Julie Bowersett


Blog Writing Course Alumni

From Guide to Art Schools


Entries in I-cord (2)


Santa Tote Bag Tutorial


  • ½ yard 60” heavy weight wool
  • ½ yard cotton fabric for lining
  • sewing thread
  • embroidery thread and monogram design (optional)
  • 1.5” black grosgrain ribbon, 28”
  • scrap of gold lame
  • scrap of interfacing
  • scrap of fusible web
  • metallic gold thread
  • Yarn for trim (I used Lion Brand Fun Fur, Festive Fur and Homespun)
  • Double pointed knitting needles

The sample bag was made from coat weight red wool with a novelty cotton fabric lining.  All seams are ½” unless otherwise noted. 

Make a paper pattern.  Draw a rectangle 16” tall by 14” wide.  Cut out 2” squares from both lower corners.  Label the pattern piece.  I also like to make notes on the pattern so when I use it in the future I will have the details at my fingertips such as seam allowance and strap size.

Cut out two outer fabric pieces and two lining pieces.   If your fabric does not have an obvious right and wrong side (as with the wool) mark the same side of each piece with tape to be consistent when constructing the bag.

Cut two straps, 24” by 4” (note the size on the pattern for future use). 

Monogram, if desired.  The monogram should be centered vertically and placed 5” down from the top edge of the bag.

Fold each strap in half lengthwise and press.

Fold in each edge to meet at the fold line.  Press

Fold in half again along the original fold line.  Press.

Edgestitch the strap using a 100/16 topstitch needle and 3.5 mm stitch length.  A needle box placed under the back of the presser foot ensures a smooth start to stitching.

Repeat with second strap.

Sew one side seam in the outer fabric. 

Press seam open.  If you are using a heavy weight wool it helps to use a clapper to press the seam.

For the belt, cut 1-1/2” grosgrain ribbon 28” long.  Place top edge of ribbon 8” from the top edge of the tote (an easy way to do this is to align the fabric and ribbon on a gridded cutting surface as shown).  Allow the ends of the ribbon to hang off the sides of the bag.  Edgestitch in place.  Press. 

To make the buckle, draw a rectangle, 2 ½” wide by 2 ¾” tall onto the paper side of a piece of fusible webbing.  The center cut out is 1” wide by 1 ¼” tall with a small protrusion centered along one of the longer sides.  Interface a piece of lame with a piece of heavy weight interfacing.  Fuse the webbing to the interfacing side of the buckle and cut out along the drawn lines.  Center the buckle over the ribbon and fuse into place.  Satin stitch (zigzag 3.0 width, 0.4 length) along all of the edges using metallic thread, if desired.  Do not use metallic thread in the bobbin.

Attach the straps.  Remember to account for the unsewn ½” seam allowance along the outer edges.  Allow ½” of each strap end to overhang the top edge of the bag.  Using the photo above to aid in placement and placing the sewn edge of the strap to the inside of the handle, pin the strap in place.  On the unsewn edge, measure in 3 ½” and place the outer edge of the strap along that point.  The other end of the strap will be positioned 3” in from the sewn seam line.  There will be 5” between the two straps.  Stitch the ends securely in place.

Fold the bag in half, matching the raw side edges.  To ensure that the belt matches when sewn, begin by matching the belt at the seam line and basting across.  Check for accuracy and if necessary, remove basting and restitch.  Once the belt has been stitched to your satisfaction, pin the remaining side seam and stitch, easing to fit as needed.   Trim ends of the ribbon even with the fabric.

Sew the bottom seam between the square cutouts.  Press the seam open.  Box the corners by matching the cut edges of the square cutouts and stitch across.  If necessary, pin the bottom seam allowance open to ensure that it remains so when stitching.  Press flat.  Set aside the outer portion of the tote while you prepare the lining.

Stitch both side seams of the lining pieces, right sides together, leaving a 5” opening in one seam for turning the bag.  Press both seams open. 

Sew bottom seam and press open.

Prepare the boxed corners in the same manner as for the outer bag.  Press flat.

Turn the outer bag inside out.  Drop the lining inside the outer bag, right sides of fabric together, and pin along the top edge.  Stitch around entire upper edge.

Pull the lining out and press the seam allowances toward the lining (the wool will be pressed flat and the lining seam allowance will be pressed back on itself.)

Working through the 5” opening in the lining side seam, understitch the lining to the seam allowances.  You will be stitching on the lining fabric and through both the wool and lining seam allowances. 

Turn the bag right side out.  Reach through the opening in the lining and push out the corners of the outer bag very well.  Pin the opening in the lining closed and edgestitch (or, alternatively, sew closed with hand stitches).  Push the lining down into the bag.

Press the top edge with the iron, favoring the outer layer slightly, as shown.

