Learn how to sew patchwork tote bags in less time than ever. Sewing these easy tote bags with my free pattern for gridded interfacing is the perfect fabric scrap buster.
The smallest tote bag is perfect for taking snacks to school, crayons and paper to church, etc. I already gave the largest tote bag away to a friend. And I am keeping the medium sized patchwork bag for myself. Those are almost the last of my Cotton + Steel basics scraps and I am excited to show them off.
By the way, did you know you can also make quilts with gridded interfacing?
This blog post has been converted to an optional PDF that’s optimized for printing. Find it here. The free Speedy Patchwork Tote Pattern is included in the blog post below and is free to read, print, and sew! Just hit CTRL +P on your computer to print. The Optimized for Printing PDF download for $3 is optional. Did you know you can get ALL the Optimized for Printing PDF files organized in a library to access anytime you want?
I made the smallest one first and shared it on social media. So many of you asked for the tutorial so I made it a priority. This post is a tutorial for the bag part of the tote and doesn’t include all the handles shown. The smallest bag has Sarah’s Perfect Fabric Handles, which you sew on at the end. And you can click here for the tutorial for the lobster claw handles – probably the cutest handles I’ve ever made.
Don’t miss all my 5 different ways to make bag handles.
So why are these called ‘Speedy’ Patchwork totes… what is the trick?
It’s this amazing product that I first saw at Quilt Market a few years ago. This is Quilter’s Grid 820, made by Pellon. It is lightweight fusible interfacing with a 1” grid printed on the non-fusible side.
With your patchwork pieces fused to the interfacing, sewing them together will be a breeze, and I’ve got tips to help you make it look perfect. I haven’t tried this for an actual quilt yet (I’ll have to report on that later), but since tote bags need interfacing anyway, it’s a perfect match! I buy Pellon 820 by the bolt on Amazon, but you can also find it by the yard here.
This diagram at left shows how to layout your patchwork squares for the Speedy Patchwork Totes.
You’ll need to cut 66 squares to make 1 tote. The small tote uses 2” squares and is approximately 7 1/2” x 3” not including handles. The medium tote uses 3” squares and is 12 1/2” x 5” (not including handles). The large bag uses 4” squares and is 17 1/2” x 7” (without handles).
You will also need:
1/4 yd – 1 yard cotton fabric for the bag lining
lightweight interfacing for the medium bag
fusible fleece for the large bag
Pressing Paper (or a similar product) to protect your iron
On the printed side of the Quilter’s Grid, mark out the boundaries of your bag front (5 patches x 4 patches). I make marks at the corners and a few marks along the sides to help me count. Then cut around the needed area, adding 1/2” all around.
This piece is cut for 3” patchwork squares.
Repeat for all of the pieces (bag front & back, bottom, and 2 sides) referring to the diagram above.
Turn the Quilter’s Grid over so the fusible side is facing up. Arrange 20 squares for the bag front as desired. If it is difficult to see the grid, place a plain piece of paper under it, or work on a white table.
Move the Quilter’s Grid and patchwork pieces to your ironing board. Cover with the Pressing Paper (to protect your iron from the glue) and press with a hot iron. You’ll need to press for about 5 seconds on each area to fuse. The Quilter’s Grid interfacing can’t take the hot iron, so the pressing paper will protect it too.
Arrange patchwork squares on all of the pieces of Quilter’s Grid that you cut, and fuse.
Working with the bag front, fold the fused piece along one of the vertical seam lines and stitch with a 1/4” seam allowance. Start and stop sewing on the interfacing.
To help you nest the seams and make the piece as flat as possible, clip the seam to the stitching in between each block.
Sew all of the vertical seams, clipping in between each block after sewing.
Now sew the horizontal seams. The clips that you made will help you nest the seams and make perfect looking patchwork corners.
Now press the seams flat. Place the Pressing Paper under the patchwork (to protect your ironing board from the glue) and use a pressing cloth to protect the interfacing from the hot iron. I use any handy fat quarter of fabric for a pressing cloth.
Repeat these steps with your other patchwork pieces.
Lay the patchwork pieces on top of the lining fabric and cut out a matching lining piece for each one.
Cut interfacing to match the lining pieces if you are sewing the medium sized bag. Cut fusible fleece pieces to match the lining pieces if you are making the large bag. The small bag doesn’t require any extra stabilizer. Fuse the stabilizer (if using) to all of the lining pieces.
If you would like plain handles like these, it’s time to make them! For this size straps, cut 2 strips 6” x 28”. Fold the strips in half lengthwise, press, and then fold and press the raw edges to the center. Fold in half again and press for a 1 1/2” wide strap. Insert a 1 1/2” x 28” strip of fusible fleece in the center, if desired. Sew along the strap, 1/8” from each edge. Then sew 3 more times along the middle of the strap. Repeat of the other strap.
Baste the ends of a strap to the patchwork piece for the bag front, centered along the top of the 2nd and 4th patchwork squares. Baste the other strap to the patchwork piece for the bag back. These straps will be sandwiched between the patchwork exterior and the lining in the following step. Hold them out of the way while quilting and finishing the bag.
Place the patchwork front piece and it’s lining right sides together. Sew along the top edge with a 3/4” seam allowance (1/4” below the patchwork edge).
Press the seam toward the patchwork, and then fold along the seam, wrong sides together. Press the top edge nicely.
Sew the patchwork back and the side pieces to their matching lining pieces along the top edge in the same way.
Pin the patchwork to the lining in several spots to hold it in place for quilting. Do this for all the pieces.
Pin the bottom piece to it’s lining piece, wrong sides together also.
Using the edge of your presser foot as a guide, sew quilting lines on both sides of all seams and along the top edge. Start and stop stitching on the interfacing each time.
Quilt the horizontal lines first. Then quilt along the vertical seams from the bottom edge, pivoting and turning along the topmost stitching line.
Quilt all of the pieces and then trim off the 1/2” of interfacing around them.
Place the bottom piece along the bottom edge of the front piece. Pin. Stitch with a 1/4” seam allowance.
Using scissors or your ruler and rotary blade, trim 1/8” from the seam allowance.
Fold the bag front and bottom wrong sides together along the seam and press. Stitch 1/4” from the pressed edge.
This step should have hidden the trimmed seam inside the bag.
Repeat to sew the patchwork piece for the back of the bag to the other side of the bag bottom.
Sew the bag sides to the front using the 2-step method used for the bottom.
Pin the bag sides to the bag back, sew with a 1/4” seam allowance.
Then turn the bag right side out and finish sewing the side seams from the right side. (The same as all the other seams.)
Now all that’s left is the corners. Turn the bag inside out and flatten the bag bottom against the side. Place a pin in the center.
You could sew straight across the corner, but with all the lumps and bumps, I found it easier to start in the center and sew to the edge on either side.
Trim close to the seam allowance.
Flatten the seam on the bag exterior and again sew 1/4” from the edge. Start in the center and sew as far into the corner as you can. Then repeat going the other way.
Sew the opening on the other bag corner in the same way.
And here we are! A beautiful and beautifully stabilized patchwork bag. The tutorial for my lobster claw handles is here. You could also try Sarah’s Perfect Fabric Handles tutorial (link above) or snag some pretty handles off a thrift store purse (see how I did it).
If you like the idea of speedy patchwork using gridded interfacing, check out my Craftsy class where I use it to make these baskets, tote bags, and zipper pouches.
This free pattern is included in my Ultimate List of Fast and Easy Tote Bags to Sew.
Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