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Travel Accessories: Plenty of Pockets Tote

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When you're on the road, doesn't it always seems to be the ordinary, everyday things you are suddenly in desperate need of: gum, nail clippers, your headphones? I get a little panicky, certain I've left behind the most obvious items... as if perhaps I'm on an arctic expedition and won't see civilization for days. But the opportunity for replenishment doesn't matter; I want my stuff close at hand. That's the theory behind our handsome travel tote: plenty o' pockets to stash all your stuff. There are four big outside pockets plus a deep inside compartment (exactly deep enough for a magazine, I might add!) with its own generous interior pocket. I'm still likely to forget something, which is why after my current travels, I now own six pairs of sunglasses and a dozen tubes of lip balm.

Our Travel Accessories series is sponsored by Free Spirit Fabrics, as part of our Artist Trio Series introducing Anna Maria Horner's beautiful new Loulouthi fabric collection. Today's project is also sponsored in part by Fat Quarter Shop, who provided the featured Loulouthi print and Fabric.com, who provided the rich 100% cotton twill. Both sites have great selections in stock and ready to ship.

We recommend using a twin or double needle to do the decorative stitching on this project. Check your supplies to see if your machine came with one. If not, stop by your local sewing machine dealer to see if there's one available as an optional accessory. It's an inexpensive add-on with lots of uses. Take a look at our recent twin needle tutorial for more information.

The finished size of the tote is approximately 12½" tall x 11½" wide.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • Fabric for the bag exterior, pocket exteriors and strap exterior: ¾ yard of 58-60" wide heavy cotton twill; we used 100% cotton twill in brown from Fabric.com
  • Fabric for the bag lining, pocket linings and strap lining as well as the one inner pocket: 1 yard of 44-45" wide cotton; we used Loulouthi Clippings in AH38-Glow by Anna Maria Horner for Free Spirit Fabrics
  • 1 yard of 44-45" wide heavyweight fusible interfacing for tote and pockets
  • 1 yard of 20" wide lightweight fusible interfacing for tote lining and interior pocket
  • 1 large decorative button: we used a 1½" wooden button
  • 4 smaller decorative buttons to match the large button: we used ¾" matching wooden buttons
  • All purpose thread to match fabrics
  • All purpose thread to contrast with exterior fabric for topstitching: we matched green and pale pink from the Glow lining fabric as our twin needle topstitching accent colors
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. Download and print ALL EIGHT of the  8½" x 11" pattern sheets: Tote Body 1, Tote Body 2, Tote Body 3, Tote Body 4, Large Pocket 1, Large Pocket 2, Small Pocket 1, Small Pocket 2.
    IMPORTANT: You must print all these PDF files at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page.
  2. Cut out the template pieces along the solid lines.
  3. Following the diagram on each printout, tape each set of pieces together (four pieces for the tote body, two pieces each for the two pockets). Butt together your cut pieces and tape; do NOT overlap.
  4. From the fabric you are using for the exteriors (brown cotton twill in our sample), cut the following, using your assembled patterns as necessary:
    TWO Tote Bodies
    TWO Large Pockets
    TWO Small Pockets
    ONE 3" x 48" strip
    ONE 2" x 9"
  5. From the fabric you are using for the interiors (Loulouthi Clippings in Glow in our sample), cut the following, using your assembled patterns as necessary:
    TWO Tote Bodies
    TWO Large Pockets
    FOUR Small Pockets
    TWO 3" x 24½" strips
  6. From the heavyweight fusible interfacing, cut the following, using your assembled patterns as necessary:
    TWO Tote Bodies
    TWO Large Pockets
    TWO Small Pockets
    ONE 3" x 48" strip (this can be pieced if necessary)
  7. From the lightweight fusible interfacing, cut the following, using your assembled patterns as necessary:
    TWO Tote Bodies
    ONE Small Pocket

