Expandable tote bag tutorial

This bag was designed to accommodate quite a few items on the way back from the library.

Materials

  • 12 charm squares or 5 inch squares (6 for each side of the bag)
  • Scrap fabric for the top of the bag
  • Scrap fabric for  lace, sides and handle embellishments
  • Scrap fabric for  handles
  • Lining fabric
  • Medium weight one sided fusible interfacing
  • Batting

Instructions

Body of bag

Place the charm squares on 2 rows per panel.

Sew both panels as per picture below. You will end up with 2 rectangles measuring 9 1/2 x 14 inches each.

Cut a rectangle for the top of the bag measuring 14 x 5 1/2 inches.

The side panels measure about 14 1/2 x 14 inches after stitching.

Cut a piece of fusible interfacing 14 1/2 x 14 inches and fuse to the wrong side of the panel.

Expandable sides

Cut 2 pieces of fabric with the following measurements:

  • Top: 6 inches
  • Base: 2 inches
  • Side: 14 1/2 inches

The resulting shape is an isosceles trapezoid with the top 2 inches wide and the bottom 6 inches wide.

Pin and stitch each piece to one of the panels as per picture below. Then iron flat.

Tabs

Cut one 5 inch charm square in 4 strips like below.

Fold in half and iron, then fold each side in and iron again.

Top stitch each strip, make a tube with it and pin to the bag.

Centre the tabs as per picture.

Stitch to the bag at the top and bottom of the tab. Do 3 passes with the machine using a tight zigzag stitch.

Batting

Batting will only be added to the side panels.

Cut 2 14 x 14 1/2 inches rectangles and pin to the side panels.

Stitch along the seams of the charm squares to secure the batting.

Trim off excess batting when finished.

Stitch along the expandable sides seam as well.

Now place both sides of the bag right sides together and stitch along the sides.

Then fold the bag as per picture and stitch along the bottom.

When finished, fold the bag as per picture and stitch about one inch in the batting as per picture.

Cut the corner off.

For a better crisper finish, top stitch along the seams where the expandable side and the side panels meet.

This is what the expandable panel looks like after topstitching.

Lace/belt

The finished size of each belt is 2 in x 29 in.

Cut 2 strips of fabric  measuring 4 1/2 x 30 inches. Fold in half and stitch around leaving a 1/4 seam allowance. Leave a 2 to 3 inch opening on the side to turn belt inside out.  Stitch the endings at an angle as per picture.

Turn belt inside out after stitching and close the opening. Iron flat.

Put the belt through the tabs as per picture.

Tie the sides.

Lining

Use each side of the bag to cut the lining. Place the sides on the lining fabric and cut.

Then sew both sides together leaving an opening at the bottom of the lining to turn bag inside out. For the lining leave 1/2 inch allowance instead so that the lining is slightly smaller than the bag.

To make the corners do as you did with the bag earlier. Stitch along the corner.

Trim off.

Place the lining over the outside bag as in the photo and pin.

Stitch along the top of the bag. The opening at the bottom of the lining is where we will be turning the bag around.

Turn bag inside out.

Top stick along the top of the bag.

Close the lining opening.

We are now ready to add the handles.

Handles

Cut 2 strips of fabric measuring 5 in x 22 1/2 in.

Cut 2 strips of interfacing measuring 4 1/2 in x 22 in.

Iron the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric.

Fold strip in half as per picture and draw a half circle.

Stitch around the circle and the rest of the strip leaving a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Leave a 2 to 3 inch opening to turn handle inside out.

When turned, iron flat.

Top stitch for a crisper finish.

The handles are ready. They are quite wide because the bag is designed to carry a bit of weight.

Handle embellishment

Cut a rectangle 5 1/2 in x 1 3/4 in. Fold in half, then fold sides in and iron.

Using a needle, stitch at regular intervals making a frill as per picture.

Pull from both sides of the thread to obtain the desired length.

Pin to the end of each handle.

Baste in place.

Topstitch to secure frill to handle.

Then place the handle 2 inches in from the side of the bag.

Align the top of the bag with the end of the round part of the the handle as per picture below.

Sew handles in place.

The handle is sewn on the edge of the handles and then 1/4 inch in as well for strength.

The bag is finished.

Detail of bag

The bag is very roomy. The size can be adjusted by loosening or tightening the belts.

