how to make a stripe-y yellow teacher tote

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We put this together for our mama as a back to school gift. Teacher totes (well, good ones at least) have to fill all sorts of requirements- tons of pockets, big (but not huge), durable, and cute enough to double as a purse. Finding one that fits the bill is an exercise in futility. Which is where we come in…

To make a pocket-y, stripe-y, oh-so-functional teacher tote as well, you’ll need:
-a yard of upholstery weight fabric (mine is the large yellow stripes from Ikea)
-a yard of fabric for the liner (I used a Dwell Studio tablecloth, actually… love the botanical/bird print!)
-16″ of single fold bias tape in a color that coordinates with your outside print
-heavy weight interfacing
-a package of double wide bias tape
-fabric paint (optional)
-freezer paper (optional)
-sewing machine and supplies

1. Cut and label all your pieces.
A (strap) 40″ x 5″ one from lining fabric
B (bottom gusset) 13″ x 5″ one from exterior fabric, one from lining fabric
C (outside pocket) 13″ x 7″ one from exterior fabric
D (gussets) 17″ x 5″ two from exterior fabric, two from lining fabric
E (outside gusset pockets) 5″ x 9″ two from lining fabric
F (main pieces and flap) 17″ x 13″ three from exterior fabric, three from lining fabric
G (inside pocket) 17″ x 11″ one from lining fabric
H (inside pocket) 13″ x 10″ one from lining fabric
I (inside pocket) 13″ x 8″ one from lining fabric
J (inside pocket) 13″ x 6″ one from lining fabric

2. Apply heavy interfacing to piece A. Iron in half, right sides facing in. Stitch along the outside edge, making a long thin tube. Turn right in and press with the seam running along the middle of the back side. Set aside.

3. Assemble your back exterior pocket. First finish off the top edge of piece C with coordinating bias tape. Then sew to piece F (an exterior fabric piece F) around the two side edges and the bottom edge, leaving the top open.

4. Assemble your two exterior side gusset pieces. First finish off the top edges of both E pieces. Then sew around the two side edges and the bottom edge, attaching to piece D, leaving the top open. Repeat for both side panels.

5. Assemble your flap. Put an exterior piece F and a lining piece F together, right sides facing in. Sew around the two side edges and the bottom edge, rounding the corners as you sew and leaving the top open (you can add the freezer paper stenciled name before or after you sew your pieces together- it’s up to you).  Add coordinating bias tape around the two sides and the bottom (not shown).

6. Assemble your interior pockets. For the first panel take pieces H,I and J and finish off the top edge of each of them. Then stack them together with the largest size on the bottom and the smallest on the top. Take this stack and place it on top of a lining fabric piece F. Sew around the two side edges and the bottom edge, leaving the top open. Optional: Take some tabs of velcro and sew them onto the inside of each pocket so that the pockets stay shut. This is especially helpful for that bottom pocket which ends up being pretty shallow in the finished product (this is a teacher tote, afterall, and that pocket was designed for a stash of extra pencils).

7. For the second interior panel of pockets, take piece G and sew a small casing/tunnel along the top edge.  Thread 15″ of thin elastic through the casing. Place this piece on top of a lining fabric piece F. Fold the two in half vertically to find the center. Stitch a line to the top of piece G, dividing the panel into two equal pockets. Sew around the two side edges and the bottom edge, leaving the tops open.

8. Sew the exterior fabric bottom gusset piece (B) to one side gusset piece (D) along the side piece’s bottom edge, right sides together. Repeat for other side gusset piece.  You should now have a long, thin rectangle of fabric with the bottom gusset piece sandwiched between each of the two side gusset pieces.

9. Pin the finished back exterior piece (F) to gussets along sides and bottom, through all thicknesses, right sides together and stitch around. Repeat with front exterior piece (this one doesn’t have any pockets on it). Sew the unfinished edge of  your flap to top edge of the back exterior piece (F), right sides together. You should now have the entire exterior of the tote assembled.

10. Repeat steps 8 and 9 for the tote’s lining (minus the flap part), resulting in an assembled tote interior.  Leave a six inch opening in one of the seams in the bottom of the lining.  You’ll use this later when you turn your tote right side in.

11. Turn your assembled tote lining inside out and stand up. Take your strap, hold each end so you have a drape-y “U” shape. Place the “U” inside the standing tote interior.  Pin each end of the strap to the corresponding side gusset pieces, checking to be sure that there are no twists in the strap. Turn your assembled tote exterior inside out as well. Set into lining exterior of bag into lining, right sides together, flap tucked in between the interior and exterior. Pin top edges together through all thicknesses. Sew around the perimeter of the top of the bag. Turn bag right side in by pulling exterior through the opening in lining. Check to be sure your strap is set correctly. If so, stitch the opening shut.

Also, the next step is optional, but if you’re giving this to a teacher, we’d recommend Scotchguarding the outside for durability.

12. Fill with school supplies (that’s what the pockets are for) and make some lucky teacher’s day!

If you make one of these, we’d love it if you’d add your pictures to our flickr group

*This tutorial was published as a part of Celebrate Yellow at MADE!

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  1. Wow – amazing tutorial. I'm excited to try this. Thank you so much for sharing. It's gorgeous. What a lucky recipient of the bag.

  2. SUPER CUTE! and a big congrats for getting featured on made! that is awesome. love the bag. i just perfected my version of the messanger bag as well and am loving getting custom orders for them! 🙂

  3. That is an adorable bag, but my REAL comment is this- is that "Old Mother West Wind" with the apple on top of it? My siblings and I LOVED that book when we were little. My grandma gave it to us, but it's not a book you see much, or at least I don't think I've seen it since I was little. Now I want to find my own copy!

  4. OMG this is amazing!!! How have I not known this was your blog?!?! I wish I could do this!! YOU need to do private sewing lessons my talented friend! So very awesome!!

  5. THANK YOU! This is such a great tutorial! I have 2 sisters, and my mom that are teachers, that would love this!! I can't wait to try it out! Thank you so much for sharing!

  6. My sis-in-law and I just made these over the last couple of days, and we are SO not professionals. The tutorial was great and we LOVE our bags. Thank you so much!!

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