Practical Patchwork Tote tutorial

This month I entered a Solids Only Tote Challenge.  The idea was to make a tote using either patchwork, applique or  reverse applique or any combination of those.

I chose to make a tote that really represents me and what I do!
I love recycling and using what I have on hand to sew with - and so decided to use my very large bag of scraps - perfect for a patchwork project!
I also appliqued some words onto the tote - not just to demonstrate that skill for the challenge - but to represent my philosophy of sewing and indeed life!

Here's the bag:

 Fully lined - also with patchwork - and a couple of pockets added:

So here's how to make one - if you have your own bag of scraps that you'd like to turn into something practical and useful!
No amazing sewing skills are involved! If you have a sewing machine and are willing to have a go - then you can do this!
I used lots of different types of fabric in this bag - some stretchy, some silky and some plain.  This means that when you patch the pieces together it may not look flat or straight!  But the aim is to make a practical bag - with character!!! So don't worry about this!  Anything goes!

First get your scraps - choose which ones you want to use (I'm not great with colour co-ordination so just picked out all the solid colours !) and iron them flat.

Then cut them into rectangles, squares, strips or triangles - whatever you can out of the shape of your scraps!

If you do have long strips - then use those for the straps/handles - but if not - don't worry, you can always piece bits together for those too!

The next step is to start sewing.
I just picked the fabric up piece by piece and stitched them right sides together along edges that were approximately the same size.  You can stitch triangles together to make squares, and just trim off any edges that stick out!

Stitch pieces together to form several larger blocks:

Then rearrange these to form 2 large rectangles for the inside and outside of your tote bag. You can make these whatever size you choose depending on what size bag you want - or how many scraps you have!
Mine were approx 35 x 57 cm (14 x 22.5")

Now sew the blocks together to secure those larger rectangles.
Don't worry about the edges being straight - or both rectangles being the same size - by nature of the random patches you cut - they probably will be different!

Now trim the edges of each rectangle to make them even and the same sizes:

Then turn the rectangles over and press to flatten the seams.

Now to the straps.
I was lucky enough to have long strips in my scrap bag - so I cut 4 strips approx 58 x 6cm (23 x 2.5")
If you don't have long strips - you can sew together smaller pieces until you have the required length!

Then take 2 strips and sew them right sides together down both long edges:

Trim the edges,

Then using a large safety pin or nappy pin - turn this tube right sides out:

Then press and top stitch down both sides.

Repeat this with your other two long strips to make your second handle.

If you want to have pockets inside your tote - cut 2 scraps (for 2 pockets) into rectangles of the size you'd like your pockets.
To prevent fraying - double turn all four edges and stitch:

Then pin the pockets onto the large patchwork rectangle you have made that you'd like to be the inside of your bag:

Then stitch around 3 edges of each pocket - remember the pocket openings will be at the top and bottom of the large rectangle.

I stitch a small triangle at the top corners of each pocket for added strength.

Now if you want to add some applique to the front of your bag here's how.

You need some fusible webbing - here in Australia I use a brand called Vliesoflix, and I know in the UK there is Bondaweb.  Basically you iron this onto the back of the fabric you want to use for the applique - then cut the shape you want, peel off the backing paper and iron onto the fabric where you want it! 

Whenever I use this - I keep the scraps (yes, I do keep everything!)
So I looked in my scrap bag - for some plain white pieces of fabric which already had the fusible webbing ironed onto one side:

Once your fusible webbing is ironed onto the back of your fabric, then on the front (right side) draw the shape you want to have.  In my case it was the lettering "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE".

Cut out the letters or shapes you have drawn - and peel off the backing paper before placing onto the front rectangle of your bag and ironing into place using a damp cloth
 (follow the manufacturers instructions for this).

Then either use a tight zig-zag stitch, or the applique setting on your machine - and stitch around the edges of your applique pieces:

Now it's time to put your bag together.

Take your lining rectangle and fold in half right sides together like this:

Then stitch down both sides.
Repeat with your outer rectangle.
Then turn the outer rectangle right sides out - and pin the straps to the top opening - evenly spaced:

Make sure you match them up on the front and back of the bag:

Then stitch the handles into place.

Now push the lining of your bag into the outer part:

Then fold the top edges in on each other to hide the messy raw edges - and pin together:

Then top stitch around the top of the bag: I did two rows of stitching for extra strength:

You're done!!

If you would like the PDF version of this tutorial - click here!

If you enjoyed this tutorial - I have over 100 more available here on my blog - on My Tutorials page.

Or you could even sign up for my newsletter - and receive even more patterns and tutorials free and exclusively available to my subscribers!

My Practical Patchwork Tote finished!

Well I did it! I finally finished my tote for the
Solids only Tote Challenge.

And here it is:

It's nice to look back and see what I started with..

....and what I finished up with..

The inside lining is also scrap patchwork:

The sentiment I appliqued on the front represents
my philosophy in life:

Overall I'm proud of my little tote, and although I may not have the amazingly accurate patchwork, quilting or other impressive sewing skills demonstrated by other challenge participants - I shall be happy for my effort to stand next to theirs!

