Monday, May 21, 2007

Summery Dishtowel Totebag Tutorial

Thank you again for all the good wishes on my birthday. They were such a wonderful gift!

And now I have a little gift for all of you, a fun little bag tutorial.

I was shopping at Joann Fabrics with my mom last week, thinking of making a few totebags for some teachers I adore. I was planning on making some like the ones I made last year, but without the quilting, because that is the most time-consuming part. And, I thought if I could find some kind of nice webbing to use as straps (not the gymbag plasticy stuff), then that would eliminate the other most time-consuming part, the making of the straps.

So, I found some cute prints in the home dec department and some webbing that wasn't plasticy, but cottony like twill tape but a little stronger, and I was like, bingo! I am really cutting down the time it takes to make these!
After that, my mom and I went across the street to Crate and Barrel to get a wedding shower gift. I was looking at all the cute kitcheny-gifty things, and I had switched my brain to the category of shower gift, but I guess I still had the totebags on my mind.

'Cause right then I saw the dishtowels....and I about had a conniption. Cute, sturdy cotton prints, already cut in the shape of rectangles. My tote-bag plan had already eliminated the quilting and the making of the strap, thereby cutting down the time needed to make them, but by eliminating the cutting out, I was also eliminating all the time it would take to clear a space on my table big enough to cut out! Whoo hoo!!!!

And thus was born my summery-floppy-dishtowel totebag.

Cute huh?!

So, here are the instructions:

You will need 2 co-ordinating rectangular dishcloths that are the same size, matching thread, and 1 yard of webbing. I used a twill tape style webbing. 1 yard makes standard handles, you would need 1.5 yard for longer straps if you want it to go over your shoulder. Also, a scrap of wonder under is optional.

Step 1: Press the dishtowels. They will probably have creases from being folded and it is much easier to press them now than after you have made the bag. Use a spray bottle with water to get those stubbon creases out, the finished bag will be much more polished, trust me.

Also, double check that the dishtowels are really the same size. It will save you a headache down the road.

Step 2: Trim off the hems on the long sides of both dishtowels. (I didn't do this on the first few, and they still came out fine. It just makes the top edge a little nicer at the side seam because it eliminates the bulk.)

Step 3: Fold the bag in half, right sides together, and sew the side seams--the sides that you cut. (Do this for the 2nd dishtowel too-total 4 seams.)

Step 4: Now you will make the gusset. The gusset is the bottom of the bag--it's what makes the rectangle three dimensional, like a cereal box, as opposed to a flat rectangle, like a file folder.

Hold the bag in your lap, right sides still together and with one of the side seams on top, so the hemmed open side is toward you and the fold is away from you. Pull up the sides to make a triangle out of a bottom corner of the bag. I don't know how to describe this, so if it doesn't make sense, just look at the picture.

For taller totebags I usually make the gusset about 4", but since this is more of an open, market bag, I made it 5". It doesn't matter too much, as long as you are consistent. You want to pinch and pull the triangle so it is even, and if you are making the gusset 5", measure across where it is 5" and you will know it is even if the seam is centered at the halfway point--2.5".

Mark the sewing line with a pencil and put a pin or two in the seam.

Sew across the marked line and cut away the excess triangle. Do this on the other bottom corner too. And the corners on the 2nd dishtowel.

Step 5: Press the side seams open. Don't worry about pressing the bottom seam, you just need to poke out the bottom corners with your fingers, you don't need to press it.

Step 6 (Optional): At this point, since I am at the ironing board, I like to iron a small scrap rectangle of wonder under to the bottom of one of the bags. Probably the lining one. But it's a completely reversable bag, so it doesn't really matter. The wonder under at the bottom of the bag will make the 2 layers stick together and the lining stay in place, instead of shifting around and getting sloppy. It's optional.

Now, you have 2 bag parts.

Step 7: Put the bag together. Pick one to be the outside and one to be the inside lining. Turn the lining piece with wrong-side out and stick it down into the outside part.

Match the 2 pieces up at the side seams. Put a pin on either side of the seam, using another pin to poke the edges of those seam allowances slightly downward inside the bag "sandwich" so they won't show after you've sewn the edge.

Match up the hems of the top of the bag, and put a pin in the middle. Add more if you need them.

Step 8: the strap. Cut your yard of webbing in half for 2 straps and you will stick the ends right down between the 2 layers. Stick it in about 1/2 inch, or a little less. Don't stress about it.

As far as where to position the strap, I measured in from the side seam about 4" and centered the strap there. Adjust it to suit your taste. I only put one pin in the strap, but I sewed very carefully over the strap to make sure it was perpendicular to the bag. It is easy to shift while sewing and then the strap comes out of the bag a little slanted, so you might want to put 2 pins in, to be sure it is stable.

Here you can see the first strap pinned in place. Make sure the straps are coming out of the bag nice and perpendicular, and that the handle isn't twisted! Pin the strap in place on the other side too.

