Tutorial: large reversible tote bag

Before I went to QuiltCon a couple of weeks ago, I decided I would make a bag to carry my class supplies. I had wanted a new one ever since I made a practice bag out of fabric from an old comforter.

I learned a lot by making that bag, including what not to do. After carrying it for the past 18 months, the first thing I knew I would do with a new bag was to make it bigger and with more pockets. I’m really pleased with the end result and am happy to share it with you.

totebagpinThis is an open-style bag that measures 18x24x6 inches when complete. Here’s how to make it:


  • 3/4 yd. solid fabric for exterior (I used Kona Cotton in School Bus — my favorite!)
  • 3/4 yd. muslin or other lightweight cotton. (This will be underneath the lining, so make sure it’s something that won’t show through, like dark fabric against light.)
  • 3/4 yd. print fabric for outside pockets (mine is from Joel Dewberry’s “Notting Hill”)
  • 1 1/2 yds. print fabric for inside pockets (I used two different fabrics, 3/4 yd. each)
  • 1/3 yd. of contrast fabric for binding on all pockets
  • 3/4 yd. of cotton duck or other plain heavyweight fabric. (Make sure it’s a solid color that won’t show through the quilting cotton.)
  • 1/3 yd. print fabric for straps
  • Two pieces of scrap batting, each one measuring 24×30 inches
  • Basic quilting/sewing supplies: thread, rotary cutter and mat, ruler, washable marker
  • Painter’s tape

1. Begin by cutting two main body pieces, 20×26 inches. This will allow you to quilt as desired, then trim to 19×25 inches. I like this method because I find when I straight-line quilt, the top can shift a bit, and not be as straight as it should when it’s time to square up, leaving you with a smaller finished piece. And yes, straight-line quilting can be a time suck, but on a piece this small it wasn’t too bad.

2. Baste the layers in your preferred method. If you choose to straight-line quilt as I did, instead of marking the fabric, take a piece of painter’s tape and a ruler to set your first line, as well as the subsequent anchor lines. Before placing the tape for an anchor line, make sure you measure a distance that’s divisible by the amount you use for spacing between your stitching lines.

Mine are 1/2 inch apart, so that means my anchor lines will have to be either inches or half inches away. Anchor lines of stitching help prevent shifting, but over-sizing and trimming guarantees accuracy.

DSC_0021DSC_00103. Once you’ve finished quilting, trim the front and back main pieces to 19×25 inches.

DSC_00114. Exterior pockets: Cut two pieces of your print fabric, 13×25 inches each. Cut two pieces of cotton duck, 13×25 inches each. Attach one of the print pieces to one of the duck pieces, stitching them wrong sides together about 1/8-inch from the top edge.

5. Cut a strip the full width of fabric, 2 1/4-inches wide out of a contrast print for binding. Fold it in half and press. Trim to 25 inches and stitch the strip to the front side of your pocket, 1/4-inch from the top edge. Press the strip toward the top, then flip to the other side and press again. Turn piece back over to the front and stitch in the ditch to secure the binding to the other side. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for the back front pocket.


This is fabric from the interior pocket. I wasn’t crazy about this print after I ordered it online, so I used it to line the interior pocket (instead of the duck) where it wouldn’t show.

6. Pin the pocket piece to the front and mark a line with painter’s tape 3 inches from the bottom and stitch the pocket piece to the exterior at that line. Next, stitch around the entire perimeter of the pocket, 1/4-inch away from the edge.

7. For the pockets, Measure 8 1/2 inches from the left-side edge and mark with painter’s tape, using a ruler to make sure it’s straight. Stitch along the edge of the tape, making sure to back-stitch and secure at the top of the pocket. Repeat these steps 8 1/2-inches from the right-side edge. Repeat the above steps for the back of the bag.

DSC_00197. For the lining, cut two pieces of print fabric, 20×25 inches. You want this piece to be taller than the quilted piece in order to make the bag reversible. Make the pockets in the same way as you did for the exterior pieces. including stitching 3 inches from the bottom. If you would like to customize your pockets, e.g., make one smaller for sunglasses, now is the time to do so. Sunglasses generally need a 4-4 1/2-inch wide pocket.


Here are my interior pieces. Do you see a stitched line 3 inches from the bottom? No, you don’t. Learn from my mistakes, people.