This is the completed bag awaiting the trim.  Measure around the top edge of the bag with a tape measure to determine needed trim length.

The trim was created using three different white yarns from Lion Brand Yarn, Fun Fur, Festive Fur, and Homespun.  All three yarns were held together and knitted as one.  Knit a three stitch I-cord (Here is a great video that will walk you through knitting an I-cord if you don’t know how.)

Continue knitting until the desired length has been achieved and bind off.

Hand stitch the trim around the top of the bag, catching the outer layer of the bag only.



The Safari Bag

The design for this bag was based loosely on the size of a commercial paper gift bag.  Of course you can make your bag any size you want but when finalizing the dimensions I took into account how many bags I could cut from 54” fabric since I was planning to make 12.


First, create your pattern.  Using drafting paper draw a rectangle measuring 13.5” x 24” (this will allow for laying out four bags across 54” decorator fabric).  Mark the center of the long dimension (12” above and below the line).  Now draw the cutouts which will make the corners of the bag.  At the center mark, measure in 2.5” and draw a line parallel to the long edge.  Measure 1.75” on either side of the center mark and draw lines perpendicular to the last line.  You will have a rectangle measuring 2.5” x 3.5” spanning the center mark on the bag.  Repeat on the other long edge.  Along both short edges measure in 3 inches from the outer edge and make a mark on the pattern for strap placement.


Cut out the pattern, removing the paper in the rectangles you just created.  If you plan to use this pattern repeatedly you may want to cut one from poster board or some other durable material. 

Cut one outer fabric and one lining from the pattern. 


Make 1/8” snips at the center mark on both edges (two snips for each fabric layer) and at the strap placement marks along the short edges on the lining fabric only (four snips). 


Cut two 18” straps from webbing (or create your own straps from fabric).  If you are using a custom label sew it to the lining fabric now.  I centered mine 1.5” from the top cut edge.  You can also add pockets to the lining at this point if desired.



Baste the straps to the lining fabric before you begin constructing the bag (you can do this step later but it is easier to do while the fabric is flat).  Place the right side of the strap against the right side of the lining fabric, cut edge of strap even with the top edge of the fabric.  Place the strap to the inside of the strap placement snips.  Pin in place.  Repeat with the other end of the same strap and the other snip mark (ensure that strap is not twisted).  Repeat with the other strap on the opposite end of the fabric.  Baste across the straps ¼” from the fabric edge.


With right sides together fold the outer fabric along the center snips and stitch the sides seams using ½” seam allowances. 


Press the seams flat then press open (a point presser makes this task easier). 



Repeat with the lining fabric, leaving a 5” opening in the middle of one side seam for turning.  Press the seams flat then open.

Box the corners of the bag by aligning the cut edges of the cut out rectangles, matching the side seams to the center mark snips.  Pin, stitch at ½”.  Press the seam flat only.  Do this for both the outer and the lining fabric.  Turn the outer layer right side out.  Leave the lining wrong side out.  Drop the outer layer into the lining layer, right sides together, matching side seams.  Pin along the upper edge and stitch around entire edge, overlapping the stitching at the beginning and end.  Carefully press this seam flat and open. 

Turn the bag right side out through the opening in the lining.  Reach through the opening and push the corners of the outer fabric layer out.  Do not do this on the lining layer.  Sew the opening in the lining closed.  You can do this my hand or machine.  If by machine, pin the edges of the opening together and edgestitch 1/8” from the folded edges. 




Push the lining down into the outer bag and finger press the upper edge.  Press lightly with the iron.  Topstitch around the top edge of the bag.

You can stop at this point or add trim around the top edge of the bag.  Measure around the top edge of the bag to determine the length needed.   The eyelash trim I used on these bags was created using three different colors of Lion brand Fun Fur yarn (black, brown, ivory).  Holding all three colors together, knit an I-cord the length needed.  For a full look make sure you knit your stitches loosely.  For instructions on creating an I-cord please see this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcGj6tpqeJA

Tie the two yarn ends together forming a circle with the trim.  Fold in half at the knot and mark the other fold with a pin, dividing the trim circle in two.  Match the knot to one side seam (orange pin) and the pin to the other side seam (yellow pin), placing the trim around the top edge of the bag.  If possible, use long, flat head pins to pin on the trim; take a tip from the operating room and count your pins as you insert them and then again as you take them out – don’t lose a pin in the thick trim!

You can sew the trim on by hand or machine.  If sewing by hand use a curved needle and a backstitch.  For machine stitching make sure you have used plenty of pins to hold the trim in place.  Sew from the lining side of the bag directly on top of the previously stitched topstitching.  The trim will be down against the feed dogs.  Use a large tapestry needle to bury the yarn ends into the trim.