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Place a Tote Body exterior piece wrong side up on the ironing board. Following the manufacturer's instructions, apply one Tote Body piece cut from the heavyweight fusible interfacing, making sure all edges match.
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  2. Repeat for the second Tote Body exterior piece.
  3. Place one Large Pocket exterior piece wrong side up on the ironing board. Following the manufacturer's instructions, and as you did above, apply one Large Pocket piece cut from the heavyweight fusible interfacing, making sure all edges match.
  4. Repeat for the second Large Pocket exterior piece and for each of the two Small Pocket exterior pieces.
  5. Place one Tote Body lining piece wrong side up on the ironing board. Following the manufacturer's instructions, and as you did above, apply one Tote Body piece cut from the lightweight fusible interfacing, making sure all edges match.
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  6. Repeat for the second Tote Body lining piece.
  7. Place one Small Pocket lining piece wrong side up on the ironing board. Following the manufacturer's instructions, and as you did above, apply the Small Pocket piece cut from the lightweight fusible interfacing, making sure all edges match.

Create the pockets

  1. Match each pocket with a pocket lining.
    NOTE: You'll have two Small Pocket lining pieces left: the one you fused the interfacing to and one plain piece. Set these aside; they will become the interior pocket.
  2. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew all four pairs of pockets together along the upper and lower edges. The sides remain open.
  3. Trim each seam and clip along the curve, being careful to not clip into your seam. Turn each pocket right sides out. Press.
    NOTE: You notch the curve to allow the seam to 'give' a bit when you turn it right side out; this gives you a smoother finished curve.
  4. Switch to your twin needle and contrasting thread.
  5. Topstitch each pocket along the upper edge. Check our our quick tip tutorial on twin needles if you are new to this accessory.
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Placing the pockets on the tote

  1. Switch back to your regular needle.
  2. Following the lines on the pattern pieces, mark the placement of the folds onto the two Tote Body exterior pieces.
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  3. Place the lower edge of one Large Pocket ¼" above the fold line at the lower edge of one Tote Body.
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  4. Edgestitch the lower edge of the pocket using matching thread.
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  5. Place the lower edge of the Small Pocket at the fold line, just below the stitched edge of the Large Pocket. The pockets are staggered to reduce bulk.
  6. Edge stitch the lower edge of the Small Pocket using matching thread.
  7. Baste along each side of the Tote Body, securing the pockets.
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  8. Repeat for the second set of Tote Body exterior pieces.
  9. Pin the two completed Tote Body pieces right sides together, matching all raw edges.
  10. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners and leaving the upper edge open.
  11. With the bag still wrong side out, the next step is to box the bottom corners of the bag.
  12. Using both hands, pinch and pull apart one bottom corner.
  13. As you keep pulling, the fabric will begin to make a little peak with the corner point at the top with the seam line running down the middle of both sides. Precisely match the two seams front to back. Repeat for the opposite corner.
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  14. Our bag is sized for 2" sides and base. To create this width, you need to figure your boxed corner seam at half that finished width. Therefore, in our sample we measured 1" from the tip of each corner peak.
  15. Draw a horizontal line at this measurement on each side.
  16. Pin your folded and measured 'peaks' and stitch along the drawn lines. Remember, your seams should be perfectly lined up on either side of the 'peak.'.
  17. Stitch back and forth along the line two or three times to reinforce.
  18. Trim away the peak on each side to about ¼" from the seam line.
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  19. Leave the tote wrong side out.

Loop closure

  1. The 2" x 9" strip in the cotton twill is for the button closure. Press the long sides of the strip toward the center.
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  2. Fold the strip in half lengthwise, encasing the raw edges and matching the folded edges. Top stitch along both long edges.
  3. Fold the strip in half to form a tab style loop, with the ends matching and a 'triangle point' at the opposite end. Stitch across the triangle end (following the previous stitching line) to secure the point.
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  4. Place the tab on the center top of one side of the tote exterior. The raw tab ends should be even with the raw upper edge of the tote. Baste in place.
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Create the lining with its interior pocket

