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French Empire Tote Bag
This stylish handbag features the design of the French Empire Decorative Motif for a commercial grade hoop. This would make a great Christmas gift for a friend.
The finished size is about 12" high and 14" wide.

You will need :
  • embroidery threads (either rayon or polyester),
  • medium-weight cut-away stabilizer,
  • about 1/2 yard of medium-to-light-weight polyester or vinyl leatherette (Jo-Ann and Walmart have a good variety in the apparel fabric sections),
  • about 1/2 yard of cotton velour, velvet or velveteen fabric of a matching color,
  • medium-to light weight iron-on sewing interfacing,
  • about 1/2 yard of cotton fabric for the lining,
  • quilter's ruler,
  • removable fabric marker or chalk pencil,
  • rotary cutter or scissors,
  • pins,
  • magnette purse closure (optional).
Prepare threads. Stabilize a piece of leatherette (the piece should be large enough to be hooped, and not less than 7 1/2" x 15") with light-weight stabilizer. Upload the file French Empite Decorative Motif to your embroidery machine and embroider the design.
After the stitch-out is done, trim it to 7 1/2" x 15".
Out of the leatherette, cut
  • 3 pieces measuring 7 1/2" x 15" (for panels),
  • 2 strips measuring 2" x 26" (for the handles),
  • 1 strip measuring 1 1/2" x 15" (for the bottom).
Out of velvet, cut a piece measuring 14" x 32".
Out of the lining fabric, cut
  • 2 strips measuring 8" x 15" ( for the lining) and
  • a strip measuring 10" x 13" (for the pocket).
Out of the sewing intefacing, cut
  • 4 pieces measuring 7 1/2" x 15" each and
  • 2 strips measuring 1" x 26" for the handles.
Assembly of the Outer Bag:
Take the velvet 14" x 32" piece. (We recommend to zig-zag or serge the raw edges of the piece). Fold it in half widthwise and mark the center on each long side with a pin. Unfold. Place the piece face down.

Working on the back of the piece, with a ruler connect the marks and draw a line with a chalk pencil or removable marker. This will be the central line.

Draw eight parallel lines 1" from each other on both sides of the central line.
French Empire Tote Bag

Using these lines as guidelines, fold 4 pleats on each side of the central line. Pin them on each side and also place a couple of pins along each pleat. Check that the finished piece is 15" wide.
On your sewing machine, topstitch along each long side, 1/4" from edges, removing the pins from the edges. Do not remove the pins on the body of the piece yet.
Along the short edges of the piece, measure 7" and place pins.

Take the 1 1/2" x 15" leatherette strip, fold the short edges in half and mark with pins. Position the strip on the working piece, align the pins on the fabric with the pins on the strip. Pin the strip in place.
Folding the edges of the strip about 1/4" back, topstich each edge to the working piece 1/16"-1/8" from the edges.
Adhere sewing interfacing to the back of the leatherette pieces.
Take the embroidered piece, position it at the top of the velvet piece, face down, aligning the upper edges.

Stitch in place, seam allowance about 1/2".
In the same way, sew a leatherette piece to the other edge of the velvet piece.
Unfold. Seam allowance should be folded back to the leatherette parts. From the right side, topstitch over the leatherette parts, about 1/8"-1/4" from the seams.

Set the outer bag aside for the time being.

Making the Pocket:
Take the 10" x 13" piece. Fold it widthwise in half, right side inwards. Stitch 2 sides - one short and one long - closed, seam allowance 1/4".

Turn right side out. Press the seams.

Fold the closed edge up 6". Pin. Topstitch the sides.

Pin the pocket to the upper edge of one of the 8" x 15" lining panels.

Topstitch it to the panel 1/4" from the edge.
Making the Handles:
Position the 1" x 26" interfacing strips along the back of the 2" x 26" leatherette strips. Try to position them in the center, 1/2" from each long edge. Adhere in place.
Fold the long edges to the center and topstitch them in place.
Sewing the Lining:
Position the fabric parts of the lining on the table, face up. Cover with the leatherette pieces of the lining, face down. Align the upper edges. Pin.

Sew the parts together, seam allowance 1/2".
Unfold. Fold the seam allowance back to the leatherette parts. From the right side, topstitch over the leatherette parts, about 1/4" from the seams.
Place the lining parts on the table, face up. Position the handles 4 1/2" from the side edges, so that the ends of the handles protrude 1" beyond the upper edges. Pin in place.

Topstitch in place, 1/4" from the lining edge.
Assembly of the Bag:
Place the outer bag on the table, face up. Position the lining piece without a pocket over the embroidered part of the outer bag. Align the top edges of the leatherette parts, pin.

Sew together, seam allowance 1/2". Stitch again about 1/32" (1 mm) from the first stitch line to the outer edge.

Repeat with the other side of the outer bag and the lining part with the pocket.
Fold the bag in half, face inwards, aligning all edges. Pin them together.
Sew the sides, seam allowance 1/2". Stitch again 1/32" (1mm) from the first stitch line.
Through the bottom opening in the lining, turn the working piece right side out.
If you need a magnetic closure, attach it now to the leatherette parts of the lining.
Tuck the raw edges of the lining 1/2" inside. Press. Topstitch to close the opening.
Make box corners at the bottom of the lining. For this, separate the front and back sides at the corners. Center the seams on each side of the corner on top of each other.
Measure 1" along the seam from the corner and draw a line perpendicular to the seam across the corner. Topstitch-stitch along the line. Do not trim the seam.
Fold the corners onto the sides. With several hand stitches, attach the corners to the seam allowance.
Tuck the lining inside. Topstitch along the upper edge of the bag 1/4" from the edge.

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