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All-Weather Tote in Cotton Laminate

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Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, one thing you learn right away is that you can't let a little rain stop you. If fact, you can't even let a lot of rain stop you. You have things to do, places to go, and people to see. You need a roomy shopping tote that can stand up to whatever the weather throws your way. Our All-Weather Tote features soft cotton laminate to whisk away the weather. We even used a weather-resistant zipper for the outside pocket. The inside is pretty cotton with a laminate facing. And with 5" boxed corners, this tote opens wide enough to handle a full load of power shopping.

If you're new to working with laminates, we highly recommend you check out our tutorial: Successful Sewing With Laminated Cottons (And Other Sticky Stuff). There are special considerations to help make both your sewing experience and the end result more satisfying.

We originally used Fairy Tale in Sky and Imperial Paisley in Emerald cotton laminates from the Alchemy collection by Amy Butler for FreeSpirit Fabrics. This is an older collection, which is no longer readily available. However, many designers are including cotton laminate as a substrate option in their latest collections. We found loads of pretty colors and prints from our friends at Fabric Depot and Fabric.com.

This tote has wonderfully professional details, like an exterior zippered pocket and a magnetic snap closure. But - thanks to our clear step-by-step instructions and photos - it's still an easy project we believe anyone can have success with. 

Our bag finishes at approximately 15" wide x 16" high x 5" deep. 

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • ¾ yard of 54" wide cotton laminate for the the bag top exterior, pocket and facing; we used Fairy Tale in Sky from the Alchemy collection by Amy Butler for FreeSpirit Fabrics
  • 1 yard of 54" wide cotton laminate for the the bag bottom exterior and handles; we used Imperial Paisley in Emerald from the Alchemy collection by Amy Butler for FreeSpirit Fabrics
    NOTE: We actually used 1½ yards in order to fussy cut our handles vertically to best center the motif. If you want to exactly duplicate our design, get 1½ yards of Imperial Paisley. You'll have leftover fabric, from which you can make a second bag!
  • ¾ yard of 44-45" wide quilting weight cotton for the the bag lining; we used Memoir in Pacific from the Alchemy collection by Amy Butler for FreeSpirit Fabrics
  • 1½ yards of 45" wide medium-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor Bond
  • ONE 7" weather-resistant zipper; we used a Coats Sport Zipper in gray, purchased locally
  • ONE 4¾" x 14¾" rectangle of plastic canvas
  • ONE magnetic purse clasp
  • All-purpose sewing thread in colors to match fabric and binding
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • See-through ruler
  • Straight pins or clips to hold laminate, such as Wonder Clips (don't forget to review the Working With Laminates tutorial mentioned above for notes on these clips and other helpful supplies)
  • Seam gauge 
  • Seam ripper
  • Small safety pin
  • Iron and ironing board

Getting Started

  1. All our pieces were carefully fussy cut to make the best use of the beautiful motifs on our chosen fabric. If you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial on How To Fussy Cut.
  2. From the fabric for the bag top exterior, pocket and facing (Amy Butler's Fairy Tale in Sky in our sample), cut the following: 
    TWO 21" wide x 11" high rectangles for the bag top exterior
    TWO 21" wide x 4" high rectangles for the bag top facing
    ONE 7" x 7" square for the exterior pocket base
    ONE 7" wide x 2" high rectangle for the exterior pocket top
  3. From the fabric for the bag bottom exterior and handles (Amy Butler's Imperial Paisley in Emerald in our sample), cut the following: 
    ONE 21" wide x 18" high rectangle for the bag base exterior
    TWO 5" x 41" strips for the bag handles 
    NOTE: Remember, as mentioned above, to best showcase our motif, we cut our strips vertically, ie. 5" wide x 41" high.
  4. From the fabric for the bag lining (Amy Butler's Memoir in Pacific in our sample), cut the following: 
    TWO 21" wide x 16½" high rectangles for the lining panels
    ONE 7" wide x 14" high rectangle for the lining pocket 
    ONE 16" wide x 11" high rectangle for the bottom insert 
  5. From the fusible interfacing, cut the following: 
    TWO 21" wide x 11" high rectangles
    TWO 21" wide x 4" high rectangles
    ONE 7" x 7" square
    ONE 7" wide x 2" high rectangle
    ONE 21" wide x 18" high rectangle 
    TWO 21" wide x 16½" high rectangles
    NOTE: We chose not to interface our handles because we wanted them to be a bit more flexible. It you would prefer more "stand-up-on-their-own" kind of handles, also cut and fuse TWO 5" x 41" strips for the bag handles. Bear it mind that interfacing will also make it more of a challenge to turn the handles right side out.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

