Rainy Day Tote Bag Sewing Craft Project

By Liz Kettle

I have to confess that I have a pretty severe tote bag habit. I don’t dare count them or put them all in one place because I would surely have to have an intervention! As we head into rainy spring weather, I realized that I only have one that is waterproof. GASP! How could that be?

Rainy Day ToteFortunately I have been playing around with the new DIY vinyl laminates from Pellon and Therm-O-Web. And I love making tote bags as much as buying them so I thought I would share my process with you. I have designed an improvisational pieced bag and one that uses fabric strips with no piecing because if you are going to make one you may as well make two! They are so simple to make you may find yourself with a new addiction.

Rainy Day Tote BagSupplies:

-17″ x 30″ of Multi-Purpose Cloth (MPC) from Roc-Lon *
-Fabric of your choice: use scraps of coordinating fabrics (pre-wash your fabrics so the vinyl adheres properly).
-Vinyl iron on laminate from Pellon or Therm-O-Web
-Web handle strap: 60″ for each bag
-Havel’s rotary cutter, cutting mat and ruler

 Improvisational Pieced Tote Bag:

Improvisational piecing takes out the precise measuring of many quilting techniques. I free cut the main pieces and somewhat randomly piece them together. Once I have a fairly large section I trim them up and add them to other sections. Here’s how…

Step 1: Cut fabric using your Havel’s rotary cutter and mat. Cut straightish lines. We aren’t using a ruler so be careful to keep your free hand off the mat. Make a big pile of strips using all your chosen fabrics.

Step 1

Step 2: Take the strips to your sewing machine and begin piecing them randomly. Piece some along the long edges as shown and piece some along the short edges so you have long lengths.

Strip Piecing

Step 3: After you have stitched a few sections, press seams to one side…

Press the Seams

and trim sections straightish.

Trim Sections

Step 4: Lay out your sections to see what else you need to create to make a piece of fabric large enough for your bag. At this point I decided that I needed to add some white strips.

Lay Out Sections

Step 5: Continue piecing until you have a piece larger than the 17″ x 30″ Multi-Purpose Cloth. Following manufacturers’ directions, use Misty Fuse or other fusible web to adhere the pieced fabric to the MPC.

Continue Piecing

Step 6: Follow manufacturer’s directions to apply the Vinyl Iron-on to the surface of your pieced fabric.

Apply Vinyl

Step 7: Fold the fabric in half along the long sides with right sides together. Stitch up the side seams.

Step 8: To create the bag box bottom fold the bag along the side with the seam running up the middle as shown. Measure up 1 3/4″ from the point. You will have 1 3/4″ from the middle seam to each edge as well. Draw a line.

Create the Bag Box Bottom

Step 9: Stitch along the line.

Stitch the Line

Step 10: Trim the excess point ¼” away from the stitch line.

Trim the Excess

Step 11: Turn bag right side out. Press as needed using the protective sheet that comes with the laminate material. Cut each web strap 30″. Apply the edge of the strap 4″ in from the side seam on each side. I stitch a box with an interior X to make it strong.

X Box Stitch

 Now the rain won’t keep you inside and your stuff won’t get wet. You could even apply the vinyl to the inside of the bag to make it completely water resistant for a pool bag!

Low Sew Option:

If you want to stitch less and let the fabrics do all the work try this method.


 Use bold prints and cut strips 30″ long. Create a pattern with the strips or simply use one piece of fabric.


Fuse the fabric to the MPC base, add the Vinyl Iron-on and follow the rest of the steps to complete your bags.



For more of Liz’s inspiring and fun projects click here.


About Liz Kettle:

Liz KettleLiz Kettle is a textile and mixed-media artist who loves sewing and creating with fabric and thread. Sharing sewing joy and thread addiction with others makes her deliriously happy. Liz is co-author of two best selling books: “Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond” and “Threads: The Basics and Beyond.” Share Liz’s stitch journey on her website and blog at www.TextileEvolution.com.

Posted in Fabric, For Beginners in Sewing, Free Quilt Projects, Fun Stuff, Guest Writers, Liz Kettle, Tutorials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Quilting Travels — From Here to There and Back Again!

