Sunday, June 17, 2012

Totetorial: One Yard Tote

Hi, gang! Ready for another tote tut (see the previous one here)? This one is super easy, and can be made using one yard of fabric. I know--there are a lot of things that can be made from one yard of fabric, but when I started sewing I was simply amazed that I could make a tote out of one yard of fabric. Making it out of the same one yard cuts down on fabric choosing time, because everybody knows that's what takes the longest. Of course, if you want to mix your fabrics than you just go right ahead and do so, following the measurements and instructions below. Again I'm going with a very floppy, unstructured bag. If you want to include interfacing with yours go right ahead--the tut will work out just fine. It's a bit pic heavy, but I'd rather err on the side of thoroughness. Ready to sew?

I'd love to give you a supply list, but it would be meager--you need a yard of fabric. If you're using directional fabrics be mindful of the pattern. If you're a newbie you may want to use a fabric where direction doesn't matter. Two things to note from the get-go: backstitch at the beginning and end of every seam, and all seams are 3/8" throughout.

Press your fabric so you get nice even cuts (wrinkles make things go wonky). Then fold your fabric selvage to selvage (the way it came off the bolt), and then fold it in half the other way, raw edge to raw edge. Your fabric should now be four layers thick.

Trim your selvage, and then neaten up the other raw edges. You should now have two edges that are folds, and two that are nice and neat raw edges.  

Line up your ruler 5 inches from the selvage edge. Give it a slice. Since that nifty fold is at the top you'll now have two 5-inch lengths of fabric to use as your straps. Trim those so that they are 5 by 26 inches (longer or shorter if you'd like, but 26 inches ends up as a nice comfy length).

Take your remaining fabric, and very slightly trim the folded edges, enough to get rid of the fold, but not enough to matter much for measurement purposes. If you like you can leave this to be the width of your bag (though I trimmed mine to measure about 17 inches). Trim the bottom until it's 15 inches high. You should now have your handles, and 4 pieces of fabric that are each 15 by 17 inches.

First we're going to do the handles. Fold your handles in half loooooong edge to long edge and press.

Open it up, fold each long edge towards the center fold you just made, and press.

Fold it in half once more along your original fold, and press it one more time. Hop on over to your sewing machine. Stitch along the edges, as close to the edge as you feel comfortable (I shoot for 1/8 inch). This time I decided to add a couple extra rows of stitching, just because--but it's not necessary.

Put those babies aside. Get on back over to where you left your bag pieces. If you're using directional fabric now is the time to make sure everything is right side up as we're going to do a trim job on the bottom edge. On each of your 4 pieces, measure (on each side) 2 inches from he bottom and 2 inches from the edge, drawing a bit of a square:

Trim those squares. Be careful, as these will form the flat bottom of your bag and you don't want them to look too crazy. You should have 8 squares snipped off. You don't need these--stick them in your scrap bin. Unless you're normal, and then you could just toss them :)

Your four layers should now each look like this, with your short edge at the bottom. I even added some handy-dandy lines to show you where you're going to stitch--

Take two pieces, right sides together, and sew along the bottom. Press the seam open. Then sew the side seams and press those open as well. Keep this inside out. Now comes the flat bottom part. This is a bit of a modification of the smashed-triangle version (which we'll get to next week) but gives the same results. Take the side seam and the bottom seam and match them up. Slide in a few pins.

Sew across that bit. Do the same for the other side of the bag. When you turn it inside out to see what's going to happen (unless you already know, in which case--don't ruin it for the others, guys :) you'll see some nice tidy boxy corners:

Now grab those handles you made. Measure in 4 inches from each side seam, and pin your handles in place on the right side of the fabric, making sure they're not all twisty--

Stitch your handles down 1/4" from the top edge. I go over them a few times as the handle join is a stress point in bags. 

Take your other two pieces of fabric (the lining) and sew those together as you did the outer shell above. The only difference (and a critical one) is that you leave a gap of about 5 inches in the bottom center. This is for turning the bag in a few steps. You should now have your outer shell with the handles, and the lining with no handles, but a nice little gap in the bottom--

It doesn't matter which, but one of your pieces needs to be inside out (and the other right side out). Put one inside the other, so that the right sides are facing each other. Match up your side seams, and pin all around.

Sew all around the top. Then reach through the gap you left and gently pull the bag through.

Once everything is pulled out the proper way pin the gap in the lining shut (tucking the raw edges inside) and stitch it closed, either by hand or by machine. Shove the lining down inside the bag. Pin or press the top edge (I like to pin) so that all is neat, and then top-stitch around the edge, about 1/4" away from the edge.

Give it a bit of a press, and there you have it--a tote made out of one yard of fabric, with a wee bit left over (enough to try a change purse if you fancy giving one a go). It folds up flat--nice and handy to keep tucked in your purse.

I made a bunch of these a few years ago for a few craft fairs. They're quick and easy, and make nice little gifts, especially when folded nice and neat and tied with just the right bit of ribbon.

As ever, if something isn't clear please ask away. And if you make one I'd love to see it--give it an old ploppity-plop in the Flickr pool. Have fun!!

Next week: we'll be sewing a traditional drawstring bag--perfect for kiddos to tote their goods around. Hope to see you then!

Linking up here this week:


  1. Gotta love a quick finish, although I'm still thinking pedicures with this series, sorry!

  2. So cute. I got a few yards of random fabrics from a yard sale and this is the perfect way to use them up. (BTW -- found this through Craftomaniac. Definitely made a follower out of me!)

  3. Very cute! I'll have to try it!

  4. Love your fabric. In fact I just happen to have some very similar to this one just different colours, unfortunately not enough for this project though.

  5. Really lovely tote! So bright and happy colors! Thanks for sharing it!


  6. I saw your link on Family Home and Life - I do already subscribe to your blog and I love it btw! I teach this tote to my sewing students and I love it! I love that you call it a one-yard tote. If you want to make it reversible, use two half yards and do the same thing with the folds and everything. Good tute!

  7. great tutorial and pretty easy too! im surely gonna try it! i love the fabric you used...

  8. I like the fabric choice here...bright and pretty! Very cute bag. My daughter and I have been making some bags/purses a little more work...I think I like this one much better! Happy Week end.

  9. I love this! The fabric you chose is awesome.. I just love all the colors. And your tutorial is amazing.. I am not a great seamstress.. but I think I will give this one a try! Thanks so much for sharing!
    Amie @ Pinkpotamus

  10. You make it look so simple! I just got some cute bargain fabric and want to make a tote bag...this might just be the perfect tutorial! Thanks for the great details! :)

  11. I love the bright colors! thanks for sharing, girl. I am totally pinning this!
    see you at the party this week.

    have a fab weekend!


  12. I finally made some of these and they turned out great. Fabulous "totetorial!!"

    I will post them to your flickr group, and here's a link to my post about them:

  13. Hello There! I have used your tutorial to make a few bags. Here is one I posted to my blog, I loved it! Naturally, I linked right back to you! Thank you for such a fabulous tutorial!

    1. Oh, I loved it! Great use of a quilt block!

  14. This is a great tutorial!
    I added a pocket and made a whole bunch of them like a one-woman sweatshop.



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