April 12, 2011

Preschooler Library Tote Tutorial

An easily printable copy of this tutorial is found at:

I love tote bags for little ones.  No pesky zipper to slow you down!  Of course, that does mean your cherished dolls or cars may fall out at any moment, but it’s a risk we take around our house.  The problem is that most tote bags are too big for preschoolers.  Even the bag my daughter’s preschool gave her is too big.  I measured her school bag, downsized it, and found a better size for her.

This idea isn’t new.  I’m sure you can find several similar bags out there.  I love this one by Noodlehead:
And I really liked the idea of having a place for your library card like this bag:

If you’d like to make one like ours, here you have it:

Lining Fabric:  Cut 2 rectangles 12.5” x 13.5”(bag lining), cut 2 rectangles 3.25” x 4.75” (card holder), cut 2 rectangles 12.5” x 7” (outer pocket), cut 2 rectangles 4” x 20” (straps)
Outer Fabric:  Cut 2 rectangles 12.5” x 13.5”(outside of bag), cut 1 rectangle 4.5” x 4”( Velcro closure)
Clear Vinyl: Cut 1 rectangle 3.5” x 2.25”
Velcro:  (whatever width you have on hand – I used ¾”) Cut one piece 1” long
Interfacing:  If you choose a lightweight fabric (such as cotton) for your lining or main fabric, I suggest using interfacing on the main parts of the bag: outer bag, bag lining, outer pocket.  You’ll be much happier with the result if you do!
Seams: I used 1/4" seams throughout.

Let’s Sew!!
1.      Apply interfacing if needed to the pocket, outer or lining fabrics of the bag.

2.      Bag Lining:
  • Place the two 12.5” x 13.5” lining pieces right sides together.  Sew both sides of the bag (13.5” sides) and bottom of the bag (one of the 12.5” sides).  Leave a 5” opening along the bottom to turn the bag once it is assembled. 
  • Realign one of the bottom corners of the bag – fold out the corner so that the seams lie on top of each other.  Cut off approximately 1” of the bottom corner. 

  • Sew the resulting opening closed.  Repeat with the other corner. 

Boxing the corners like that will help give your bag some structure.  Set bag lining aside.

3.   Straps: (perform this step for both straps)
  • Fold the 4” x 20” fabric lengthwise and iron to form a crease down the middle. Open the fabric.
  • Fold over each edge to meet the middle crease and iron. 

  • Fold again at the middle crease and iron. Topstitch 1/8” from each side. Set straps aside.

4.      Pocket:
  • Place the two 12.5” x 7” pieces right sides together and sew along one of the 12.5” sides only.  Open fabric and fold back at the seam.

  • Iron or finger press, and topstitch 1/8” from the edge along the seam only.  This will be the top of your pocket.

  • Lay one of the outer bag pieces right side up.  Align pocket with the bottom edge of the outer bag piece and baste in place along the three raw edges.  Set aside.

5.      Card Holder:
  • Place the vinyl in the BACK center of one of your 3.25” x 4.75” pieces and stitch in place.

  • Carefully cut the fabric from the front of the vinyl.
  • Use a small zigzag stitch to keep fabric from fraying around the edge of the vinyl.
  • Fold over ¼” of one of the short (3.25”) sides and iron. Be careful not to iron the vinyl!  Straight stitch or zigzag stitch in place.

  • Lay vinyl piece on top of the other 3.25” x 4.75” rectangle (both right sides facing UP), aligning the three unfinished sides.  Fold the three unfinished edges under by ¼” and carefully iron.

  • Pin the card holder to one of the outer bag pieces (mine is on the same side as the pocket) and sew around outer edge.  Be careful not to sew the card holder closed!

  • Use a tight zigzag stitch along the raw edge at the side to prevent fraying.

6.      Velcro Closure:
  • Sew one side of the Velcro to the top middle of the outer bag piece you have been working on.  I placed mine approximately 5.75” from the left edge, and ¾” down from the top edge.  Set bag piece aside.

  • Create the tab for the opposite side of the bag:
    • Iron, fold, and topstitch the 4.5” x 4” piece of fabric in the same way as the straps in step 3.  If you are using a fabric that frays, either fold one end under, or zigzag stitch the end since it will be exposed.
    • Sew the opposite piece of Velcro to the finished end of the tab.

    •  Baste unfinished edge of the tab (Velcro side facing out) to the right side of the other outer bag piece (see photos in next step).

7.      Baste Straps in place:
  • For each outer bag piece, baste one of the straps 2” from each edge.  Be careful not to twist the strap.

8.      Sew Outer Bag:   Right sides together, sew around sides and bottom of the outer bag pieces.  Realign bottom corners of bag, cut off a 1” triangle as you did to the lining in step 2 and sew the openings closed.  Turn outer bag piece right side out.

9.      Sew Lining to Bag (YOU ARE NEARLY DONE!!!):
  • Bag lining should be inside out.  Outer bag should be right side out.  Place the bags right sides together (put the outside tote bag INTO the lining piece) and sew entirely around the top of the bag.  Make sure straps and Velcro tab are pushed to the inside!

  • Turn bag right side out through hole in lining.
  • After making sure everything is where you want it, sew the lining hole closed.  You can do it by hand, but it’s on the inside of a bag for kids, so mine are sewn by machine!
  • Push lining into the bag and topstitch around entire top of the bag for a finished look.
Step back and admire your handiwork!  That is, if your preschooler gives you a chance before claiming the bag...

If you make a tote bag, I would LOVE to see it!  Please take a moment to upload photos on my Flickr site:

Feel free to make as many of these as you’d like for personal use only, and give credit where credit is due.

1 comment:

  1. So cute! What a great tutorial. I might need to make one for Lily. She's definitely my little bag lady.