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  • How to: Make a holiday tote

    Fabric shopping bags make great gifts
  • It's time to recycle some of your favorite, holiday-themed fabrics into a festive tote that can be the workhorse of your holiday potlucks and shopping, and it makes a great gift. You can start with one piece of fabric the size you need or do some piecing of unique, colorful bits of fabric and trim.
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  • It's time to recycle some of your favorite, holiday-themed fabrics into a festive tote that can be the workhorse of your holiday potlucks and shopping, and it makes a great gift. You can start with one piece of fabric the size you need or do some piecing of unique, colorful bits of fabric and trim.
    Materials you'll need:
    • A decorative and sturdy piece of fabric for the outside: 41 inches by 24 inches.
    • A lining that's 41 inches by 22 1/2 inches.
    • Two straps for handles: 32 inches long and 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Webbing works well and can be purchased by the yard at hardware and some fabric stores.
    • A piece of cardboard, 4 by 15 1/2 inches, for the bottom. Plastic needlepoint canvas works well, too.
    • Fabric to cover the bottom: 10 inches by 15 1/2 inches.
    • Stiff interfacing strip: 41 by 24 inches for across the top of the bag (optional if your fabric is fairly stiff to begin with).
    To piece your fabric first
    Cut a backing (can be muslin or an old sheet) 41 by 24 inches. Working from the center out — or across from side to side — place right sides together (the second piece on top of the first). Stitch along the edge, leaving 1/2-inch seam allowances to attach the second piece, then flip open to right side and add the next piece (right sides together), stitching and flipping open in the same manor.
    The pieces can be any size, and you can work along any edge as you add fabrics. You may want to topstitch trims on top or in the seams as you go. Once your muslin piece is covered, press your fabric. Now you are ready to make the bag.
    Bag construction
    1. Lay interfacing strip across top of inside of bag piece, lining up top edge.
    2. Press or pin in place. With right sides together, put lining piece on top of bag fabric, lining up along the top edge. Stitch across using a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Press seam allowance toward lining side.
    3. Fold top edge of bag down so lining and bag are even along the bottom edge. Cut webbing into 32-inch strap lengths, or a length comfortable for you. If making your own straps, cut and fold fabric several times to create the strap width and length. Stitch down one side on top of folded edge to finish straps.
    4. With right side up, work on a flat table surface. Visualize your piece as now the front and the back. Pin the straps to the bag 6 inches down from the folded top edge and 6 1/2 inches apart.
    5. Use a fabric square (with edges turned under) to cover the end of each strap. Topstitch down, randomly zigzagging or working neatly around the edges and stitching across both ends to reinforce the stitching and make the handle attachment sturdy.
    6. Open the end of the bag and place right sides together. Line up the seam where the lining and the outside fabric meet. You will sew all the way from the lining edge to the outside fabric edge. Open this seam flat and press.
    7. Fold the inside of the bag down and bring the seam together at the raw edge (which is the bottom of the bag).
    8. With the right sides together, sew across the bottom of the bag (stitching from the lining side), using a 1-inch seam allowance.
    9. To make the corners, fold the bag, lining up the seams and leaving a triangle sticking out.
    10. Draw a line, then stitch across 4 inches down for the point. The seam will be about 4 inches long. Repeat this step at the other end.
    11. Fold, then whipstitch the end of the triangle to the seam allowance at the bottom of the bag.
    12. Measure the bottom of the bag and cut your cardboard the same size. Make a sleeve of fabric for the cardboard, then lay in the bottom of the bag. Whipstitch or glue the bottom in place.
    Diane Ericson's studio is in the Ashland Art Center. View her work at www.dianeericson.com.
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