Tomorrow I'll post the tutorial of how I made this

'Practical Patchwork Tote'

For anyone interested in using up some of their scraps to make something functional and useful!

UPDATE: Tutorial can be found here!

Solids only tote challenge - progress

Last week I started on my challenge for this month - which is to take part in the Solids only tote challenge.

I wrote about how amazing everyone else's work was and my thoughts about making a tote that represented 'me' and 'my kind of sewing'. I ended up choosing a not perfect, but practical patchwork tote. (read that post here)

Here's a little more of my progress:

All the pieces are now patched together - and ready to make into a 'bag':

I've also decided to add a little applique before putting the whole thing together (another option in the challenge!)

Should be all done by next week - and I can show you the finished bag!

Solids only tote challenge - don't be intimidated!

This month I've decided to join in a solids only tote challenge.
It's my first time joining in a blogging/ sewing challenge and I'm excited to have something to work towards and others who are also taking the challenge to share this with.

So, this week the challenge began - basically we all have to make a tote using either patchwork, applique or reverse applique.  Simple!
Or so I thought, until I saw the pinterest board of everyone's progress so far!
All of a sudden I was intimidated by the amazing skill shown by the participants so far and worried that I wouldn't be able to produce anything that could possibly match up.

I felt like this for a while - thinking about changing direction from the plan I had for my tote, trying to make it more, complicated - more impressive.

And then I changed my mind. It doesn't have to be complicated, or better than or even as good as someone else's work.

The message I'd like to put out with the sewing and tutorials I post on my blog.  That ANYONE CAN SEW!  That's the reasoning behind my series of tutorials of making things in 5 steps and 15 minutes.  I always try to make my tutorials as simple as possible with photos for each step. I do this because that's how I like to learn things. I don't want people to feel intimidated by things I make - but instead inspired to try them for themselves!

Too often people say, "oh you're so clever - I wish I could do that!" or "oh you're so lucky - I wish I could go there.."   when in fact they could - they CAN!  There are so many things I have learnt to do that I initially thought were too tricky - or you had to be a specialist to do, but discovered, by having a go, that it wasn't so hard after all!

For example I learned to tile - from going to a workshop at Bunnings (a hardware store here in Australia). I then tiled our whole house - floors throughout, 2 bathrooms and 2 patios.  I definitely improved along the way - but the point is I did it!  And I'm very proud of it!
One thing recently I did that I was super proud of and it busted a big myth for me, was that I fixed our laptop computer.   The screen had died and the local computer shops told us it would be $2-300 to fix it, possibly more -and there was no guarantee it would work afterwards anyway!  We were advised to just buy a new laptop as ours was 3 years old anyway.  This we duly did - I mean - I know nothing about laptop computers or electronics - so what could I do?

Well - once we'd got a new laptop I figured I had nothing to lose by trying to fix the old one!  So I googled the symptoms of the problem - found out what was the likely cause - searched and found the part in Hong Kong for $18 - including postage - so I ordered it and received the part in 2 weeks. Then I found a you tube video showing me how to replace the part - followed this - and 8 months later the laptop is still working just fine - my daughter was very happy to receive that for her birthday!!

Each little triumph like this, encourages me to have a go at things - to not be intimidated! Yet obviously the feeling still surfaces!

Anyway - this brings me back to me being intimidated by the amazing progress work shots on people's totes for this challenge I'm doing.
Any other time, I'd look at the photos and say "WOW' and be inspired to try myself.  But this time - I'm in a challenge with these people - and can't help but compare myself to them. Wrong? maybe - but I think we all do it.

So I decided to look at it differently.  All of us do things differently - everyone has different strengths and weaknesses - and that's what will make this challenge interesting and fun!  I have to stop comparing myself with others - and start sharing myself and my skills.

I'm not a perfectionist sewer - more of a practical - does it work? is it secure? do I like the look of it? kind of girl!

So - staying true to myself and my style - I'm going ahead with my kind of tote.

I decided to use my scraps, since to me - patchwork is the idea of using scraps - and putting them together to make something bigger and useful.  It's a very practical and thrifty process - and I wanted to showcase that!

I also want it to be something simple that might inspire others to think "I could do that!"

So that's my own personal take on this challenge - I think it's 'me'.

So - here's the pile of scraps I decided to utilise, I know - I'm not very good at throwing things out!  I have boxes full of useable scraps - larger pieces, then this big pile of much smaller scraps - that I'm sure I could use for something.......

I picked out some of the solid coloured pieces (no patterns allowed in this challenge!). There are all sorts of different fabrics in there - fleece, cotton, linen, velvet, nylon.....hey - anything goes right?

First they needed a bit of an iron...

Then, I cut them into rough rectangles and triangles, whatever I could get out of the scraps I had.

and made a start on piecing them together:

I don't have a grand master-plan of a colour scheme/pattern or layout. Just whatever pieces fit together.  A practical rather than planned patchwork!

So I wonder how it will work out.....

I hope you'll come back and watch the progress of my practical patchwork tote this month!

How about you? Are you a perfectionist in your creative medium?  Do you get intimidated by the work of others or inspired?  And does it depend on why you're looking at their work as to how it makes you feel about it?