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A Flourish Of Finishes: Simple Tote Bag

Finish Along 2014

Another item on my FAL Q3 list was to turn these fabrics (half a metre of each) and this trim (all brought back from France by a friend) into a simple tote bag:


I used this as another distraction activity while Archie was poorly but again I couldn't be away from him for long as the whines were really quite mournful and he kept getting distressed.  I'd like to blame this for a certain 'design feature' inside the'll see what I mean in a moment!

I decided to keep the bag as simple as possible, just a straightforward tote bag for carrying parcels to the post office, etc. and so I kept nipping upstairs to cut fabric or sew a seam, in between sitting in front of Archie's cage and reassuring him that everything was okay.  After an afternoon of nipping, stitching and unpicking (that sounds like a sewing class in an infant class, doesn't it?!) I had a bag!

French bag - outside

And now it's time to reveal my 'design feature'.  I made the outside of the bag and then made the lining the same size, following the measurements I'd noted down when making the outside.  Or so I thought...

When I put the inside and outside together, ready to join them, I discovered that there was no way they were going to fit together.  After some investigation, it turned out that the lining was 2" narrower than the outside.  Ah.  I didn't have a large enough strip of the lining fabric left (ironically I'd cut a 2" strip off the lining and wondered why I was trimming so much more lining than outer!) so had to sort through my stash and scraps to find something to make up the difference.

Thankfully, Nicky must have known that at some point I'd need a cream, tan and brown fabric and had sent me a strip of the perfect fabric - it feels like it's from Art Gallery Fabrics but I have no idea of the name.  It's not AGF but a Japanese fabric from Kei, available from PolkaDotTeaFabrics.

I used a red polyester thread from Empress Mills, which I won a couple of years ago from Alison, to sew the lining and it was a great colour match as well as lovely to stitch with.  I used an Aurifil 50wt (5011) for the outside, again it just happened to be a perfect colour match.  Isn't it nice when you have the thread you need already in your thread box?!  I would usually use a polyester thread or heavier cotton thread for top stitching on bags but I didn't have anything in the right colour so decided to stitch extra lines, both for strength and to also add a bit more interest.  I stitched either side of the seams on the side and bottom of the bag and on the other side, where there isn't a seam, I stitched a line along the fold and then either side of it, mirroring the other side.  It took a bit more time than simply joining along the seams but it adds a nice touch and also means the seams sit nice and flat; I'd definitely do this again.

Rather than simply top stitching a straight line round the top of the bag, I used the feather stitch on my machine.  It got a bit closer together as I stitched over the bulky handles but I can live with it!

Since I finished it, this bag has become my favourite one for taking to the shops or carrying presents to friends' houses, etc. and I think it's all to do with the handles: long enough to carry the bag on my shoulder but comfortable to hold in my hand, narrow enough to not feel in the way but wide enough to feel sturdy.  I've never seen this trim before but if I ever do see some, I'll be investing in a few metres of it!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and do some stitching.  I'd hoped to start stitching the border squares for my Christmas Cherry but each time I go upstairs for more than a couple of minutes (except, thankfully at night!), I hear plaintive whining coming from the bottom of the stairs and when I look down I see this:

What are you doing up there?  And why can't I join you?  Please come back!

Once I come back down and he's sure I'm staying, he suddenly becomes all content and settled:


And rather than whining, all I can hear is a contented whiffle...

So, instead of some machine piecing, I'm going to return to a project that I have decided to become reacquainted with.  I haven't touched it in months (probably not since the start of the year or even the end of last year!) and I now have more than a touch of the 'can't put it down's for it.  I think that's partly because I've adopted a different stitching sequence (I'll explain more in another post, if anyone's interested), which makes it feel less 'bitty'.  I have the final round to finish adding and then I'll have made two blocks (out of thirty-five, if I remember correctly) and I'll then need to prepare another block.  I have lots (and lots!) of triangles already prepped, it's just the background pieces that I need to sort out, plus any extra triangles I need to make the colours/scrappiness work.

Second ET block in progress

I think I have one more finish post to go and then I'm caught up.  After that, I'll see if I can sort some posts about things I've been doing which aren't on my FAL list (the garden, my Summersville project and some lovely prizes I've won in recent weeks) and then I'll be completely caught up.  That'll make a nice change, I wonder how long it'll last!

Thanks for popping in, I hope your week is ending on a high note!

P.S. For the attention of Jenny Larking and DianneO!  You left lovely comments on one of my previous posts but you are both 'no-reply bloggers' and so I can't reply to your comment via email!  You may be inadvertently missing out on replies to comments, prizes from giveaways, etc. due to this so please click on this link and add an email address to your account!  Thank you!


  1. I love the bag and the stripe design feature! :) loving your rounds too!

  2. that's a fantastic design feature!

  3. Love the bag and that stripe is perfect for the lining! It works so well. Hope Archie is fully recovered.

  4. It's great to see your finishes Helen, so many of them too! I really love the simplicity of your tote, gorgeous fabrics too.
    Your hand piecing, as usual, is wonderful. Looking forward to hearing more about it in another post. x

  5. Good place to hide that brown strip which came from Danielle if I remember correctly before her from Japan! What a well travelled strip of fabric?

  6. Oh that cute wee Archie face peeping up through the stairs must be so hard to resist!! I love the bag, esp. the design feature!! Jxo

  7. Lovely bag. Love the added detail of the feather stitch - it's beautiful. Hope Archie is on the improve.

  8. Heh, your wee inside strip looks totally deliberate!! And how could anyone resist that face. Oh, Archie. What a cutie.

  9. I really like what you did to the lining, it turns it from being simple to designer! I love a good tote bag and have been making some as Christmas gifts, a girl can never have too many bags in my opinion. x

  10. I like the lining just as it is, as well as the machine decorative stitching on the outside of the bag.

    Those contented sighs are just the best, are they not?

    I'd be happy to keep
    Archie company while you sew, though there could be a bit of a commute issue....

  11. The design feature looks great, ill remember that for future(id have made the outer bag narrower then got cross as the bag was too narrow!) i really like your hand sewing project. I alternate between tacking loads, then joining loads, then tack, join, tack join, what is your method?

  12. Great tote Helen, love the fabrics

  13. Oh, Archie! Poor you, and poor Mum having to babysit you when you are feeling poorly.

    That tote does look good, and I am sure you were anticipating my question on the handles... Ok, so you are not sure what they are... I shall have to put up with not knowing!

  14. Impromptu design features are the best! . . . they make you smile. Love the bag.
    Glad to see Archie looking his usual self. (handsome)

  15. Great tote. You've certainly been bust this Summer. I'm glad to hear Archie sleeps at night!

  16. Oh dear ... looks like you might need to move your sewing machine downstairs ... or take up more hand sewn projects. I love the colours in your hand pieced triangle and your strip in the lining of the bag looks like it's meant to be there - happy oopsie!

  17. Great save on the tote! Poor wee Archie needs a friend while you sew

  18. Your oops was saved well. Tote looks great.


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