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Travel Tote with Two-Tier Wraparound Pockets

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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 weeks. 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 that wrap front and back 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.

We offer a full set of pattern downloads below for the tote body as well as all the pockets.

We recommend using a twin 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 for your machine make and model. It's an inexpensive add-on with lots of uses. Take a look at our twin needle tutorial for more information.

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Our tote uses a heavy, solid-color duck for the exterior, a fabric that is readily available at numerous outlets, including this pretty 7 oz. duck in brown from Fabric. com. The eye-catching lining is from the Loulouthi collection by Anna Maria Horner for FreeSpirit Fabrics. This in an older collection that is no longer readily available. We suggest the new fabrics below: the original 7 oz. Duck Brown with Anna Maria Horner's new Pretty Potent Echinacea for Free Spirit Fabrics, or 7 oz. Duck Peach with Moda's Chantilly Flowers Fan Poppy.

  

  

The finished size of the tote is approximately 12½" tall x 11½" wide with 2" deep sides and base.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • ¾ yard of 54" + wide heavy cotton twill, duck or similar for the bag exterior, pocket exteriors and strap exterior
  • 1 yard of 44" + wide standard quilting weight cotton for the bag lining, pocket linings and strap lining as well as the one inner pocket
  • 1 yard of 44-45" wide heavyweight fusible interfacing for the tote body and exterior pockets
  • 1 yard of 20" wide lightweight fusible interfacing for the tote lining and interior pocket
  • ONE large decorative button: we used a 1½" wooden button
  • FOUR 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 the exterior fabric for the double lines of topstitching: we matched green and pale pink from our lining fabric for 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
  • Seam ripper
  • 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 exterior, 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" strip
  5. From the fabric you are using for the interior, 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. For more on working with curves, take a look at our Sewing Successful Curves tutorial. 
  4. Switch to your twin needle and contrasting threads.
  5. Topstitch each pocket along the upper edge. Check our our quick tip tutorial on twin needles if you are new to this accessory. If you do not have a twin needle, stitch two closely parallel lines of topstitching in two different colors. 
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Placing the pockets on the tote

  1. Switch back to your regular needle and thread to match the exterior fabric.
  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.
    NOTE: If you are new to making boxed corners, we have a great step-by-step tutorial on the topic. 

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, right sides together. The raw tab ends should be even with the raw upper edge of the tote. Machine 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 side 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. Turn it wrong side out.
  11. Place the tote lining inside the tote exterior so the two bags are now 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. Push the lining down into the exterior.
  14. Press in the edges of the top 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 the opening used for turning.

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 back all all four raw 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 back all four raw edges ½".
  6. Pin the lining strip and the exterior strip wrong sides together, matching all four 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 center top of the tote front opposite the button loop. 

Contributors

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

Section: 

Comments (3)

Tulip said:
Tulip's picture

I only discovered your website last week, and I immediately decided to make this bag.  I was delighted with the result.  I used a lightweight denim with a pale blue & bird patterned lining with contrasting top stitching.  Even if I do say so myself, the finished bag looks professionally made.  Thank you for the free pattern and the very clear instructions.  I will definitely be trying out more of your projects. 

lyn parker said:
lyn parker's picture

 Have made 3 of these totes!  Love the process and they are super easy!

cathymichels said:
cathymichels's picture

This project has been on my 'have to make this!' list and I have some wonderful travel theme fabric for the lining.  Just need to get caught up on that weeding...  :)

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