Step 9: holding it all together. Now you are ready to sew around the top edge. Go slow and make sure you are catching both the outer and inner bag. I sewed a scant 1/8th of an inch from the edge. In the photo below, the stitching line on the left is the hem of the dishtowel that was already there. The line of stitching on the right is my stitching that secures both bags together and the strap in place.

I like to do 2 rounds of stitching to make sure it is nice and secure. Below you can see where I sewed my scant 1/8, and then sewed in between my sewing line and the hem of the towel, so it looks like 3 cute rows of topstitching.

Now that it is all together, if you used the Wonder Under in step 6, fluff the bag out, lining everything up as it should be, and lower a hot iron down into the bag bottom to fuse the 2 layers together. This makes a nice finish.


You are ready for the beach, the library, the farmer's market........

And I betcha can't make just one! Have fun!


Blogger rohanknitter said...

What a great tutorial!!

11:09 PM  
Blogger Angela said...


Happy Belated Birthday!

Thank you for the lovely tutorial :)

12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Belated Happy Birthday!!! And this is surely a great tutorial...thanks for sharing this with us!!!

5:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love- but you know I prefer you to do MY sewing!

6:26 AM  
Blogger Joyce said...

Great idea and wonderful tutorial.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Shannan said...

Great tutorial! Thanks for sharing.

6:46 AM  
Blogger Mary B said...

Cute, now I need to go to Crate and Barrel!

7:00 AM  
Blogger FemiKnitMafia said...

Awesome idea & awesome tutorial! Thanks!

7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great tutorial! Thank you for sharing. Must head to the Dollar Store at lunch!

8:01 AM  
Blogger sweetfigs said...

Superb tutorial! Thanks.

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perfect! I made some tote bags similar to this last year, but the dishtowel idea is inspired. ;) Now if I could just get to my sewing table...
Katy @ knitterpated

11:54 AM  
Blogger Susan R. said...

Dishtowels and Wonder Under at the bottom -- both twists on bag construction I haven't tried before. Even though I have a gazillion bags, this leads me to "just one more..."

12:01 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

That's so helpful - thanks!

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

O Man, Em, you ALMOST make me want to put down my knitting and make a dishtowel bag.


2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the bag instructions...even I can do it now...I can't have enough bags and just when I think I do have enough...I want more. You are an angel.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'd be right at home here:

3:51 PM  
Blogger Val said...

What a great idea. I'm always being sent teatowels, especially foreign touristy ones, and this would be a perfect way to use them! Thank you for the idea!

4:09 PM  
Blogger marit said...

This was great! A really good idea.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Anne Margaret said...

Holy cow - those are SO cute! My mind is spinning with ways to use this as gifts. I'm thinking that I might like to try a classic red/white towel with a bottle wine and a loaf od bread. Instant picnic! Thanks for the fun ahead!

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaah so cute, a great tutorial and very pretty bags as a reward. Thank you!

1:58 PM  
Blogger socknitster said...

What great ideas--I love to make bags and your ideas simplify the process so much. I think Martha Stewart has a cute line of dishtowels at Kmart. I might have to go check them out and make a few--they would make awesome gifts! Thanks for such awesome ideas!

3:35 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Awesome bag design & tutorial! And happy belated birthday! I got a bit behind in my blog reading because of a week's vacation for my birthday. Sounds like yours was great! What a talented family you have!

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great way to come up with some "green" supermarket bags....I love it!

7:07 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I just love these! Thanks for the excellent tutorial Emily!

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, you've demonstrated your complete brilliance!

10:18 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

In response to your question on my blog, I got the new CE from JoAnn's on line. (I got old CE from Smiley's a while back.) It's always a risk buying colors on line that you haven't seen before. This palette is a bit muted. The violet is really a mix of cornflower and denim blues rather than a purple. It's working up alright--maybe more "splitty" than I would like. It seems to have good drape, though.

Nice tutorial. I had to do some alterations on a costume recently (my costume supervisor quit--sheesh) and it gave me the itch to sew something. I was AWFUL in Home Ec (I wanted to be in shop), but I'm working the crafty vibes pretty hard these days, so I may have the mojo...

12:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What great bags!

3:16 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Those bags have turned out really nice. I might give that a try. Thanks for the how-to.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Emily ! Thanks so much for this tutorial! I have been saving "interesting" dishtowels for EVER. xo xox Kay

11:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just made my first tote from your tutorial and linked to you and posted pics on my blog. Thanks for your easy directions!! I love it and I'm a true novice, so you really did a great job to get me to complete a project. Thanks!!

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I didn't have webbing for the handle, but I did have an extra dishtowel to cut to use for the straps. It was perfect!
Thanks for the inspiration!

2:34 PM  
Blogger Jackie said...

Hi Emily,

Thanks for sharing the tutorial totebag with us.

1:48 AM  
Blogger Ina said...

Thanks for the excellent tutorial! Must run out and get some pretty dishtowels and try it.

