This African fabric tote bag is the first project that I have made with the fabric that I brought back from Zimbabwe. I agonised for ages before I cut it, but in the end I decided to cut the individual designs and sew them as separate blocks. This also means, of course, that I can make the fabric last longer!
The bits that I cut are about 7″ wide, but there’s no point me giving a detailed tutorial here because obviously you are likely to have different sized blocks of any fabric that you wish to showcase.
What I did basically was sew 2″ black strips above and below the designs and 4″ strips of black on the sides. I was aiming to get two panels the same size so that they could be the front and back of my African fabric tote bag.
I ended up with two panels 15″ by 16.1/2″, so I cut two lining panels the same size.
The bag panels I placed right sides together and sewed the sides and the bottom to make a pouch.
The lining panels I placed right sides together and sewed the sides only to make a tube.
Make the straps for the African fabric tote bag
Cut a 2.1/2″ strip each of black and of lining fabric across the width of fabric. Place right sides together and sew a seam down each side to create a tube. Cut in half to create two straps. Pull the straps down over themselves to turn them right side out. Press and then topstitch down each side of each strap to hold the layers in place.
Assembling the African fabric tote bag
Turn the black bag panels right side out and press. Pin the straps to the top of the bag with right sides together. On the right you can see how to check that you have the straps positioned correctly.
I find it best to pin each part of the strap with two pins pointing vertically up. This helps stop the straps from moving when you are sewing them.
With the lining still having right sides together, pull the tube down over the top of the bag and straps and line up all the raw edges at the top. Sew all round the top – I find it safest to use a 1/2″ seam here to ensure that all the layers are caught in the stitching.
Pull the lining out away from the bag. You’ll see that what will be the bottom of the lining is still open.
Turn under a small hem all the way round the bottom of the lining and sew a small seam across it to close the gap (this was the other end of the tube created by sewing only the sides of the lining).
Push the lining back inside the bag, gently pushing the corners out. Top stitch around the top of the bag to hold the layers in place.
That completes my African fabric tote bag – I still have plenty more fabric and will try to be a little more adventurous with the next project!
Here’s the video:
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