Yesterday I left MD and had to make a few stops on Alberta Street before heading home. I happened to park right in front of Red Sail, and I have been dying to get in there and see my new neighbor’s store. It was so lovely! I immediately saw some familiar pieces from past MD teachers: classic accessories from Zanna Printed Textiles and Cipriano Designs. I got to meet Stacy, the owner and chat about business and find out she is friends with my neighbor, duh, it’s Portland! Everything was impeccably displayed and her good taste in design is oozing throughout the store. Her iconic sailboat logo left me dreaming of summer.
I walked out with the need to sew something nautical! Off to Bolt I go…
As if the stars were aligned, I found the perfect fabric for my dreams of boating. Bolt carries a few bolts from the Anchors Away line from Dear Stella in canvas. Love. I decided to make a tote bag inspired from the ever-popular, always functional L.L. Bean Boat & Tote. Simple supply list: canvas and thick cotton webbing for my straps.
I have made a ga-zillion totes in my life, so a pattern wasn’t necessary. As long as you keep your exterior and lining pieces the same size, you can make your tote any size you like. My measurements were 24″ W x 20″ L. Both visually and functionally, tote bags look and operate better when the width exceeds the length. Both of the prints that I got were a bit busy, so I figured a simple white canvas would make the perfect accompanying fabric for the main body. I hate how my bags always get dirty on the bottom, so the navy boat print would be the bottom and the stripes would be the perfect lining.
The white straps on the white canvas seemed a bit lackluster so I added a backing of my stripes on each strap.
My edge-stitching sole attached to my walking foot made the straps a snap to sew on. When adding a bottom piece to a tote, you MUST attach your straps first. They do not need to extend all the way to the bottom, since they will be covered by the boat fabric. I simply decide how long I want my straps and pin them on. Use an acrylic ruler to line your straps up parallel to the tote side. Once pinned on, repeat for other side in the exact same position.
Adding a bottom is easy, I just cut out a piece 24″ W x 10″ L and stitched it on covering the straps with right sides facing and folded towards the top. When you fold it back to the bottom, both of the bottom edges should be aligned. Top stitch along the boat fabric with your edge stitching foot. REMEMBER! Always increase your length to at least 3.5 when top stitching. It will look so much better.
When you are sewing the straps down, be sure to leave a 1 1/2″ space between your cross-strap stitch and the raw top edge of your bag (as shown above). This allows you to push the straps out of the way when you stitch the tote exterior to the lining as your final step.
Stitch the lining, right sides together with a 1/2″ seam allowance around the two sides and bottom, leaving only the top opening unstitched. At this point, leave the two exterior pieces separate, because you can’t have a nautical tote bag without a monogram! Embroidery is much easier to hoop before assembling.
I chose a cheery orange to embroider my initials. I sat back and let the Bernette Deco 340 do all of the work. This machine has great monogram options to choose from.
Now at this point, you are ready to sew the two exterior pieces together, just as you did with the lining pieces. Using a 1/2″ seam allowance, stitch right sides together around the two sides and bottom.
To make your two dimensional tote into a three dimensional bag with a flat bottom, you have to flatten out the bottom by lining up your side seam on top of your bottom seam. Use the 45 degree angle on your 6″ x 24″ ruler to check the accuracy of your fold. The further from the corner you mark a line, the wider your bag bottom will be. I marked my line 4″ from the corner. Make the same marked line on all 4 bag corners – both corners of exterior and both on the lining. Remember, you must be consistent on all 4 corners. Straight stitch across all markings. Then cut off the corners 1/2″ away from your stitch line.
Place your lining right side OUT into your exterior fabric so that right sides are facing. Line up bottom and side seams and pin the top edges together. Be sure to tuck the straps down. Stitch around the perimeter of the top edge leaving a 6″ opening.
Now the fun part–reach your hand into opening you left and pull the tote right sides out. The final step is to iron the seam flat and edge stitch around the whole top perimeter. All ready for your boat cruise!