Sulky stabilizer makes a quilted bag sturdy

Spring is in the air and summer is around the corner. The flowers will soon be blooming here in my corner of the world – some of you have had flowers for quite some time now – lucky you. I just have to get my flowers from the fabrics in my stash or at my LQS. I picked up this gorgeous fabric recently full of vibrant red flowers with lime green centers. What an awesome color combo. No point letting this fabric sit in the stash as it’s perfect for my next project. It’s an easy pattern for a quilted designer tote bag. Trust me it’s easy because I don’t make a lot of bags and they have to be easy for me to make them.

Feature fabric

I also picked up a few other items at my LQS for the bag such as closures, zippers, handles, rings, and coordinating fabric of course.

Supplies for the tote bag

If you would like to follow along and make this easy designer tote bag for yourself then you’ll need to gather up these supplies:

1yd x 60″ wide of fabric or 2 yards if the fabric is 45″ wide – I’m using a cotton duck which is canvas-like and has more body to it for the bag

1½ʺ yds (45″ wide) of lining fabric – if a lighter fabric is used for the inside it makes finding things much easier as you’re not looking into an abyss of your bag

2 fat quarters of coordinating fabric – I’m using a lime green burlap and a green faux suede

1 – 9″ square piece of white fabric – I used a piece of silk but any white fabric can be used

1 – 6” square piece of black fabric – I used a piece of silk but any black fabric can be used

1 pair of coordinating handles or you can make your own from leftover fabric

12 buttons – 3 different ones, 4 of each

2 yds cording each of 3 different colors

1½ʺ yds (45″ wide)100% cotton batting (optional)

Thread for piecing and quilting – I used Sulky Cotton Blendables & Sulky Rayon for the quilting, Gütermann for the piecing

2 yds interfacing such as HEATnBOND Non-Woven Firm Sew-In Interfacing

The stabilizer

Cutting the pieces

Outer Bag

From my flower print I cut:

4 – 24″ x 6½″ strips – for front and back panel – Piece A

2 – 24″ x 4½″ strips – for front and back panel – Piece B

2 – 21″ x 5½″ strips – for side panels – Piece C

1 – 24″ x 5½″ strip – for bottom panel – Piece D

TIP you may wish to fussy cut depending on the fabric you have and if you want the pattern in any particular place on the bag, this will also depend on how much fabric you have as fussy cutting takes up more fabric

From the interfacing cut:

2 – 20″ x 23″ pieces – for front and back panel

2 – 20″ x 4½″ strips – for side panels

1 – 23″ x 4½″ strip – for bottom panel

From the batting cut:

2 – 20″ x 23″ pieces – for front and back panel

2 – 20″ x 4½″ strips – for side panels

1 – 23″ x 4½″ strip – for bottom panel

Note: the batting does add another layer to the bag which makes it heavier and a little more difficult to sew and maneuver under the sewing machine – it’s optional but does give the bag a softer feel.

TIP If you notice I have cut the interfacing and batting smaller than the outer bag pieces. The reason being is to make the sewing and construction easier. I did not cut my pieces smaller when I originally made my bag and wish that I had especially when it came to sewing the outer bag and liner bag together.

Inner Bag

From liner fabric cut:

2 – 20″ x 24″ pieces – for front and back panel

2 – 20″ x 5½″ strips – for side panels

1 – 24″ x 5½″ strip – for bottom panel

Accent Fabrics

The burlap fabric – I added a stabilizer to the back of the whole fat quarter before cutting it. I had 3 reasons for doing this.

  1. to prevent the burlap from unraveling once it was cut
  2. to give the needle and thread something to grab onto when sewing since it’s such a loose fabric weave
  3. to stabilize the burlap so it wouldn’t stretch and twist out of shape when being sewn

I have a variety of Sulky stabilizers to choose from varying from water soluble to cut away to heat away.

Variety of Sulky stabilizers

The stabilizer I chose to use for this was a self-adhesive one that comes in letter size sheets from Sulky. It’s called Sticky Fabri-Solvy. This product can also be used as a design template for embroidery with its ability to go through printers or be drawn on.

Sticky Fabri-Solvy my stabilizer choice

Once the paper is peeled away just stick it to the back of the fabric. The stabilizer feels very fabric like and is very thin. It can be lifted and re-positioned with no difficulty.

I loved the sticky back as it meant no dealing with pins or spray glues – so easy and simple to use.

The stabilizer is water soluble so can be removed by submerging and agitating the project in warm water for 2-3 minutes. Once the glue is removed just air dry on a towel or in a dryer. I decided just to leave the stabilizer in the project and not worry about removing it as I figured it wouldn’t make any difference to the bag if it remained in place and I doubt my bag will ever be washed and if it is, it will come out then.

Peel away backing on stabilizer

From the burlap cut:

5 – 2¾″ x WOF strips; sub cut one strip into 4 – 2¾″ x 5″ rectangles

From the faux suede cut:

4 – 4″ squares

8 – 3″ squares

From the black silk cut:

4 – 2½″ squares

From the white silk cut:

8 – 1¾″ squares

Finally we can get down to some sewing now that the pieces are all cut. We’ll start with the front and back panels of the bag as they need to be pieced.

For all the sewing I have used a ⅜″ seam allowance. This just gives the bag a bit more stability at the seams than the usual ¼″ seam allowance.

Sew a small burlap rectangle to one end of each of the 4 burlap strips. They’ll be longer than 24″ but that’s okay as they can be trimmed after the panels are sewn together.

Sew a burlap strip to each piece A and press the seam towards piece A. Sew a piece B to the burlap strip on 2 of the units just made and press the seam towards piece B. Then sew the remaining units with the burlap and piece A to the bottom of the units just sewn matching up the burlap piece to piece B. Press the seam towards piece B.

The front and back panels should look like this. Trim off any excess burlap to be even with the feature fabric.

One of the bag panels sewn together

So this easy pattern for a quilted designer tote bag is beginning to take shape and tomorrow we’ll continue quilting the panels. Happy Quilting!

This is part 1 of 5 in this series.

Go to part 2:  3 solutions to stop thread breaking when sewing

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