8. Take the exterior pieces and pin them right sides together. Wonder clips work really well for this and are much easier to use than pins. Sew around the perimeter, leaving the top open, with a 1/2-inch seam, back-stitching at the ends and using a smaller stitch length. Do the same thing with the lining pieces.

DSC_00229. Fold the corner, lining up the seams as close as possible. Since the exterior is bulky, it will help to have the seams go in opposite directions. Using a ruler with a 45-degree line, line the edge of the bag against that line, leaving 3 inches exposed.

Draw a line with a water-soluble marker at the 3-inch mark as shown below (3 inches is the distance between the arrows); pin in place. Stitch across the line, back-stitching several stitches to reinforce the ends and using a shorter stitch length. Trim 1/2-inch from the seam line.

dsc_0017 copyDSC_001810. Turn the bag right side out and using a blunt object like a chop stick, push the corners of the bottom sides out. Do the preceding steps on the lining pieces, except don’t bother to turn the lining inside out.

11.Take the lining piece and fold a little less than 1/2-in from the right-side of the top over to the wrong side; press in place. Make a second fold 1/2-inch wide and press in place again. Put the lining inside the exterior of the bag and pin or clip the fold over the top of the exterior bag as shown below. Top stitch along bottom edge to secure lining to bag.

DSC_002412. Make handles: Cut the print fabric you’ve chosen for the handles into two strips, each one should be 5 inches by the width of fabric, approx. 5×44 inches. I trimmed my handles to 5×42-inches. Cut two pieces of the cotton duck the same size. Attach the duck to the wrong side of the printed fabric and stitch along each edge with a 1/4-inch seam.

Fold and press 1/2-inch on both sides as shown below, the fold the strip in half and press again. Open the strap and fold in 1/2-inch on the top and bottom. Re-fold in half, making sure your edges are all nicely tucked in. Pin and stitch 1/4-inch around the entire strip. Repeat these steps for the second strap.


Or you could be lazy like me and only stitch on side, but this is what it will look like when you go to press it.

13. One at a time, line up the strap ends so the middle point of each one is at the same place as the stitching line of your pocket, which should be at the 8-inch line. Place the bottom of the strap 2 inches below the top of the bag and pin in place.

Do the same thing for the remaining three strap ends. Stitch them securely in place with a shorter stitch length all around the 2-inch portion that’s on the exterior bag.

DSC_004414. Now, go out and use your bag and marvel at all the compliments you will receive!

If something doesn’t make sense, or you’d like some help making your bag, either leave a comment below or email me at onemillionstitches@gmail.com.

Linking up to Link a Finish Friday, Whoop Whoop Friday, Thank Goodness Its Finished Friday, Fabric Frenzy Friday and Show Off Saturday.


Supernova Friendship Block Swap winners!

At long last, Stephanie and I can announce the winners of the prize package for our Supernova Friendship Block Swap! Congrats to Kris Jarchow, who blogs at Sew Sunshine, and Jen Van Dyke, who blogs at Jennifer Under the Juniper Tree. Take a look at their beautiful quilts. Here’s Kris’ version:

Here’s Jen’s:

jen-supernovaAnd the back of Jen’s, which is just as great as the front:

jen-supernova2 Lee Heinrich, who blogs at Freshly Pieced, is the Supernova block designer and the judge for our contest. Here’s what she had to say:

“I love their scrappy saturated color scheme, and the back of Jen’s quilt is another quilt unto itself! : ) It was a tough choice – I also loved the hand-quilting on Ashlee Schnell’s and Kate Yates’ quilts. I also thought the quilting on Maya Toscani’s and Cathy Ledbetter’s pair of quilts was amazing! Everybody did a great job, and I can’t thank them all enough for participating! It’s been so much fun seeing so many Supernova blocks these past few months.”

It’s really amazing to think of what started as a simple email exchange between Stephanie and myself has turned into some lovely friendships for so many of our participants. Several of you have sent us incredibly touching emails about the relationships you formed, and Stephanie and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Kris and Jen will each receive a prize package (thanks to Stephanie for taking care of the mailing) including a signed copy of the book, Vintage Quilt Revival, by Katie Clark Blakesely, Lee Heinrich and Faith Jones; a gift certificate to Green Fairy Quilts and some goodies from QuiltCon!

