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Sew your own pleated tote bag

Posted by Liesl M. Published See Liesl M.'s 7 projects »
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  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 1
    Step 1

    Start by making the pattern pieces. Take your 14” x 18” piece of paper and fold in half. (It should be 14” x 9” when folded in half.)

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 2
    Step 2

    Now we will make the dart markings and the curve of the bottom corners of the bag. Mark a 2 ½” square in the bottom right hand corner. Then along edge, mark 1” from corner point as seen.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 3
    Step 3

    From the top left corner of the square you drew, draw two lines down to where you marked those lines along the edge.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 4
    Step 4

    Now with your compass point in the upper left corner of the square, draw a quarter circle.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 5
    Step 5

    Now trim that curve. Then (this bit is optional but I like to do it so I can use the the pattern piece like a stencil at the dart) trim the triangular-ish shape of the dart.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 6
    Step 6

    Next up is the pleat/fold markings. You will have to mark all of these lines on the fabric in the next step, but it’s smart to mark them on the paper for when you make the bag again. *wink* With the pattern piece still folded, mark a line ½” from folded edge. Then mark three more lines at the top, all 1” apart. On the bottom, mark one line 1”. I also draw little arrows to remember which lines I am butting up against each other in the future.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 7
    Step 7

    Now you have your bag pattern piece. (We’ll do the lining pattern later.) Cut two out from your fabric (and optional interfacing.) Do NOT cut out the darts from your fabric like you did with the paper. Simply use the paper as a stencil and draw the lines on the back of your fabric. Sorry the lines are so faint in the photo above.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 8
    Step 8

    Fold your dart so the lines match up and sew. Be sure to back stitch at the point to reinforce it.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 9
    Step 9

    Repeat for the other dart.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 10
    Step 10

    Now you want to pinch the first line you made ½” from the center.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 11
    Step 11

    Now pull that to the second line you made, which was 1” away and pin.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 12
    Step 12

    Here is an aerial view of sorts.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 13
    Step 13

    Repeat for the third line, pulling it over the fourth line. Repeat for the other side. You should have four folds/pleats like seen.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 14
    Step 14

    Here is a front view.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 15
    Step 15

    Baste the pleats in place about ⅛” from edge.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 16
    Step 16

    Do the same for the bottom folds. Baste. Repeat all these steps for the other side of the bag.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 17
    Step 17

    With right sides together, sew ¼” around the sides and bottom.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 18
    Step 18

    Turn right side out. Now you have the outer body of the bag done!

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 19
    Step 19

    Now we can make the pattern piece for the lining. Take your 14” x 15 ¼” piece of paper and fold in half. (The 14” should be the height.) Repeat the steps you did for the darts earlier.

    Up in the upper right hand corner of the paper, mark ¾” from the edge.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 20
    Step 20

    Using your ruler, line it up from the mark you just made to the top right corner of the square you drew to mark the dart earlier.
    Trim the excess off. Now you have the lining pattern piece. Use it to cut out two lining pieces.
    At this point you can add an optional zipper/other pocket. Make the darts like you did for the outer bag. There is no pleating in the lining.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 21
    Step 21

    With right sides of lining pieces together, sew around sides and bottom. Unlike many other bags instructions, you do not need to leave a hole for turning.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 22
    Step 22

    With wrong sides together, pin lining bag inside outer bag piece. Set that aside.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 23
    Step 23

    Iron your 1” wide iron-on interfacing to the back of the 2” wide fabric strips (the top contrast fabric), centering it ½” from top and ½” from bottom. As you can see in the photo, I used two 14 ½” pieces sewn together, but you can use a 29” piece if you’ve got it.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 24
    Step 24

    Either find the center of your 29” piece or line the center seam up with the seam of the outer bag and start pinning all around edge.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 25
    Step 25

    When you get to the other seam, stop pinning a couple inches from seam.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 26
    Step 26

    Fold the strip back, lined up with the bag's side seam.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 27
    Step 27

    Now I used a pen to mark on the inside (on the interfacing) where I folded. This is where you will stitch, so the strip fits nicely on the bag.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 28
    Step 28

    Repeat for the other side, then with the fabric right sides together, match those lines up. Pin pieces in place.

    Sew along that line. Be sure to sew the whole width of the fabric strip, not just the interfacing.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 29
    Step 29

    Trim the seam allowance down. And then you can line the edges of the strip the bag/lining and pin in place. It should fit very nicely.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 30
    Step 30

    Sew ½” from edge, through the lining, bag outer and top contrast strip, all along the width of the bag.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 31
    Step 31

    Fold the strip up. The seam allowance should be pointing.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 32
    Step 32

    Next up is to measure 2 ½” from side seam and pin your handle/strap there. (Pardon my reflection.) Repeat for the other side.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 33
    Step 33

    You can baste/stitch (no more than a ¼” from edge) your handles in place, but I just leave the pins.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 34
    Step 34

    Iron the interfacing to the back of the other strip, just like you did the first one. And like you did before, start with lining the center or center seam up again the side seam of the bag and begin pinning in place.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 35
    Step 35

    You want to make sure that when you sew the handles are straight. I place two pins as seen to keep them perpendicular to the edge.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 36
    Step 36

    Continue pinning around bag and repeat the finishing steps you did for the other strip. Then sew ½” from edges. It’s smart to back stitch over the handles, to reinforce a stress area.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 37
    Step 37

    Fold second strip up. Now you can add optional magnetic snaps in the center, if you wish.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 38
    Step 38

    On the inside, fold the top edge back along the edge of the interfacing.

  • How to sew a pleated tote. Pleated Tote - Step 39
    Step 39

    Then fold the whole top strip back and pin. All the seam allowances should be neatly hidden inside.

    Now I hidden stitch the seam. However, you can top stitch if you’re in a hurry.

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