Saturday, June 2, 2018

Simple shopper tote bag

by Linda Theil
June 2, 2018

This is a simple, shopper tote bag modeled on the inexpensive fabric totes available at grocery stores. You can make this bag with, roughly: a yard of fabric, two yards of iron-on interfacing, and four feet of woven belting -- or less if you like shorter handles on your tote. The print fabric I used is from the "Thicket" line by Gingiber Zest for your Nest for Moda in 2016. The yellow is probably a Moda Bella Cotton Solid.


  • bag: cut 14-inch x 42-inch bag piece of cotton fabric 
  • bag: cut 14 x 38-inch piece of lightweight, iron-on interfacing to line bag piece
  • gussets: cut two 8 x 15.5-inch gussets from coordinating fabric
  • gussets: cut two 8 x 13.5-inch pieces of lightweight, iron-on interfacing to line gusset pieces
  • pocket: cut one pocket from feature fabric 14 x 14-inch square
  • pocket: cut 14 x 14-inch pocket lining from same or coordinating fabric
  • pocket: cut 14 x 14-inch pocket interfacing from lightweight, or medium weight iron-on interfacing
  • handles: four feet of woven belting in a coordinating color to use for two handles on tote. Cut into two two-foot-long pieces
  • 2.5 yards of binding to coordinate or contrast with your main fabric. To make binding, you will need to piece two-inch wide strips to make 90-inches of binding before folding and pressing.

Prepare bag.

Cut iron-on interfacing to fit bag body, leaving two inches at top and bottom for hems. Iron interfacing to wrong side of bag fabric.

Fold top and bottom hems over one inch and press, then fold again one-inch and topstitch the hem. Finished hems shown.


Complete pocket.

Iron interfacing to wrong side of pocket fabric.

With right-sides-together, place pocket lining on top of pocket, and stitch along top and bottom of pocket.

Turn tube of pocket and lining right-side-out, and press. Set completed pocket aside.

Fold bag.

With right-sides together, fold interlined bag piece in half and press, marking the center of the bag with a crease.

Measure four inches on either side of the central crease. Fold with wrong-sides-together and press, marking both of the the four-inch lines with a crease, as shown.

 Your bag is now shaped with a front, folded-bottom, and back of the familiar grocery market bag.

Attach pocket.

Unfold bag and position completed pocket on front of bag.

Stitch securely across the bottom of the pocket, attaching pocket to bag, leaving the sides and top open. Or, if you like, you may baste the sides in place, but leave the top of the pocket open.

Prepare bag sides.

Cut two bag sides of contrasting fabric.
 Press lightweight, iron-on interfacing to wrong side of side pieces, leaving two inches un-lined at one end of each side piece.
Fold unlined, fabric down one inch and press.
 Fold over one-inch, again, and stitch down to create top hem of side-piece. Repeat for both side-pieces. Set both aside.

Attach handles.

Cut handles into two 24-inch lengths (or whatever length you desire -- no shorter than 12-inches long).

Position one handle on the back of the bag with handle ends on the inside of the bag three inches from each side. Repeat for front of the bag.

Clip handles in place.

Stitch handle-end to top of bag using a zig-zag stitch. Stitch in a square to secure. Repeat with all four handle ends.
Note: it is easier to stitch the handles on before adding the sides of the bag because the tops of the bag are free, and easier to work with.

Attach sides to bag.

With hemmed tops even, clip one bag side to sides and bottom of bag.

At bottom corners, ease the bag piece by clipping about 1/4-inch into the seam allowance. This will make it easier to fit the side into the bag piece, but some easing will be required to fit the side in place.

Baste in place, then machine stitch side to bag. Repeat on other side.

 Attach binding.

Fold-over short end of binding, and with right-sides-together, apply finished end to top of bag. Cut end of binding about one-half-inch longer than side, and turn the extra length under to form finished edge on end of binding. 

Stitch binding to both bag and bag-side.

 Repeat on other side of bag.
Fold binding over seam, and clip in place.

Miter binding at corners of bag bottom.

 Repeat for other side of bag.
 Both sides of bag with binding clipped, and ready for hand-finishing.

Close-up of binding.

Hand-stitch binding to bag front and back. Repeat on both sides of bag.

Completed market tote bag

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Snowbound quilt

My "Snowbound" quilt showing raggy top edge and part of raggy seams on reverse

I recently found a printed panel from the 2004 "Christmas X-citement" line by Sandy Gervais for Moda tucked in a plastic bag with pieces of coordinating flannels and a Gervais pattern titled "#254 Winter Landscape" that used the panel.

Sandy Gervais' "Winter Landscape" quilt
Here is a picture of the "Winter Landscape" quilt Gervais designed for the panel. The pattern is still available on her "Pieces from my Heart" website, and the panel can be purchased on eBay.

I set the package aside because the panel was so cute and I thought I might do something with it before it got buried for another decade.

