How to sew on handles to a quilted tote bag

Handles – of course, our bags need handles. The question is whether you want to make handles or use a commercially bought product. As well, do you want to add any clasps, rings or feet to your bag? So many options. Let’s get started on finishing the quilted designer tote bag.

Bag accessories and handles

I decided to use a commercially made handle which I picked up at my LQS in black. I do want the handle a bit longer though as I know I’ll be putting the bag on my shoulder. For this I’ll need to make a handle extension and these extensions will also be how I connect the handles to the bag.

Using leftovers of my feature fabric I sewed 2 – 2″ strips together and pressed the seam open.

Then I folded each side of the strip with wrong sides together into the middle seam. Pressing well with steam. You may want to use a spray starch at this point to get nice crisp fabric and edges.

Fold edges over to center of strip

Once pressed, I folded the pieces together again to create about a 1″ strip of fabric and stitched along each edge of the fabric with black thread.

Fabric stitched at each edge

After cutting the fabric into 6 – 6″ lengths I attached one to each ring on the handle. The sewing for these doesn’t need to be fancy or perfect as it will be hidden within the bag.

Fabric loops attached to handle rings

I’ll put these 2 swivel clasps at each end of the bag. These can be used to attach a long shoulder strip also, if I choose to make one, or to attach small pouches that hang into the bag. I added these because I didn’t put any pockets in the lining bag. Also the clasps are perfect for hanging a small wallet, sunglasses case or cell phone case from it so that you don’t have to search to the bottom of the bag for them.

Swivel clasps attached to fabric loops

The handles and the clasps need to go in-between the inner bag and outer bag when sewing everything together. After turning the outer bag right side out it gets placed inside the inner bag right sides together. Match up the seams at the side panels to make sure everything is aligned correctly.

Place the fabric loops with clasp pieces at the ends of the bag pinning them in place between the two bags. There’s quite a bump here so a stiff pin is needed. I used some heavy duty T-pins that I had in my drawer. Do the same for the handles in the center of the front and back panels making sure to place them evenly on each panel.

Place fabric loops & clasps between inner & outer bag

Continue pinning the bags together. I placed the pins about 3″ apart. And a pin on either side of the seams to make sure they stay put.

Inner and outer bags pinned together

I realized that once I had the bags pinned together I hadn’t left an opening in the bottom panel to pull the bag through once sewn together so I had to do a bit of reverse sewing…

Opening for outer bag to be pulled through

Sew the bag together using the free arm of your machine. My machine was sitting down from the table top and I should have set it up on the table as it would have been easier to move the bag around the free arm. I accomplished what I wanted and the bag is together.

Pull the bag through the hole.

Outer bag pulled through opening in inner bag to create one unit

Then sew up the hole with a thread that blends in with the inner bag fabric. This can be done by hand or by machine. I did mine by machine.

Opening ready to be closed

Last but not least arrange the inner bag down into the bag and sew a topstitch around the top of the bag. Decreasing the foot pressure is a definite plus when doing this last set of stitching.

This bag has ended up being a rather large bag which will fit a cutting mat and a 24″ ruler on a slight angle plus a multitude of other quilting supplies. Or it would make a great knitting bag or just a very large purse. What are you going to use yours for?

Completed designer tote bag

I have lots of accessories left along with a couple of zippers so I am thinking there may be some more bags in my future. This one was a lot of fun.

Finishing the quilted designer tote bag was quite easy and resulted in a very cool chic bag. Happy Quilting!

This is part 5 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 4:  5 sewing tips make a quilted tote bag perfect

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