Elsie picked up some fantastic vintage bark cloth awhile back and I not so subtly hinted that she should share some with me. I was thrilled when Brett picked it up from her loft this week. Yesterday I decided it should be turned into my new tote bag.
I had some odd shaped leather left over from pink journals so I took a cue from Katherine's pretty totes and used them for straps. I used Kona cotton for the inside and fabric from a thrifted dress for the pocket. You may or may not have access to leather scraps but you can still make your own tote bag using fabric straps for the binding and handles.
* 1/2 yard of upholstery weight cotton, bark cloth or designer cotton. If you use anything lighter be sure to use interfacing.
* 1/2 yard of cotton for interior.
* 12" x 8" cut of cotton for pocket
* leather for binding and straps measuring five times the length of the top of your bag and 1.5" wide.
* Rotary cutter, self-healing, mat, straight edge ruler, shears
* Sewing machine
* Upholstery weight needle, awl and waxed linen thread, (optional)
Decide on your bag shape. Mine measures a little on the larger side and is rounded on the bottom. To test out proportions trace your shape onto the back side of wrapping paper or a paper shopping bag and cut it out. Once you're happy with your measurements use it as a template to cut out the same shape in both the exterior and interior fabrics.
To make your pocket, fold one long edge of your pocket fabric down 1/4" and again 1/4" Press flat and sew. This is the top of your pocket.
Next fold down all three sides 1/4" in and press. Pin to the right side of one piece of your interior fabric. Starting in the right corner, stitch three sides down. Repeat along your three edges for extra stability. If you'd like two pockets, stitch down the middle of your fabric or off to one side as shown.
Place your exterior fabrics on top of each other with right sides facing together. Starting from the top right, stitch along the edge leaving 1/4" from the side until you reach the other corner. Cut small v shapes into the rounded edges without getting too close to the stitching. This allows the fabric to stretch when you turn it right side out. Repeat with your interior fabric (minus the v's).
Turn your exterior fabric right side out and slip your interior fabric in so the top edges meet. Pin together along the top.
Stitch along the top edge and then trim down. You'll eventually fold your binding over this so you don't want your stitching to show.
Starting at one side seam, fold each side in 1" so that they meet in the middle. Pin and stitch like crazy near the top. Repeat on the other side. This will make the top of the bag more cinched than the bottom and give it some shape.
Cut your leather binding to measure 1.5" wide and make sure it's 1" longer than the circumference of your bag.
Starting at one side seam, attache your leather by folding it in half over the top of your bag. Be sure to sew slowly and make sure you're stitching through both the front and back of the leather. I recommend using a regular thread but a strong needle that can puncture through four layers of leather.
Once you get to the end, overlap your ends and stitch shut. If your needle won't quite make it work or your foot isn't tall enough to fit over all four layers, use an upholstery weight needle and waxed linen thread to stitch through. Pre-punch your holes with an ice pick or an awl.
Decide on your handle length and cut two straps measuring 1.5" wide. If you don't have access to leather or would rather use another material try canvas fabric that you've folded in half, stitched lengthwise, turned right side out and finished the ends. Carefully measure where you'd like to attach them to your bag on one side and then match your other side up and mark accordingly.
Stitch your ends down securely and you're done! This project took me about an hour and a half to complete in case you're needing a late night Christmas gift project.
The leather really sets this bag apart from the typical tote. Extra fancy! We've put it to use as Ruby's weekend bag. This baby can hold eight cloth diapers, four receiving blankets, three onesies, a travel case for wipes, and a partridge in a pear tree. It's BIG!