Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sewing Lessons for a Friend and an Easy Tote Bag

My friend Jenny just inherited a Bernina sewing machine and needed a tutorial on how to get started with sewing.  I was super excited to try the machine out and I love helping people develop their sewing skills.  We decided to start with an easy tote bag.  At the fabric store, Jenny chose two cute fabrics and I helped her buy a few essential sewing notions before we got to work.  Jenny also has a nice fancy camera that she let me play with, so the photos will be better than my usual blog posts.  Thanks Jenny!
Jenny with her cute fabric choices, a black and white polka dot and a coordinating large floral print with fun primary colors.
We chose the floral fabric for the outside of the bag and the polka dots for the lining.  We started with two 14x16" blocks each of fabric, sewing them rights sides together on three sides (leave one short side open).  We left  a 4" gap in one of the long sides in the lining fabric- this is used when you flip the bag inside out at the end.
Pinning the blocks together
Gap left in one long side of the lining
Flip the lining right side out and insert into the outside of the bag.  Right sides should be together.
Inserting lining into outside of bag.
We created straps by using the lining fabric and 1" belting material.
17" lengths of 3" wide strips of lining material and 1" belting material.
The lining material was folded in half and sewn along the long side.  Then the resulting tube was turned with a pair if scissors.  Jenny and I both agreed that this was our least favorite part of the bag making process.  Jenny thinks she got carpel tunnel syndrome from all of the turning.  I would suggest coming up with a better way to do it next time or not using bulky scissors.  Any suggestions?
Turning the lining material
The fabric tubes were sewn to the belting material (the seam was hidden under the belting material).  We thought we would like the look of the lining peeking out of the belting material, but since we were using a contrasting red thread, it turns out that we liked showing off the polka dots a little more, so we pinned it so that the belting material would sit against your shoulder when wearing the bag.  The straps were then tucked in-between the lining and outside layers and pinned in place.
Pinning the straps to the bag and tucking them between the layers.
We sewed around the top of the bag, securing the lining, outside, and straps together.
Sewing lining and outside layers together
The bag was then flipped inside out through the 4" hole in the lining fabric.  Then the 4" hole was stitched closed.
Flipping the bag through the 4" gap in the lining seam- supervised by a small giraffe.

The lining was tucked inside and the top of the bag was ironed and we sewed around the top at about 1/2" from the top seam.
Finished quick and easy lined tote bag!


  1. Cool tote bag! What a great project to start sewing. To turn the fabric for the handles, i always use a safety pin and a long string. It still is a pain, so I keep checking back to see if anyone has a better suggestion.

  2. Lucky Jenny inheriting a Bernina! Great work on the bag, it's adorable. Thanks for the tutorial, I may have to make a library bag. As for turning, I use a trick from Melly and Me for making stuffies. Use a long paintbrush. The long pointy "back" end is good for turning small spaces. Then the brush side is good for stuffing because it really grabs the stuffing. Hope that's helpful.

  3. when i made curtains, i used a giant safety pin for turning the curtain ties. i pinned the safety pin to the end and pushed it through. you still have to turn it a little by hand to to get the safety pin out, and it helps to use a long safety pin. it's not ideal, but i like it better than anything else i've tried. :)

  4. adorable bag!! and it looks like you had a lot of fun teaching!


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