Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Esther's Tote Tutorial

I've learned so much from other blogs and websites, I thought after two years of blogging I'd give back a little with a detailed tutorial. This is a quick, cute tote bag I've made as a gift for both little girls and ladies. I hope you enjoy using it, and let me know where I can check out a picture if you make one! I think you'll especially enjoy the method I used to miter the bottom and attach the lining to the outer bag.

I'm thrilled for you to make as many bags as you want for personal, noncommercial use, but please respect my copyright and don't distribute copies of the pattern or sell bags you've made from it. I'd also appreciate a link back to me if you use the pattern. Thanks!

2/16/08 Edited to add: Several readers have listed some great tips in the comments for alternate construction techniques and I encourage you to read them. I deliberately chose the methods demonstrated here to provide a very finished, professional interior of the bag, with the lining and outer bag attached so that the lining doesn't creep up when the bag is in use. I've never liked turning linings and bags right side out through small openings and then having to close the opening, so I chose the construction techniques shown here. The method of attaching the band and handles reinforces where the handles are attached for a sturdier finished product. However, if you make it - it's your bag! Take what works for you, have fun, and run with it! I look forward to seeing your creations.

10/22/11 Edited to Add: If you've made a bag from the pattern I'd *love* to see a picture. Thanks!
Esther’s Tote
©2008 Diane R. Doran

1 yard Shirtailor Interfacing
½ yard outer fabric
½ yard lining fabric
¼ yard fabric for band
1/4 yard fabric for handles
(Note: if you use heavy decorator weight fabric you can skip the interfacing.)
Cut Shirtailor in the following order:
2 - 3”x22” strips for handles (from one short end of the yard)
1 - 6”x30” strip for band
1 - 15”x30” rectangle for outer bag
Interface all fabric pieces except lining and bias. Tip: Apply interfacing to fabric, then cut out fabric pieces. (The band and handles won’t be completely interfaced.) The extra ½” on the band makes it easy to turn the raw edge up to finish that edge.
Cut Fabric as follows:
Outer bag – 15”x30”
Lining - 15”x30”
Band - 6½”x30” (leave ½” on a long side without interfacing)
Handles – 5”x22” (apply interfacing to center of fabric strip)
Fold handles in half lengthwise wrong sides together, iron folded edge. Open, then fold raw edges in to center. Fold together so that raw edges are enclosed. Press. Top stitch close to long edges.

Press up ½” on one long edge of band. Open out this pressed edge. Fold band into a rectangle 6.5”x15” right sides together. Sew along raw 6½” edge. Press seam open. Note: the seam allowance for the bag band, lining side seam, and outer bag side seam needs to be consistent, but you can make it whatever you want.
For both Outer fabric and Lining Fabric:
Fold in half right sides together to make a 15”x15” rectangle. Sew raw edge that is opposite the fold. Press seam flat, then open. Sew one other raw edge with right sides still together. Press. Cut a 2” square of fabric out of the corner where the two seams meet. Use it as a guide to cut a square out of the opposite corner. Tip: use the same guide square for both the outer bag and the lining. Be sure to cut from the seam line in.

Now for the fun part! You will now join the lining and outer bag, and miter the bottom corners of the bag at the same time. Open up bottom corner of outer bag, and bring bottom seam allowance up to meet the side seam allowance.
Pin. Do the same with the lining bottom. Pin the lining and outer bag together with the bottom seams together.
The lining and outer bag should be “bottom to bottom”. Both the lining and outer bag are still wrong sides out. Sew from one end of your pinned miter to the other.
Repeat this step with the other lining and outer bag corner.
The lining and outer bag are now attached at both bottom corners, still inside out. Pull the outer bag up over the lining so that the outer bag is right side out.

Baste upper edge. Center handles on front and back of bag with 4.5” space between handles and machine baste.
(I switched bags here to show better contrast between the bag and handles)
Place outer band over outer bag, right sides together, matching raw edges of unfolded edge to raw edges of bag and lining.
Stitch all layers together with a 3/8” seam. Press seam and band up towards top of bag.
Pull up outer band and bring down folded edge to interior to cover seam and all raw edges. If necessary trim raw edges.
Top stitch on outside of bag in the ditch, catching the folded edge of the band (inside the bag) in the seam to cover interior raw edges.



Jody said...

Awesome tutorial!! Thanks for posting!!

Dale Anne Potter said...