  1. Pin the two remaining Small Pocket lining pieces (the plain piece and the interfaced piece) right sides together.
  2. Using a ½" seam, sew together along the upper and lower edges. Trim and carefully clip the curve.
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  3. Turn the pocket right sides out. Topstitch with matching thread along the upper edge of the pocket
  4. As you did with the exterior body pieces, follow the pattern to mark the placement of the fold lines onto the two Tote Body lining pieces.
  5. Place the lower edge of the Small Pocket ¼" above the fold line at the lower edge of one Tote Body lining.
  6. Edgestitch the lower edge of the pocket using matching thread.
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  7. Pin the two lining pieces right sides together. Stitch around three sides, keeping the upper edge open.
  8. Following the same steps as you did for the bag exterior, create two 2" boxed corners.
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  9. Turn the lining right side out.
  10. Find your finished tote (which should still be wrong side out).
  11. Place the tote lining inside the tote exterior so the right sides are together. Match the raw upper edges. Pin together all around the upper edge.
  12. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew around the upper edge, leaving a 4" opening to turn. Trim and clip the seam, except at the opening. Leave the full seam allowance at the opening.
  13. Turn the tote right side out through the opening.
  14. Press in the edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam and pin in place.
  15. Switch back to the twin needle and contrasting thread.
  16. Topstitch around the the entire upper edge. This adds a decorative finishing touch and closes that opening.

The strap

  1. Switch back to your regular needle and matching thread.
  2. Apply the heavyweight interfacing to the 3" x 48" exterior strip, following the manufacturer's instructions.
  3. Press under all edges ½".
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  4. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew the two 3" x 24½" lining strips together end to end to create one 48" length.
  5. Press under all edges ½".
  6. Pin the lining strip and the exterior strip wrong sides together, matching all folded edges.
  7. Switch back to the twin needle and contrasting thread.
  8. Topstitch around all four sides, pivoting at the corners. Add an additional row of topstitching down the center of the strap.
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  9. Position either end of the strap so it is centered over the side seam and extends down the side approximately 3". Pin in place.
  10. Sew two ¾" buttons to each end through all layers, securing the strap in place.
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  11. Sew the 1½" button to the tote opposite the button loop.

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Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas    
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler

Other machines suitable for this project include the Elna 5200 and the Bernina aurora 440QE.

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Comments (43)

KIM said:
KIM 's picture

Such a great tutorial...I am in the process of completing mine but I did shrink the pattern by 75% to make one for my daughter and it turned out perfectly for her. Thanks again! :) 

Cherie said:
Cherie's picture

This is such an  awesome tutorial! I just finished making this bag. It turned out great. Thank you!

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

@ Auriel - this bag is not currently designed to be reversible. Although nicely finished on the inside and with a finished strap, all the pockets on the outside would make it hard to easily turn inside out.

Jake said:
Jake's picture

Love this pattern.  Make first one with thermaloam....much too thick....second ones with shapeflex101....very very nice.....I think I will try one with outside pockets having shape flex but the main body having thinner fusible fleece.  I don't interface my linings...I like them floppy.  Also want to try one with some sew in interfacing and see what I like.  Some of the lighter weight (ie, not fleece) interfacing s don't hold up so well when ironed in....I've got a few yards of each to,play with so I'm trying it out to see what I like best.  But I definitely LOVE this bag!  Thank yweary so easy and who would have thought of it?  Oh, we'll, you.  Thank you so much.  It is so fun experimenting!  I've bought so many patterns that I can't figure out but this tutorial rocks!

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

@ Jake - thanks for the particulars on what you've tried... and are thinking about trying. We always like to hear about alternatives.

Jake said:
Jake's picture

Yes, I am new to interfacing and it is all very confusing, so, the best way to figure it out?  Buy a few yards of each and make stuff!  thanks again, this tute rocks!

Suma said:
Suma's picture

Thank you so much for this excellent tutorial. I made this one for my friend and she loved it.

Suma said:
Suma's picture

Thank you so much for this excellent tutorial. I made this one for my friend and she loved it.

christelle said:
christelle's picture

I like it! I  need to find heavy twill and then I will do one for autumn.

Tanna said:
Tanna's picture

Hum, I see this made for carrying a laptop computer with pockets for cords, CD's and thumbdrives...  Insert that thin sheet foam in the body between the lining and outer fabric and there you go.

dc_lost said:
dc_lost's picture

I just finished this tote.  The instructions are AMAZING easy to follow (like everything on Sew4Home).  I did also sew my straps on first, then put the decorative buttons.  Also when you leave 4" to turn the bag back inside out -- leave MORE room - all the bulk of heavy weight interfacing, double box bottoms etc.. it was a test of strength of turn it with only 4" -- Give it 6" since you'll turn it under and twin stitch over.  Always love how complete the directions are, Thank you Sew4Home!

