February 6, 2011

Anthropologie-inspired patchwork tote

There's a Knock it Off contest over at seven thirty three. I cannot resist a contest so even though I have a million other projects started, I dropped everything to start yet another new project. The contest is to link up a project that was made by "knocking off" a brand. I started searching web sites looking for inspiration and quickly found this beauty at Anthropologie.

Patchwork. Words of wisdom. Embroidery. On a bag. I think I'm in love. $198??? Absolutely insane. So I made my own, and I think my bag is pretty amazing--

Many of my fabric scraps are leftovers from various projects--mostly baby quilts I've made as gifts and morsbags so this bag is a reminder of doing what I love. I think it will make a nice library tote or shopping bag.

When I make something, I'm not very good at taking pictures of all the steps so here's a not very thorough how-to.

Materials Used:
various fabric scraps (for patchwork panel)
canvas or denim fabric (for bag)
muslin (for lining)
Wonder Under
fusible interfacing
sewing machine
black and ivory thread
rotary cutter, ruler, and self-healing mat
black embroidery floss
word processing program
freezer paper

1. Select several fabric scraps for the quilted panel. You'll want a mix of lighter colors for the center of the panel where the embroidery will be and some darker/bolder prints. This was my first time making a diamond pattern, and I used this tutorial. I still had a heck of a time figuring it out. After measuring, cutting, and ending up with several rhombus-shaped pieces but no diamonds I decided to make a cardboard template. I was able to make better use of my scraps that way, too. Since I was fusing my patchwork piece to sturdy fabric and the patchwork was just decorative, I figured it would be okay that the pieces weren't all cut along the fabric grain. I almost called it quits several times, but finally ended up with a usable patchwork piece. I thought it was hideous while I was piecing it but ended up liking the finished product even though some of the points don't match and it's not completely squared up.

2. Square up the patchwork piece and fuse Wonder Under (or a similar product) to the back of of the piece. From my canvas fabric, I cut a piece 16 1/2 inches wide by 42 inches long for the body of the bag. (The size was mostly determined by the size of my finished patchwork piece so it would be centered on the front of the bag.) I like not having a seam on the bottom of my bag so I always cut one large piece when possible. Fuse the patchwork piece to the front of the bag. Using ivory thread, zig zag stitch along all the seams between the diamond pieces. Using black thread, zig zag stitch along the four outside edges of the patchwork piece.

3. For the embroidery, I chose the phrase "do what you love." Using my computer's word processing program I typed out the phrase in a font I liked (Bradley Hand ITC in 150 point). Holding a piece of freezer paper up to the computer screen (shiny side to the screen), carefully trace the words onto the paper. (Do not let your husband see you do this or you'll get a lecture.) Trim around the words, place on patchwork piece in the desired location and iron into place.

Using a needle and 6 strands of black embroidery floss, stitch along each letter. As you're stitching, if the freezer paper starts to pull away from the fabric you can iron it back into place. This was another time-consuming part of the project and my fingers still hurt the following day after stitching through all that fabric. (It was totally worth it, though.) After the stitching is done, carefully tear away the freezer paper while trying not to pull the stitching too much.

This is where the pictures/instructions get a little sparse. (There is a nice bag tutorial here at Cluck, Cluck, Sew.)

4. With right sides together, stitch the sides of the bag. I sewed a straght stitch on each side (a little larger than 1/4" seam allowance) and a zig zag stitch in the seam allowance to help with fraying. I made a box bottom on my bag with a 3 inch depth (shown on this tutorial here).

5. Make two handles (or you can use webbing). I cut two pieces of canvas fabric 4 inches by 18 inches and made morsbag handles. I normally don't interface my handles but since my fabric was a little stretchy, I did use interfacing here to make them a little more sturdy. (Instructions are under the "make one" tab on the morsbags link.)

6. Place the lining inside the bag with right sides together. Between the two layers of fabric, insert one handle in the front and one handle the the back. Be careful not to get the handles twisted and I did on my first attempt. Stitch around the top of the bag with a 1/2" seam allowance leaving an opening between the handle on the back of the bag for turning.

7. Turn bag right side out through the opening and topstitch around the top of the bag. I did one seam at 1/4 inch and one at 3/4 inch.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. What a great bag and a great knock-off! I love your quote, too.

  2. I circled this in the Antropologie catalog too and laughed at the price tag. $198? Yours is so, so much cuter!