Kris and Jen aren’t the only ones to get a prize, though. When I was in Austin for QuiltCon last month, I got to meet and stay with Stephanie in person. It was a great time and a lovely way to be able to deepen our friendship. And look, she even had another Supernova block for me:

DSC_0028DSC_0030Thanks to everyone who participated in our Supernova Friendship Block Swap. If you’d like to see more photos, visit the Supernova Friendship Block Swap group on Flickr.







WIP: reusable non-paper towels

I’m not sure if it’s the cold weather or all the holiday stitching I did, but the last thing I’ve wanted to do in these past few weeks is take up needle and fiber. Does that ever happen to you? How do you get out of it?

For me, it helps to have small projects that give me a sense of completion quickly and with little chance for error. That’s why I’ve been having fun making these reusable towels.

Well, that, and because they’re pretty stinkin’ cute!

DSC_0001I don’t remember where I originally saw these, but I thought they looked like a great idea and a great way to use fabric scraps and towels with fraying edges that still had plenty of life in them.

To keep shrinkage to a minimum, this is definitely a project where you should pre-wash your fabric. I had several half-yards of black/white print fabric that I edged with my serger before throwing them into the wash.

I sized them to match an actual paper towel, adding a quarter-inch seam allowance on the terry fabric and a half-inch on the cotton.

DSC_0002Then I pin them right sides together and sew a quarter-inch seam around the edges, leaving a hole on one side so I can turn them right side out. After a snip on the corners and a quick press, I stitch a line close to the edge to close the seam.

DSC_0004Each one takes about five minutes. Seriously, five minutes. I need at least 10 for a roll, maybe 12, depending on how many will fit on my current towel holder. For that, I’ve got some special plastic snaps I purchased, which I’ll show you when these are done.

These probably won’t get rid of my paper towel usage entirely, but they will definitely help reduce it. I’ve got a couple of practice attempts I made that I use in the microwave. Those two have already saved me about half a roll.

Linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday.



Supernova update

I have some good news for any Supernova Friendship Block Swap participants out there: Stephanie (Late Night Quilter) and I have extended the deadline for entering your quilt until Feb. 14!

friendship-button-largeToo many of you expressed you’d like more time, and since neither she nor I have our quilts finished, it seemed like the least we could do.

Also, you don’t have to enter as partners to win. This way, if you get your quilt finished, but your partner hasn’t, you’re still eligible for the prize. (Sadly, your partner will not, however).

If you haven’t checked it lately, take a look at the Supernova Friendship Block Swap FlickR group. There’s lots of great eye candy there (for those not in the swap); it’s the place to upload your photos by midnight, Feb. 14, 2015.  Here are some guidelines for posting:

  1. When you upload, please name your entry “Your Name: Finished Quilt entry” (e.g., Sandra Louise: Finished Quilt Entry). Please write the word single or pair, to note whether you are entering alone (if your partner didn’t finish) or together.
  2. In the description, please include your partner’s name, your fabric and any other pertinent info you’d like Lee to be aware of when she judges.
  3. You can enter more than one photo, e.g., if you want her to see the back or a different angle.
  4. Please upload a maximum of three photos, each one labeled with your name and the words finished quilt entry.
  5. If both you and your partner have finished your quilts, and your entry pair is selected, you will both win a prize package. There may be some variations in the prize package due to availability, but they will both have approximately the same value.

Entries dated before the deadline of Feb. 14 (midnight EST) will be eligible for the following prize package:

  • Copy of the book, “Vintage Quilt Revival,” by Katie Clark Blakesly, Lee Heinrich (designer of our Supernova block) and Faith Jones
  • Copy of the book, “Quilting Wide Open Spaces,” by Judi Madsen
  • $50 gift certificate from Green Fairy Quilts (Note: if you live overseas you will receive a $50 gift certificate to a fabric store of your choice)
  • An assortment of fat quarters and fabulous notions

Both Stephanie and I have been a little overwhelmed by life, work and the holidays, so neither of us has our quilt tops finished. I know she’s working on her remaining blocks for me, and I can’t wait to see them.


Finished: a couple of quick kitchen gifts

Just wanted to stop in before I head out and visit friends with a couple of quick gifts I made that you can easily finish yourself before the holidays.

First up, a couple of potholders that I made with leftovers from a holiday table runner I started last week.