If you make this bag, please upload a photo to my Flickr group.

www.flickr.com

items in TeresaDownUnder sewing projects More in TeresaDownUnder sewing projects pool

41 thoughts on “Expandable tote bag tutorial

  1. What a super idea. I also love the choice of fabric colours too. Great idea Teresa.

  2. Not only is it expandable, I see so many more ideas in this project. Especially like the handles. found you on Totally Tutorials

  3. Very Cute! Easy to follow tute….. May an old lady who cheats at quilting give a suggestion? I love my zipper foot for top stitching if give me a finished edge that is easy to follow. I will visit your site for more. Again, thank you, from Montana………….

  4. FANTASTIC idea and tutotial! I was just complaining about needing an expandable bag to use few things on walk with dog, but also big for shopping or library or even a few overnight needs when I visit relatives a couple hours drive away. So I am happy as a spring Robin! :-)

    And I don’t have a way to use a video tut your tut is like a still video and a written/pic tut. Very easy to understand as well! WELL DONE!!

  5. Great tip Lori. I do have trouble topstitching corners as you can see on the photos! I’ll try a zipper foot next time.

  6. Fantastic idea! Your instructions are incredible……..I’m not an avid sewer….have some sewing skills but I think I could do this………..thanks for the GREAT instructions!

  7. Pingback: Charm pack tote bag tutorial « TeresaDownUnder

  8. Pingback: Charm pack tote bag with inside pocket tutorial « TeresaDownUnder

  9. Pingback: Bag tutorial round up « TeresaDownUnder

  10. Pingback: Spirit tote bag free tutorial « TeresaDownUnder

  11. This is a great easy to follow tutorial.Thank-you very much for sharing it; first bag I’ve made start to finish really thank-you so much

  12. I’m not sure if I’m just dense (which is most likely the case) or if my computer is not showing all the steps. But, I am a little bit lost with the sides. Can you dumb it down for me?

  13. I’m a bit confused too (dense, too) regarding the side panels – are the expandable inserts on each side of the bag or do they join together when the bag is sewn together, making only one side expand? Hope you can help, thanks!

  14. I have actually been looking for something that would expand and thought I’d just have to do a trial and error attempt but now I don’t have to! Your tut is awesomely fantastic! And the bag is beautiful to boot! Thanks so much for all your effort!

  15. OMG! I just noticed I had actually commented last year! I must explain…I feel a bit embarrassed.

    Less than a month after I wrote, my mother died so I wasn’t up for sewing. Then my phone quit working which is where I had your site bookmark. Thus I had completely forgotten about your fab bag until I saw it on favequilts. I’ll be making it soon so I don’t forget again. :-)

  16. Pingback: Most popular tutorials from 2012 | Sewn Up by TeresaDownUnder

  17. Very cute. I love the idea of expandable as I don’t like tiny purses, but have a tendency to carry too much junk in my purse. I’m trying to design my own personalized to my needs so I appreciate any new feature I can incorporate. Your ideas are very inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

  18. are the tabs really 5 inches long each? the picture looks like they are shorter, and the sash is only 2 inches wide so I am confused

  19. Judy, that’s because you need to fold in the tabs somthe ends are hidden. Then you need to allow for enough space for the belt to move through with ease.

  20. thank you for your quick response. Bag is finished and I love it. Made it from scraps from a quilt I made for my grand daughter. Now she also has a bag to carry her music books in.

  21. Pingback: Expandable tote bag free sewing tutorial

  22. My only concern with this adorable bag (and very well-done tutorial) is the placement of the handles. I think I am going to cut my handles about 4 inches longer so that they can be moved down to take a bit more of the weight off of the very top of the bag. I tend to overload everything I carry. I also love the ruffle at the end of the handle. Very, very nice.

  23. Pingback: Expandable Tote | Creative Textile Arts

  24. Pingback: Expandable Tote - Free Purse Patterns

  25. Sorry to go back to the sides, but they are the only part of this tutorial that are unclear….do you cut the sides in a “v” – ie the two inch bottom is centered under the 6 inch top – or do you cut a lop sided triangle shape with one perpendicular edge? Otherwise a very good tut!

  26. Hi Kay, yes, you cut the sides in a sort of V with the two inches centred, yes. The shape is more like an isosceles trapezoid not a triangle but that´s the idea. I´ll see if I can rephrase that in the tutorial.

  27. Love this. Have a niece who soon will be going back to school for masters. I know she will enjoy something like this. Thanks
    ecarp

  28. Pingback: Expandable Tote @Love-To-Sew.com

  29. Pingback: Four free tote bag tutorials | Sewn Up by TeresaDownUnder

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s