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Touring Totes Tutorial

February 16, 2012

Last month, Melissa and I made touring tote bags for Hannah and Jessica to thank them for all of their hard work thus far as our interns.  I also made a bag for Loryn, who probably spends more time than anyone touring in the galleries.  Melissa and I both sew, so we set aside an evening to whip up the tote bags for everyone.  Of course, after we saw the finished products, we wanted to make them for ourselves, too!

Below is a tutorial to make your own DMA Teaching Programs touring tote bag.  I have included photographs for many of the steps — sometimes it’s easier to follow the photos than the words on a sewing tutorial.

Materials needed:

  • 1/2 yard of fabric for the bag exterior
  • 1/2 yard of fabric for the lining
  • 1 yard of fusible interfacing
  • 1 1/2 yards of webbing (for the straps)
  • Basic sewing supplies (sewing machine, thread, pins, and a hand-stitching needle)

Step One: Cut two rectangles measuring 22 inches by 17 inches from your exterior fabric AND from your lining fabric.  You’ll also need to cut two 22 x 17 rectangles from your fusible interfacing.

Step Two: Iron the fusible interfacing to the wrong side of your lining fabric.  This will give your tote bag some stability and make it sturdy for carrying paper, pencils, books, etc.

Step Three: With the right sides facing each other, pin your two exterior panels together along the side seams and along the bottom.  You’ll leave the top open.  Stitch together using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Step Four: Repeat step three with your lining fabric.  However, you will need to leave a five or six inch gap in the middle of your lining — this will allow you to turn your bag right-side-out at the end.  (I like to use red pins on either side of my gap as a visual reminder to stop my sewing and leave a space.)

Step Five: On your bag exterior, measure and mark a line on each side seam three inches from the bottom of the bag; this will help you square the corners of the tote.  Put your hand inside the bag and pull the corner out, turning it into a triangle.  Stitch a horizontal line across the triangle where you made your pen mark.  After you’re done, cut the triangle off to eliminate any bulk from your corners (be sure not to cut too close to the seam).  You’ll follow this step on each of the bottom corners of the exterior and lining of your bag.

This is how the bottom of your bag will look once you box the corners

Step Six: It’s time to attach your straps to the bag.  Take your 1 1/2 yards of webbing and cut it in half, leaving your 3/4 yard for each strap.  Find the center point of your exterior bag.  Mark two lines four inches on either side of that center point and pin your handles in place.  You’ll want to pin the handle to the right side of your lining fabric.

Step Seven:  Make sure your exterior fabric is facing right-side in.  Turn your lining fabric right-side out and insert into the exterior tote pocket.  Be sure that your side seams are matched up.  Pin both pieces together all the way around (make sure you include the handles in your pinning).  Using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, stitch all the way around your bag.  I recommend going back and sewing a second time over your handles–this will help reinforce the handles and keep them from pulling out of the tote.

Step Eight: Find the hole that you left in your lining fabric.  This is how you’re going to turn your bag right-side out.  Pull the entire bag, including the handles, through that gap.

Step Nine: Tuck your lining fabric into the exterior of the tote bag.  You’ll want to be sure that your corners are nice and square, too.  Once everything is in place, you might decide that you want to topstitch your tote to give it a finished look.

Step Ten: Use a needle and thread to stitch the hole in the bottom of your tote bag closed.  Once that’s finished, you’re ready to go.

Here we are with our finished touring totes.  They’re sew cute!

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2012 10:25 am

    I LOVE my tote bag. It is the perfect size for taking all of my images and activity materials around the galleries. Plus, mine is “St. Louis Cardinals-red” which makes it even better. Thanks again Shannon!

  2. February 16, 2012 4:20 pm

    I call my tote bag “Mary Poppin’s bag,” because I’m always surprised at the amount of touring supplies I can fit in there! It makes touring so much easier…thanks Shannon!

  3. February 22, 2012 1:51 pm

    I really love my tote, thank you Melissa!! It gets a lot of miles, because I use it for tours and classroom visits with the Go van Gogh van. And, yes, pun intended. 🙂

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