Sunday, March 27, 2016

Eleven Totes that Used Up My Problem Fabrics

Some fabrics are impossible to work into a quilt. They're too thick or too strange or just too - something.

But - assuming they're sturdy - you might be able to move them out of your stash and turn them into one-of-a-kind environment-protecting conversation-piece tote bags. Here are some examples.

1. Australian Foldaway Tote A -  I never go anywhere without a bundled foldaway in my purse. A couple of years ago, I made one out of anti-smoking cartoon fabric (blogged here), which grocery baggers found entertaining. But about a month ago, that bag mysteriously vanished. So here's the replacement, made from a sturdy Australian canvas that my DH brought back from a trip down under ten years ago:
I auditioned this fabric for many quilts over many years, but could never work it in. Reason one is because it's so brown. Reason two is that it's thick canvas. But it's perfect as a tote! Here's the bag folded into its front pocket: 

2. Australian Foldaway Tote B -  My DD liked the one above so much she asked me to make her one from the OTHER piece of sturdy Australian canvas that my husband brought home, which had ALSO been sitting around in my stash for a decade, awaiting a purpose in life.  
You can almost see the pocket front and center. 
Here it is bundled:
My how-to-make-a-foldaway tutorial with a magic reversible pocket is at the bottom of this post (look for the diagrams.)

4. The next bags don't fold into pockets, but they have other gimmicks. First, a reversible tote made from mahjong fabric. I made it long, to fit a friend's mahjong set. Side one:
Side two: 
Tip: Use webbing for handles to save time. That particular mahjong fabric may be out of print, but there are other options currently on sale, at one of my favorite fabric vendors, Find their mahjong fabrics at No affiliation.

5. Another reversible tote, with African fabric on one side.
A six-pointed star is an African symbol, but I'm not sure what it means. So it's accidentally Jewish. On the reverse side, I used this intentionally-Jewish holiday fabric : 
It made a nice book bag for a Hebrew teacher.

6. Next, I laid out a long piece of denim, and stitched on embroidered ribbons. I think most of them are from the 70s and 80s.  
A friend gifted me with the pseudo-Smurf ribbon - priceless, no? Based on the harvest gold, I'm guessing it's from the '70s. 
I used denim yardage as the base (it could have been made from a jeans leg.) Unfortunately, it developed a tear at the top left, which I repaired after this photo was taken.

7. The next three bags were made from a big book of brocade upholstery samples, fabric so thick that it was useless for a conventional quilts (though arguably useful for art quilts.) This first one one involves a deer (stag? springbok? antelope? muntjac?)
Because upholstery samples are relatively small, I made each pattern piece from a different fabric. So it's like a scrap project.

8. Fruity:
9: Rampant lions:
10. Collard greens!? Who designs these strange fabrics? And I like to use belts as straps. 
It's fun to embellish (and hold) the belt ends with buttons: 

11. Next, an unlined large tote I made for a wedding party to carry their quilted wedding canopy (chuppah) to their seaside ceremony. It used leftover fabric from the chuppah. 
Here's the matching canopy (Blogged here). The outermost border fabric was used on top of the bag. 
12. Finally, it's not a tote, but here's the purple octopus bag I showed a couple of weeks ago (in my review of QuiltCon), made from a trendy new Japanese fabric. 
( The pattern is  Yoyomama Designs' Fort Street Market Bag. No affiliation)
I'm showing it again because it now has fabulous buttons!  I originally attached the plainish matte purple button below, front and center, Then my friend Saraj sent me a set of insanely cute octopus buttons!  I placed one south of the original button. 
Is that not adorable? The other's on a pocket:
Thank you, Saraj, you made my bag! (Well, I made it, but you know what I mean!)  

Want to make a tote from your unique/problem fabrics (and buttons?) There are approximately 267,548 easy tote bag tutorials online. Find a really good one from Purl Soho here;  it is actually three  in one - easy, easier, and easiest. If that's not enough, Google "how to sew an easy tote bag"; you'll find more than enough to get you going.


  1. Glad you enjoyed them, Linda, thanks for stopping by!

  2. Another inspiring post - where do you find the time to make all these wonderful things? I have lots of fabrics that need to get used. This is a good idea.

    1. We could all go into the unique tote bag business and never run out of fabric!

  3. Great selection of idea seeds for the those fabrics of a certain denseness and aged in our studios. Thank you for the variety of useful and quirky ways with fabric. i was just thinking of making a batch of tote and little bags as one of a kind holds my shattered attention a little longer.Great post!

  4. Thank you for stopping by and your nice comment, Sonja. These are definitely excellent projects for short attention spans! I love what you said about "aged in our studios." Yes, these fabrics have been CURED over the years!!! Lol....

  5. I love the crossbody bag #7 and can't find a pattern; do you remember if you had one and, if so, where you found it? Thanks!

    1. Suzanne, you mean the one with the springing deer? I kinda made it up as I went along. But I just googled "How to sew a purse with a flap," and up came lots of ideas, including this excellent youtube tutorial - I think this is the basic idea of what I did: . Hope this helps!

  6. Where do you find the time?!!!

  7. Most of them are old, Kaja! Years of labor!?


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