FABULOUS tote bag - THANKS for posting the pattern.
Will put on my list to make once some deadlines are met!!!

Nikki said...

Thanks for the great tutorial. I typically do it the hard way and try to figure things out for myself. Nice to be able to skip that step. The bags are beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Totally adorable diane, I love them.
Your way of cutting corners is the best trick ever.

pcoxdesign said...

Very cool! I bookmarked for future reference. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Diane! I really want to attack this pattern really soon.

Anonymous said...

This is great! I love the fabrics you chose for the tutorial, too.

Mary said...

I have lots of coworkers having babies and I was going to make quilts--this will be much easier--with additional pockets inside for diaper bags. Thanks for sharing.

Lylah Ledner said...

OK...i LOVE them. beautiful tutorial. came over here via Amy's blog.


edward and lilly said...

What a great tutorial, the photos are really helpful, thank you!

Ann @TheAssetEdge said...

Very cute idea & easy to follow instructions - thanks!

Anonymous said...

the bag looks really nice. What i don't understand is why don't you, to achieve exactly the same style, sew the upper band before sewing all the bottom ?

here, you're struggling to place the upper band correctly and to sew it to an already circular top of the bag without wrinkles, and the stitch is shown .

you should sew first the three panels together, flat : the bottom, the upper band, the lining , right sides together each time.

In between the upper band and the bottom, you don't forget to add the handles at this time, a short part of them coming on the wrong side of the fabric, the larger part in between the right sides when you sew.

after that, you have one flat pannel with three different zones, handles pending from between two of this zones.

you fold this pannel in half, right sides in.

you sew it on the three opened sides, leaving a 3" opening one one side OF THE LINING part of the panel.

you now have a rectangular "pocket" with a small opening left. iron the seams flat.

to "square off" the bottom and the lining :
take each corner, pinch it seam on seam, ( the corner is pointing as a triangle with the seam from the edge to the middle) .

Sew a line at X cm from the edge, perpendicularly from the seam, THAN cut off the triangle : you achieve the same effect than your "square cut than fold" but it's way easier to cut after than to try to align and pin the square hole :) .

actually all that i said can be done without pinning at all. even this square part.

anyway, you sew than cut the triangles the same way for each corner, iron the seams, than you turn the work right side out by the opening you left.

Poke out the corners of necessary, than stitch by hand the opening on the side of the lining (or by machine).

Every seam is inside except that litle opening that won't show much on the side of the lining.

your bag is nearly finished : you push the lining inside the bag, because the lining is shorter, when it reaches the botton of the bag, the fold line come at the half of the top contrasting band : how convenient :) .

the results and the look of the bag would be exactly as yours, but with less stress and way, way less actions.

I hope you won't mind, but i thought you might have love to know another way to do exactly the same thing, easier.

thanks for this great idea of bag style ( i love the top band and your choice of fabrics ;) ! ) .

a french reader with friendfull purposes only.

Diane Doran said...

C - Thank you so much for your helpful hints! If that's what works better for you, than by all means go for it. I'm sure that way would be easier for some other folks too. I've tried the mitering method that you describe, and for *me* I get a more accurate and easier miter by cutting the square, so that's how I wrote the tutorial. Also, my very least favorite part of making a lined bag is the turning everything right side out part and then trying to make it all smooth and even, so again, I wrote the directions the way that it works best for me. I encourage you, and anyone who makes this bag, to do what you want, add design elements that appeal to you, and make it fun for yourself. Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

Alyssa said...

This exact bag design was something that was taught as part of a Husqvarna viking demo on sergers I took recently... except we did it the way 'C' said. So much easier with the panels. We added a layer of batting in between the layers and that made it so much nicer. The other difference was we closed off the bottom and squared it as the last step. So you did end up with a sergered seam on the inside bottom of the bag. It's all preference really.

One thing I found that helped with this design was reinforcing the straps to the bag all the way to the top. The point at which they were attached initially resulted in some pulling at that seam. You may want to do this especially if you put any items of weight into the bag.

Diane Doran said...

Thanks for your tips, Alyssa! I've never been to a Husqvarna demo, but this is a common bag style so I'm not surprised that there are similar demos out there. The batting is another great option to add some structure to the bag.

I deliberately constructed the bag to make a very neat and finished interior - no seams to close up there - and to have the lining and outer bag attached so that the lining doesn't shift around. Also, the way the handles are added they get sewn across several times, adding to their stability. I agree with you that reinforcing the straps by sewing them all the way to the top is a good plan if you intend to use the tote for heavier items. Thanks for your good ideas!

