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Southwestern Tote with Machine Embroidered Applique

This stylish tote bag features the applique designs from the Southwestern Motif Applique Set for large (5x7) hoops. The finished size of the bag is 15" x 13" x 4".

We used cotton fabrics: 1 yard of chocolate brown fabric, 3/4 yard of bright blue fabric for lining, 1 fat quarter of sand-colored fabric for blocks, scraps of blue fabrics for half-triangle squares in blocks.

You will also need low-loft batting, 1 1/2 yard of cotton cord for handles and quilting threads.

For embroidery, we used polyester felt and embroidery polyester threads.


Out of brown fabric cut:
8 strips 2 1/2" wide and the length of the width of the fabric.
Subcut the strips into:

  • 2 strips 29" long (for handles),
  • 2 strips 12 1/2" long (for the blocks),
  • 2 strips 16" long (for trimming of the upper edges of the tote),
  • 2 strips 28 1/2" long (for the sides of the tote),
  • 8 squares 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" for the blocks;
  • 1 rectangle measuring 4 1/2" x 12 1/2";
  • 16 squares measuring 2 7/8" x 2 7/8"

Out of sand-colored fabric cut 2 squares measuring 8 1/2" x 8 1/2"

Out of scraps of blue fabric cut 16 squares measuring 2 7/8" x 2 7/8".

Out of the fabric for the backing, cut 2 squares measuring 9" x 9" (for the pockets), use the remaining fabric for the backing.


For the 2 blocks (the front and back of the tote) you'll need to sew 32 half triangles. For this, place 16 brown and 16 blue 2 7/8" x 2 7/8" squares in pairs, face inwards.
With a lead mechanical pencil, draw a diagonal on the lighter square. Stitch a scant 1/4" from the pencil line on both sides.

Cut along the line. Open the new squares. Press the seam towards the brown. Trim the ears. Repeat for all the pairs. You should get 32 two-color squares, measuring 2 1/2" x 2 1/2".

Arrange them in 2 strips, 4 half triangles in each strip.

Sew each of the strips to the upper and lower edges of the sand-colored 8 1/2" x 8 1/2" squares.

Make 2 similar strips. Sew brown 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" squares to each end of the strips.

Sew the new strips to the right and left edges of the squares.

Assemble the Top:

Sew the 4 1/2" x 12 1/2" brown strip between the two blocks. This will be the bottom of the tote.

Sew the 2 1/2" x 12 1/2" strips to the upper and lower edges of the tote.

Sew the 2 1/2" x 28 1/2" strips to the left and right edges of the tote.


Stabilize the sand-colored squares with polyester felt and make the applique embroidery. For the bird we used bright blue fabric and dark brown thread, for the human figure we used brown fabric and bright blue thread.


Now place the backing on a flat surface (table) face down. Cover with batting. Spread your working piece over it.

Pin all three layers together with 1" pins and start quilting. We echo quilted around the applique and quilted the straight lines all over the tote.

After the quilting is finished, press the work with heavy steam and square the work -- all corners should be 90 degrees and opposite sides should be of the same length.

Making the Handles

Fold the 2 1/2" x 29" strips lengthwise, face inwards. Stitch 1/4" from the edge to get long tubes. Turn the tubes right side out. Press.

Insert cotton cord inside the tubes.


Take the 9" x 9" squares of the backing fabric. Fold each edge of the square 1/4" back. Press. Fold the upper edge back another 1/4" and press.

Topstitch all edges on your sewing machine.

Position the pockets on the back of the tote behind the sand-colored squares. Baste. Topstitch from the right side of the tote in the ditch of the sand-colored squares to attach the pockets.

Tote Assembly

Now pin each handle to the short edges of the tote, on the front (as shown on the picture). Place the 2 1/2" x 16" strips, face down, along the short edges.

Topstitch 1/4" from the edge. Then topstitch again 1/8" from the edge.

Note that after squaring the tote's top it might be narrower than 16". You do not need to trim the ends of the 16" strips; let them overlap a little bit.

Unfold the handles and trim. Press.
Fold the trim to the back and press again.

Fold the working piece in half widthwise, right side inwards.

Unfold the trim. Topstitch 3/8" from the edges on both sides to attach the trim. Then topstitch again 1/4" from the edges.

Finish the raw edges with zigzag.

Make box corners at the bottom of the bag. For this, separate the front and back sides at the corners. Center the side seam with the central line of the bottom. Measure 1 1/2" along the seam from the corner and machine-stitch perpendicular to the seam across the corner. Do not trim the seam. Fold it onto the side seam and attach with several manual stitches. Repeat for the second corner.

Turn the tote right side out.

The tote is ready. Enjoy!

Happy Stitching!

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