Elementary Tote ~ A Tutorial

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

My son is going to a music camp this year at School of Rock. It’s the same camp my daughter attended a couple years ago – she loved it. Before she went, I made her a little tote bag that she could use to bring her ear plugs, notepad and snacks each day. My son has not forgotten about this, and told me that he cannot wait to see his bag for class.

I whipped up a little bag for him and I thought I’d share the tutorial with you. I think of it as “Elementary” sized – great for 5 to 10 year olds. (If you are looking for a mom-sized bag, check out my Farmer’s Market Tote tutorial.)

I personalized his tote bag with his name using my Cricut Explore Air (affiliate link). After much trial and error, I finally am successfully cutting fusible fabric with it! I plan on sharing a tutorial later this week with my tips. See my tips in this post!

Elementary Tote

Approximate size: 11-1/2″ x 11-1/2″

Elementary Tote Supplies : Fresh Lemons Quilts

Cut (12) 3″ x 13″ rectangles for outer tote bag
Cut (2) 13″ x 15-1/2″ rectangles for lining
Cut (2) 13″ x 15-1/2″ rectangles from fusible interfacing, such as Pellon SF101
Cut (2) 20″ strips of cotton webbing, around 1″ wide

1. Lay out your 3” x 13” rectangles in 2 groups – 6 rectangles for the front of the tote and 6 rectangles for the back of the tote.

Note: The bottom rectangle on each side will end up being on bottom/underside of the tote bag, so you probably don’t want to use your favorite fabric in this location.

2. Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, sew each set of the 3″ x 13″ rectangles together along the long sides, resulting in (2) 13″ x 15-1/2″ outer tote panels. Press your seams as desired.

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

3. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, fuse your Pellon SF101 interfacing to the back of the outer tote panels.

4. Cut 2″ squares out of the bottom left and right corners of your outer tote panels, as well as your (2) 13″ x 15-1/2″ lining pieces. This is for your gusset later.

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

5. Place your outer tote panels right sides together. Using a 1/2″ seam allowance, sew down the sides and bottom of the fabric. ** Do NOT sew the cut out squares! **

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

6. Now it’s time to sew the gussets. If you have never done this before, this is probably the trickiest step.

“Open” up your bag in the corner where you cut the squares, and place the fabric back together matching up the side and bottom sewn seam, as shown.

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

7. Pin as shown.

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

8. Sew using a 1/2″ seam allowance.

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

9. Repeat on the other side to make the second gusset.

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

10. Flip your outer tote shell so the right sides are facing out.

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

11. Repeat steps 5 – 9 with your lining pieces, with the exception of leaving approximately 5″ open/unsewn along the bottom, for flipping the bag right side out later. Leave the lining wrong sides out.

12. Personalize your bag! (Circuit Explore Air Tutorial will be posted on Thursday ~ Stay tuned!) I posted my tips, just click over to this post!

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

13. Measure and mark the top center of the outer tote shell. Pin your cotton webbing straps approximately 2” to each side of the center marking. Take care not to twist your straps. Baste in place using a 1/4” seam allowance.

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

14. Place your outer tote shell right side out, into the lining wrong side out, as shown.

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

15. Pin along the top of the bag, and sew together along the entire top, using a 1/2″ seam allowance.

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

16. Flip your bag right side out through the opening in the bottom of the lining. Stitch the bottom of your lining closed.

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

Push the lining into the outer tote shell.

17. Press your bag and top stitch around the top.

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

You are finished! Gift your bag to your favorite person. 🙂

Elementary Tote : Fresh Lemons Quilts

A Popsicle Tote

Posicle Tote

I’m not sure if I said my Weekender was the last bag I’d make for awhile. If I did, I guess I lied. 😉 While I was at Quilt Camp, I was lucky enough to sit across from the very talented Amanda of Sasikirana Handmade. Everything she makes is so.stinking.cute. She has such great talent when it comes to fabric selection and fussy cutting prints perfectly.

Posicle Tote

So as I was sitting across from her, I decided I just had to make something cute. I have been looking for an excuse to make Ayumi Takahashi’s Popsicle pattern for awhile now and decided to use it to make my daughter a tote bag for Christmas. Ayumi blogs at the Pink Penguin and has created a ton of amazing paper piecing patterns.

Posicle Tote

Paper piecing the popsicles wasn’t too hard, although I did mess up a couple components and had to redo them. That little nose is super tiny! Overall though, it was a huge success. I added a bit of fabric from Tasha‘s fabric line The Sweetest Thing above and below the popsicles and to the back of the tote.

Posicle Tote

I used another print on the lining. It’s really, well, the sweetest thing! The straps are a stripe from Bonnie & Camille‘s Marmalade fabric line.

Posicle Tote

I sort of just made up the tote pattern as I went along. I felt like I’ve made enough bags that I would be successful. I added little gussets to the bottom so it stands on it’s own.

