i really love tote bags, but most of the ones that are around have some ugly advertizing prints on them or are of poor qualtity. so make them yourself!
making them yourself is really easy, even for the unexperienced seamstress and seamster.
and while you're at it, why not add some fancy decoration on the way like this faboulus rainbow design.
it's great for every day grocery shopping - much better than a disposable plastic bag, the next party, the library... or go and make two and give one away - this bag makes an awsome gift.
Step 1: What You Need
- 0,7 m of dark fabric (black, blue, ...) at least 90 cm wide. the fabric has to be non-stretch! cotton is the best choice.
- satin ribbon in rainbow colors, 1 cm wide (green, blue, red, orange, violet(i used pink since i had no violet), yellow, light blue) - you will only need about 20 cm of each color
- rest of white fabric that doesn't fray (leather, faux leather, plastic fabric,....)
- white thread and dark thread matching your dark fabric
- sewing machine
- scissors, tape measure, ruler
- pen and paper
Step 2: The Pieces of the Bag
for the bag, cut out one piece of fabric 84 cm wide and 42 cm high. add 1 cm of seam allowance on the two 42 cm long sides and on one of the 84 cm long. on the second 84 cm long side, no seam allowance is needed. but you have to mark a line 5 cm away from the edge. (see picture) this will later be the seam on top of the bag.
mark the middle of the 84 cm long sides on both sides.
for the shoulder straps cut out 2 pieces of fabric 80 cm long and 10 cm wide (no seam allowance needed).
this will give you quite long shoulder straps - i like it that way. if you want shorter straps i recommend measuring the straps of your favourite tote and add 5 cm to this measurement. this willl be the length of the straps you need to cut out.
Step 3: The Clouds & the Rainbow
using pen and paper, make two cloud templates - just try a few times until you have two shapes you like. the dimensions of the clouds should be around 15 cm wide and 7 cm high. i made one slightly bigger and one slightly smaller.
cut out the paper templates and use them to cut out two cloud shapes out of the white fabric. since you have to mark the clouds on the left side of the fabric you have to flip the paper templates before marking the shapes, so that the clouds will later appear on the bag like you drew them.
cut out the clouds out of the white fabric (no seam allowance needed).
now get the piece of dark fabric already prepared in step 2.
mark the middle of the 84 cm long sides with pins, as well as the 5 cm line from the upper edge (one or two pin will be enough).
this is to mark half of the bag as the "canvas" where you can put your clouds and the rainbow - if you are really motivated you could decorate both sides of the bag. but personally i think one is enough since one side will be facing your body while carrying the bag anyway.
arrange the clouds on the bag fabric until you found their best position, they should be at least 10 cm apart diagonally, though, so that the rainbow will be big enough.
take the satin ribbons and lay them in the position you like best, then pin clouds and rainbow ribbon to the fabric.
put the white thread in the sewing machine.
sew the clouds to the fabric. it's best to sew really slow, because you have to follow all the curves of the clouds and carefully sew close to the edge of the cloud. also make sure that the rainbow-ribbons stay in place.
Step 4: The Sun and the Rain
because i have a lot of sewing experience i just sewed the sun free-handed. if you don't feel comfortable doing that draw the sun on the fabric with tailor's chalk before you start sewing.
i started by sewing the sun outline and the rays onto the fabric, after that i cut out a circle of the white fabric and sewed it on as well.
you don't have to use any special embroidery thread or equipment, just the white thread and your normal strait stitch of the sewing machine will do the trick.
after the sun cut out some little raindrops out of the white fabric - you don't need a template for this.
before you sew them on i suggest you lie them out on the fabric to see where they look the nicest.
sewing them on can be a bit fiddly since they are so tiny, but worry not, if you just take your time all will work out in the end.
so now your finished with the decoration part - you can take the white thread out of your machine and use the dark one from now on.
Step 5: Sew the Bag
with the right side to the inside, fold the bag in half so that the 42 cm long sides lie on top of each other. pin the bag together and sew along the 42 cm long side and the bottom (see pictures). to prevent fraying of the seam allowance, sew once along the edge of the seam allowance with an overlock- or zigzag stitch.
now to the top seam:
fold the edge of the bag over to the left side up to where the 5 cm marking is, then fold over again and fix with pins. (the fabric lies now triple for 2,5 cm. sew once around the bag close to the fold (see pictures).
turn the bag over so that the right side is outside.
Step 6: Sew & Attach the Straps
take on strap, put it in front of you with the left side facing upwards and fold both sides towards the middle, then fold the now 5 cm wide strap together - you will now have a 2,5 cm wide strap where the fabric lies 4-fold. secure the with pins and sew close to the edge of the open side of the strap.
do the same with the other strap.
on one side of the bag there is the side seam - mark the other side (42 cm apart) with a pin. now put 4 pins 8 cm from the side seam and from the marking pin on the front and the back of the bag (see pictures). this is where the straps will go.
pin one strap to the bag from the inside, so that is lies inside a little bit longer than the 2,5 cm seam. sew it to the bag by sewing a square with a diagonal cross inside - this will make sure the straps are attached thoroughly. continue with the other end of the strap - pin the other end to the bag and sew a square with a cross. both ends of one strap must ne sewed to the front, the other strap has to be sewed to the back.
and you are finished!
Step 7: Take Your New Bag to Town!
and keep in mind that this rainbow design is just one of a million ideas - go and design your own bag!