NOTE: You will notice we used regular straight pins rather than the traditionally recommended clips for laminate. We were not worried about our finished product being 100% water-tight (like you might want for something like diaper covers). Another great option are Clover Wonder Clips; they're easy to use and have built in seam markings. 

Fusing

  1. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse a piece of interfacing to the wrong side of each corresponding piece of cotton laminate, as well as to the wrong side of the two main lining pieces.
    NOTE: If you read through our Working With Laminates tutorial, you noticed we mentioned avoiding fusible interfacing, however, if you read really carefully, you also noticed we mentioned there are always exceptions to the rule. You don't want your iron on its highest heat, but if you use a pressing cloth and lower temperature, you can adhere the fusible interfacing to each of the laminate pieces without any issues.

Make the handles

  1. Find the two 41" strips.
  2. Fold each stripin half lengthwise, right sides together, and pin in place along the 41" side.
  3. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along the 41" side. 
  4. Turn right side out. Roll the seam to the back, centering your fussy cut motif on the front. Using a pressing cloth, press each strap flat.
  5. Set the handles aside.
    NOTE: As mentioned above, if you choose to use interacing, it will be harder to turn this "tube" right side out. Instead, you may want to follow the no-turn handle construction method we used for our Vinyl Color Block Tote

Pocket and zipper

NOTE: We were unable to find a 7" zipper in the color we wanted and so used a longer zipper, creating our own stop and cutting it to length when done. Our Zipper tutorial has more about this and other insertion tips.

  1. Find the interfaced pocket top and pocket base pieces and the zipper. On each of the pocket pieces, mark ½" in from both side edges. This mark is where the handles will overlap the pocket. The zipper should be centered between these marks - the zipper pull at one mark, the zipper stop at the other.
  2. Unzip the zipper. Place it right side up on your work surface with the zipper pull to your left. 
  3. Center the pocket top right sides together with the top of the zipper. Pin in place.
    NOTE: Because we had a longer zipper, we actually folded the bottom half of our zipper completely out of the way.
  4. Attach a Zipper foot
  5. Stitch the top edge of the zipper to the pocket top laminate piece, staying as close to the zipper as the foot will allow, removing the pins as you sew.

    NOTE: If you are working with a shorter zipper and are unable to move the bottom half of the zipper out of the way, you can stitch this step with the zipper half way closed. Stitch to the middle, where you can start to feel you're approaching the zipper pull. Stop with your needle in the down position. Twist your fabric around slightly and carefully close the zipper. Re-position your fabric and finish sewing to the end. 
  6. Repeat these steps, pinning and then sewing the bottom pocket piece to the bottom half of the zipper.
  7. On only the bottom half, fold the pocket base down into position, away from the zipper.
  8. Switch to a Teflon® type foot (we used our Janome Ultra Glide foot).
    NOTE: As we mention in our Laminates tutorial, if you don't have a Teflon® type foot, you can use wax or parchment paper between the presser foot and laminate.
  9. Topstitch approximately ¼" from the folded back seam across the pocket base
  10. Find the exterior bag front panel. Place it right side up on your work surface.
  11. Zip the zipper closed. Center the pocket on the front panel side to side. The bottom raw edge of the pocket base should be flush with the bottom raw edge of the front panel. Pin or clip the pocket in place.
  12. Still using your specialty foot, edgestitch along both sides of the pocket from just below the zipper to the bottom edge.
  13. Fold the top half of the zipper down, revealing its back side. 
  14. Fold back the top raw edge of the pocket top piece approximately ½". The raw edge of the laminate should meet the edge of the zipper tape.
  15. Fold the pocket top piece back up into position. Accounting for the original seam attaching this piece to the zipper and the folded back edge, your piece should now be about 1" high. Pin or clip it in place.
  16. Still using your specialty foot, topstitch along the top folded edge, approximately ¼" from the fold. 
  17. Then, topstitch along the bottom edge, approximately ¼" from the zipper teeth. As above, when you get to the zipper pull, you'll need to stop with the needle in the down position, lift your presser foot, then move the pull out of the way in order to finish the seam. 
  18. Because we used a longer zipper, we had one final finishing step. This was to stitch across the end of the zipper. Align this short seam with the previous edgestitching that secured the pocket bottom in place. If you have a zipper that fits exactly, you already have a zipper stop and so can skip this step. 
  19. If necessary, trim away the excess zipper. You have a finished pocket in position. 

