This travel tote project is to make a very spacious bag for holidays and weekends away, or to carry lots of supplies to your sewing classes. To give you the idea of the interior space I managed to fit 3 bed pillows inside of my bag so it will fit lots of clothes. It is 24.5 inches long, 11.5 inches wide and 11.5 inches tall. You do not need to patchwork the outside, if you want a quicker make then just use a single fabric cut to the same size as the lining fabric (36 inches long by 25 inches wide).
This project is best suited to intermediate stitchers. Knowledge of basic techniques such as binding and quilting is assumed.
6 – 8 fat quarters of Art Gallery Fabrics denim for patchwork exterior (or 1.5 metre of a single fabric if not doing patchwork)
75cm of other exterior fabric for side and top panels.
1.5 m of lining fabric, I used Katarina Roccella’s In Blue Interplay Eclectic
2 co-ordinating fat quarters (or large scraps) for internal pockets and binding.
I used Katarina Roccella’s In Blue collection for the lining and pockets.
1.5m of Soft and Stable or similar foam
0.5m interfacing if making internal or external pockets
Large zip, 24 inches. I used a By Annie’s double slider zip.
Clear View 60 degree triangle ruler (6 inch)
Kraftex 1.5 yard roll in stone (If not using Kraftex for exterior pockets you will need another 1/2m of fabric)
2ms of bag strap webbing which matches your exterior fabrics
The Art Gallery Fabric denim, In Blue lining fabric, Soft and Stable foam and By Annies Zip all came from Hantex. You can find your local stockist of their products using their stockist locator.
The Clear View Ruler, Kraftex and interfacing were all from Search Press, available on their website www.searchpress.com
Seam allowance = ¼ inch
Making the patchwork exterior
Cut 6 of the denim fat quarters in to 6 inch strips. Using the clear view ruler cut the strips into triangles (you need 52).
Note – If you want to make the bag from a single fabric please cut your fabric to 36 inches long by 25 inches wide. I would advise using a non-directional fabric.
Piece the triangles together into 2 rows of 13 and 3 rows of 14 using a quarter inch seam allowance so that it makes a rectangle shape (I found alternating the row length did that). If you have a quarter inch foot for your sewing machine this will help you keep your seams accurate.
Try to randomly scatter the different fabrics throughout. Ideally you want to avoid directional prints. If you do use them place them in various orientations like I’ve done with the prints I’ve used so you don’t end up with one side of the bag looking upside down. You will probably find it easiest to lay them out first to decide upon your layout as I have done in the photo above.
Press all seams then sew the rows together. I trimmed my rows first to make them even, I trimmed them to 5.5 inches tall. Trim the panel to 36 by 25 inches making the edges straight.
Quilt as desired. I quilted along the diagonal lines to create a diamond effect. I used Gutterman Jeans threads as it blends in well with the various denim fabrics. I used foam to give the bag some body, but it’s also squishy enough to fold down for storage when not in use. If you want to make the bag firmer so it stands up all the time and does not droop slightly when empty you may wish to add some firm interfacing too. You could iron it onto the foam after quilting or baste it around the edges if using sew in. There is a photo at the bottom of how the bag looks empty if you want to gauge how much it holds it shape.
Put the panel aside whilst we work on the sides of the bag. Cut 2 squares of 12 x 12 from your remaining denim fat quarters. Cut the same from Soft and Stable. I used Kraftex to add pockets to the side of the bag, cutting two 6 x 12 inch pieces. This leather like material doesn’t fray so you can leave raw edges. You could make fabric pockets if you prefer. Quilt the side panels and then baste the pockets around the edge to hold into place.
On the long edges of your large patchwork panel make a mark every 12 inches. Cut a ¼ inch notch on each of these marks, you can reinforce it by stitching a box around each notch.
Attach straps, I used 2 metres of bag strap webbing that I picked up locally. If you prefer to make your own fabric straps we have a tutorial for that here. On the shorter sides of your patchwork panel mark 9 inches and 15 inches from one edge, make the marks both 2 inches and 4 inches in from the short edge. These marks are the guide for your strap placement.
Cut your webbing to your preferred strap length, I made mine 29 inches long. Pin the straps into place and stitch to the fabric, reinforcing it by stitching over the same lines several times. Leave a 1 inch gap between your stitching and the edge of the panel (so only stitch the bottom 3 inches of strap).
