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Saturday, 3 November 2012

Quilted tote bag tutorial

I have finally finished them! My Christmas bags. Yes I know they have nothing to do with Christmas; they are Christmas presents! I have a real dislike for presents which are Christmas themed as they can only be used at Christmas, you would look pretty silly walking around with a Santa and Rudolf bag in July!

They were really simple to make so I'm not sure why I am bothering to make a tutorial as anyone could work it out but here we go!

The tutorial will be for the three larger bags but Ill add a note about the smaller (best) one at the end!

  • 18 5" fabric squares
  • 1/2 yard lining fabric (width 45") (also used for the bottom)
  • 1/2 yard wadding 
  • Thread
  • 2 x 27" length of webbing 
Finished dimensions: Height 12" Width 9" Depth 3"


Step One:

The main pattern of the bag is made up of 3x3 fabric squares (9 in total for each side). Decide on the square placement and sew them together with a 1/4" seam.

Be careful to ensure that the corners of each square and in line rather than just placing the edges together. Even though I brought machine cut squares, they were not 100% accurate in their sizes and on some i noticed that when looking at the right side they did not match!

Can you see the difference between the two pictures? Even the second one isn't completely exact but it looks much better than the first.

Step Two:

As the bag is boxed I have used a plain fabric at the bottom so that the main fabric wasn't wasted. Measure the width of the sewn squares (should be 13.5").

From your plain/lining fabric, cut a piece measuring the width x 2" (in my case 13.5 x 2")

Sew this piece  to the bottom of the bag.

Step Three:

Pin the pieces to the wadding and cut it to fit.

Sew the wadding to the back of the quilted piece by sewing along both sides of the square seams and the bottom piece. I'm sure there is probably a certain margin that preferable but all I do is line the seam up against the machine foot so that when sewing it is easier to keep it even all the way along. Again it is at this point where it is important to get all the squares aligned  as trying to sew straight lines when they are wonky is quite difficult, and it really shows!

Once you have finished this stage go back over and double check that you have stitched all the seams each side. On one of my bags I forgot to do this on just one seam but didn't notice until the very last point... And i really couldn't be bothered to un-stitch it all so I just left it and hoped no-one will notice!

Step Four:

(This is where I run out of pictures as I obviously couldn't be arsed to take them... or was too engrossed in what I was doing!)

If everything has gone to plan It should measure 13.5" width and 15.5" length. Measure it just in case and cut out your lining fabric to match. With lots of seams it would be gutting to accidentally cut it too small (or too big and end up wasting fabric)! Now put them to the side...

Step Five:

Pin the quilted pieces right sides together (wadding on the outside) and sew around the edges using a 1/4" seam (obviously leaving the top open!).

Do the same with the lining pieces  but leave a small hole in the bottom seam so that the whole bag can be pulled through the right way later on.

Step Six:

Box the bottom of the quilted bag as per this tutorial but instead of measuring down the triangle, look through the wadding (if you can) to the material underneath and sew your triangle along the seam where the black meets the other fabric. This will ensure that the black only makes up the bottom panel.

Turn it the right way round and check that the boxing has had the right effect. If your happy is it correct then turn back inside out and cut off the triangle as the tutorial says.

measure the length of the stitches used to box the bottom and use this to measure how far down to box the lining pieces. Alternatively (but not the way I did it?), before cutting off the triangle, you could measure down from the top of the corner to the stitches and stitch the same distance on the lining.

Step Seven:

Place the lining inside the quilted bag right sides together. Ensure that the boxed corners sit well inside each other and the seams match at the top.

Sew around the top using a 1/4" seam, or whatever is easiest to keep even all the way along.

Turn the bag the right way round by feeding it through the hole left in the lining.

Step Eight:

Time to put the straps in. Now I am really not very good at this. If you read my post about the gathered bag I made you will know this!! I basically did the same as I did then so if you know a better way to do it then please let me know!

Decide where you want the strap to be, unpick the seam, slip the webbing in and pin in place. As you can sort of see from the photo's I placed mine in line with the outer seams on the two outer squares. Make sure that you measure how much of the webbing you are inserting inside the bag. You don't want wonky straps! Stitch around the whole of the top of the bag (as you can also see I have done in the picture).

Finish off the bag by sewing in any loose ends and sewing up the hole in the lining. Also you may want to hand stitch around the straps to bring in the opened seam. I haven't done this yet but fully intend to before giving them to people!


Extra notes on the smaller (Hello Kitty lined) bag:

This bag was basically put together exactly the same as the others...

Sew together the four squares.

Cut out two extra plain fabric pieces measuring the length of the squares (e.g. 9" x 2") and sew on each side. Press the seams and measure the width.

Cut out another plain piece measuring the new width (e.g. 11" by 2") and sew to the bottom. It should look like the picture.

Ensure each of the black sections are all the same size. As you can probably see from mine they weren't quite, and if they are not, it will not box correctly and be uneven (I did trim them down to match after the photo was taken)

Measure the lining and back with the wadding like before.

Sew the lining pieces and the quilted pieces together like before.

Box in the same way as the other bags. This time you don't have the seam (black/coloured) to follow for your straight line so you have to judge where to stitch by drawing a line from one side to the other starting where the coloured fabric is just visible. I'm not sure this will make sense (without pictures) so the other way to do it is to measure the full length of the bottom and use that as your measurement of the triangle needed. Again tell me if this makes no sense and ill try and explain it again. Or make another bag so I can take pictures.

I think in retrospect I would have made all the bags with the black down the sides too as it shapes them nicely and frames the vibrant colours of the main fabric.

You can also see from this picture where I haven't yet sewn the seam back together where the strap have been put in. I really think it will tidy it up!


  1. thanks for the beautiful post. I am just making my first quilted bag.

  2. Aw thank you! I would love to see your bag! Let me know how you get on :D x

  3. What a great bag. I would like to try this if i can ever find the time.

  4. Nice tutorial. happy to visit your blog. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. I continuously visit your blog and retrieve everything you post here but I never commented however nowadays when I saw this post, i could not stop myself from commenting here. nice mate!