Stitch the handles in place

  1. Find your handles that are right side out, pressed flat, and ready to go.
  2. Find both the front panel with the pocket and the plain fused back panel.
  3. On the front panel, place each handle so it overlaps the pocket edge by about ½". The inside edge on the left side should just touch the the zipper pull. The inside edge on the right side should just cover the zipper stop. The raw ends of the handle should be flush with the bottom edge of the panel, and the handle loop itself will extend beyond the top of the panel in a continuous loop. Carefully place the handle so it doesn't twist on itself. And remember, the seam of the handle is hidden to the back so the pretty fussy cut motif is showing on the front. Pin or clip in place.
  4. Repeat to attach the second handle to the plain pack panel. The positioning of this handle should exactly match the front handle. There should be 6" between the handle straps and 5½" from the outside edge of each to the side of the bag panel.
  5. On each strap, measure 1½" down from the top raw edge of the bag panel and draw a horizontal line or place a pin or clip. 
  6. Lengthen your stitch. 
  7. With your Teflon® type foot in place, topstitch each handle in place, staying ¼" from the edge. Start at the bottom, stitch up one side...
  8. ... stop at the 1½" horizontal mark, pivot, stitch across - stopping ¼" from the opposite edge, pivot, and stitch down the opposite edge to complete. 

Assemble the front and back to the bottom 

  1. Find the bottom exterior panel. The bottom is one piece (no bottom seam). 
    NOTE: This does mean if you have a directional print it will be right side up on one side and wrong side up on the other. Our print is directional, but the difference is subtle and so one piece worked for us. If you have something really noticeable, such a flying birds, you should probably cut two pieces, each slightly longer than half our piece (to account for the seam allowance) and complete the steps using a bottom seam so you can rotate the front and back panels to be facing the proper direction on each side. 
  2. Place one 21" side of the bottom panel right sides together with the bottom edge of the front panel. Pin or clip in place and stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance. 
  3. Place the remaining 21" side of the bottom panel right sides together with the bottom edge of the back panel. Pin or clip in place and stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance.
  4. Finger press both seam allowances toward the bottom panel and topstitch in place, staying ¼" from the seam within the bottom panel.
  5. You now have one long strip made up of three panels.
  6. Fold this three-panel strip right sides together, creating a fold along the bottom and aligning the top raw edges. Pin in place along both long sides. 
  7. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides.
  8. With the bag still wrong side out, the next step is to box the bottom corners. Our bag is designed to have 5" sides and base. To create this width, we figured our corners at 2½".
  9. If you are new to boxed corners, check out our tutorial for step-by-step instructions. We recommend a double line of stitching to reinforce the corners in the cotton laminate.

Create the lining and its pocket

  1. Find the 7" x 14" pocket piece.
  2. Fold this piece in half right sides together so it is now 7" x 7".
  3. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Leave an approximate 2"-3" opening along the bottom for turning. Clip corners. Press open the seam allowance. 
  4. Turn the pocket right side out through the bottom opening. Push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A chopstick or long knitting needle works well for this.
  5. Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Press flat.
  6. Find one 21" wide x 16½" lining piece. Place it right side up on your work surface. The pocket should be centered side to side (7½" from each side) and 1½" down from the top raw edge. Pin the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom.
  7. Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners and with a generous backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam, ie. at the pocket top. This is a stress point for the pocket and it's smart to secure the seam well. We used our Janome Quarter Inch foot to keep a precise seam. 
  8. Place the lining piece with the sewn pocket and the second lining piece right sides together, aligning all raw edges and sandwiching the pocket between the two layers. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
  9. Leave a 8" - 10" opening along the bottom. We'll use this at the end to turn our finished bag right side out.
  10. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Remember to lock your stitch on either side of the 8" - 10" opening.
  11. Find the two 12" wide x 4" high facing rectangles. Place them right sides together, pinning along the 4" sides. 
  12. Stitch each side seam, using a ½" seam allowance, to create a ring. Press the seams open. Turn the ring right side out.
  13. Find the lining bag. It should be wrong side out. 
  14. With the facing still right side out, slip it into the lining bag so the two layers are now right sides together. Align the top edge of the facing with the upper edge of the lining. Adjust the ring all around, matching the seams. The ring should lay nice and flat. 
     