By Kathy Mathews

Several pushpins on a road-map of a tourist

Venturing outside of your creative corner is a wonderful thing. All quilters should take to the road!

I make quilts in the comfort of my sewing studio, and I often feel I don’t need to leave that wonderful sanctuary. My quilts fill my senses and satisfy my creative spirit. I tweet and chat with fellow quilters and have my supplies and fabrics all at hand.

I am a very satisfied and productive quilter, especially when the weather is blustery, cold or wet. But venturing outside of my cloistered creative corner is also a wonderful thing. If possible, I think all quilters should take to the road.

I love to travel short distances to see quilt shows. These types of quilts are doable, earnest and filled with love. I like seeing what fabrics other quilters are using and what designs they are making. Plus there are merchant malls. Even if I normally patronize these merchants, sometimes their wares displayed in a new way makes me discover something wonderful. I come home bursting with enthusiasm to quilt.

I also love road trips to major quilt shows. These kinds of shows can be overwhelming at first. Sometimes I have to just sit and breathe while I take it all in. There are all kinds of quilts, some types that I don’t even love. It’s so good to be challenged and see what the most dramatic trends are. New and different can be exciting.

These super big shows also have merchant malls, and many of them are brands or manufacturers who don’t even have a separate store. The gadgets are the most fun — you can hold them in your hand, play with them and see how great they are. And then, naturally, you buy them. (Duh!)

I come home from these shows and scurry up to my sewing loft bursting with ideas. I organize my new fabrics and fun purchases and release my ideas from my head to paper. What a way to recharge your batteries! Oh and did I mention you also spend money?

Road Trip sign with road background

Fabric bought while out on the road can be a great reminder of a wonderful trip and help go towards making something as a permanent reminder.

Another fabulous quilty way to travel is to visit quilt museums. I have had my breath taken away in Kentucky and Wisconsin. I am just about to start a trip which will include a visit a museum in Vermont known for its quilt collection. I can hardly wait to see what I learn.

Sometimes there are places like these that are better than others, but I love seeing a quilt collection or museum whenever I can. It’s important to learn what’s cutting edge at the shows and what came before at the museums.

I have also undertaken many a quilt travel to see quilts incorporated into unusual architecture or nature. I could not love the quilt gardens in Indiana more, plus they gave me a fresh way of thinking about quilts. I’ve also traveled the barn quilt trails in Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. Those are worth the trip just for the photographs alone, not to mention the inspiration.

I have even managed to visit a rest area with a quilt theme in Iowa and towns which seem to be centered around quilting in Pennsylvania. I’ve spotted quilts in Presidential historical houses. There are so many fantastic ways to see quilts when you are on the road.

I love all of these quilt trips, but hitting quilt stores on the road is one of my absolute quilty favorites. Whenever we take a road trip we somehow manage to find quilt stores. Once, I woke up from a nap and there was one right next to us. (It’s my superpower, what can I say?)

We have also hit quilt stores I have found using an app on my phone, listings in Yelp or in phone books. I have gotten off the highway to shop at a store which had a billboard. There are so many fun ways to find new shops.

I buy new fabrics they don’t sell near me. I buy fabrics which feature Alaska or western wildlife. I see new trinkets and new ways to use it all. I can touch it, feel it and bring it on home with me. It’s my essential souvenir from every trip.

Sometime in the future I will be ensconced in my sewing room and pull out that fabric. I will remember that wonderful trip and make something as a permanent reminder. It’s a great way to travel and remember the memories you made on the road.

I also remember these long distance shop hops when my Visa bill arrives. Worth every penny!

Happy quilt travels to you!

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About Kathy Mathews:

Kathy Mathews headshotKathy Mathews has been sewing for 49 years and quilting for 31, which is odd as she’s so young. She taught Spanish and French full time for 35 years in Illinois Public schools and then continued at the college level until 2014. During all that time, quilting and sewing allowed her a creative outlet and kept her sane. In addition to needle arts she is an avid reader, swimmer, traveler and yoga newbie.  She blogs mainly about quilting at www.ChicagoNow.com. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, is the mother of two grown daughters and grandmother to the cutest two year old girl in all the land. You can email her at quiltingsewingcreating@gmail.com.


