Monday, February 23, 2015

Upholstery Samples Tote Bags

I love solving puzzles. I almost bought a piece of “fleece” at Joann’s last week; the pattern was all-over puzzle pieces. But I stopped myself thanks, in part, to the line at the cutting table. Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles (as long as they’re easy), and sewing puzzles. I am putting this experiment into the last category. Sewing is very mathy, at least when you veer from the original pattern or instructions.

Remember my telling you about receiving some upholstery samples? Upholstery Samples.
I’ve made two tote bags and several smaller bags. Up first are the two tote bags.

Bag #1:
My first question about making a tote bag from these upholstery samples was, “What’s the largest size I can make the bag without piecing the front and back from smaller pieces?” I didn’t have high expectations for this one, so I decided to brush up on pocket-making skills in the hopes that the bag would be usable. The khaki canvas at the lower portion of front and back, as well as bottom, was added to the length of the bag.
And the answer is this:
The proportions are a bit odd, but that's okay.
The bag is 8.5 in. wide x 11 in. tall x 4 in. deep.
Here is my first attempt at gusseted pockets in the lining:
I followed the excellent tutorial at The Inspired Wren, except for my adaptations and experiments.

My construction challenge was what also appealed to me about the bag; that is, the sturdiness of the handles because of their being stitched into the bottom seam. The bulk of the bottom seam, which was at its thickest, was 12 layers of canvas fabric where the straps are seamed together. That gave my machine a workout.

Bag #2:
How can I make the bag a more proportional width without adding the clutter of more print pieces? I increased the width by adding canvas to the sides of the front and back pieces, as well as where the canvas already is.

Here's the result, again with the gusseted pockets in the lining:
The bag is 12 in. wide x 11 in. tall x 4 in. deep.
My second question was, "How can I reduce the bulk of the bottom seam, which was at its thickest, 12 layers of canvas fabric where the straps are seamed together?" The solution cane in two ways:
1. I decreased a bit of bulk by replacing the lower portion of the bag front canvas with quilting cotton (which would be covered by the bottom front panel). Result: 10 layers of canvas and 2 layers of quilting cotton.
2. I offset the straps by moving the front strap 1/2 in. toward the front, and the back strap 1/2 in. toward the back. Result: 6 layers of canvas plus 2 layers of quilting cotton. Aha! Significant reduction in bulk. Yea!

Here’s how it looks after the front handles and pocket are sewn onto the front and the back handles are pinned (well, Wonder Clipped and painter’s taped) onto the back, just before stitching the back handles down.
This view is (from top to bottom) (A) top of bag front with front pocket attached, (B) quilting cotton, and (C) front handles. (D) is the bag back laid out bottom to top.

And here’s a side view of that reduced bulk, accomplished by offsetting the straps.

And here are both bags:
Now that I have this figured out, I can go into production. Sort of. I'll keep adapting the bag, and it won't surprise me one bit if I add a zipper or two.  

Blessings and peace...


  1. This is genius! Lovely little bags that are nicely coordinated and so practical. This whole idea gets my wheels a turnin... :-)

  2. Hi La Vonda, Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice note. I'll be interested in what you do with this idea.

  3. This step is actually the most important because the size will determine how big your purse or tote will be. Large Tote Bags


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