Finishing The Bag The Tote, part II – the sewing

Previously on: After laundering the wonderful Hempathy fabric, and knitting a rectangular bottom for my bag, I reconsidered, changed my mind, and decided that The Bag was really meant to be a tote. Some knitting corrections followed.

This episode: I sew a lining! And take many pictures detailing the process – hope you find them helpful! A three-ring binder from Staples may have been hurt during production. Huh?!? Click on the extended entry to read all about it!

Next time: I finish attaching the lining to my tote, and do an FO photo shoot. Stay tuned!

Click on pictures for bigger!

Knit fabric, especially the drapey Hempathy kind, has a way of sagging and stretching, unable to fight gravity on its own. Figuring that the top edge of my tote would not remain straight if I just attached the handles, I decided to stiffen things up… using a buck forty-nine Staples binder.

I cut 1″ strips of the plastic, rounded the corners so that they don’t snag, and enclosed them in the folded hem as I stitched it down. I used a total of 4 strips – two in the long sides, and two creased in half at the folds. Now the top holds its shape!

I quilted!!! Following the suggestion of my sewing teacher, I decided to line the bag with something more substantial than just a sheet of cotton. I made a quilt sandwich – some nice cotton batting between two pieces of happy cotton fabric. Leaving the batting naked on one side would have been a bad idea – it would pill, roll, and bunch from the friction of the nubbly Hempathy. The layers were basted together (the pink thread), I chalked a diamond pattern using my favorite Clover chalk wheel, and stitched everything together on my machine.

That gigantic growth emanating from my machine is an Even Feed Foot (aka walking or quilting foot), which I love to pieces. It has its own feed dogs, so all the layers of fabric are fed through at the same rate. If my “$88 Targé special” Singer machine can learn to use such a sophisticated piece of equipment… almost anything is possible! Click here to see the finished lining fabric (yay!).

For me, totes are never about pockets. But I had some scraps of cotton left over, so I cut a few rectangles and stitched them to the lining. I placed a few important items into the half-finished pockets to show the size and depth ;). The edges of the pockets were conveniently sealed when I folded the lining in half and stitched it together – no extra work for me!

I trimmed the excess fabric at the seams of the lining, and made tiny little miters at the corners. I finished off the top edge by undoing some of my quilting and folding a flap of inner cotton fabric over the raw edge of the batting, then stitching it down, of course.

I attached the magnetic doodad (confession: on the third try!) for keeping the tote closed. Following my sewing teacher’s recommendation, I used grosgrain ribbon to attach the twisted bamboo handles – very sturdy stuff that doesn’t stretch! I had quite a few options left over after finishing my Brilliant Retro, and fortunately one of them matched the lining fabric perfectly!

The last step is trivial! I placed the finished lining inside the bag, pinned, and handstitched! I’m pretty psyched to be done, and eager to bring you some fabulous FO shots… next time ;).


26 thoughts on “Finishing The Bag The Tote, part II – the sewing

  1. Susan

    You never disappoint.

    This was far more than we (or at least I) deserved. An excellent tutorial and example.


    You must be very proud. Or you at least could be.


    Really super splendid.

    Can’t wait to see the finished photos.

    Btw, totes aren’t about the pockets, but I think that was an excellent idea.

    You make totes worth knitting!

    Y’know, you could actually design your own and publish it. Half of this tote, after all, is your own brainchild….

    And thanks.


  2. Marie

    You -almost- make me want to take up sewing again!!(can’t do it while watching tv with kids) What a premium lining for your bag—just FAB!

  3. Stephanie

    I love the quilted lining and it’s a great way to make a lining more substantial. I’ll have to remember that for the next bag I do. I can’t wait to see the finished photos.

  4. Hanna

    What a cliff-hanging ending to your post — what will the tote bag look like? feel like? Very good way to keep us on our toes!

    And very inspiring, too. I must say that your sewing skills are making me feel like I should take it up to complement my knitting.

  5. Robin

    How do you like that Singer from Target? I wanted to buy myself one, but everyone I asked about it told me not to. But if it works good for you, who makes the most beautiful things, then it has to be decent, right? My Singer is from 1951. I love the machine, but I’ve been unable to locate both a walking foot and the skills needed to know how to attach it. It’s a boo, because I love me some quilt sandwiches.

  6. Dove

    I’ve always been too afraid to knit bags, because I have no idea how to line them (and no way am I having a knitted bag without lining). This gives me hope, and enthusiasm!

  7. Jennifer

    Thanks for the detailed post–you always have such great tutorials! I really like the quilted lining. Can’t wait to see the finished tote!

  8. beth

    That bag turned out great! I’ve used plastic canvas to stiffen up bags before so it’s interesting to see another washable option:)

  9. KathrynGrace

    Brilliant! I would never think to put so much work into a bag, but you make it look easy…and I’m sure the finished product will be just amazing.


  10. Lynn

    Thanks for posting this today. I’ve got a knitted bag awaiting lining that I plan to finish this weekend and I didn’t even think about pockets. I would have been really annoyed with myself if I’d done the sewing and then read your post on Monday. It was a “duh” moment!

  11. liz

    Another suggestion for making your bag top stiffer is using plastic tubing from a hardware store. It’s great stuff and, since it’s rounded, it doesn’t poke through the knitting.

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