I've used Spoonflower several times over the past few years, and am always pleased with the quality of the fabric and with the artwork available to browse through. I look forward to more projects yet to come using their services!

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