I love working with scraps, and 2.5" squares are my favorites to use. For me, playing with simple patchwork scraps has been valuable in experimenting with color and value and useful in jumpstarting creativity. I turn to patchwork when I am feeling short on ideas but really need the therapeutic benefits of sitting at my machine and stitching pretty pieces of cloth together (can I get an "amen" for sewing therapy?).
Today I want to share one of my favorite scrap projects: the Patchwork Tote Bag! In my hometown, we have a ban on plastic bags and stores charge a $0.05 fee for each paper bag they provide to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags to reduce the environmental impact of single-use bags. After lots of trial-and-error in making grocery and tote bags, this is my go-to size. Ready to make your own?
Here's what you'll need:
- 156 x 2.5" squares (for the exterior)
- Batting measuring at least 22"x18" (I even used scrap batting!)
- 1/2 yd of fabric for lining
- 5" x WOF (width of fabric) for handles
- I recommend using a walking foot and 90/14 needle to smoothly handle all the layers.
Step 1: Sew patchwork squares together to form rows. For each panel, you will need to make 7 rows of 10 squares and one row of 8 squares. Seams may be pressed open or to the side to suit your preference.
Step 2: Pin patchwork panels together along the row of 8 squares. Sew panels together using 1/4" seam allowance.
Step 3: Place patchwork right side up on top of batting. Baste and quilt as desired.
Step 4: Trim excess batting from edges of patchwork panels.
Step 5: Fold patchwork panel in half right sides facing. Pin along the sides. Be sure to match seams and pin at each intersection! Sew along each side seam using 3/8" seam allowance and your walking foot. Press seams open.
Step 6: Now we're going to box the corner to make our bags roomy enough for a trip to the store! Pinch the notch at the bottom corner to align the bottom and side seams (be sure to match & pin seams of your patchwork for a polished look). Sew this corner shut with a 3/8" seam allowance. Repeat for the other side. Turn exterior right-side-out.
Step 7: Cutting the lining fabric. With your 1/2 yard of lining fabric, place WST and cut 16.5x20.5" rectangle. We want to cut a notch in the bottom corners so that we can box the corners of the lining (just as we did in the patchwork panels). To do this, measure and cut a 2.25"x2.25" square in the bottom left and right sides along the 20.5" edge.
Step 8: Pin lining panels RST along side seams just to notched corner. Sew side seams closed using 3/8" seam allowance. Press seams open.
Step 9: Pin along the bottom of the lining and sew using a 3/8" seam allowance; be sure to leave an opening of about 6 inches to allow you to pull the exterior through the lining when it's time to right-side-out the project. Press seams open
Step 10: Time to box both corners of the lining following the same procedure we did with our patchwork panels.
Step 11: Time to make the handles! Cut 5"xWOF along the fold.
Step 12: Pressing the handles. Open your fabric so that you have a piece that is 5" by approx. 40-42". Now fold in half lengthwise (WST) and press a center crease. Open your fabric. Fold the top half of the fabric lengthwise (WST) down to the center crease and press. Now press bottom half of fabric up towards center crease. Fold top half down to meet the bottom half along the center crease and press.
Step 13: Edgestitch along both long sides of handle. Now you should have one LONG handle!
Step 14: Time to turn that long handle into 2 shorter handles! Match the short ends of the handles and fold long handle in half. Cut handle in half along folded loop. Now you should have 2 handles of matching length.
Step 15: Time to put all those pieces together! Pin the handles to the top of your patchwork panels about 2-2.5" from the center; I used the edges of my patchwork pieces as a guide. Be sure your handles aren't twisted here! You can baste your handles in place now if you like. Slide the lining over the patchwork exterior (RST) and pin at the top. Sew around the top using a 3/8" seam allowance.
Step 16: Pull the exterior out through the opening in the bottom of the lining. Pin the opening of the lining closed and edgestitch using 1/8" seam allowance.
Step 17: Finishing touches! Push the lining down into the exterior and press at the top. Top stitch around the top edge of the bag.
And your bag is ready to be loaded up for your next grocery store run, trip the library, or adventure to the park! I'd love to see your finished bags, so send me a link or tag me on IG (BranchVineHandmade) to share your work! I'm already working on another controlled scrappy version of this bag, so follow me on IG to see how that iteration turns out!