Because the webbing is thick if I folded the ends over to hide the raw edge it would be hard to sew on the machine, going through 2 layers of strap plus denim and foam. So instead I used Kraftex to hide the raw edges. In keeping with the triangle theme of the bag I cut 4 x 3 inch equilateral triangles and placed them over the raw edges of the strap and stitched into place. You could use fabric if you prefer but press the raw edges under before stitching.
If you would rather make fabric handles for your bag follow this tutorial.
Attaching side panels
Fold across your patchwork panel from the notch on one long edge to the matching notch on the opposite side. Do this for both sets of notches folding the fabric. The part between the two notches is the base of the bag, the other 2 bits are the sides.
With the wrong side facing out (exterior fabric inwards) Wonder clip/pin the side panels to the exterior fabric and then sew into place. Turn the right way around.
Making the lining
Cut the lining fabric to the same size as the outer fabric, 25 x 36 inches. Also cut 2 x 12 inch squares for the side.
If you wish to add internal pockets for your bag attached them to the relevant part of the lining now, we have a tutorial for making bag pockets. I added just 1 internal pocket to my bag using the interfacing to stop it from being floppy.
Mark the notches along the long edges as you did with the exterior panel and assemble it the same way but leave the bottom of one of the side panels unstitched (to turn the bag through).
Place the lining fabric around the bag exterior with the right sides of the fabric touching (see above image). Stitch around the top edges to join the fabrics with a quarter an inch seam.
Note – You may want to pin the handles to the exterior of the bag before doing this to keep them in place
Using the gap in the side turn the bag through, press to remove any creases. If you wish to add a firm base to the bottom of the bag cut it to the size of the base of the bag (25 x 12 inches) and slide into the base through the gap in the lining. I didn’t add a firm base to my bag as I wanted to be able to fold it up for storage when not in use. You can make a base using cardboard if you don’t intend to wash the bag, or you can buy plastic canvas which is suitable for bag bottoms. Stitch to close the hole in the lining. Press around the top of the bag making sure to press the lining to the inside so it’s not visible from the outside. Top stitch with a quarter inch seam to hold the lining into place.
Making the zip panel
If using a larger zip cut it down to 24 inches. Add half an inch of zipper tabs to each side of the zip.This means the zip teeth won’t get caught in the seams when joining it to the rest of the bag. The zip plus tabs should now be 25 inches long, the same as the length of the bag.
Cut 2 x 25 by 6.5 inches pieces of lining fabric
Cut 2 x 25 by 6.5 inches of exterior fabric
Cut 2 x 24.5 x 6 inches of Soft and Stable
Put one lining fabric panel and one exterior fabric panel right sides together and sew on 3 edges leaving 1 long side open.
Repeat for the other panel. Turn them both through so the wrong sides of the fabric are touching and press. Insert the foam in through the open edge. Baste into place along the open edge with a scant 1/4 inch seam. It does not matter that you will have a raw edge here as this will be hidden with binding in the next stage.
Place the enclosed edges either side on top of the zip and stitch into place. This means the zipper tape will be hidden inside the bag and not visible from the outside.
*** Important – Open the zip before the next stage ***
Turn the main bag panel inside out so lining is facing outwards. Pin the zip panel to the top 4 edges and stitch into place with a quarter an inch seam. As you can see from the photo above I used Wonder Clips instead of pins.
I curved the corners when I sewed so that the bag does not look too boxy. If you wish to keep them squared you may find it easiest to cut a 1/4 inch into the bag body in each corner so the bottom part more easily joins the top at the corners.
To hold the internal lining in place I add a couple of basting stitches into each corner of the bag. To do this find a thread that matches the exterior of the bag so the stitches blend in. Put your hand inside of the bag and poke into the corner making sure the corner of the lining is lined up with the exterior corner. Push the needle through to the outside. Push back to the inside and back to the outside one more time then tie a small knot and move to the next corner. Do this in all 4 corners to pull the lining right into the corners.
Admire your finished travel tote. This spacious bag will fit plenty of clothing in for a weekend away, or lots of craft supplies to take to a sewing class or group. Below is a picture of how the bag looks empty, the Soft and Stable helps it keep it’s shape but it’s also soft enough to fold up and store.