The Busy Bean

Houndstooth Tote – Summer Sewing Tutorial

Today it’s my turn to share my project for Jennifer’s Summer Sewing Contest.

Ellison Lane Quilts

I made this tote for Amanda last year, and I’ve been meaning to get this tutorial written up ever since. This is the perfect bag to throw your stuff in for a trip to the pool, or the park, or anywhere you need to go this summer.

Not every step here has a picture, or super detailed instructions. It’s already long enough as it is! But if you want anything clarified, please let me know and I’ll add detailed instructions for anything you need. I did put some pockets in my bag, but I’m not going to include them in this tutorial. However, I’m putting together a series of tutorials for zipper week! Come back June 11-15 for a series on inserting zippers in a variety of settings.

Here’s what you need for the tote:
1/2 yard light fabric (solid or semi-solid will show off the accent best)
3/4 yard dark fabric (solid or semi-solid will show off the accent best)
2/3 yard accent / lining fabric
Fusible fleece (like Thermolam by Pellon)
Woven interfacing (I use shape flex by Pellon – sf101)
6″ x 12″ piece Peltex or similar sturdy interfacing (optional)
Basic sewing supplies, sewing machine, thread, scissors or rotary cutter and mat.

I’m not a fan of wasting fabric, so if you don’t particularly care about that, you don’t have to follow my exact cutting directions. If you are like me and save every piece and cut what you can from scraps, I’ve made some handy diagrams of how to cut to maximize your fabric. Just click on the links for light, dark and accent to see individual cutting diagrams.

Step 1 – cut your fabric
Light
(4) strips 1.75″ x width of fabric (w.o.f.)
(2) strips 3.5″ x w.o.f. – sub cut into (17) 3.5″ x 3.5″ squares

Dark
(4) strips 1.75″ x width of fabric (w.o.f.)
(2) strips 3.5″ x w.o.f. – sub cut into (12) 3.5″ x 3.5″ squares, cut remaining 3.5″ strip into (2) 1.75″ strips
(1) piece 12.5″ x 6.5″ for bottom of bag
(2) strips 4.5″ x 24″ for handles

Accent / Lining
(2) lining pieces 18.5″ x 18.5″
(1) 3.5″ x 3.5″ square
(2) 1.75″ x 15″ strips

Fleece
(2) 18″ x 18″ squares
(2) 2″ x 24″ strips for handles

Fusible Woven Interfacing
(2) 18″ x 18″ squares

Step 2 – assemble the half square triangle units
*All seam allowances are 1/4″ unless otherwise stated*

Sew your 1.75″ strips together, one light to one dark, along the long side. Press seams toward the dark fabric. Cut your HSTs from these strips. I love love love the Easy Companion Angle ruler by Darlene Zimmerman for this. You can line up the center line and your bottom edge and get perfect HST every time with no fuss. If you don’t have this ruler (or a similar ruler) you can make your own template by cutting a 4.5″ square of heavy cardstock and cutting it in half along the angle. Just cut one triangle, then flip the ruler or template over and keep on cutting all the way down the line.

Sew these HSTs together into blocks, alternating your light and dark fabrics. Save two of each side (two with the dark fabric on the long side, two with the light fabric on the long side). You will use these to create the accent block.

Sew your 1.75″ accent strips to your short 1.75″ dark fabric strips. For your accent houndstooth, the accent color will serve as the light fabric. You will need to cut two HSTs with the accent fabric on the long side, and two with the accent fabric on the short side. Sew these HSTs to the HSTs you reserved with your light and dark fabric. Remember, treat your accent fabric like it’s the light solid fabric.

Press all seams toward your dark fabric. Trim blocks to 3.5″ (I know, you’re trimming kind of a lot off… This is the one time I’d rather waste a little more fabric than is strictly necessary in order to make sure they all square up to the size I need them).

Step 3 – assemble the patchwork pattern
Now you’re going to lay out your blocks to create the houndstooth pattern. Just remember to look for a few things to make sure you don’t sew a block on upside down and mess up the pattern. You should alternate rows vertically – one row with dark blocks and HST units, one row with light blocks and HST units. Also look at your HST units – where they meet in the corners, you should have the same color forming a little bowtie – white corners touching and dark corners touching. I found it helpful to take a picture after I laid it out and check the picture. For some reason, mistakes are so much easier to spot in pictures.

Start with the dark solid blocks on the left side, and arrange six rows across and five rows down. You will need two sides, each laid out the same, except on one side you’re going to replace one of your light blocks with your 3.5″ square accent block. Put your HST units with the accent strips around it to continue the pattern, again as if the accent were your light color.

