More Totes! Or How Shopping Totes are Made

About three weeks ago, inspired by the success of my own tote pair (and the subsequent enthusiasm of family and friends), I started working on seven new extra-large shopping totes. I realized that it’ll be easier for me to work on several simultaneously rather than tackle them one by one. Not because it takes less time, but because it eliminates the need to constantly think of what to do next. In addition, working in batches allows me to do all of my cutting and ironing at the same time. This way, I don’t have to set everything up over and over again (well, I guess in that regard making a few at a time DOES save some time…).

I finished about half of them this morning:

Market totes

These totes were my main project for the last three weeks, although I did work on a few other things in bits and pieces in-between. It took three weeks because I normally have very limited time to sew.

What Does it Take to Make a Tote?

A tote starts with me choosing fabrics for the outer layer, both for the sides and bottom of the tote, as well as for the outside pockets. For totes, I prefer to use rather thick and sturdy fabrics, that will be strong and long-lasting. Once I decide on fabrics, I continue to choose straps in a matching color. For shopping totes I use straps made of webbing, that can carry up to 400 lb.

After I match the fabrics, I cut them all to size and sew them together. This is a picture of about half of my new totes after I finished sewing the outside pieces together and attached the handles.

Putting shopping totes together

Once that is done, I choose fabric for the lining.

Matching lining to market totes

I then cut the lining to size.

For my current totes it took a couple of hours to cut all the lining pieces. This was the case since these totes are slightly different in size, and therefore I had to measure each one to make sure I cut the lining accurately.

Cutting lining for market totes

Once the lining is cut, the ironing stage begins.

In this case I had a LOT of ironing. In fact, two or three entire work-days of it! It’s funny, because normally I hate ironing, and postpone it as much as possible. I’m ashamed to say that our Thanksgiving tablecloth is still waiting to be ironed (and it’s March already!!). But somehow when it comes to sewing projects, I don’t mind it as much…

Ironing market totes

For shopping totes, because they are really big, need to carry heavy weights, and should last a long time, I first iron heavy fusible interfacing onto the backside of the outside layer. I tried two different brands, but found that heavy fusible interfacing just doesn’t stick that well, regardless of the manufacturer. It takes twice as long as what the label recommends, but even then the interfacing often peels off after a while, requiring yet more ironing…

So over the last couple of weeks I spent many hours standing by my ironing board… stood Once I finished, I had to iron all the lining pieces again. That went much faster!

This is how the two layers looked once all the ironing was done:

lining and outer layer of market totes

After I press the lining, I choose a matching-colored zipper and sew it on. Here is an example:

Sewing the lining for market totes

I then sew the inner pocket, sew the lining then sew the outer layer. I turn the outer layer right-side out and place it inside the lining:

Putting the market totes together

Then I stitch the opening, turn the tote in and top-stitch the opening shut. And that is it!

It takes a long time to sew a tote. However, it feels really good once everything is finished.

These totes will be ready just in time for spring farmers’-market shopping season. I will love to see people using and enjoying them!

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