Scene in Rectangles – Lined Tote Bag

Tote Bag Comprised Entirely of Rectangles

Tote Bag Comprised Entirely of Rectangles

Inside Patch Pockets

Inside Patch Pockets

I’ve discovered that there are many simple projects that can be completed using only squares or rectangles as your pattern pieces. This makes measuring and cutting out your pattern quite simple and you also only sew straight lines.  One project I completed, is a lined tote bag complete with inside pockets.  The pattern is based on instructions from the book Sewing in a Straight Line by Brett Bara (City Girl Tote).  I modified it to include two inside pockets and a magnetic snap closure.  All the pattern pieces used in this tote consist of rectangles that you draft yourself.

Two rectangles of a cotton canvas duck were used for the outside, each were 81cm X 51 cm  (32″ X 20″).  Make sure you square your lines when drafting your rectangles using either a triangle, T-square or even a square quilting ruler.  Two rectangles of medium weight cotton fabric were used for the lining with two smaller rectangles of lining fabric for patch pockets, one on each side.  Both the exterior tote and the lining have boxed corners to provide more shape and structure to the tote.  For more information on boxing corners, click here.  Two smaller rectangles comprised the facing at the top of the tote and four long rectangles of the lining fabric, along with fusible interfacing made up the handles.

Lining and Facing

Lining and Facing

Eight pieces of grosgrain ribbon (two for each handle) were sewn on with zigzag stitching to add some design interest.  Coincidentally, the cut ribbon also consisted of very long rectangles.  The lining was attached using the “bagging” method. This method is not too difficult and professional looking.  For more information on how to line using the bagging method, click here.

You can then add a magnetic snap closure to the inside facing and you have a sturdy, roomy tote to take shopping.

A Roomy Tote, Equipped to Handle A Shopping Trip

A Roomy Tote, Equipped to Handle A Shopping Trip

Easy Embellished Scarf (with yo-yos)

I found some fabric in the ‘ends’ bin that I had to have.  The labels in these bins always say “100% unknown fibre content” which makes them all sound so mysterious and exotic, but it is very likely 100% polyester satin.  However, one side is a smooth pale green and the other side is a pale textured aqua with a sheen and it could very easily pass for dupioni silk!


I didn’t have a lot of the fabric and wanted to showcase both sides of it, so I made a scarf.  I cut a rectangle, double folded the hems on all four sides, about 0.5 cm (quarter-inch) and added some machine embroidery along both short ends.  My machine is not fancy in this regard but there are a few options to choose from.  If you look closely, you can see the one I selected consists of tiny rectangles joined together to form a herringbone line.  herringbone embroiderySince the material is thin, the larger satin stitches I tried on it made it pucker too much.  I have since bought water-soluble backing to use in future machine embroidery projects to see if that makes a difference.

I added some fabric yo-yo’s (remember yo-yo’s?) as embellishment in different sizes, using both sides of the fabric.  I also sewed on some matte aqua buttons in the centres of some of the yo-yo’s. scarf yo-yo embellishments On the opposite sides of the yo-yo’s, I attached some coordinating buttons.  This was to provide some stability as well as disguise the thread used to attach the yo-yos to the scarf.  I wasn’t sure how else to do this, so I chose the buttons.  If you know of an alternative method, please let me know.  Scarf backside with label

And, voila, a scarf!  I think it makes polyester look far more elegant than it probably should.

Super Simple Sewing: Rectangle Placemat Purse

purse tote stripedpurse tote flowers

This is my first sewing project and it is quite simple to do.  I made some small handbags using rectangular placemats.  By using a placemat, it ensures that you do not have to worry about finishing your seams, nor do you have to use your trusty ruler and scissors to measure and cut fabric. Also, placemats are often double-sided, so you have a choice as to which side you want to see on the outside while the inside looks equally spiffy in a coordinating fabric without having to insert a lining.

It is a very good first project for somebody still wary of measuring and cutting properly.  The handles used were plastic purse handles, although you can also get wooden ones, and were attached to the bag using grosgrain ribbon.

Supplies:  One rectangular placemat, scissors, ruler, plastic or wooden purse handles, chalk or fabric pencils, coordinating grosgrain ribbon (for widths and lengths, see details below), one sew on snap closure and buttons, beads or other embellishments (optional).

  1. Cut five pieces of grosgrain ribbon (four will need to be the width of the openings in your purse handles, as they are going to be threaded through these openings, and the remaining fifth piece will be for the closure so it can be of a different width).  Cut each piece approximately 10 cm (4-5”) long.  Find the centre of the short end of your placemat and mark this.  Measure the distance between the two ends of one handle and centre this measurement on the short end of the placemat.  Mark these two measurements (where the openings on the handle fall) on both the right and wrong sides of the placemat, approximately 2 cm (1”) down from this short edge.  Sew one end of the ribbon to the right side of your placemat on one of these marks.  Sew one end of the second piece of ribbon to the right side of the placemat on the other mark.  Do the same for the opposite short end of the placemat so that you have four pieces of ribbon hanging off the right side, two on each short end.
  2. Next, sew the fifth piece of ribbon, the closure, to the right side of only ONE short side of the placemat, right on the centre mark.   
  3. Thread one end of the handle ribbon through the opening in one end of a purse handle.  Then, flip it to the inside of the placemat and sew into place on the mark you made earlier on the inside or wrong side of the placemat.  Do the same for the other end of the handle.  One handle should now be attached to one short end of the place mat.  Then, repeat this for the opposite short end with the other handle and two ribbon pieces.
  4. Now, we are going to need wide grosgrain ribbon, it can be the same as the closure ribbon or something else.  Cut two pieces, each equal to the width of the short end of your placemat.  Sew one ribbon on each end of the placemat so that you cover the raw edges of the ribbon pieces that you just sewed on.
  5. Fold the placemat in half lengthwise, with right sides facing, and stitch both sides together.
  6. Then, box both corners and turn the bag right side out.  Click here to find out more about boxing corners.
  7. Now you can hand sew one half of your snap to the inside of  the closure piece of ribbon.    Flip over the ribbon to the other side of the purse and mark where you will need to sew on the other half of the snap.  Sew this half of the snap on the purse front and Ta Da!  You should have a handy purse sized tote.

You can also add embellishments, like beads, fabric flowers or buttons, to the front of your bag, I sewed on some jewelry pieces and buttons to the closure piece of ribbon, on the opposite side of the snap.

tote pursesmall tote - flowers