Friday, December 6, 2013

Tutorial: Charley Harper Quick-Sew Tote {by Christina McKinney}

Today, we're sharing this Quick-Sew Tote using our organic Charley Harper canvas, by none other than our good friend Christina McKinney.  She's made this bag a useful sort for all of us gatchety folks.  This tote bag includes a pocket perfectly sized for your iPad or tablet!  We're throwing a party over that in itself.  But it certainly doesn't hurt that this bag is a looker!  Have a little look-see, and make one of your own!

So happy to be sharing another fun tutorial with y’all today! I recently had a chance to work with the Charley Harper organic canvas line and let me just tell you, it is AMAZING! The colors are so rich, the prints are adorable...I could go on and on. And what better way to show off an amazing fabric than with a tote bag? I’ve worked up a quick tutorial that is sure to be a fast favorite. (And it’s reversible too!) With a few fun features like piping, an ipad pocket, and this isn’t just an ordinary tote. Honestly, I don’t think I ever really appreciated the value of a good tote until I became a mom. Three kids later, I now know how great is is to be able to just toss a few diapers, wipes, & my wallet in one bag GO! You can use them as a diaper bags, beach bags, purses, shopping get the idea! And since they’re so easy to make, you could whip up a few to share as well!

Notes before you get started:
Many features of this tote can be customized to suit your needs. I designed it with long straps to be worn cross ways, but the straps can be lengthened/shortened as needed. Also, the inner pockets on one side are sized to hold an iPad and smartphone, but can easily be adjusted for other purposes.

All seam allowances are 1/2" unless otherwise stated.

Main fabric - 1 1/4yd
Contrast fabric - 1yd
Piping - 1 package (You will need two 17in pieces)
Pellon® - 1/2yd (I used Décor Bond 809 )

Cut list:

Main fabric
2 - 2 3/4in X 28in (straps) 
2 - 14in X 17in (upper outer body pieces)
4 - 11in X 17in (inner pockets)

Contrast fabric
2 - 7in X 17in (lower outer body pieces)
2 - 17in X 20in (inner lining pieces)

2 - 17in pieces (pocket accents)

Iron-on Pellon®
2 - 1in X 28in strips (straps)

Gather your supplies and lets get started! 

You will first assemble the inner pocket pieces. Pin a length of piping across the long side of one pocket piece, matching up the raw edges. Baste in place.

Once piping is basted, lay the second pocket piece on top (right sides together with the first piece) sandwiching your piping in between. Sew this in place with the row of basting stitching showing to use as a guide for stitching. You will position your new line of stitching just to the left of the basting stitches. This ensures your piping will be firmly sewn in place.

Once sewn, flip your pocket piece wrong sides together and press along the top seam. You should have a neat line of piping across the top and 3 remaining raw edges.

Sew a line of stitching beneath your piping to secure your seam. There’s no exact seam allowance measurement here, just sew with your presser foot against the line of piping.

Repeat these steps for the second pocket assembly.

Once both pockets are assembled, you will baste them to your lining panels. Start by laying one inner (contrast) piece down with right side up. Lay your assembled pocket piece on top, right side facing up, matching up your raw edges along the sides and bottom. Baste in place around all edges except the top.

Repeat these steps with the opposite inner panel and pocket pieces.

Once both your pockets are basted in place, you’ll need to decide pocket sizes. I chose to do different sizes on each side of the pockets. For the first side, measure 11in across the width of the pocket and mark the line with chalk.

Next, topstitch along the chalk line from just under the piping down to the basting stitches to form the pocket. (You may want to add a second row of stitching 1/4 from the first for decoration and added durability.)

For the second pocket side, I simply folded the piece in half to find the center and marked it with a chalk line as well. Stitch along this line to form your second set of pockets. (I have found this size to be perfect for holding diapers/wipes!) As I mentioned, you can easily change these pockets sizes to suit your own needs.

This next step is important to help form the bottom of your bag - Measure 2 1/2 inches from the bottom of your lining pieces and mark a horizontal line in chalk. You will stitch along this line to form the pocket bottom. Repeat with your second inner panel/pocket piece as well. (This eliminates the dead space that would be at the bottom of each pocket once the sides are formed.)

Now you’ll assemble the inner portion of the bag. With the lining panels right sides together, pin the left, right, and bottom edges making sure to match up the tops of your pockets on each side. Sew along those three edges leaving the top edge open. The piping might be a little bulky on the side, so stitch slowly over the spot where the two pockets meet.

Snip both corners making sure to not cut through your stitching.

To box out the bottom of the bag, pinch the corners so that the side seams match up. (It will form a triangle point.) You should be able to nest your side seams together so that they match up exactly for this step. Because of the snipped corner, you can make the seams lay opposite directions to fit together better. Once your seams are matched, pin them in place.

Repeat this on the opposite side of the bag as well.

Using a ruler, measure 2 inches from the point and mark a chalk line. You can use the side seam stitching as a straight edge to line up the ruler.

Sew this line in place.

Trim the point about 1/4 from your stitch line.

Repeat these steps for the second corner as well. This is what your bag corners now look like: 

Next you will assemble your outer body panels. With right sides together, sew one outer body upper piece to one outer body lower piece. Make sure to orient them correctly so they don’t end up upside down! Repeat these steps for both sets of outer panel pieces.

Press your seam toward the contrast side. Topstitch this in place 1/4in from the seam on the contrast side. The finished pieces should now measure 20in long.

With right sides together, pin your outer panel pieces together leaving the top edge open. Be sure to carefully match up your seams.

You will now repeat the same steps as above to box out the corners.

You should now have two formed bags with raw edges at the top.

Before you can finish your awesome bag, you need to assemble your two straps.

Fold each of the long sides of your straps 1/4in toward the wrong side and press. Do this down the entire length of the strap.

Now press the strips in half and create a center crease.

Lay your 1in strip of Pellon® on the inside on the strip, under one of the 1/4in flaps. Iron in place.

Using a 1/4 seam, topstitch the long edge shut on each strip. Optional: Topstitch along both edges for a more finished look. Repeat these steps for both strap pieces.

Almost done!

With your outer bag INSIDE OUT and your lining bag RIGHT SIDE OUT, put the lining down inside the outer bag so that right sides are together.

Match up your side seams and pin in place.

Before you stitch them in place, you need to put in your strap pieces. Decide where you want the straps to be and make a mark to line them up. I measured 2 inches from the side seam and made a pencil marking.

(DO NOT stitch the straps on the outside like this. This is an example of how they will lay between the layers.)

Line up your straps with your markings and insert them between the bag layers, making sure to not twist them. Pin them in place with about 1/2in showing above the bag edge.

Mark a start and stop point for your stitching between the straps on one side of the bag. This will be your turning gap. (Be sure to re-enforce your stitching on either side of the gap so that your stitches do not pull loose when turning the bag right side out.)

Stitch around the top making sure to catch & secure all 4 straps.

Turn your bag right side out.

Once flipped, press the top seam making sure to fold under the edges of your open turning hole.

Using a 1/4in seam, topstitch around the top of the bag. Optional: Add a second line of topstitching for a decorative effect.

And there you have it, a tote! Now throw in all your stuff and go show off your new bag!!


Thanks for sharing with us Christina!  Can't wait to whip some of these up!  What are you using your Charley Harper canvas fabric for?  


  1. Your directions are so easy to follow, this is the first time I really understand how to construct the corners that will make a flat bottomed tote. Thanks so much for making this pattern available for free. I want it to carry my art supplies in as I no longer need to carry diapers.

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