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Free Craft Project: Back to School Zipper Pouch

By Leslie Tucker Jenison

Whether or not you “really” love school,
you are bound to fall in love with this
fun little pouch!

To create this pouch you will need a sturdy piece of canvas. I used a section of painted, ungessoed canvas left over from another project and some leftover strip-pieced cotton for the lining.

Supplies needed:

One 11.5 x 14″ piece of sturdy canvas or home-dec weight fabric
One 9-inch zipper
One piece of 11.5 x 14″ fabric (or pieced remnants) for the lining
Fabric (pre-fused) or felt for die-cut or hand-cut letters and heart
Fusible (I prefer Mistyfuse)
Sewing machine
Havel’s cutting mat
Havel’s rotary cutter
Clear ruler
Havel’s nippers

1.) Cut an 11.5 x 14″ rectangle of sturdy fabric. Set aside.

Cutting fabric to start this free craft project2.) Pre-fuse and cut another piece of cotton fabric and cut to 11.5 x 14″.

Another piece of fabric3.) Select your fabric to use for lettering and pre-fuse. Cut pieces that are large enough to cover each letter to be die-cut.

4.) Place each small piece of fabric, fusible side up, over the letter and process through the die-cutter. (Note: if the fusible side is up, your letter will be properly oriented when you fuse it to the surface of your pouch.)

Fabric used for lettering of zipper pouchFabric letters for the final project5.) Fuse the two rectangles together, right sides out. Trim edges with the rotary cutter. Fold the short ends in 1/4-inch toward the inside and stitch.

Fusing the two rectangles togetherTrimming edges of fabric with rotary cutterFolding short ends of the fabricStitching the shorter ends6.) Now, position your die-cut, pre-fused letters and heart (which was hand-cut with scissors) to the outside surface of the pouch on one side. Place between pressing sheets or parchment and fuse to the surface with a medium dry iron.

Getting letters ready to be fusedFusing your letters to the outside surface of pouch7.) At the sewing machine with feed dogs down, machine applique around each letter and the heart.

Machine applique each letter on the pouchMore machine applique of letters on the pouch8.) Position the folded edge of the canvas next to one side of the zipper and stitch in place.

9.) Bring the other end of the canvas to the zipper, right sides together. Since the canvas is quite stiff it is necessary to begin near the center of the second side and stitch outward toward the edge. Turn and repeat toward the opposite edge being careful to avoid catching the center of the bag under the needle. Trim threads.

IMG_3076 800x600_lowresZR942015IMG_3077 800x600_lowresZR94201510.) Open zipper and turn pouch right side out. Using an awl or the ends of a pair of scissors gently push the corners from the inside to fully extent the corners.

Turn pouch inside out11.) At each end of the zipper stitch across the opening from one side to the other to stabilize the ends of the zipper. Repeat on both ends.

IMG_3078 800x600_lowresZR94201512.) You may wish to add some trim to the zipper pull for a bit more flair! Finished!

A finished back to school zipper pouch

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Leslie Tucker Jenison headshotSan Antonio artist Leslie Tucker Jenison is inspired by the textural beauty found in the patterns of natural and man-made environments. Leslie loves the tactile experience of working with cloth and paper.  Using dye, paint, and thread, Leslie creates unique imagery on these surfaces.  The juxtaposition of the macro to microscopic world is a recurring theme in her work. Long fascinated by the historical connection of quilts and the people who make them, she serves on the board of the Alliance for American Quilts. Leslie exhibits internationally in galleries and juried exhibitions. Her work  is held in both corporate and private collections. Leslie teaches a variety of quilt and mixed media workshops. She curates exhibitions and teaches as one half of “Dinner At Eight Artists” along with Jamie Fingal.

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Quilters Are My People

By Kathy Mathews

Are quilters the best? You be the judge!

