Have you collected more canvas totes than you need? Take one apart, then use it and the handles for the foundation on which to flip, stitch and embellish a useful messenger bag. The tote and/or handles can be made smaller than the original tote by trimming to the size you desire. The patchwork and embellishment can be dressy, casual, funky, pretty, or any style or color you choose.
- Canvas tote bag like you receive at shows
- Fabrics for patchwork
- Lining ¾ yd. for tote bag front and back, handles, pockets
- Buttons, trinkets, charms, non-valuable costume jewelry
- Trims and lace
- Focal point such as glove, hankie, photo transfer, special fabric, applique
- Large safety-pin for pulling strap through handle fabric tube
- Sewing machine thread colors to match trims and fabric
- Tube turner
- Sewing machine with size 80 needle
- Take tote bag completely apart. I use a rotary cutter as a seam ripper. Iron on wrong side. Ink may melt on iron if you iron logo from right side. Iron handles with a pressing cloth or with tote bag canvas on top. Nylon handles melt with iron directly on it.
- Cut tote bag apart on bottom fold so you have a front and back piece of canvas.
- Determine size you want your tote. If size you want is smaller than existing size, cut down. Zig zag two handles together at short ends to make one longer single shoulder strap to be worn across your body.
- Round the corners of canvas by cutting in a curve using a dinner plate or something similar for a pattern.
- Iron patchwork fabrics flat.
- Cut the following from lining fabric and set aside:
- 2 pieces the size of tote foundation for lining plus 1″-2″ taller.
- 1 piece 2 ¾” X length +1″ for handle, if it’s 1″ wide. If handle is wider, double width and add 3/4″.
- 2 pieces each 5 ½” X 8-10″ for pocket and a second smaller pocket
- Cut and glue stick a piece of light weight batting to cover the logo on the front side of canvas bag. Stitch. Start with focal piece in central area on the batting side of bag.
Stitching with a ¼” seam, add-on other fabrics by stitching out, up, and below the original center design. Use the stitch and flip method of piecing. Keep pieces large. This is the same method used for Crazy Quilting and Log Cabin piecing.
- When front of canvas is covered, press. Stitch 1/8″ around outside edge. Trim even with canvas.
- Cover seams with trim, fringe, ribbon. Add appliqués, and buttons.
- Sew pocket pieces right sides together using ¼” seam allowance. Leave an opening for turning. Turn right side out. Press and turn the raw edge in. Pin pocket to right side of one of the lining pieces 2 ½” from top edge. Stitch on 3 sides close to edge.
Add a second pocket to other side of lining, if you prefer. Stitch a seam in the middle of the pocket to make two smaller pockets for cell phone and keys.
- Place lining pieces right sides together. Place the finished bag front face down on top of back of bag right sides together. Layer the four pieces in the following order and pin together. Patchwork bag right side up, back of bag face down on right side of bag, two lining pieces right sides together on top of bag. The lining will extend at top of bag 1″-2″.
- Stitch ¼” from the edges through all layers starting at top edge of lining ending at other side top of lining. Leave the bag opening unstitched. Clip the curves to the stitch line.
- Turn the backing piece over the bag so the backing is on the outside. Use a long, blunt tipped tool to push out the bottom edges for a smooth, rounded finish.
- Turn the lining down over the top edge of the bag and turn under ½” at the raw edge. Pin in place. Set aside.
- Fold handle fabric strip in half lengthwise with right sides together. Stitch long raw edge with a ¼” seam. Stitch across bottom of one short end. Push from this end to turn right side out. Cut off end near stitching. Press with seam in center back.
- With safety-pin attached to one end of strap, work strap through fabric tube.
Leave 1/2″ of fabric without strap on both ends. This will be tucked under front cuff. Make sure strap is lying flat and topstitch down center of handle. Stitch ¼” from each side of center seam. Press.
- Place raw edge of strap under the folded lining at each seam line and fold up over lining on outside. Pin.
- Edge stitch along the fold through all layers. A free-arm sewing machine makes easy work of this. Add trim to the edge if desired. Stitch close to the top edge, too.
- Add buttons on top of the straps where they connect to the bag, if you desire.
- Add snap, loop, button or Velcro for closing the bag.
Fill your bag with lots of goodies and out the door you go to buy more fabric. Toodle-lu.
Look for more detailed photos of totes in my etsy shop at JudyMurrahDesigns.etsy.com.