Tote of Protection

Mr. Wren, watching me frantically sew: We could just buy The Peanut a tote bag if that's what her new school requires.
Me: But I'm not making a tote bag. I'm forging a shield of protection out of Mother's Love.

Mr. Wren: Or you could do that.

Two years ago I made The Peanut's school backpack. It is now looking worn and has had a minor strap repair but it is still going strong. This semester The Peanut started in a second program and needed a tote bag. I reached into my ever-growing stash (compiled almost entirely of fabric leftover from previous projects) and was able to create the necessary Tote of Protection. It meets the school's bag-requirement and gave me a place to channel my New School nerves. I also think we'll be able to use this tote as a future library bag. With that in mind, I reinforced the bottom with duck and sewed the straps (more duck) down the sides and into the bottom seam; it's got that classic LL Bean look. I was pleasantly surprised when I first put the completed tote down and realized it can stand on its own. The wide box-corners and heavy duck cloth work great together. I used clear vinyl and bias tape to add a name-tag window to one side as I sewed the straps in place. I didn't want to fuss with lining this one so I bound the seams using more bias tapeadditional bonus: reinforced seams.

Then I realized I had enough clear vinyl to create a snack bag, too. What I didn't have enough of was bias tape, or time to make my own. Solution? Look how fun and funky it looks now that it's multi-color! In my speed I sewed the velcro to the wrong side of the flap. I fixed that by sewing more Velcro on top of it. I think it kind of, sort of, maybe looks like a blank label? Whatever. It works, or at least it's functional. Just don't look too closely at the stitching on this one (especially where the handle attaches), it's clearly homemade. Homemade with lots of love.


None, I made two simple sketches, did some seam allowance math, and started cutting.


Home-decor canvas-weight and turquoise duck, both purchased at Joann's. 
A scrap of heavy-ish clear vinyl also purchased at Joann's from the remnants bin.


The name card-window and the fact that the tote stands on its own.
I wasn't planing on using fabric on the snack bag but didn't have enough vinyl. Now I love that it matches the tote.


Measure twice, cut once. My math was good but my cutting was off. At least I caught it right away before I even started sewing. 
A wider twin needle and some binding clips (instead of pins) would have been lovely for this type of project.

Ren Murphy writes for The Inspired Wren.

You should really see all that goes into each project!
From my model preferring to wear washi tape on her navel instead of the clothes I've sewn for her, to the ingenious way that I’ve re-purposed my favorite sewing tool, a chopstick, into a spool pin for double needle sewing on my machine. Daily updates on Instagram (and Flickr) of works-in-progress will give you that behind the scenes view you’re looking for, and sneak peeks of First Tuesday Tutorials, too.