Havel's sewing scissors and tools

Quilters are a fun, kind and generous group of people, and they can never have too many gadgets! (Photo: Kathy Mathews)

I am a people person. I like being around them, talking to them and eating with them. I think it’s more fun to see a movie with another person so you can exchange a thumbs up or down. I like going to plays with others so we can discuss the meanings and performances. I like eating with other people so I can try their meal have a conversational partner. Think of all the people we spend time with throughout the days and weeks — our family, our coworkers, strangers in public places. And then there’s those we choose to hang around. That last group, those are the quilters and they are my people.

Quilters understand my fabric obsession; in fact, they have one of their own. You can go fabric shopping with them and no one says, “Do you need that?” They know the intense passion that drives us all to buy that fabric because you just never know.

Quilters comprehend on a molecular level my love affair with gadgets. They don’t question why you would have drawers full of them and duplicates. They know that many times you just have to have the exact right tool.

My fellow quilters are wonderful dining companions. Some like appetizers, others love their wine. And all will split a dessert with you, or even order one of their own! There may be some quilters who are in the, “I’ll only have a half a salad and water club,” but I haven’t met them.

Quilters don’t bat an eye about driving long distances to see quilts. The more quilts, the more miles they are willing to go. And if the quilts are particularly exquisite, road trip! If there are famous quilters or quilters you have only met online, the distances almost don’t even matter.

Social media quilters are really my people. I exchange messages, emails, tweets and Instagram pictures with fellow quilters. I talk to them on my blog, my Facebook page and anywhere else quilters go to communicate and talk quilt. Advice on a quilt, virtual hugs and fabric tips are just a click away.

Quilters are also funny. They get the corny jokes I make and share theirs with me. We’re dealing with fabric and thread here, it’s not brain surgery. If you can’t have fun while sewing, when can you? We quilters can laugh at ourselves, our quirks and the wonder that is the quilting world.

In life we need a community, a place where you feel understood and accepted. I have my family and I had my profession, but now I have that vast community of fabric loving, thready folks who quilt. We organically understand what makes the others tick! (Or should I say stitch?)

I have probably expanded my quilting network to 3,000 – 4,000 people and they are the kindest people on this earth. I have never had any troll comments from quilters. I have contributed blocks to quilts that other quilters are making for a quilter in need. One whom they have never met — that is the kind of people you find in quilting.

Not only are quilters kind, but they are generous as well. I just got two rows of size M bobbins a fellow quilter sent me in the mail. She didn’t need them, so she asked if I did. I have also received handmade pin cushions and special outfits for the babies in my family that never got to go home. Quilters have very large hearts.

And that’s just what quilters have sent me. After every disaster, in hospitals across the country and for veterans of every war, there are quilters donating love in the form of quilts they have made. How could anyone not love quilters?

I love quilters! I love their kindness and generosity. I adore their acceptance of me and super fun sense of humor. They share my obsessions and form a constant chatter of quilt love on the Internet. These quilters are the best people around.

Hold on, I forgot to mention quilter’s love of chocolate and their desire to share it. Sigh of contentment.

That decides it — quilters are not only my people, they are perfect!

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About Kathy Mathews:

Kathy Mathews headshotKathy Mathews has been sewing for 49 years and quilting for 31, which is odd as she’s so young. She taught Spanish and French full-time for 35 years in Illinois Public schools and then continued at the college level until 2014. During that time, quilting and sewing allowed her a creative outlet and kept her sane. In addition to needle arts she is an avid reader, swimmer, traveler and yoga newbie.  She blogs mainly about quilting at www.ChicagoNow.com. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, is the mother of two grown daughters and grandmother to the cutest two year old girl in all the land. You can email her at quiltingsewingcreating@gmail.com.


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Free Project: Make a Messenger Bag & iPad Case

Messenger Bag & iPad Case by Liz Kettle

photo 1(a)

Nothing says back to school like a brand new book bag! Times have changed though, and in addition to the traditional bag, we need an iPad or Tablet case too. These simple and quick projects will have you ready for back to school in no time flat so you can enjoy the last remaining moments of summer.


