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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tote Bag Tutorial - Lesson 7: Attaching Handles and Zippered Extension

This is it -- the final lesson for sewing this generously sized, multi-pocketed, zippered, expandable tote bag. Seems like we just got started and now we're at the end! If you missed any of the previous lessons, here is a link to each one.

Lesson 1: Fabric
Lesson 2: Inside Lining and Pockets
Lesson 3: Handles
Lesson 4: Outside Shell Pockets and Trim
Lesson 5: Boxing the Corners, Combining Outside Shell and Lining
Lesson 6: Zippered Extension

Now let's get this bag finished!

Attaching Handles to Tote BagThe next thing I did was attach the handles. First I turned the bag inside out, which in this case is the Paisley lining with the Gingham pockets as you see in the picture above. Then I placed my tape measure across the raw edge from seam to seam. The mid point of this measurement is 10 inches as you can see. I placed a pin 3 inches to either side of the mid point, which is at 7 inches and 13 inches. I did this on both sides of the bag where the handles will be placed to mark the center point of each handle end.

Attaching Handles to Tote BagThen I opened up the bag and placed the raw edges of one handle about 1/2 inch above the raw edge of the bag, with the right side of each handle end towards the right side of the bag, using the pins I had placed at 7 and 13 inches as the center point for each handle end. I pinned the handle ends in place and machine basted them, making sure that I did not twist the handles during this step. After I pin them, I like to hold them up from the bag and make sure they are positioned correctly. Then I put them back down inside the bag and continue with the basting. I attached both handles in this way.

Sewing in Zippered ExtensionWith the bag still inside out, I put the zippered extension inside the bag, with the right sides together and the raw edges even, matching the side seams. Make sure the zipper is open when you do this or you might break a nail opening it from the wrong side! I pinned around the raw edges and then stitched the seam all around the bag opening.

Sewing in Key RingThis step is optional. I thought my sister would like to have a little swivel spring clip to hold keys or what-have-you, so I took a leftover piece of the Gingham trim that was about 8 inches long and put it through the 'D' ring part of the swivel clip. I evened up the raw ends and then stitched along both long edges and across the strip just above the clip. This made a nice little strap for the clip. I did not sew it into position as you see it in the picture, but I tucked it up inside the seam of the zippered extension so that it would be caught in the triple stitching of the next step and hang down inside the bag from underneath the extension.

Final Edge StitchingThe last step to complete this fabulous tote bag is edge stitching. First I turned the bag right side out and pulled the handles up, making sure again that they were not twisted in the process. I tucked the zippered extension down inside the bag and pinned all around the top edge through all layers. Then I stitched all around the top of the bag about 1/4 inch from the folded edge through all layers. I then stitched around the top again about 3/8 inch from the first stitching and again about 3/8 inch from the second stitching. That makes a total of 3 stitching lines around the top of the bag. This triple stitching is necessary to make sure the handles are strong enough to hold the weight of the bag and its contents and also to cover the seam where the bag and extension were stitched together. It gives the top of the bag a nice finishing touch too.

This might be a good place to note that, especially in this last step, you are sewing through very many layers of fabric mainly at the side seams but also when sewing over the handles. You may want to change your sewing machine needle to a heavy duty variety and, even then, be careful when you stitch through the side seams. For this particular bag, since all the fabric I used was duck cloth which is pretty heavy, I used a needle made for sewing denim.

Finished Tote Bag with Pockets and Zippered ExtensionAnd there you have it -- your own version of my very favorite tote bag!

If you decide to make one of these bags, I would love to see a picture of your finished project. You can email pictures to me (address is on my sidebar) or send me a link to your website if you post pictures there.

Have fun with this and be creative. Add personal touches and really make it your own.

Now I need to get serious about that mess I showed you yesterday. Wish me luck!

Happy Stitching!

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