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When opportunity knocks…you should like totally make a super-cute tote bag!

JoAnn’s Fabrics is one of my regular haunts. I like to pop in there often to see what I can dig up. I just found out my local JoAnn’s store is moving, and they’re clearing everything out of the old store. Last week, I found upholstery samples on the clearance rack for $1 each. Now you may be thinking, “NanaBread, why on earth do you need upholstery fabric samples, even for $1 each?” Well, I’m proud to say that I was blessed with my mother’s “artsy fartsy” gene, so I’ll tell you exactly what I was thinking:

• Upholstery fabric samples are pre-cut into 18” squares
• All 4 edges of the squares are already finished (serged)
• Upholstery fabrics are usually a heavier grade of fabric
• There are usually multiple samples of the same fabric
• If I can find 2 of the same fabric, I can make a tote bag
• Two squares for each tote bag = $2 per tote bag

With the addition of some woven belting in coordinating colors to use as handles, I was off to the races. I found at least 8 matching pairs of fabric samples, which means I can make 8 tote bags. I picked up another yard of upholstery fabric so I can make a total of 10 bags. I’m planning to give them as gifts for our annual Hoegarden Weekend in March, so I’ll need 10 bags. If you’re not familiar with Hoegarden, it’s our “girls only” family gathering named after a beer and held each March. It’s 3 glorious days of shopping, eating, board games, make-overs, one-handed croquet, chocolate and cocktails. Sorry, mom, sisters, nieces and granddaughters – if you’re reading this, the gift cat’s out of the bag. The tote bag! Get it? Hello? Anybody there? {crickets chirping}. Ahem….so back to the tote bags. Here’s how easy it is to make an upholstery sample tote bag, just in case you find a good clearance sale in your area:

1. Start by ironing your fabric squares
2. Turn the 2 squares with the “good sides” facing each other & pin 3 sides
3. Stitch the 3 pinned sides together; I like to go around twice for extra strength

4. Turn your bag right sides out and press the side seams to flatten them

5. Lay your bag down flat and cut off the top 2” (the unsewn side is at the top)
6. Turn the 2” piece inside out and pin it to the bag so the right sides are facing each other and the cut edges are at the top of the bag; pin them together, matching them at the outside seams
7. Cut the woven belting into two 22” straps and pin them into the edges of the bag for the handles, making sure the handles are between the 2 pieces of fabric
8. Stitch around the entire top of the bag

9. Turn the top edge of the bag out and iron to flatten the seams
10. Turn the edging inside and pin into place

11. Hem the top of the bag to hold the edging and handles in place (I like to use 2 hems, ¼” apart)

12. Fold the bottom corners up 1” and pin them to the sides of the bag, matching the side seams again; stitch the corners in a triangle to create a wider, flatter bottom to your bag; press the entire bag one last time to finish

That’s it! Each bag took approximately 30 minutes to complete. If you have your woven belting pre-cut into 22” straps, your iron on and ready to go, and you’re using the same color thread for each bag, you can do it in 20 minutes. For a bonus, stitch a coordinating colored ribbon to the inside edge of your bag and attach a metal swivel hook to hold your keys. They’re super handy and only $1.50 at Home Depot, which STILL keeps your cost under $5.00 per bag.

To re-cap: that’s 2 upholstery fabric samples for $1 each, woven belting for $1.50, a key hook for $1.50, thread I already had in my sewing room, and 20-30 minutes to stitch up each bag. And just like that, you have a one-of-a-kind heavy-duty super-cute tote bag for only $4 … a tote bag that would easily sell for $20 in stores. Now that’s my kind of crafting. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… I absolutely love it when I can be creative and cheap at the same time. And I must be on to something, because I’ve laid this out and described the process to at least 5 other women at JoAnn’s since I started this project, and each time I do, they take off running for the upholstery fabric sample racks. Sometimes the best projects just fall into your lap. Like I said, when opportunity knocks…

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