Stitch up this easy pleated tote bag in time to carry to the farmer’s market this weekend. I customized this bag for my friend Erin by adding a reverse applique with a machine embroidered monogram.
When you’re making a tote bag, it’s nice to have a little extra sturdiness. So, I found this really lovely printed linen from Anna Maria Horner’s Field Study collection, which is a bit heavier than basic quilting cotton. I also used fusible interfacing to bulk it up, and lined it with coordinating solid aqua cotton.
You’ll only need one yard each of linen, lining and interfacing. From the linen, cut two 14″x20″ rectangles for the bag panels. I fussy-cut the fabric in order to center one of the flower motifs on each panel.
Also from the linen, cut one 6″x60″ strip for the bag straps.
From the lining fabric, cut three 14″x20″ rectangles and one 9″x12″ rectangle. Fold the small rectangle in half widthwise and one large rectangle in half lengthwise; press. The folded rectangles will become the inside pockets.
From the fusible interfacing,
cut two 13″x19″ rectangles and enough 6″ wide strips to equal 60″. Fuse one interfacing rectangle to each lining panel wrong side following the manufacturer’s instructions. Fuse the strips to the linen strap piece wrong side.
Now it’s time to add the reverse applique. If you’ve never done reverse applique, it’s a really simple idea. Rather than stitching a piece of fabric onto a surface as in traditional applique, we’ll be cutting away from the upper fabric layer and adding a layer underneath to show through. For this bag, I just cut out the central flower motif from one of the bag panels.
Now it’s time to prepare the under-layer of fabric for the applique. Cut piece of contrasting fabric larger all around than the cut-away area, and then determine what to embroider onto the under-layer. I decided to machine embroider Erin’s initials on the contrasting fabric (I used solid ivory linen), but you could also hand embroider letters or any other design.
I selected a built-in font that I liked on the embroidery machine, and then sized the letters to fit nicely within the cut away space. I hooped the ivory linen with a layer of tear-away stabilizer. Here’s the embroidered under-layer fabric right after I removed it from the hoop. (For some reason, there’s a couple of weird shadows across the photo.)
After you’ve embellished the under-layer, place it under the cut-away area and pin the layers. Don’t remove the tear-away stabilizer yet.
To stitch the under-layer in place, select a decorative stitch on the machine. Any stitch that has some back-and-forth motion works well because catches both the raw upper-layer edge and the under-layer of fabric. I used a small blanket stitch that’s commonly used for quilt appliques. You could also use a zigzag stitch or satin stitch, and if the raw edge doesn’t bother you, you could also use a straight stitch.
Stitch around the raw-edge perimeter.
Tear away the stabilizer and trim away the excess under-layer fabric beyond the stitching.
Now we’re ready to add the pockets to the lining. To make the smaller pocket, stitch the open edges, leaving a centered 2″ opening along the long open edge. Trim the seam allowances (except for the opening) and clip the corners.
Turn the pocket right side out through the opening, poking out the corners. Fold the opening edges toward the wrong side; press. Center the pocket on one lining panel with the pocket folded edge as the upper edge; pin.
Stitch the pocket sides and lower edge, closing the opening with the stitches. Be sure to backstitch at the upper corners to reinforce them.
To add the large pocket, place it over the remaining lining panel, aligning the long open edge with the panel lower edge. The pocket folded edge is the upper edge. Divide the pocket into three sections, and then use pins or a fabric marker to mark the dividing lines. Stitch along each dividing line, backstitching at the pocket upper edge.
Now that the lining and bag panels are prepared, it’s time to add the pleats. Mark each panel upper edge 5″ from the upper corners. At each mark, fold the upper edge toward the center to create a 1″-wide pleat. Baste each pleat in place using a 1/4″ seam allowance. Pleat the upper edge of each bag and lining panel
Align the two bag panels with right sides together. Stitch the sides and lower edges using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Repeat to stitch the lining panels, but leave a 4″ opening along the lower edge for turning.
Press open the bag and lining seam allowances. To box the bag corners, pinch one lower corner, aligning the side and lower seam. Pin-mark, and then stitch across the corner 1″ from the point, backstitching well and the beginning and end.
Trim the corner 1/4″ from the stitching.
Repeat to box the remaining bag corner and the lining lower corners. Turn the bag right side out, but leave the lining inside out.
To create the straps, press the strip in half lengthwise with right sides together. Unfold, and then press the long raw edges to meet at the center foldline. Fold in half lengthwise again, enclosing the raw edges; press well.
Edgestitch the long edges, and then cut the strap in half.
With right sides together, align the strap ends with the bag pleats; pin in place. Make sure the straps aren’t twisted.
Place the bag inside the lining with right sides together, matching the upper edges, side seams and pleats. Generously pin the upper edge.
Stitch the upper edge using a 1/2″ seam allowance.
Turn the bag right side out through the lining opening.
Hand or machine stitch the lining opening closed, and then push the lining into the bag. Press the bag, concentrating especially on the upper edge. Topstitch the upper edge using a 1/8″ seam allowance.
Press the whole thing again just for good measure. All done! Happy bag-making!