Side Stitches: Second Reversible Tote

Months back I decided to make a tote bag for my son’s teacher. We chose the fabric together and made a cute little bag with hand prints and polka dots. It came together very easily, even with a few mistakes I made with the handles, and in two days I had a cute little tote bag ready to be filled with nice teacher gifts like a bath salts, a relaxing face mask, some cute nail polish, and some sunscreen for the summer.
The bag was so easy that I decided, with the left over scraps, to make one for myself! I’ve recently applied to be a substitute teacher again (after 7 years of working behind a desk) so I figured I could use an adorable teacher’s bag, too!

I made this bag a little bigger and the straps a little longer (a little too long in fact) but with the same polka dot lining and the handprints. And I was determined to have a finished product this week so I could prove to myself that just taking a little time each day to sew can take an item from beginning to end in a short amount of time. I have a bad habit of leaving started projects to languish in limbo for long periods of time.


As much as I was on a roll and in the mood to sew, I was definitely not in the right state of mind because I made a LOAD of mistakes. First, I made a strap out of the handprint material. Then I realized I didn’t have enough to make a second strap. So I headed to JoAnns and got some more handprint material to make the second strap. Well, I realized I was so hasty in making the first one I didn’t measure it so I had to guess how wide to make the second strap. When I had both done, I put them side to side and realized they were not the same. The first was wider so I ended up making a third strap, this time the same size as the second.  Whoops!

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Then it came time to attached the straps to the two bags. I trimmed a bit off of each end to make them shorter (but still not short enough) and I also trimmed a bit off the bag so that it wouldn’t be this massively deep bag where everything gets lost. I pinned 3 inches from the seams and attached my handles from the INSIDE this time. This was an area I had issues with the first time I made this bag because I kept attaching the handles wrong.


Turned inside out.

I got a little frustrated with the bags as I was sewing the initial seam around the top. The lining and outer bag did NOT want to stay together. But I kept at it and got to the point where I was ready to turn everything inside out so that it was ready for the last seam around the top to close everything up.


TADA!!!! The handles are on the right way, CHECK! The bags are lined up pretty well, CHECK!!! Now it was time to sew around the top to give it that finished look and to close up the hole I used to turn the material out.


This proved to be a bit tricky. I’m not sure what I did but my handles got all entangled and wrapped around my machine. I got lucky though and my straps were long enough that it didn’t keep me from finishing it up. Tangles and all, the bag was finished!!


Except that the handles were WAY too long and I think I still put them on wrong. Damn! I feel the handles would work better attached differently but I could live with that issue. I could have also lived with the too long straps but I decided to make a quick trim and take a bit off the top of each handle and just live with a seam at the top of each strip. It’s not as clean but now I’ll be more likely to use it.

So what can I take away from this experience. Firstly, to measure twice, cut once. Secondly, to slow down. Mistakes get made when you are rushing through things and in the end you spend more time fixing your mistakes. I’m still learning the ins and outs of sewing but I’m happy to say I’m more confident in my abilities. I made this bag before and was able to make it again with minor mistakes, all of them livable and that makes me thrilled!! Another finished product in the bag (har har)…

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With this reversible tote pattern in mind and with my confidence in my abilities to finish a project that I’ve started, I think it would be cool to hit up JoAnns again and get some comic book fabric for a Marvel bag, don’t you think??


Nanananananananananna, BATMAN!!

Crazy Mom Quilts

Side Stitches: Reversible Tote Bag

The end of the school year is drawing near and like years in the past, I get this itch to make gifts for my son’s teachers. These plans don’t always work out the way I want them to but I always have the best of intentions.

IMG_1133This year I decided to make Jake’s teacher a reversible tote bag with some bright primary colors as a thank you for all her hard work this year. I got the instructions from here. They had me at “simple”.
IMG_1132The outer bag is a cute hand print design with lots of primary colors. My choice as I thought she’d appreciate the symbolic nature. Then I had my son pick out the inner lining and he went with this nice goldenrod yellow material with orange and red polka dots. At first I didn’t see the combo working but let him choose anyhow.


The project was simple and I was able to simplify it even more. It called for cutting a 13.5 x 14 square of fabric and sewing closed 3 sides. Well, I could do that but instead I just cut a folded piece of fabric and sewed closed two sides. Super simple. I used the folded edge as the bottom of the bag and it worked fine. My favorite part was making the little pocketed corners so that the bag had a flat bottom. It’s kinda like my mitered corners. I loved learning how to make mitered corners as complicated as it can get and it’s my favorite technique when I quilt. These corners were simple yet effect, giving the bag more dimension and structure to the bottom. Again, a technique that is worth learning and adds so much to my sewing.

The handles came out pretty cool too! I originally made my seam too thick so I ripped the first one out and restitched it with my needle shifted closer to my foot and my fabric running right up the outer edge. In the end I had perfect little straps! I loved this part even with the ripping out of the seams. The process was simple just fold and press, fold and press, then sew together and VOILA! You have a strip that when cut in half gives you two clean straps. I used the inner lining material for these and I think they came out great. Then… The snag…IMG_1139Making the straps was awesome and by this point in the evening I was feeling pretty confident in my progress. I had two bags with corners all made up and some cute straps to match. The next step had me placing the bags together with the good sides matching up. Then I had to attach the straps. While the instructions had pictures and a well described blurb about what to do, for some reason I couldn’t visualize this step. The point was to attach the straps about 2-3 inches in from the edge in between the good sides of the fabric so that when you turn it all right-side out, the handles would be attached seamlessly into the bag.

IMG_1141Humm… Well this kinda looks like the picture in the instructions… Turns out I did have them attached facing the right direction and I sewed the whole damn thing only to find out I was wrong. The straps had to go BETWEEN the good sides of fabric, not inside the whole bag. Ugh… So I put it down, went to bed and promised myself I’d take it up the next day.

IMG_1142I did just that and STILL attached them wrong! I ripped out the original seams on the handles and when I went to attach them, I had them on the right sides of the fabric but facing out instead of in, leaving the handles in the wrong direction when the bag was turned right-side out.

IMG_1143I got so frustrated turning this bag around to only find out I had done it wrong AGAIN that I ended up with a pile of sad, wrinkled fabric all twisted and messy. I was about to give up. But I didn’t. I took out that seam ripper and went at it again.IMG_1144MUCH BETTER!!!! This time I got the handles in the right spots, on the correct side of the fabric and facing the right way! When I was done, I tangoed with the fabric to get it turned around and was tickled to see everything was in the right place and looking so adorable, albeit a little wrinkled after all the tugging. And, the lining my son chose ended up being a great combo with the hand fabric on the outside. The whole thing looks so cute and very teachery!IMG_1146 After all the seams that were ripped out and after three attempts to get the damn handles in the right spots, it all came together and looked so nice. The husband even told me it looked store quality. What a sweetheart. As the creator I could still see a few areas of improvement but the overall effect was wonderful.IMG_1149
This morning my son and I gave it a test run with his library books. The bag ends up much bigger than I expected which is a great. Big enough for her to tote her papers to grade and books to read. It’s very cute and I’m super proud of this finished product. So much so I’ve already cut the material to make another, bigger bag with the same material. After that I may make a smaller one for Jake with some dragon material for a lunch tote. Something easy to wash when it gets dirty.

My mind is popping with ideas for bags of different sizes and shapes now that I have worked with this particular pattern. It’s so simple to adjust to your needs that I can see it being used in different ways to make different bags for all kinds of use.

Sew Fresh Quilts