New Tote Instructions

AATote examples
Examples of the redesigned totes. Some of these shown here have smaller pockets, but all the new kits have the longer pockets mentioned in the instructions.

These are illustrated instructions for making the new smaller totes that members of Christ the King Lutheran donate to the women’s shelter, Interact of Wake County. Originally we made larger totes with directions located here: Large Totes: Illustrated Example . A blog post I did for Peace Presbyterian church about these totes can be read here: Sewing Hearts Together: Working with InterAct .

Because Interact has been receiving suitcase donations that work better than the large totes, we redesigned the totes to this smaller, more useful design. This design includes two large outer pockets on each side and a smaller pocket inside.

The Kit

AKit contents
Sample parts of a kit

The kits (available on the outreach table at Christ the King) should include a 20″ x 40″ piece of fabric, a small pocket, two 20″ long pockets, two handles about 51″ long each, and a sheet of instructions. If something is wrong or missing from your kit, call or email the address on the instruction sheet. Or just return the kit with a note about what’s wrong and take a different one.

The instructions in italics below are taken from the instruction sheet.

Step 1

“Be sure all tote body (20″ x 40″ piece) outer edges are serged or zigzagged to prevent fraying.” 

BSerged edge
Serged edge of tote body. If you don’t have a serger, use zigzag stitch.

Step 2

Fold down ½” on both narrow ends of tote body and sew down to create the top edge of the tote. Can use a decorative stitch here if you wish.”

CTop of tote2
Step 2

Step 3

“Center the smallest, narrowest pocket to the INSIDE of one side of the tote and about 6½” from the top.  Sew sides and bottom of pocket.”

DMeasuring inner pocket2
Step 3

Remember to center this pocket between the sides to avoid sewing the handles through it.

Step 4

Position matching pockets on outside of tote so they are 6″ from top of tote. Pin to each tote side. Sew the bottom of each long pocket (making sure the opening is toward the top of the tote). The sides will be sewn later.

EMeasuring outer pocket3

Sometimes there is a mismatch between the width of the tote body and the the outer pockets. If in your judgement the mismatch is too big, then trim so that the sizes match. Sometimes this will require refinishing the edge if the serged or zigzagged  part is cut off.

Step 5

“Pin handles on outside pockets and outside of tote so that the loop extends 11” above the top of the tote. Evenly space and keep the inside smaller pocket between the handles to avoid sewing through the inner pocket, if possible. Sew handles in place down both sides of the handles’ outer edges and across the bottom. Create a box seam on the handle at top of tote to reinforce the seam here. Do this for each side.”

FPinning handles 2
Pinning the handles. It’s not clear in the photo, but the two sides of the handle should be the same distance apart all the way up the tote.
GSewing handles
Sewing the handle
HExample of box reinforcement
Closeup of the box seam reinforcement at the top.
I Inner seam
View from the inside. The handle seams shouldn’t overlap the inner pocket. Sometimes this is not possible if the inner pocket is large, and exceptions can be made.

Step 6

Turn tote RST and pin sides, lining up edges. Sew these seams twice sewing pockets into the side seams.

JSewing side seams
Preparing to sew the side seams. Make sure your needle is sufficient to go through all four layers of tote and pocket fabric.

Step 7

Create a 6” box bottom by pinching side seam at base of tote to create a triangle w/side seam of bag going exactly down the center. Mark a line 6” line across triangle keeping side seam centered. Stitch across marked line. Repeat at other corner. See illustration.** Turn tote right side out and you’re done!

Example of box bottom seam on one side. Do this on both sides.

The Finished Tote!

When you are finished, be sure to look over your work. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it shouldn’t be shabby. Watch out for weak seams, dangling threads or other obvious flaws that can be quickly remedied.

NCompleted Tote
The final product

AATote examples 2

An assortment of totes that were completed on the Day of Service at Christ the King

Thanks for reading and let me know if anything needs to be made clearer.


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