Spring cleaning…quilter’s style

I confess.  I am a pack rat.  Before we moved to Oregon, I finally managed to put together the scrapbooks I wanted to make for my daughter ever since she was in kindergarten (yes, she is in college now…ugh!).  All the paper that I saved from school programs, report cards, assignments, movies, trips, and of course the photos, finally made it into 2 huge scrapbooks.  I felt so accomplished when I finished that second scrapbook.  Then, when we moved, we found more.  There is at least one more scrapbook’s worth of pictures and mementos.  Hopefully, I will not be in the retirement home before I get to finishing that up.

In thinking about what I wanted to do this month, and Spring cleaning in the back of my mind, I decided to tackle another one of my “collections”.  I have been saving a few of my daughters old t-shirts, sweatshirts and patches from her school days and decided it was time to make them into a quilt.  I am pretty excited about this challenge.  I have 36 t-shirts and about 32 band and girl scout patches that will need to be incorporated into this project. 

tshirts 001

Somehow, I get the feeling this will not be as easy as it seems.  :)

My First Tutorial!

It’s time for a vacation!  I know I just got back from San Antonio, but my sister and I planned an April trip to Cape Cod last year that includes my mom and nieces and it’s almost here!  Yay! I had some great beach-themed fabrics by Hoodie’s Collection (no longer available through Timeless Treasures Fabrics) and Emily Herrick that I picked up last September and I finally figured out what to do with them.  It is a vacation tote!  It is the perfect size for fitting all your souvenirs, beach necessities, groceries…whatever!  I would rate this as a perfect beginner project.  There are no fancy sewing techniques used, the cutting is straightforward and it should take less than 4 hours to make. :)

tote 3 

Wow! Writing a tutorial is no easy business. I hope that you have as much fun making the tote as I did.  You may follow along in this post or download the printable version FREE at Craftsy by clicking here.  Email me any questions! Enjoy!


¾ yard heavy fusible interfacing (D)
½ yard outside center/binding fabric (B/F)
½ yard solid heavy weight fabric for outside (A/C/H) for top and lower third sections and handles.  (Corduroy used here although denim would be good too)
¾ yard inside lining fabric (E)
½ yard for pockets (G)
Coordinating thread
If you’d like, you may add a button, snap, or even insert a zipper to close the tote however that was not done for this pattern
Use ¼” seam allowance unless otherwise noted.  Remember to always backstitch.

Step 1

Cut all fabric to size.  Cut 2 each of the following:

A – Outer panel (top)          2.5” x 20” 
B – Outer panel (center)     10” x 20”
C – Outer panel (bottom)     7.5”  x  20”
D – Interfacing                   18.75” x 19.5”
E – Inner lining                   20” x 20”
F – Pocket binding              1.5” x 20”
G – Pocket                         9.5” x 20”
H – Handles                       4” x 24”

Exterior Construction

Step 2

Sew outer panel pieces together along the width of the fabric.  Sew one top section (A) to one center section (B) and the center (B) to one bottom section (C).  Repeat.  Press open seam allowances.

tote 111

Step 3

Adhere the fusible interfacing (D) to the wrong side of the outer panel fabric sections.  You should be about ¼” from all edges of the outer panel.

tote 109

Step 4

On the wrong side of the fabric, sew the sides and bottom of the assembled outer panels together leaving the top open.

Step 5 – Squaring the bottom of the bag (sewing the gussets)

Sit your bag up on its bottom.  You will have both edges of the bottom sit out naturally like a triangle in order for your bag to stand up.  Take those corners and make a mark 2.5” from the corner tip of each side your bag.  Cut ¼” on the outside edge of that line. 

tote 112           tote 113

tote 115You should now have an outside panel piece that looks similar to this:

tote 114

Interior Construction

Step 6

Prepare your binding pieces (F) to sew to the pockets (G).  Press the binding in half wrong sides together. Line up the raw edge of the binding with the raw edge of the wrong side of pocket section.  Sew in place.  Flip the binding to the right side of the fabric.  Overlap the stitch you have created slightly with your binding, and sew in place.  This will be about 1/8” from the edge of your binding.  Repeat process with other pocket.

tote 121      tote 120

Step 7

Sew pocket to the inside lining section (E).  Measure 6 inches from the bottom edge of the inside lining.  Place the bottom edge of the pocket at this measurement, right sides together.  Stitch along the edge of the fabric.  Flip up and press pocket in place.  Repeat.

tote 127      tote 128

Step 8

Choose the number of pockets you’d like in your tote and mark their location.  You do not have to sew the sides because they will be stitched in place later.

tote 130

Step 9

Stitch the locations of your pockets in place.  Slightly overlap and backstitch at the binding.

tote 131

Step 10

Repeat steps 4 and 5 of the exterior construction for your inside lining however leave about a 4” opening in the bottom of the lining to pull it through later. 

tote 134

Step 11

Slide your interior lining over the outer panel which has been turned right side out.  Pin the right sides of your inside lining and outside panels together and stitch along the top edge.  This picture shows the middle of the two sections, at the top of the bag, where you will be stitching:

tote 135

Step 12

Pull the exterior of your bag through the hole you made at the bottom of your lining. Stitch the bottom of the lining to close the opening with a top stitch on your machine or you may hand sew.

tote 137

Step 13

Press along the top edge of your tote bag then run a top stitch to secure lining. 

 Step 14 – Handles (H)

Press a small section of either end of the handle in towards the wrong side of the fabric and stitch in place.  Press the handle sections in half, wrong sides together. 

tote 151       tote 153

Open the handle.  You will notice a center crease which was created by the iron.  Press each half section on either side of that seam line toward each other then press in half again.  Repeat. 

 tote 155        tote 148 

Sew along all 4 sides of the handle sections.

tote 156

Step 15

Attach the handles to your tote bag with pins and sew in place.

tote 158

That’s it! You’re done! This is an easy ½ day project. Have fun!

tote 169     tote 168

So sad to see you go

I once read that a good trip for quilters involves visiting a new quilt store when they go out-of-town and grab some local fabrics. I have not been quilting long, but when I do visit another city, if I can fit it in, I always try to make this part of my trip. Last June, when I visited my sister in San Antonio, TX, I went to Seventh Heaven Quilt Shop.

Amazing! The store was not as big as some, but they knew how to maximize their space. 

   sh 2 pattern wall    sh 3 front of store  SH 4 cutting area  SH 1

It seemed as if every nook and cranny was filled with quilt goodness! This was the place for me!  So, imagine my surprise when I went back to San Antonio this past weekend and discovered the store had closed due to the retirement of the owner. So sad!

storefront  sign

Of course, as any quilter knows when you are on a mission for fabric you will not be deterred! So my sister put up with me and drove me around to find a new spot (she is the greatest!). You would think in a city the size of San Antonio, it would be easy to find a good quilt store. Not so! My sister and I spent some serious travel time looking for one. Two of the stores were closed and the last one we went to was just not the same (think large box store with a warehouse feeling).

Maybe I was just kind of crushed that Seventh Heaven had closed so nothing could compare this visit, but I need to find another location for my San Antonio trips.  Lesson learned: Cherish your local quilt store. Goodbye Seventh Heaven Quilt Shop!