Tote Bag from Quilt Blocks


I have quite a few 12″ quilt blocks that I’ve made just for fun. One of my favorites is a block from Carol Doak’s book 50 Fabulous Paper Pieced Stars book. The blocks have been sitting in my quilt block pile for quite some time, waiting for their future home. The time has come to turn it into a tote bag for my friend Paula. We’re planning to go on a cruise to Alaska next year and this block is the “Alaska” block from Carol’s book. I love the Frozen-esque colors!


To turn two quilt blocks into a tote bag is straightforward. My favorite tote bag size is 12″ x 12″ x 5″ with 30″ straps. The first step is to choose some fabrics for the remainder of the exterior (the sides and bottom) and the interior. I also use the exterior fabric for the shoulder straps.


You need 2/3 yard of the exterior fabric and 1/2 yard for the interior (for 45″ wide fabric). Choosing coordinating fabrics is probably my favorite part of the process. I found two fabrics that I like at JoAnn Fabrics. I cut the following from each:

  • Exterior fabric
    • (2) 3″ strips cut from selvage to selvage for bag sides and bottom
    • (2) 6″ strips cut from selvage to selvage for straps
  • Interior fabric
    • (1) 15″ strip cut from selvage to selvage for the interior pieces
  • Exterior interfacing (Pellon Fusible Thermolan Plus TP971F)
    • (2) 15″ x 17.5″ rectangles
  • Interior interfacing (Pellon Fusible Featherweight 911FF)
    • (2) 15″ x 17.5″ rectangles
    • (3) 6″ wide strips (enough for 60″ in length)

For the exterior fabric, cut each 3″ wide strip into (2) 12.5″ long strips and (1) 17.5″ strip. Sew the shorter strips onto opposite edges of each block. Then along the bottom edge, sew the 17.5″ strip. I used a 1/4″ seam allowance on this project.


Iron the whole thing flat and fuse the exterior interfacing to the back side. If you want to do some quilting, this is your chance. I did some stitch-in-the-ditch just to keep the whole thing together.

Put the two exterior rectangles right-side-together and sew along 3 edges using a 1/4″ seam allowance:


Box the corners right-sides-together like such (stitch then trim):


For the interior pieces, apply the interfacing and then sew 3 sides, leaving a hole for turning in the bottom.


Box the corners.

Now let’s make the straps. You need 30″ of strap for each handle. Apply the 6″ wide interfacing to the 6″ wide exterior fabric strips. Then fold the fabric lengthwise as shown and stitch along both edges of the folded strap 1/8″ to 1/4″ from each edge:


Cut each strap to 30″ in length and attach the straps to the outside of the exterior of the tote like this. Note that the strap edge is about 3″ away from the center side seam:


Carefully place the exterior of the tote inside the interior of the tote, like one grocery bag inside the other. Make sure that right sides are together. Pin the top edges together and stitch all the way around 1/4″ from the top.


Now you can turn the bag right-side-out by pulling the exterior tote through the hole you left in the interior. Close the hole in the bottom of the bag by hand or machine. Carefully pin the top edge of the bag so that the edge is nice and neat. Top stitch 1/2″ from the top edge of the bag.


Ta da! All done. Enjoy your handsome new tote bag.


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