Jen Melvin said:
Jen Melvin's picture

It look like the bag for me! But I am not very good at sewing so is this hard to make?

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

@ Jen Melvin - We don't usually rate our projects for level of difficulty, because it is so subjective. This bag is not necessarily one of the very easiest on the site, but we pride ourselves on our instructions and photos, and do believe that if you read through things thoroughly, follow all the recommendations, and take it slowly... anyone can have success. Hope you give it a try.

Deborah Harney said:
Deborah Harney's picture

OK so I lied! All pieces printed and I'm off to shop! Thanks!

Deborah Harney said:
Deborah Harney's picture

I was printing the pattern and found that the last 4 pages (pockets) just print out as Tote Body piece 4!  Checked several times but this is not operator error!Can you  send me these 4 pattern pieces? Thanks so much!  mizzgambler@hotmail.com

forevermore said:
I have made two of these and LOVE them. My only issue with the design is securing the straps simple with two hand stitched buttons. It felt entirely two wobbly, so I ripped the buttons out, sewed a reinforced stitch under where the buttons went, and resewed the buttons. Worked like a charm! Love this bag, fits my netbook and textbooks perfectly.
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Magpiehandmade - Glad you loved the project and that your version turned out so well smilies/cheesy.gif - Zip away, I say! That's the beauty of sewing; you can add the touches the make it best for you. Since we want our projects to be able to be done by beginning sewers, the majority of the time, we tend to stay away from adding too many advance techniques - like an interior zipper. But -- dandy idea!
Magpiehandmade said:
Magpiehandmade's picture
I made this and I love it. The only thing I would change is to put a zipper on the inside pocket. It tends to fold over when I try to put my wallet in. Great pattern. I like how sturdy it is and love all the pockets.
Hailey said:
Hailey's picture
I just finished mine, I love it! I scaled it down to 75% from the original size. The next time I make it I'll lengthen the strap and add a zipper on top.
Suzanne McKinley54@gmail.com said:
Suzanne McKinley54@gmail.com's picture
Great idea,think I will enlarge mine for on the road travels
Graciela said:
Graciela's picture
Genial, precioso, no veo la hora de hacerme este bolso, tan cómodo, graciassssmilies/kiss.gif
Sol_ said:
Sol_'s picture
Lovely tote! smilies/smiley.gif However, it's sad that I can't wear something like that here in my country... Too easy to get robbed smilies/sad.gif
Susan Sunshine said:
Susan Sunshine's picture
Supercute! I downloaded it and hope I'll find the time to dig out my good old sewing machine and get started.smilies/smiley.gif Thanks for the tutorial.
alicia.thommas said:
alicia.thommas's picture
Hi Eleanor Krick. You will find the pattern piece downloads in first step under the heading Getting Started above.
Eleanor Krick said:
Eleanor Krick's picture
Where is the link to the pattern? I printed 13 pages of directions, but did not find the pattern.
Sophie Grace said:
Sophie Grace's picture
I am so going to make this for Home Ec.! Thanks! smilies/cheesy.gifsmilies/cheesy.gif
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ Veronia R - Thanks for sharing and for the link from your blog. Very nice job -- and I like you decorative stitch change-up on the strap.
dthneece said:
dthneece's picture
What a great tutorial! Excellent photos and the pdf's are fantastic!
Rikka J. said:
Rikka J.'s picture
Super cute and practical! I love to sew bags and am always looking for a new free pattern. Sew 4 Home has a great selection of bag patterns but you don't have a "bag/ tote" catagory so I often forget to look for them here.
Happy crafting from Ricochet and Away!
www.ricochetandaway.blogspot.com
Tilda said:
Tilda's picture
Just finishing mine. I love it but I did want to point out to people who want to make it that "heavy interfacing" and "stiff interfacing" are not the same thing. All my Hobby Lobby had was light and stiff so I bought stiff thinking it would be fine. The bulk was ridiculous and I ended up breaking my brand new twin needle. I will say I LOVE the twin needle effect! But just make sure you get the right interfacing. If you can't find heavy, go with medium! It's better than going with stiff! I love the bag, just have to attach some straps and I'm finished!

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