Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tutorial - Car Bag or Tablet Cozy

I actually designed this bag out of need. I don't always know which car I'll be in day to day, or what I'll need for that trip. If I'll be using the GPS on my phone, I'll want to grab my charger, or I might need my sunglasses or camera. If I'm going to be gone for the day, I might want to pack a healthy snack. I suppose I could carry a larger purse but I like to travel light so I carry a very small cross body bag. It's so easy to put what I need in this bag, and I can leave it in the car. The best part, it hangs from my doorknob so I don't forget it. I even made one from fun citrus colors for my tablet. Plus, I never forget my bug spray for my walks anymore!

Strips of 100% cotton fabric, at least 2 or 3 inches longer than the width of your bag
--Can use various widths if you want, I placed mine at slight angles
100% cotton batting or interfacing fleece, size depends on how big you want your bag
--I wouldn't recommend polyester batting because the "loft" will affect the finished size
100% cotton muslin, about 1 inch larger all the way around your fleece or batting
100% cotton fabric for lining, same size as your finished quilted piece
3 X 14 inch fabric for strap (optional)
Scrap of fabric for inside pockets, size you desire (optional)
2 to 5 inch piece of velcro, depending on the size of your bag
--For my larger bag I used a 5 inch piece, for the tablet cozy, I used a 2 1/2 inch piece
Cutting tools
Measuring tools
Pins, needles, sewing machine, iron, fabric marking pens

1.  Iron your chosen fabrics and muslin. Cut the batting or fleece down to the size you are making the bag. For example, I want my bag to measure 11 inches wide, by 8 inches high, with about a 6 inch flap. For my bag to be this size, I cut my fleece (I used fleece for the car bag, and 100% cotton batting for the tablet cozy):
--12 inches wide (my 11 inches plus 1/2 inch for each side seam allowance)
--23 inches long (my 8 inch height times 2, plus 6 inches for flap, and 1/2 inch for seam allowances)

Note: I did notice that my length shrunk just under 1/2 inch during stitching. This isn't uncommon when machine quilting. If you will be making a cozy, and you want a snug fit, take this into consideration and make your measurements accordingly. It's also important to remember that your seams will be bulky. This is critical to figure in if you are planning a snug fit.

2.  Lay your batting or fleece on top of your muslin which should be about an inch bigger all the way around. Pin in place to secure. Machine baste all the way around about 1/4 inch from each edge. For this part I like to loosen my tension because if your stitches are too tight, they will really shrink your fabric and fleece. (Image 1)

3.  Cut the muslin even with the fleece or batting. As you can see, I like the rounded corners on mine, so I just took a food storage lid and drew a line to round my corners. After I cut them away, I went back to the machine and stitched the curved edges just as I did the straight edges, with a basting stitch and 1/4 inch away from edge. You can also do this after you have stitched all your strips to the batting or fleece. (Image 2)

4.  Place this on your work table with the batting or fleece facing up. Lay your strips of fabric across the width overlapping each other. I slightly angled all mine to give it a super casual look, but you can stitch them perfectly even all the way down if you prefer. Be sure your ends extend beyond the sides so there will be no white showing through. If you are going to stitch them down in angles like I did, you will want them to be a couple inches longer than the width because you will be flipping the fabric strips over after stitching. 

Arrange your strips until you are happy with the way it looks. I always cut a few extra because I usually need them. Now stack the strips up neatly in the order you will be stitching them down and take them to your sewing machine with your batting or fleece and muslin piece. (Image 3)

5.  If you loosened the tension for your machine basting, don't forget to adjust it now for your stitching. You want your stitches to be secure but you don't want them to be too tight. I always use a test strip of the fleece or batting I'm using so I get it right. Place your first strip down with the right side facing up. This is the only one that will be stitched on this way. Stitch it in place along the edge that it is covering using 1/4 inch seam allowance. You won't be able to see the edge, but you will be able to feel it when you are holding the fabric down. Don't worry about the ends extending beyond the edges, we'll trim them away later. (Image 4)
6.  For the remaining strips you will be positioning them with the wrong side up, then flipping them. So place your second strip on top of the first one and stitch 1/4 inch away from the edge that is closest to the center. I have placed mine at angles, so I trimmed away the excess of the strip before it, but you don't have to do that if you don't want. Be sure that that you smooth it out neatly before stitching and remember that when you flip the strip over so the right side is facing up, there should be no white showing and the ends of the strips should extend just a little beyond the edges of the batting or fleece piece. If you do flip it over and the color you stitched this one to is darker, you might have to trim it away so the darker seam allowance doesn't show through lighter color strip. 
(Image 5, 6, 7)

7.  Continue using this technique until you have all your strips stitched in place. When you get to the last one, be sure to stitch the edge of the strip down 1/4 inch away from the edge of the batting or fleece piece just as you did for the first one. This will keep them secure for the final steps. (Image 8)

8.  Take back to your work table, with the wrong side facing up, and cut away all the excess fabric. Flip it over now and see your designer fabric! (Image 9, 10)

9.  Position one of your velcro pieces (centering left to right) on this piece. The best way I have found to do this is by folding your fabric piece exactly how you will when you are ready to assemble the bag. Turn your upper edge of the bag 3/4 inch to the wrong side, secure with pins or clips, then bring your flap down where you want it to be. Make sure that the the velcro piece is completely covered. I allowed the bottom of my flap to extend at least an inch beyond the velcro piece underneath so that after the seam allowance (when stitching the flap to the lining) there is no way the velcro could peek through. Pin in place to secure, then stitch the velcro piece down close to the edges of the velcro. It's also important that you begin and end your stitching with back stitching or your velcro pieces with tear away from the fabric when you are opening your bag. Back stitching is something I always do at the beginning and ending of my stitching as a standard practice. You can leave the clips or pins in where you folded the edge down, but don't stitch that yet. Set aside for now if you will be making the strap or pocket. If you will not be making those, skip ahead to step #12. (Image 11, 12, 13)