  15. Sew the facing to the lining, using a ½" seam allowance.
  16. Finger press the facing ring up and away from the lining bag. The seam allowance should be pressed up towards the facing. 
  17. At the center of each side of the lining ring, place a mark or pin 1½" from the top raw edge. This will help later with placement of the magnetic snap.
  18. Finally, with the lining still wrong side out, the next step is to box the bottom corners of the bag. Follow the same steps as above for the exterior of the bag, referring again to our box corners tutorial if need be.

Attach the lining to the bag and insert the snaps

  1. With the exterior bag right side out and the lining bag wrong side out, place the exterior bag inside the lining bag so the two are right sides together. The straps are hanging down and sandwiched out of the way in between the layers. Also, make sure the interior lining pocket is on the opposite side from the exterior pocket.
  2. Align the top edges all around, carefully matching the side seams. Pin or clip in place.
  3. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the exterior bag to the lining all around the top opening. 
  4. Pull the exterior bag through that 8" - 10" opening you remembered to leave in the bottom of the lining.
  5. Pull the lining out from the bag so the lining's facing is a single layer into which you'll attach the magnetic snaps.
  6. Following manufacturer's instructions or our own handy step-by-step tutorial on inserting magnetic snaps, use those center marks/pins you made on the facing to figure the position for the magnetic snap. If you forgot those marks, each side of the snap should be approximately 1½" from the top (giving you plenty of room for the final top stitching) and centered side to side. 
  7. You can use the opening in the bottom of the lining (the opening you used to turn everything right side out) to reach up inside and affix the back of each snap. 
    NOTE: We used a small scrap of cardboard to reinforce the back of the snap against the soft cotton laminate. You could also use a small circle of heavyweight interfacing. It won't be seen.
  8. Press the opening in the lining flat, so the raw edges are flush with the sewn seam. Pin and edge stitch closed. 

Finishing

  1. Push the lining down into the inside of the bag.
  2. Using your Teflon® type foot, topstitch around the entire top edge of the bag to finish.
  3. Find the 16" x 11" lining piece, which is the bottom insert sleeve. Fold it in half so it now measures 16" x 5½". Pin in place along one end and the long side.
  4. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along one end and the long side, leaving the opposite end open. Remember to pivot at the corner.
  5. Clip the corners and press open the seam allowance.
  6. Turn the sleeve right side out and press flat, pressing in the raw edges of the top opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
  7. Slip in the plastic canvas.
  8. Edgestitch or handstitch the opening closed.
  9. Place the insert into the bottom of the bag to give it a sturdy base. 

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas   
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild

Section: 

Comments (3)

brentprim said:
brentprim's picture

Super clear instructions.  The only thing I'd like, since I like things visual, would be a diagram - but that's not a showstopper.  Question.  If I go with quilt fabrics, since there are so many more gorgeous combinations, assuming that I could apply a vinyl fusible overlay, before sewing it all together?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ brentprim - we do add illustrations on occasion, but since they are quite complex, we do try to stay with strong instructions and good in-progress photos. We're glad to hear these were super clear for you. On the fusible overlay: we have used it on occasion but on heavier weights of twill or canvas. The iron-on laminate over just a quilting weight cotton may not have the "heft" needed for this bag's sturcture.You'd likely have to also experiment with changing up the interfacing or perhaps adding a layer of batting or foam between the exterior and lining. 

Kay Hemphill said:
Kay Hemphill's picture

I have made a few of these, friends have seen mine and requested one,  I used burlap for main part and accented with laminated fabrics  sometime I put pockets on both sides,  and because I like multiple organizing pockets added pockets inside and on the side of the outside for keys  phone .... .

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