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Part 2 – 10 super-useful, time-saving notions for quick and easy bag-making

by Michael Smith

Yesterday, in Part 1, I talked about using HeatnBond Quilter’s Edge iron-on adhesive to position pocket pieces, trims, handles, etc. and using the clever Clover Wrap ‘n Fuse Piping cording to make quick and easy piping in a flash!

Today, I’ll share some more fun, time-saving products and notions to help making your bag-making quicker and easier, with more professional results.

The tote bag pattern I use most frequently is The Everyday Tote by Elaine Theriault for Northcott; a FREE pattern from their website!

4 versions of The Everyday Tote bag pattern by Elaine Theriault for Northcott – a FREE pattern from their website

I think one reason why bag making has become so popular with quilters is that we’re always looking for fun projects to use up some of our stash. How many of you out there feel as if you’ll never use it all, or, perhaps you’re like me and say every January that you won’t buy any new fabric all year till you use up more of what you already have on hand? I’ve said that probably the last 5 years and my stash has somehow grown bigger every year! LOL!

The Everyday Tote is a great pattern to use up some of that stash! To make quilting cotton more suitable for the rough wear and tear your tote bag will likely endure, you’ll need to beef it up to make it firmer and more stable. The Everyday Tote pattern calls for Fusible Fleece and Fusible Interfacing. My favorites are by HeatnBond, the grand-daddy who seemed to invent iron-on adhesives.

Use HeatnBond High Loft Fusible Fleece to add body, shape and stability to ordinary quilting cotton.

HeatnBondhas an iron-on adhesive for it seems every type of fabric and every type of need, so it’s important to read the packaging to ensure you get the correct product for your project. Some adhesives are no-sew, so they are not meant for hand-sewing or even sewing by machine. These are permanent adhesives meant to withstand the test of time, so again, take the time to read all the instructions first.

Conveniently, many adhesives are available in smaller packages, so it’s a great way to buy a bunch and experiment. I like to cut them into 6” swatches, label, and tuck into a page protector so I have a point of reference to which I can go back.

Test swatches of the various fusibles commonly used when constructing tote bags

Using fusible fleece and fusible interfacing are great stiffeners for tote bags as you can still sew through them, and you can use every bit of it. Don’t let any scraps go to waste! Simply cut the edges straight and arrange them on the back of your fabric, butting the edges together. Don’t overlap, but place next to one another and carefully fuse into place. Because your tote bag will be lined, no one will ever know that the fleece or interfacing wasn’t one large piece. With proper fusing, the pieces will stay in place regardless of wear and tear on the bag.

On the left is the rough, bumpy “wrong” side with the fusible added to the HeatnBond Fusible Fleece. On the right is the smooth, “right” side, which has no fusible on it.

HeatnBond non-woven fusible interfacing comes in light, medium or heavy weight, depending on the project and the results you desire. For The Everyday Tote, I personally prefer using the Heavy Weight fusible interfacing as it adds more body, a little extra stiffness to the fabric which will be used for the lining and pockets of the bag.

HeatnBond non woven fusible interfacing and fusible fleece are available in convenient pre-cut packages, and by the yard on the bolt

Alternatively, another method to add body to fabric is to quilt it. Yes, imagine that, quilters quilting quilter’s cotton – say that 10 times fast!

Before cutting out the pattern pieces to size, layer your outer bag fabric over batting, and possibly a very lightweight fabric or non-woven fibrous material as a backing. There are many brands and types of batting on the market, but one of the oldest, tried-and-true is Fairfield.

Fairfield has many types of batting for all your quilting needs – my favorite is 80/20; 80%cotton blended with 20%polyester

Fairfield produces many different types of battings; 100% cotton, bamboo blend, etc. but my favourite for tote bags, table runners, etc. is Fairfield 80/20, which is 80% cotton blended with 20% polyester. It provides the softness and breathability of cotton, with the stability and durability of polyester. It shows great dimension when quilting, yet doesn’t add weight or stiffness to the quilt or tote bag.

Fairfield 80/20 Batting has loft to show dimension without added bulk, weight or stiffness

Quilt whatever pattern design you desire, but typically I’ll quilt a cross-hatch grid 2” apart. Alternatively, for a more modern look, I’ll stitch parallel lines of quilting the width of my walking foot.I always cut a little test swatch to practice and experiment with different quilting ideas and techniques. You’re the designer so quilt as desired!

Always do a little text swatch to practice and experiment quilting ideas

I hope you’ll join me tomorrow when I share more of my 10 favorite products and notions for quick and easy bag making.

This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1: 10 super-useful, time-saving notions for quick and easy bag-making

Go to part 3: Part 3 – In quilting notions, Clover is my lucky charm

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