And happy belated birthday!

8:42 AM  
Blogger Pamela Foreman said...

Thanks so much for the tutorial! I was trying to make a bag with fabric the other day and the instructions (off the web) weren't as detailed and didn't have many pictures so your pictures help a lot. Also, now I know what webbing is! I have to buy some of that stuff! Thanks, I plan on making some of these.

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your tutorial is fabulous - - and all of a sudden the squaring of the bottom to form the box suddenly clicked in my head when I saw your pictures - - "of course!"
Very nicely presented

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful idea! Thank you for sharing it.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

these are amazing!I've made 3 all ready today!

3:24 PM  
Blogger M Plamondon said...

Fantastic tutorial. Thank you! Hopefully will be able to make one soon!

11:53 PM  
Blogger sjwnana said...

This is a great idea BUT I must ask what size are these Towels?? I know my terry ones are not big enough so please advise as this is SUPER.. Thanks so much
Sheila in GA

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you so much for sharing your brilliant tea towel tote tutorial (! try saying that quickly!) - I'm hooked on them!

They are so quick and easy to do and so far I'm up to No. 7, with more tea towels in waiting!

I've blogged about them today and linked back to you.

Many thanks


5:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ps. I just WISH I'd followed your advise and IRONED them before I made them - and took the photos! Too lazy, that's my trouble!


5:25 AM  
Blogger joanne wardle said...

I came here from monkee makes blog. I love your tutorial! pure genius!

6:47 PM  
Blogger joanne wardle said...

made one!!!
tea towel tote

8:35 AM  
Blogger joanne wardle said...

made five now!! thoroughly addicted

10:02 AM  
Blogger Carol Q said...

fantastic! I'm hooked, made my first and ordered a load more tea towels off ebay to make Christmas pressies!

2:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful tip!! Another idea is to make them with placemats and sometimes they are quilted.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

olá,adorei às bolsas...parabens!!!grata por compartilhar!!!

6:40 AM  
Blogger lyrebird said...

this is a great tutorial. thanks so much.

3:20 AM  
Blogger poppyart said...

a brilliant, easy tutorial, thanks. it breaks down the steps really nicely - and if i can't find cute t towels, i have MORE THAN ENOUGH fabric! Bridget

8:15 AM  
Blogger Jackie said...

What a great idea! Super easy! Super fun! And oh how I've seen cute dish towels on clearance and never grabbed them. Now a reason too! Love it! Thanks!

5:17 PM  
Blogger Abigail Heavin said...

I love it! I've been looking for the perfect tote bag to sew & this is it. Thank you so much, I really appreciate your creativity & you sharing with others. God Bless.

11:10 PM  
Blogger Julie Porter said...

I have been looking at this blog post for about 2 months working up the guts to try this bag. I just finished my first one and it was so easy!! Thank you so much for the amazing tutorial. I am so excited to make 5 more for my sisters and girlfriends for Christmas!!

7:32 PM  
Blogger Grumpy said...

This is so awesomely yummy!

I know you posted this tut a while ago, but I got the stitch itch with the turn of the Year (2010) and wanted to say you are right... I won't be doing just one! LOL! My 8 yr old will be trying her hand too!

10:15 PM  
Blogger handmadecreativity said...

Thank you for this tutorial, so easy to make with its!.
Bye bye, Taced

10:47 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

bellissimo. Chi me lo traduce in italiano?

7:15 AM  
Blogger Laura Argelati said...

Hi...I'm Laura from Italy!
Thanks for this easy and perfect tutorial!
Lovely blog!
I'd like to invite you to visite also my blog :D

Laura from Italy

7:05 AM  
Blogger Trudy @ said...

Love this! I am making a bag right now with cute towels from Crate and Barrel. All of the girls in my life are getting one of these for Christmas! I am jazzing it up a bit with a fabric pin flower on the outside. Thanks for a phenomenal idea and perfect tutorial!

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Cidinha said...

Sensacional!!!!Além de bonita, uma idéia muito inteligente e funcional. Parabéns à criadora(or).
Fiquei encantada. Bjs.(kiss)

6:54 PM  
Blogger MagicMoon said...

molto belle ^_^

12:50 PM  
Blogger Waseem said...

fantastic tutorial...I like the creativity...beautiful bag.
Send Gift To Pakistan From Australia
Send Gift To Pakistan From Australia
Send Gift To Pakistan From Australia

4:31 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I would like dimensions please:) Kindof a perfectionist here and am having a hard time seeing the right size towel. Thanks

9:28 AM  
Anonymous order same day flowers toronto said...

Scrapbooking has become a very popular craft. Not without good reason. People always feel they want to do more with their memories than keeping it in a box. So, many turn to Scrapbooking. Once you start, one of the aspects that you are faced with is what to use for lettering.

1:39 AM  
Blogger hagamos un trato bags said...

Love your bag ! From Argentina this comment ¡¡¡

9:33 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home