Miranda said...

I loved the tutorial! I really enjoyed the technique you used. I guess I get a little bored with the same old same old and enjoy learning new ways to construct and create. Very well done and I appreciate the pictures. I posted a picture on my site and a link directly to your tutorial! Thanks!

Annaleah said...

I really enjoyed your patter! Here is a link to the picture of the bag I made!

indigocarole said...

Lovely bag Diane, beautifully explained. Like you I hate saggy linings, sewing the mitred corners together is a brilliant idea and you've explained why my mitres never meet properly :)measure from the seam line! Many thanks.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic tutorial. Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

Could just be me, but I'm having a hard time picturing the panel way that's being described in the comments. I'm really visual though, and reading the directions is never the same as seeing it done. If someone decides to make one of these with the panel way, could you post some pics or even a tut for those of us who can't quite picture it?

Either way, I am SO impressed with the end result! I found this blog by googling 'how to make a tote' and it's something I have to sew tonight, of So I'm really happy this seems so straight forward and simple with such dramatically beautiful results. Thanks for the tutorial!!

Sushila Chamling said...

dis is so cute:)
thanx for the tutorial:)

DonnaRae said...

A year & 1/2 later and I just now found your blog and this tute. Better late then never! I am totaly in agreement with you about turning the bag inside out to complete. I never have like that technique. I just usually stick the lining in the bag and push the raw edges in and top stitch to hold. But after reading your tute I am going to make one your way. Sounds great! I like the xtra look of the top with the straps at a different location. And as far as strength I would think where they are pute in this pattern is actually better. So to complete my comment, Thanks Bunches for the tute and showing us a much better way (my opinion) of not turning the bags!
Donna Rae

Anonymous said...

Great blog as for me. I'd like to read more concerning this theme.
By the way check the design I've made myself Overnight escorts

Anonymous said...

Hey, just saw the question you posted for Europeans!
Your (lovely) tutorial is linked on a couple of blogs! I found it here and also here (there might be more, but i bet you get a bit of traffic from these two anyway!)
Both are Belgian ladies making lovely stuff :)

Rebecca said...

Best tote pattern EVER. I made a couple of design changes to fit the 2011 trends.
Cut the bag and lining 15 x 36 and pleated the top to 15 x 30.
Pleated the top band out of fashion fabric to add a bit more body but still keep the sewing easy.
Lengthened the handles to 24" and sewed them down.
Added a couple of big ribbon roses.
I also made the lining out of saffron colored fabric so I can find all my "stuff" in the depths.
I cannot praise this pattern highly enough. It is so easy to follow, it makes a perfectly sized purse/tote, and its very easy to modify. I will probably have a piece of plexiglass cut to give the bottom structure since I plan to make many more of these!
Here's a link to a photo of mine:

Diane Doran said...

Rebecca, thank you so much! I looked at your link, and your totebag is beautiful.

Sitha said...

Hi Diane, I like the fabric colors that you chose. Very me :D

By the way, I got your blog link from But sorry, I haven't tried the Esther's Tote yet. So I can't share any :(

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing!

a European fan :)

I found your tutorial via!

Lin said...

I just found your bag and it is brilliant!! I'm like you - I hate the turning of the bag through a hole in the side and then trying to get it to go where it's supposed to. Life's too short to spend it doing that!!
I really like the idea of the lining being anchored on the two sides.
I haven't made it yet but my daughter's getting one of these very soon!

Verlene said...

Great tips!! Also the gusset info about the folded side versus seamed side is helpful.

I'm making two or three grocery bags and then a tote-purse.

(Grocery bags could be just stitched to felt without lining or made with only a single fabric, but I'm practicing for the final purse so will line and interface the first sample project.)

The 72" wide 100% polyester felt is cheaper than "interfacing" I think. Maybe avoid acrylic or wool felt?

I'm loving the gusset bag bottom joining and not turning right side out, and am adding more design experiments:

(1.) Cut lining 1/2 to 3/4 inch longer than outer fabric for ease.

(2.) No top band. Just turn and press top edge of lining to wrong side. Repeat for the outer fabric edge. Line up these folded layers together evenly along the top.

(3.) Insert the handle or strap ends (about an inch or so) between outer fabric and lining, then top stitch two rows all around.

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CHAPTER9 said...
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