DSC_0074I used four (4 1/2-inch) squares, set off by 1 1/2-inch strips, finishing the potholder at nine inches. I added a layer of InsulBrite (but not until I’d already quilted the three layers — don’t ask me how much fun it was to rip all that out!

The back was a large scale holiday print I’ve had in my stash for years, as are the prints on the front.

DSC_0076Straight-line quilting, set one inch apart, made quick work of this. Here’s the other one:

DSC_0077And the back, where I tried my hand at a grid:

DSC_0078Earlier this month, I made a place mat for a friend’s 10-year-old daughter. She wanted to sew and loves animals, so I had her cut some farm print I’ve had for years:

DSC_0072I then cut these to random heights and sewed them into a slightly wonky patchwork. For the back, I used the leftover strips in a striped formation and stippled the layers:

DSC_0073Easy and quick! I just have a couple of gifts left to make, but thankfully, they’re not due until Jan. 6 when my friends will celebrate Serbian Christmas.



Finished: flannel fleece blanket

I haven’t had too much time for sewing this month, but I managed to finish a flannel version of my reversible fleece blanket. Much as I love working with fleece and appreciate its warmth, it can be a little expensive. Flannel is a great alternative when you’re pinching the pennies.

If you need a last minute gift, you can make this in just a couple of hours. Seriously. I’m not fast at this stuff, and I can do it in that amount of time.

It all began with this too adorable fabric I spotted one day in Joanns. What I love is that it’s gender neutral, and since I’m adding this to my charity stash, I like to make things that will work for anyone who receives it.

DSC_0054Because there’s a difference in width between fleece and flannel, i.e., fleece tends to be 54 inches wide and flannel 44-45 inches wide, it’s not the same 1:1 ratio as on the reversible version.

When I make this using fleece on both sides, I buy two yards of each. For the flannel version, I buy 3 yards of the flannel and 1 1/2 yards of the fleece, since I’m making it for a young child. It should finish at approximately 54 inches square. Cost is about $20 or less, with all the sales still going on.

I find the easiest method is to be double the amount of flannel, seam it in the middle and then cut to size with my rotary cutter. I save the leftovers and coordinate them for a simple patchwork version. While piecing the flannel, I hide the selvage by lining up the edge of my presser foot on the white band and sew a one-inch seam.

DSC_0063Here’s the backing fleece. I put it right-side down on my bed, and once I’ve got my top piece sewn, pressed and cut to size, I’ll layer to the two pieces together and pin them.

DSC_0061Next it’s onto the serger to sew the pieces together and clean off the edges in one shot. (Note: if you have a label you want to put on the back, don’t be like me and forget every time until after the two pieces are serged together. You can still add it, but it’s easier to do it now.)

DSC_0065OK, I had to show a close-up. I’m not even a dog person, and I can’t stand how cute this is. Love it.

DSC_0067The last step is binding, which is a pretty basic quilt binding that I did with the solid red flannel. You can find the steps on the original tutorial. Since I forgot to add the label on the back, I clipped the edges of the label with pinking shears and sewed it after I attached the the binding to the front, making sure that the binding didn’t cover it when sewing it down on the back.

Here’s the finished product:

DSC_0068And the back:

DSC_0069DSC_0070Here’s hoping this blanket will keep some little boy or girl very warm soon.

Happy holidays, everyone. I hope your season is blessed, merry and bright!


Finished: winter snowballs table mat

For those of you who survived the crowds of the start of this crazy holiday shopping weekend, you can be grateful that people like me know ourselves well enough to know that we don’t belong in public on days like this.

Seriously, it would not be good for anyone.

Instead, I am thrilled to show you a quick finish, a winter table mat that I made a few days ago for the secret Santa gift exchange my guild is having for this month’s meeting.

We each brought three fat quarters with a list of ideas of things we might like our Santa to make, as well as whatever we definitely wouldn’t want to have. My recipient didn’t want anything Christmas related, and her FQs were snowy and wintry.

She asked for either a table mat or two mug rugs, and I chose to make the table mat.

DSC_0047No surprise, I got my inspiration from a number of snowball quilts I’ve seen on blogs and on Pinterest. My Santa partner collects snowmen, and knowing my applique skills aren’t up to the task, a snowball quilt seemed to be the next best thing.


DSC_0049I went with the reverse snowball look and some straight-line quilting (my go-to these days) to make it look a little more modern.