As luck would have it, mid-Michigan was blessed with three snowstorms in three days last weekend, so I pulled out my panel to see what I could do with it while I was snowbound.

I took a cue from the pattern and decided to cut the panel apart and add strips of flannel between the panel strips. I had 50-inches of the panel design so I pieced the available flannels to make 50-inch strips of various widths from three to nine inches.

In quilt-as-you-go fashion, I laid out my strips making batting sandwiches of flannel backing strips, batting, and a top strip of either panel or coordinating flannel. 

For more information about the ragged quilt-as-you-go technique, see "Ragged Hearts Quilt".

Then I hand-quilted each strip using #8 perle cotton and stitched all the strips together placing the strip tops right-sides-together and making the seams all on the back of the quilt.

When I was done stitching, I trimmed the edges and stitched a decorative zig-zag about 7/8 -inch from all around the edge of the quilt. 

Then I clipped all the seams and all around the quilt, clipping every 1/4-inch to a depth of about 3/8-inch from the edge of the fabric. I used a  pair of scissors that are made for making these "ragged" quilt-as-you-go style quilts: Fiskars Rag Quilt Snips. They sure made quick work of that job.

Then I washed the quilt and put it in the dryer. When it came out of the dryer, all the seams and edges had raveled to create the raggy edge characteristic of this quilt-as-you-go style.

Back of "raggy" quilt showing clipped and laundered seams.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Casey's Cat

Casey's Cat original at Caseville, MI on Lake Huron
When I visited my friend Casey's cottage on Lake Huron, I was greeted by this calico cat that resided in a knotty-pine bedroom, snug under the eaves overlooking Lake Huron. I took a photo and tried to reproduce Casey's cat for my own.
Casey's Cat redux 2017 by Linda Theil
i started by drawing the pattern below; overall the cat back is about 10-inches high, including 1/4-inch seam allowances. The edge along the fold is 8-inches long.

Caseville Cat pattern: cat back is 8-inches along the fold and four-inches along the bottom.
Here is a list of materials I used to make the cat.


  • Bosal or Pellon Flex Foam: 1/4-inch foam padding typically used as stabilizer for totes and purses
  • scraps of cotton prints; I used 5-inch squares from Charm Pack: "Grand Traverse Bay" by Minick & Simpson for Moda.
  • 12-inch square of coordinating Minky, flannel, or fleece for cat back.
  • 12-inches of narrow satin ribbon for bow
  • #8 perle cotton for hand quilting
  • short piece of embroidery floss or perle cotton for whiskers
  • 18-inches thick cording for tail
  • fiberfill, or fabric scraps for stuffing  

Sew calico pieces together and cut out cat halves using pattern for cat back. (Or cut out individual pieces from various cotton prints and sew together.)

Half-cat pattern used to cut out cat from pieced calico

 Front of cat, cut from pieced calico prints.

Bosal, 1/4-inch foam stabilizer
Cut one piece of Bosal or Pellon Flex-Foam using cat-back pattern without added 1/4-inch seam allowance. 

Pin foam to wrong side of pieced cat front.

Hand quilt cat front to foam stabilizer using perle cotton thread.

Quilted cat front.

Paint eyes with indelible marker, as shown on pattern.

Thread embroidery needle with perle cotton or embroidery floss.

Insert threaded needle below cat's left eye in whisker position, as shown on pattern.

 Pull thread through to other whisker mark below cat's right eye, as marked on pattern, leaving long tail for left-side whisker.

 Leave long thread tail on cat's right-side whisker, also. Cut thread, and set needle aside.

 Knot thread at base of whisker on cat's right side.

 Cat's right-side whisker knotted.

 Knot thread at base of cat's left-side whisker.

 Both whiskers knotted.

Trim whiskers to desired length.

 Cut tail cover from fabric 1-inch wide by 7-inches long.

With right-sides-together fold fabric strip in half lengthwise, encasing cording inside fold -- leaving eight-inches hanging out of right end of fabric tube.

Stitch right end of tube closed, stitching over cording end to secure in place. Pivot the needle and stitch 1/4-inch seam down the open side of the tube, encasing the cording inside.

After stitching, while holding the unsecured end of the cording, begin working tubing over the secured end of the cording, carefully turning the tube right-side-out, over the cording inside.

Tie the cording sticking out of the secured end of the tube in a knot and trim about 3/8-inch from the end, fluffing cording to form a little pom-pom.

Secure the tail to the cat with the tail laying along the front of the cat, and the raw edges of the non-pom-pom end of the tail even with the bottom right side of the cat.

 Using the cat-back pattern, cut a cat back from Minky, flannel, or fleece.

With right sides together, stitch two halves of cat together all around the outside edge, leaving the bottom open.

Turn cat right-side-out.

Stuff cat with fiberfill or fabric remnants.

Stitch bottom of cat closed, using decorative zig-zag stitch.

Tie ribbon in bow. Secure bow to front center of cat.