Personalize It! Tote Bag Tutorial


Note: Any instructions with [brackets], refers you to the Technique Page in the Library of this site for printable free how-tos.


This tote bag is a beautiful project to make as a gift.



Tote Bag: 12" x 18"

White Background Fabric - Fat Quarter
Backing Fabric for Initial - 15" x 15"
Black Tone on Tone Fabric - Fat Quarter
Black & White Checkers or other graphic print - Fat Eighth
Favourite Colour* Tone on Tone Fabric - ¾ yard
Black with white print (dark) and white with black print (light)
(I used an opposite print for fun) - ¼ yard each print

Cotton Batting - 15" x 15"

1. Begin with making the Initial Block Tutorial, as instructed here (Steps #1 to #5 only).

2. Place the backing fabric (well pressed) facing up.
Then layer the cotton batting on top.
Place the Initial block on top of the two layers, and baste
[The Quilt Sandwich - Step #6 Thread Basting] to hold the three layers together.


3. Quilt the layers together by adding the Blanket Stitch [Decorative Stitches - #1] to the edges of the shapes on the initial, using two strands of embroidery floss, that matches the fabric.
Tip: To help pull the needle through, use a pair of needle-nose plyers.

Stem Stitch the stitching lines using 6 strands of black embroidery floss.
Note: The stem stitch how to is included with the template


4. Trim the quilted block down to 11¼", being sure to centre the initial.

5. Cut 2-11½" x 1½" and 2-13½" x 1½" strips of black tone-on-tone fabric, for the thin border around the block.
Sew the shorter borders to the top and bottom of the initial, through all the layers, using a ¼" seam allowance.

Press the seam allowances together, toward the border.
Trim the thin borders even with the block edge.

Sew the side borders to the block, as you did for the top and bottom borders.
Press the seam allowances together, toward the border.

6. Trim the quilted block with the border, down to 12½", being sure to centre the initial and that the corners are square.


7. Cut the tote bag fabrics [Rotary Cutting] as follows:
Black Tone on Tone: 4" x 18" for bottom of outer bag; 2~3" x 20" for the handles
Black with white print:
16~2" squares + 3~6" squares
White with black print:
16~2" squares + 3~6" squares
Favourite Colour Tone on Tone Fabric
: 18" x 28" for tote bag lining

8. Sew the black & white 2" squares into pairs.
I press my seams open, but feel free to make them into 4 patches any way you prefer.

9. Pair each set and sew them together into two different kinds of 4-Patch units - one with the black square at the top left, and the second with the black square at the top right.
Match the seams, and sew them into eight 4-Patch units.

10. Sew each set of four 4-Patches together, into a column (refer to the picture of the finished bag), matching the seams.

11. Sew a 4-Patch column unit to each side of the initial block.
Press the seams towards the small border of the initial block.

12. Arrange the larger square squares of fabric into two rows of three blocks, and sew them together.

13. Sew the two rows of the larger blocks together, matching the seams.

14. Sew parts of the outer tote bag together, beginning with the initial unit, joining it to the black tone-on-tone bottom patch, along the long bottom edge.
Then sew the tote back to the other long edge of the bottom patch.
Press well.

15. With right-sides together, stitch the outer bag together along the sides.
Repeat with the lining fabric.

16. Reposition both, so the side seams and bottom fold align, giving you two points (see below).
Pin in place

With a ruler find where it measures 4" across, below the point.
On the outer bag it should be at the seam of the bag bottom.
Draw a chalk line across.
Stitch a line across each.
Repeat on the opposite corners.
This will form a gusset to allow your bag to sit flat.

17. Turn the outer bag right-side out, and place the liner inside adjusting and matching up the boxed corners.
Take a few hidden stitches across the boxed seams, to hold them together.

18. Prepare the handle patches, by pressing the outer long edges in, towards the center.
Fold in half, and press again.

Top stitch along both long edges, of each handle.

19. Press the ¼" seam allowance along the top edge of the outer bag, towards the inside, all the way around.

Fold and finger press the lining to line up with the front and pin in place.

20. Place 1" of each of the short ends of the handles, between the front and lining of the bag, using the picture above as a guide.
Pin in place.

21. Stitch around the top edge of the bag.
Stitch a square (see close up picture below) where the handle ends are, through all the layers, to give them extra strength.

This is a view of the back of the tote bag and the inner lining.







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