Here’s a look at the back:

DSC_0051DSC_0052Don’t you just love the snowmen in the vintage truck? The top fabric has snowmen on it, too, I just couldn’t get a photo that would do it justice. Scrappy binding from leftover strips completed the look.

Want to make one of these for yourself? It’s easy, and you can customize it to any size mat you’d like. Here’s how:

For each snowball block, cut a 6 1/2-inch square of solid white (I used Kona solid white), then cut four squares of contrast fabric at 2 1/2 inches each. One at a time, line a small square on the corner of the white and stitch diagonally from one corner to the opposite corner on the short side. You can use the photo above for reference.

Repeat on the remaining three sides, then trim each corner 1/4-inch away from the stitching line on the outside edge of the block. Set your stitches and press the fabric away from the center.

The remaining blocks are just a basic nine-patch composed of 2 1/2-inch squares in random order. I stitched some strips together and then sub-cut to save time, but you can make it more random than that if you like.

Sew your blocks together into rows, alternating a snowball block with the background block. If you’re making a larger mat or lap quilt, you could stack three snowball blocks together to make snowmen.

After you’ve sewn the blocks into rows, sew your rows together, then baste, quilt and bind! It’s a great way to use leftover scraps and you can make one easily in a weekend.



My last two Supernova blocks

I’m pretty close to a number of finishes these days, one of which is the final two blocks for the Supernova Friendship Block Swap.

2014-11-02 18.27.01I hope you’ll pardon the photo quality – I grabbed these really quick with my cell phone so I’d remember what they looked like before sending them off to Stephanie. (Yes, I cheated and sent these to her before finishing my copies.)

I admitted to her recently that while I’m pleased with the results, and the blocks have gotten easier to make, I haven’t had a lot of fun on this project. Lots of frustration trying to feed the corner points into my machine, as well as some stupid directional mistakes that have had me ripping things out.

Then there was the time I cut the wrong side of the triangle on the outside block, rendering all four pieces useless. The saying should be updated to “Look twice, measure twice, then cut.”

Good thing I’m getting a great friend out of the deal!

Here’s my last block, which is probably my favorite of all the ones I’ve made.

2014-11-02 18.55.04I can’t wait to see what Stephanie comes up with and to put the pieces all together. I promise, I’ll have better photos of everything soon.

Linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday … probably the best image in the post. :)


Supernova Friendship Block Swap: the final question

supernovabuttonWe are finally at the last question for The Supernova Friendship Block Swap. Stephanie and I hope that all our participants have not only enjoyed making their quilts,  but have also made new quilting friends for life.

Friendship is definitely a blessing so this last question seems like an appropriate way to end our swap:

What are the unexpected blessings in your life? What are the things that maybe you at first thought were a terrible twist of fate, but then turned into a lovely gift?

For me, the twist on this question is thinking about the unexpected. Certainly, I have many things for which I am very grateful and blessed, but something bad that turned out not only well, but became a blessing? I’ll definitely have to give that some thought.

In the meantime, I’m working on my next tutorial — an easy lap-sized quilt that you can make in time for the holidays!



Finished: My 1956 slipstitch knitted shawl

When the poncho craze hit a number of years ago, like a lot of knitters, I hopped on the bandwagon and made a few, but I was never really happy with the triangular shape with the points hanging down the middle.

What I really wanted was a shawl/cape, but preferably one that was long enough to cover my bum, for warmth, as well as a little vanity. I also wanted it to work with some yarn I inherited that I knew wasn’t quite enough to make a complete sweater.

After doing some digging online a few years ago, I found this pattern from the Bernat Handicrafter Book No. 58, “Fast and Fun to Knit Bulkies,” from 1956.

1956 slipstitch capeIsn’t it just darling? It’s also quick, due to the  large gauge (9 stitches = 2 inches), and the pattern is a basic slip stitch that couldn’t be easier.

Since I had enough yarn, I decided to go for one color, rather than the two tone version:

DSC_0017DSC_0018 DSC_0019 DSC_0021I made the buttonholes a stitch smaller than the pattern suggested, since I knew they’d stretch a bit. I also didn’t face the front edges with ribbon as the pattern said to do since it didn’t seem necessary.

Now that I have my stylish new cape, I am ready for fall, my favorite season!