10. If you will be adding a strap, take the 3 X 14 inch piece of fabric and fold it in half lengthwise, iron. Now take the two long edges and have them meet in the center, and iron. When you fold the strip, you will have a 3/4 inch wide piece with one fold along one edge, and two folds along the other edge. Stitch along both folded edges for a nice, finished look. Set aside. (Image 14, 15)

11.  If you want to make pocket(s) for the inside of the bag, you will make those now and stitch them to the right side of the lining that will be at the back of the inside of the bag. Here is how I made mine:

I want my pocket to be 7 X 4 inches. I want to put a seam down the center of the pocket so that it will be perfect to hold access cards, gift cards, lip gloss, or a quick place to access my toll money. For my pocket to be that size, I cut my fabric 7 1/2 X 5 1/2 inches. I allowed an extra 1 1/2 inch for the upper hem and turning under the bottom edge, and an extra 1/2 inch for turning under along the sides.

Along one of the edges (the one that will be the top of your pocket) turn under 1/4 inch to the wrong side and iron. Now take that edge and turn it to the right side (right sides together) one inch. Don't iron but pin to secure. Stitch the side edges where you turned the fabric to the right side. Clip corners, then turn that edge right side out. push out corners and iron. Now stitch the "hem" in place. Take this back to the iron and turn the three remaining edges 1/4 inch to the wrong side and iron. (Image 16, 17, 18, 19)

To get the correct placement of your pocket, fold your lining (that has been cut to the exact dimensions as the outer bag piece) down just like you did when you positioned the velcro piece on your outer bag piece. Decide where you want your pocket and pin in place. Stitch the sides and bottom of the pocket to the right side of the lining, which will be the inside of your bag. If you want to make your pocket into two just like I did, simply stitch a line down the center. (Image 20, 21, 22)

Note: for my tablet case/cozy I didn't want a pocket or strap, so I omitted those steps.

12. Fold the upper edge of your lining fabric 3/4" to the wrong side just as you did for the outer bag fabric, iron. (Image 23)

13. With right sides together, fold the quilted piece the way you want it to look and pin to secure. Two important notes:

***Pull your flap down so that it will completely cover the velcro, and don't forget you will have a half inch seam allowance for the flap as well as a some top stitching around the flap when you are finished.

***I cut my strips on the wider side so I slipped my hand in between the folded piece and make sure that the strips are smooth along the bottom fold so they don't bunch up. If this happens, it will look horrible when you turn the bag right side out and your corners will bunch up. If you will be inserting the strap, do not stitch the sides yet. (Image 24, 25)

Repeat this step with your lining piece. Lay them side by side so that you can make sure that your flaps line up and the upper edges (where you folded under 3/4 inch) line up perfectly. This is very important. Secure the side edges with pins. Stitch down the edges using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. (Image 26, 27)

14. Before you stitch up the sides for the quilted piece, you will want to slip your strap between the seam. Fold the 3/4 inch wide strap in half forming a loop. With the loop toward the inside of the bag, line up the ends with the raw edges on one side of the bag just below the folded edge. I left my ends extended slightly so you can see where I placed them. (Image 29, 29)

15. Stitch down each side just like you did the lining. For a little extra security, I stitched three times over the strap area. When you get to this part, it helps to hold the fabric in front and behind the needle. Since it is so thick, if you just hold the fabric in front of the needle, it's going to bunch up and your needle will not go anywhere. Guide it GENTLY from behind as well. Trim the bottom corners near the fold for this and the lining piece. (Image 30)

16. Turn both pieces right side out. With right sides together, line up your flaps. Make sure the the folds in the lining line up with the fold in the outer fabric. Pin to secure. Stitch around the flap beginning at the fold on one side, and ending the stitching at the fold on the other side using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Trim seam allowance and clip curves. Turn flap right side out and iron. (Image 31, 32, 33)

17. Now you can turn your lining piece wrong side out and slip it inside the outer bag piece. Line up your folded edges and pin to secure. Stitch along that edge combining the outer bag to the lining. I find that my open arm works best for this part. (Image 34, 35, 36)

18. Top stitch around the edge of the flap about 1/4 inch from the outer edge.

19. Stitch your final piece of velcro to the underside of the flap. For correct placement, fold the flap over and slip the piece of velcro underneath so that it's even with the one you stitched down earlier. Pin to secure and stitch in place.

If you are using this for a car bag like I am, you can hang it over your doorknob and it will look nice while it's waiting for your next adventure!

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  1. What a great idea! Your instructions are always so helpful.

  2. I love this idea! Having everything handy makes life easier.

  3. Love this. Great tutorial too.Very easy to follow along with. I have to pin this so I can come back to it later

  4. I smiled when I saw how your rounded corners. I do the same thing. Actually there is a stack of various plastics lids in my sewing studio with notes written on them as to which "corners" they apply to. Great on the go grab bag. :) Your instructions and pictures are detailed always a plus with DIY.

  5. This how-to is grand, thank you for sharing it! Plus, I love the fabrics you used!

  6. Great tutorial! I like the strip piecing you did.


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