I’ve mentioned before that I like to make things. Crafting gives me real, live, tangible evidence of my accomplishments. It provides me with a creative outlet and sticks a thumb in the eye of the consumer culture. And it’s also sort of fun, especially when I make things for myself.
I recently made myself a new tote bag. Now that Jacob is 2 years old, I can get away without the full-on diaper bag. Yes, I may still cart around a spare diaper and some wipes in the tote, but I don’t need the same volume of stuff that I did when he was a newborn. And so I am graduating to a fancy new bag, with lots of pockets and plenty of room for kid gear, without the diaper bag feel. Because I like to share the love, you can read on to learn how to make one of your own.
My version has two pockets – one zippered pocket and one patch pocket with two compartments. It also has a magnetic clasp. All of this is optional. If you want to make your life easy, omit this stuff.
I call it my ‘Free as a Bird Tote’, but I was also tempted to go with ‘Twitter Tote’
How to Make a Free as a Bird Tote
*Note – For closer views, click on any image in the instructions.
- 1/2 yard – main fabric (I used a drapery canvas, but any fabric will do)
- 1/2 yard – lining fabric (I used corduroy, but any heavier fabric will work)
- 1 yard – heavy weight interfacing (I like nonwoven nonfusible, but that’s just me)
- 1 – 7″ zipper to match the lining fabric (optional)
- 1 – magnetic bag closure (optional)
- co-ordinating thread
- A – cut 2 each in main, lining and interfacing
- B – cut 2 each in main and lining
- C – cut 1 in lining (optional – patch pocket)
- D – cut 1 in lining (optional – zippered pocket)
Cut 1 bird in lining fabric (or any other contrasting fabric you like) – mark the eye location but do not cut.
1. Baste both interfacing pieces to the wrong side of each main fabric piece A around all edges, or if you have fusible interfacing iron the interfacing pieces to the wrong side of each main fabric piece A.
2. B is the strap pieces. Put one of the main fabric strap pieces against one of the lining strap pieces, wrong sides facing out. Stitch down both long edges, so that you have a long tube with open ends. Repeat with the other two strap pieces.
3. Turn the straps inside out so that the right side is facing out, press and topstitch down the long edges.
4. If you plan on adding a patch pocket, fold and press one of the long edges down 1/4″ on piece C, and then fold and press 1/2″ down. Stitch along the folded edge to make the top hem of one of the pockets.
5. Fold piece C in half along the long edge and press. You are marking the centre point along of 10″ width. Press 1/2″ under on the remaining 3 raw edges. Position the pocket, right side up, on the right side of one lining piece A. It should be positioned 2 1/2″ inches from the top edge (as shown in the pattern pieces), with the folded centre line located 8″ from either side (you know, roughly in the middle).
6. Topstitch around the bottom and sides of the pocket, and down the centre fold, to make 2 pocket compartments.
7. If you are adding a zippered pocket, then mark the zipper slot on the wrong side of piece D as shown below:
In case you can’t see what’s happening, piece D is right-side down against the right side of lining piece A (the one you didn’t put a patch pocket on). Piece D is centered horizontally on piece A. I have marked a box that is 7″ wide x 1/2″ tall. The top edge of the box is 3/4″ from the top of piece D, and the sides of the box are 1/2″ from either side of piece D. Down the centre of the box there is a 6 1/2″ line, with diagonal lines extending up into the corner of the box.
8. Sew around the edges of the 7″ x 1/2″ box.
9. Cut down the centre of the box, along the 6 1/2″ line, and along the 2 diagonal lines, being careful not to cut the stitching.
10. Now the magic happens. Pull piece D through the slit you’ve just cut, and you will have a lovely opening for a zipper. Press this to make it all pretty.
11. Position the zipper in the lovely slit you’ve just created. The nice zipper part should be visible on the right side of piece A. Pin it in place, and top-stitch around all 4 zipper edges, about 1/8″ from the slit edges.
12. Check the back of piece A, and make sure the zipper is securely stitched in place. Then fold piece D in half, so that there is a fold along the bottom, and the other edges all line up. This is going to be your pocket. You will stitch along the sides and top, but only on piece D. Be careful to keep piece A out of the way as you stitch.
13. Applique the bird to the right side of one main piece A. I positioned mine approximately 4″ from the side edge and 5″ from the bottom. To applique, I used a tight zigzag stitch around the bird’s body, leaving the edges raw. I trimmed down any scraggly bits when I was done. To make the bird’s eye, I used contrasting thread and a tight zigzag stitch. I repeated this horizontally and vertically. You could also embroider something nice, if that’s more your speed.
14. Don’t despair, you’re getting close. Press the top edges of all your A pieces, main and contrast, down 1/2″.
15. Position one of the straps along the wrong side of one lining piece A. The lining side of the strap will face down, against the wrong side of the lining piece A. The raw ends will be positioned 1 1/2″ from the folded edge at the top, and the strap’s side will be about 2 1/2″ from the edge of piece A. Stitch the strap in place at one by sewing 2 horizontal lines – one about 1/4″ from the raw edge of the strap, and another line about 1/2″ above the first.
16. Repeat step 15 with the other end of the strap, sewing it in place about 2 1/2″ from the other edge of piece A.
17. Repeat steps 15 and 16 with the other strap and the other contrast piece A.
18. If you plan to use the magnetic clasps, position them now. I centered mine horizontally along the top of lining piece A, about 1/2″ from the folded edge. There is one clasp on each lining piece.
19. You’re really almost done! Put your two main piece As together, right sides facing. Sew along the bottom and sides, but not along the cutouts.
20. To sew the first cutout, fold it so that the raw edges are together, and the bottom and side seams you just sewed line up in the centre. So, the inner corners of the cutouts are on the sides, as you open up the bottom and side seams and line up the cutout edges. Sew along the raw cutout edges. Repeat for the other cutout.
21. Repeat steps 17 and 18 with the lining pieces. Now you have two bags, one with straps and pockets, one without.
22. Turn the main body of the bag out, so that the right side is facing out. Position the lining inside it, so that the side seams line up. Pin the lining in place along the top, folded edge. Topstitch approximately 1/4″ from the edge.
Take a bow, you have a tote!
If you are a crafty sort, you might want to visit my Making Stuff page, which has other sewing projects, as well as needle-felting and cooking. You can get there any time by clicking my fabulous ‘Making REAL Stuff’ button in the sidebar.