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Polka Dots Tote Bag with Cat Embroidery

We picked polka dots because we thought this pattern worked particularly well with the whimsical cat designs. However you can choose your own colors and prints.

We used the cat designs from the Whimsical Cat Sets II and III. The designs from the first Whimsical Cat Set will also work for this project.
The finished size of the bag is about 14" x 19" x 3".

Besides embroidery thread (either polyester or rayon), you will need
  • medium-weight cut-away stabilizer,
  • 1/2 yard (or 2 fat quarters) of white and black polka dotted cotton fabric,
  • about 1/4 yard of black cotton fabric for the upper part of the bag,
  • light-weight iron-on sewing interfacing,
  • about 3/4 yard of cotton fabric for the backing/lining,
  • batting,
  • quilting threads (white),
  • sewing threads (white and black)
  • beaded handles (alternatively you can sew the handles out of black fabric),
  • quilter's ruler and rotary cutter (or graphic pencil and sharp scissors),
  • scissors

Cut the fabric for the outer bag into 2 fat quarters - pieces of about 18" x 20". Stabilize them with medium-weight cut-away stabilizer. Embroider the Whimsical Cats of your choice in the center of each piece.

We used the cats from Whimsical Sets III and II, for the commercial, large and small hoops. Feel free to use any cat patterns, and choose and position the cats as you like.

Cut away the excess stabilizer around the embroidery.
After the embroidery is finished, place the backing on a flat surface (table), face down. Cover with batting. Spread the embroidered pieces over it.

Pin all three layers together with 1" pins and start quilting. We quilted in a free motion style white thread.
After the quilting is finished, press the work with heavy steam and trim both panels to 16" x 16" squares.
Cut out 2" x 2" squares in the lower corners of both panels.
Sewing the tote:
Position both panels face to face, align all edges.
Machine-stitch the bottom, seam allowance 1/4".
Press the seam open.
Out of the fabric for the lining cut a strip measuring 1 1/4" x 12" and 2 strips measuring 1 1/4" x 14". Fold their long edges 1/4" to the wrong side and press.
Cover the open bottom seam with the shorter strip. Pin. Topstitch in place along the edges, then topstitch 1/8" on both sides of the seam.
Fold the bag with right side inwards. Align the side edges. Pin. Sew one side with seam allowance 1/4". Open the seam and press.

Finish the seam with one of the longer strisp in the same way we finished the bottom seam.
Now sew the second side of the bag with seam allowance 1/4". Open the seam and press. Finish the seam with the remaining strip.

To machine stitch the strip, you'll have to turn the work right side out and work from the inside of the bag.
Now stitch closed the cut-out corners in the bottom to form box corners.
Finish the raw edges with binding.
The Pocket:
For the pocket, cut a strip measuring 8" x 22". Fold it widthwise with right side inside.

Stitch the long sides with seam allowance 1/4". Turn right side out. Press the seams.

Fold the closed edge up 4 1/2 - 5". Pin. Topstitch the sides.
Pin the pocket to the upper edge of the back panel.
Topstitch it to the panel 1/4" from the edge.
Cutting of the Top Part:
Download the PDF file with the template for the top. Print it out. To open and print PDF files, you will need the free program Acrobat Reader.
Template Download (PDF File)
Then cut out the template.
Stabilize the black fabric with sewing interfacing. Fold in half. Place the template with "Fold" to the folded line.

Trace the template and cut 4 similar parts. This is what is will look like unfolded.
Assembly of the Top Part:
Position the parts in pairs, right side inwards. Sew the short sides, seam allowance 1/4". Cut away the interfacing from the seam allowance close to the stitches.
Press the seams open to form 2 similar "tubes".

Position one "tube" inside the other, right sides facing. Align the side seams. Pin the "tubes" together. Sew along the edges, marked in red. Seam allowance 1/4".
Press. Cut away the interfacing from the seam allowance close to the stitches. Make notches in the corners.

Turn the working piece right side out. Carefully press the seams.

Tuck the protruding raw edges on the top 1/4 inside and press.
Out of black fabric cut 2 strips measuring 3" x 4". Stabilize with sewing intefacing.
Fold in half lengthwise. Press. Tuck the long raw edges 1/2" inside. Press. Topstitch several times.

Insert the strips through the rings of the handles. Fold them in half, align the edges. Pin. Then topstitch together 1/4" from the raw edge. The beaded handles are available at Jo-Ann's store or on-line at ....

Insert the ends of the strips with handles 1/2" deep into the openings. Topstitch in place 1/8" from the edge.

Topstitch 1/4" along the upper edge of the working piece.
Unfold the upper part. Put it over the bag, right side to right side. Align the side seams and the edges. Pin together.

Topstitch with seam allowance about 1/2".

Unfold the top part. Turn the bag right side in.
Pin the raw edge of the top part to the lining of the bag. Either hand-stitch it to the lining or topstitch in place.
Turn the bag right side out. We added the finishing touch of a small red bow sewed onto the cat's neck.

Your tote bag is ready. Enjoy!
A polka dot T-shirt decorated with cat designs makes a fine match to the new tote.

This is what the back of the tote looks like.
Happy Stitching!
Back to Whimsical Cat Silhouette Set III
Back to Whimsical Cat Silhouette Set II
Back to Whimsical Cat Silhouette Set II
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