Once you’ve got it laid out, sew your blocks into rows, then sew your rows together.

Step 5 – attach the interfacing to your pieces
Using the manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the Thermolam squares to your patchwork panels.
Fuse the woven interfacing to your lining pieces.
Fuse the Thermolam strips to your handle fabric, lining it up 1/4″ from one side.
Fuse the Peltex to your bottom 12.5 x 6.5 piece, leaving 1/4″ around each edge to reduce the bulk in the seam allowances.

Step 6 – quilt your patchwork design as desired
I stitched about 1/8″ away from both sides of each vertical and horizontal seam, and along every other diagonal seam. Just do whatever you want to get the look you want and to reinforce those seams so the patchwork doesn’t start to split with heavy use.

Step 7 – assemble handles
There are myriad ways to create handles. This is just the way I like to do it. Fold each handle right sides together and stitch a 1/4″ seam along the long end. This will put the interfacing on one half so it’s padded, but not super bulky. Turn inside out, using a tube turner, bodkin, or just a good old safety pin stuck to one end. Topstitch 1/8″ from edge on each long side. Set aside.

Step 8 – assemble outside of bag
I use double seams on all the sides and bottoms of my bags, just to help them hold up better. Sew your seam as normal, then sew again about 1/16″ – 1/8″ inside that seam allowance.

Sew your bottom piece to the patchwork pieces, lining it up right sides together, centered on the four middle patchwork blocks. Sew to one side of the bag, then the other.

Sew down the side seams of your bag, right sides together. Then sew the gusset corners. You’re going to fold the sides of the bag so the corner is squared up with the bottom piece. It’s kind of hard to explain, but you’re basically pinching the side of the bag together with the bottom piece so you can sew along the short side of your bottom piece. Hopefully it makes sense in the picture.

Attach your handles to the outside of the bag, lining them up with the seams on the 2nd and 5th patchwork blocks. Stitch them in place about 1/8″ from the top so the stitching will be hidden in the seam allowance of the bag. Set outside of bag aside.

Step 9 – assemble bag lining
If you’re putting pockets inside, now’s the time to do that.

Put your lining pieces right sides together, and sew along the sides and bottom, leaving a 6″ opening along the bottom for turning.

Cut corners to create the gusset, 3.75″ from the side and bottom seams on each corner. I cut my lining gusset just a little bigger than my outside gusset, this will allow for a little room when you load the tote down with stuff so the bottom doesn’t bulge out quite so bad. Now sew these gusset corners the same way you did the outside, matching up the side seams with the bottom seam. Turn your lining right side out.

Step 10 – attach lining to outside of bag
You’re getting close now. Leaving your outside piece inside out, insert the lining into the outside, right sides together. Match the side seams, make sure your handles are not sticking out the top, and sew all the way around the top of the bag, taking a backstitch at each side of the handles to give it a little extra strength so the stitches don’t pull apart here. Sew a reinforcing seam.

Step 11 – turn and finish!
Using the hole you left in the bottom of the lining, turn your bag right side out. It can be a little tricky to maneuver, but work at it a little and you can get the whole bag through that hole. Press the top seam, and topstitch around the top of your bag. Sew the hold in your lining closed by hand or machine. Some people don’t like to see that machine stitching on the lining, but it doesn’t bother me. Plus, I’m kind of too lazy to sew it by hand, and nobody but me will see it on the bottom of the inside of my bag. Right?

Now you can enjoy your super cute houndstooth bag and all the compliments that will come with it!

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10 Thoughts on “Houndstooth Tote – Summer Sewing Tutorial

  1. wow, this is a great tutorial! can’t wait to try it out this summer. :)

    thanks for sharing!

  2. It’s a great tote Colleen and a great tutorial. Thanks SO much for being a part of the blog hop!

  3. this is sooooo the right time for this tutorial! thank you! I want to make a quilted tote for my kids teachers and hadn’t the foggiest in how I was going to do it! thank you!

  4. I’ve had your original tote favorites on flickr since you first made it- so awesome! Thanks for this tutorial!

  5. This is a cute tote! Cannot wait to make it. Thanks for sharing….Judith, Texas

  6. Will bookmark this for “next time”! I had 2 UFO quilt squares and in my head THIS was the what I was going for. Halfway done – making everything harder than it needed to be without finding this tutorial earlier!

  7. I have never quilted before, but I love houndstooth, so I may have to give this a try! Wow-za!

  8. Love your bag and thanks for the tute.

  9. Pingback: The Busy Bean · How To: Welt Pocket with Exposed Zipper

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