Posicle Tote

I managed to sew this entire thing, with my daughter in the room, and she never once came over to see what I was doing. I think it will be a great surprise under the tree on Christmas!

The Weekender


This post is going to have a lot of pictures. Because when you spend a week making the daunting Amy Butler Weekender Bag, you take a lot of pictures. Those of you that follow me on Instagram got to watch this bag come together a bit more each day. That was a lot of fun, instant support group!

If you aren’t familiar with this bag pattern, it’s kind of notorious for being a {naughty word} to put together. Many people are starting to make this bag using the Quilt as You Go (QAYG) method to avoid all the interfacing required. I might try that next time but for starters, I wanted to stay true to the instructions (with a couple minor changes that I will talk about below.)

I have had this bag on my to-do list for awhile. I almost consider it some sort of sewist rite of passage. I heard it was a challenge and I wanted to see if I could do it. My only holdup was I could never find a fabric I wanted to use. The pattern recommends home dec weight and that is pricier than quilting cotton, so I wanted the fabric to be something I loved. Fast forward to the Sewing Summit. Joel Dewberry was a speaker one afternoon and he brought samples of his new line Notting Hill. As soon as I saw this fabric, I was in love. And then he said it was a Cotton Sateen/Home Dec weight! I knew immediately I was going to use it for my Weekender.

My choice for the lining and piping was a bit of a surprise for me. I know almost everyone out there seems really excited about all the plaids that are coming out in fabric collections lately. I’m not really a plaid person. (ducks for cover) But I just felt like it really complimented the floral print, so I stepped a bit out of my comfort zone and decided to use it.

When I first opened the pattern and cut out the pieces, I thought “Only 4 pieces? This is going to be so easy!” LOL Don’t be fooled. Not only do you cut out multiples of each out of your outer and lining fabrics, you also cut multiples out of 2 types of interfacing (not pictured). I spent several hours cutting.

Based on Stephanie’s weekender, I decided to cut my handles a bit wider (6″).

I was really lucky to have been loaned a cording foot (#60c) for my Bernina by the wonderful Catherine Redford from my local modern quilt guild. This made everything involving the piping SO much easier! I highly, highly recommend using a cording foot rather than a zipper foot for your piping. I’m actually going to buy my own now, it was that awesome.

Also, a general note: I used the pattern-recommended jeans needle for my machine. You have a lot of layers to sew through, and you need the extra strength.

The side panels came together easily, even if applying all the interfacing took forever.

For my second change to the pattern, I once again followed Stephanie’s example and used a shorter zipper, 24″. It was easily available at JoAnns and works just fine for the bag.

So, up until this point, I wasn’t sweating this bag. You make the large front and back. Then you make the top/sides with the zipper and sew that piece to the bottom to make a big circle of fabric. Then you have to sew this circle to the larger front and back panels. I know I’ve read of other people having this problem…they weren’t an exact fit. Now I’m not sure if the problem was I wasn’t using exact seam allowances or maybe the pattern is wonky, but it was a bit frustrating. Add in the fact you are sewing through a LOT of stiff interfacing, well you can see where one might start cursing. 😉

I highly recommend getting some binder clips to hold your pieces together rather than pins. I only had 2 binder clips on hand so I was forced to use pins and now they are all bent and ruined.

Again, I used the cording foot to guide my sewing and it worked great!

Weekender Lining

So I’ve finished the bag. I’m not sure if I’ll ever make another one. LOL But I’m super excited to have it and I’m very happy with my fabric selection. As my husband told me when he saw it “they certainly will see you coming with that.” Yep, it’s not subtle. But I love it.

A Quilt as You Go Tote

I realized I haven’t blogged yet about the tote bag I made last month for the Sewing Summit! At the very last minute, as I was running around stressed out, trying to get everything done for my class, packed, kids ready for me to leave town…I decided I just needed to make a handmade bag for my trip. I didn’t have time to make a Weekender like everyone else, but I knew I could make a Jane Market Bag. I’ve had this pattern for awhile and the totes are so easy to put together. They hold a lot of stuff and make great teacher gifts. *hint* *hint*


I decided to make a quilt as you go (QAYG) version. This technique is fairly new to me. Recently some of us made quilt blocks for a special quilt for Penny with QAYG and I fell in love right away. It takes awhile, but wow is it worth it! You can find a tutorial for QAYG in the form of a quilt along here.


I made a couple changes to the bag (both intentional and not). First, the bag is about 1″ smaller all the way around. That was the unintentional change. I should have started my QAYG with a larger piece of batting. Opps! That’s ok though, the bag still works great.

The second change was I left off the outside pockets. Because I was QAYGing, I didn’t want those to take away from the look of the sides. I also left out the option for a flat bottom (made with interfacing or cardboard). I like my tote bags all floppy like.


I highly recommend this bag pattern. It’s very easy, even for beginners and the bag comes together very quickly. And you never can have too many bags!