Multi-Purpose cloth or canvas
Fabrics of choice
Batting (optional) choose a very flat batting such as Thermore
Misty Fuse or other fusible web
Rotary cutter with traditional and skip blades
Embroidery scissors
Hand Needles: 22 or 18 chenille or tapestry or a yarn darner
Machine Needles: size 90 sharp

A note about Multi-purpose cloth: Multi-Purpose Cloth or MPC is a wonderful non-woven canvas that is perfect for bags, totes, home décor and much more. It holds its shape better than canvas and is a dream to stitch through. MPC can also be painted with any type of fabric paint and you can skip the fabric layer all together.i

iPad or Tablet Case

photo 2(a)

Using a rotary cutter, ruler and cutting mat, cut a piece of Multi Purpose Cloth 10 1/2″ x 24″. I prefer the larger 60mm rotary cutter for basic cutting because it cuts through everything so easily and it feels like I am done faster with the bigger blade.
Choose your fabrics. The case is made from just one piece of MPC so if you have a directional print like I do, you may want to cut it and piece it, to ensure the print is the proper direction when
the flap is folded over.
If you don’t have a directional print, simply cut your fabric 10 1/2″ x 24″.
If you do have a directional print, you will want to cut the main piece 10 1/2″ x 17 1/4″ and the piece that is for the front flap 10 1/2″ x 7 1/4″.
Piece the two fabrics together to create a piece that is 10 1/2″ x 24″.
Batting (optional): You may want to skip it for your first case. If you want to add a flat
batting, cut it 10 1/2″ x 24″.
Layer the MPC with a thin piece of batting and your fabric piece. Pin or fuse the layers together with Misty Fuse. I like Misty Fuse because it doesn’t add a lot of weight to the project and stiffen it, and I know the layers won’t shift while I am quilting it.

photo 3(a)

Choose some simple quilting for the surface. I stitched diagonal lines on the lower portion, and stitched around the text printed on the fabric on the flap portion. I use my indispensable 5″ double curved embroidery scissors to snip the threads between each of the layers. I don’t know how I lived without these scissors! They are perfect for snipping threads at the machine. The holes are faced up so they are really fast to pick up and the sharp points easily slide under the tightest thread snarl. Best of all, the gentle curve prevents me from accidently snipping my fabric. When I can’t find my seam ripper (a fairly common occurrence) I even use these to easily un-sew.

photo 4(a)

If you desire, you can also fuse a layer of fabric on the inside of the flap,
but it is perfectly fine to leave the MPC bare on the inside of the case.
If you do decide to line the flap with fabric, cut fabric and Misty Fuse 10 1/2″ x 9″.
Do not add batting to this layer. Double check to make sure you are fusing on to the back of the flap.
If you would like to create a small cut-out in the front panel of the case to make it easier to slip things in and out, do so now. I made a template to make the process easier because I make a lot of these bags. Cut a piece of card stock 10 1/2″ x 3″. Draw a line 1 1/2″ from one edge. Mark in from each edge 1 1/2″ and draw a 30 degree angle to join the lines. Cut out the resulting piece from your template. This is only a guideline you can make your cut out, any size you like, or even curved!

photo 5(a)

photo 6(a)

Mark the opening with a chalk pencil and then cut out with shears.
The micro serrated Havel’s shears help to cut nice sharp turns because
they hold on to the fabric while you turn it.

photo 7(a)

To finish this edge use a zigzag stitch.

photo 8(a)

Load the skip cutting blade into your rotary cutter. Cut along the length of the fabric 1/4″ from each long edge and the front edge. The skip blade will make tiny slits along the edge but not cut off the fabric. Press hard to ensure you go through all layers of fabric. You can not re-cut if you don’t go through all layers. For this reason I suggest that you practice on a scrap of MPC layered with batting and fabric to get the feel of how hard you have to press to go through all the layers.
Next we will lace up the sides of the case. I used ripped strips of fabric for my case but I have also used ribbon, rayon seam tape and thick yarn. The ribbon and seam tape give the most polished look and the ripped fabric the most casual look. Ripped fabric strips, ribbon or seam tape should be between 3/8″ and 1/2″.

photo 9(a)

Fold the bottom half of the case up 8 1/2″. Thread your ribbon or fabric strips onto your large needle. Begin at the very bottom of the case and insert your needle from the inside of the case to bring it out the lowest slit created by the skip blade. Leave a tail, you will tuck this inside as you stitch to
encase it in the seam.

photo 10(a)

Use a simple whip stitch all the way up the side of the case, around the flap edge and down the other side. Simply thread the needle through the slits along the edge. This photo shows me stitching top to bottom but you may find bottom to top easier. When you need to add another strip of fabric simply tie the two pieces in a knot and continue stitching. If you like a neater edge you can work the tails into the seam with the large eye needle or a bodkin.

photo 11(a)

Messenger Bag

Cut a piece of Multi Purpose Cloth 15″ wide by 37″ long.
Cut a piece of Multi Purpose Cloth 2″ wide by 48″ long for the strap.
Cut Misty Fuse to cover both sides of the MPC main piece and the strap.
I did not use batting in this piece because of the bulk it would add to the side seams.

photo 12(a)

With this larger piece it is easier to pre-fuse the Misty Fuse to the MPC before fusing down the fabric. Place the Misty Fuse on the bag fabric, cover with a Teflon pressing sheet and heat with an iron. This is especially helpful if you have a directional print as I did. Once again the bag is made from one piece of MPC so I cut the fabrics into three pieces to keep the text oriented correctly.
If your print is not directional, cut your fabric 15″ wide by 37″ long.
If your print is directional, cut three pieces:
The flap will be 15″ wide by 10 1/2″ long.
The two remaining pieces will be 15″ wide by 13″ long

photo 13(a)

Place the fabrics on the pre-fused Multi-Purpose Cloth and fuse with a hot iron.

photo 14(a)

In this photo you can see the placement of the directional prints.

photo 15(a)

Quilt the piece by stitching as desired. I simply outlined some of the images
using an organic free motion stitch.

photo 16(a)

If desired, use Misty Fuse to fuse fabrics to the back of the Multi-Purpose Cloth.
You can cover the entire back (lining of the bag) or just the flap area.

photo 17(a)

Trim the front flap by cutting a 10 1/4″ x 1 1/2″ strip off of both sides of the flap section.

photo 18(a)

photo 19(a)

Finish the flap edges and the other edge with a satin stitch.

photo 20(a)

With right sides facing, fold the bottom half of the bag up 13″. The end of the bag should be right at the edge of the flap cut outs. Pin the edges. Stitch a 1/4″ seam along each edge. I used a serger for a strong seam. If you don’t have a serger simply stitch a straight stitch and then finish the
inside edge with a zigzag stitch.

photo 21(a)

To create the bottom base of the bag fold the bag as shown
with the seam in the middle of the triangle.

photo 22(a)

Mark a stitch line 1 3/4″ from the point of the triangle.

photo 23(a)

Stitch across this line. Then trim off the remaining triangle leaving a 1/4″ edge.

photo 24(a)

Serge the edge or zigzag stitch. Turn your bag right side out and set aside.

photo 25(a)

To make the strap, fuse fabric to both sides of the Multi-Purpose Cloth. Stitch along the length in straight lines or as desired. Finish the edges with a satin stitch.

photo 26(a)

Center the strap on the side of the bag 2″ from the top edge of the bag.
Stitch around the edges and across the center as shown.
You can find Multi Purpose Cloth, and Havel’s scissors
and skip blades at these on-line stores:
Fabrics used in this project are available at Artistic Artifacts.

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Liz Kettle

Liz Kettle is a mixed media and textile artist living in Colorado. She is co-author of two books, Fabric Embellishing: The Basics and Beyond, and Threads: The Basics and Beyond. Liz loves teaching and sharing the joy of making the things in her articles, classes and at her fabulous retreat, Textile Evolution. Visit her blog and website, www.TextileEvolution.com

For a printable PDF version of Liz’s Messenger Bag and IPad Case, click here.

Posted in Embroidery, Embroidery Scissors, Fabric, Free Quilt Projects, Fun Stuff, Guest Writers, Liz Kettle, Quilting, School, Tutorials, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments