Quote Totes

How to make Totes with a Quote on MADE

With so many fantastic quotes flying around these days, it’s hard not to plaster them everywhere. Which is funny….because growing up, my Mom and Aunt often had quotes and notes taped on walls around our houses.  And they sort of drove me crazy.
Maybe because they said things like “D.Y.O.D. – Do Your Own Dishes.”
Or “remember to flush.”
And they were printed in some crappy Times New Roman font.

Well, times have changed (heh heh)

There’s so much great typography out there!  It’s almost overwhelming.
It is overwhelming.
But we can’t resist!  It’s so fun to share cool quotes and cute lettering!
Am I right?
Or am I right?

how to sew vinyl tote bags on MADE
How to sew Tote Bags with Quotes

So I was thinking about quotes, and how it’s fun to put them on bags and t-shirts.  But the other day I dawned on me…why not display quotes IN the bag?….with paper??  So that the actual piece of art is sewn into the bag, so that it’s part of the bag?!
Ah ha.
It’s probably been done.
But I felt happy about it.
One small step for Dana.  One giant step for Dana.

how to make vinyl totes

So here you go!  The tutorial for making jelly quote totes.
It’s got a great 80’s ring to it.

How to make Quote Totes on MADE

Okay. This project is easy.
You just need a few items, and a few tips for sewing with vinyl.

supplies for Vinyl Quote Totes
First, chose your artwork and print it to an 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper.

There are so many great places to find artwork and quotes.  You can always make your own piece of art or encourage your children to draw/write something.  Or pinterest is plastered with images—just make sure you check the private policy on someone’s artwork before printing.

One of my favorite places for interesting quotes and typography is Caravan Shoppe.  Their stuff is fantastic.  They offer downloadable art and toys in various formats so you can print a huge print for your wall, or small prints for a bookshelf.  Or in this case, so the artwork is portable!  Now you can share it with everyone as you walk around with your plastic purse.

Caravan shoppe

These particular tote bags were part of Lucy’s birthday party, which was a Space Theme.  So the Outer Space quotes at Caravan Shoppe (here, here, and here) were perfect!  A few of them are even FREE. Seriously. I love Caravan.

Something to keep in mind with your artwork: the paper will get a bit “crinkled” as you finish the bag (when you turn it right-side out).  You can always choose to sew your seams on the OUTside of the bag, so you don’t have to turn anything.  But personally….I really like the crinkled look on the paper and the plastic.  It adds more dimension.

Next item: Vinyl.
For this bag we’ll use both clear vinyl and solid-colored vinyl.
And if you’ve never sewn with those, don’t worry. We’ll walk through some simple steps together.
And if you’re wondering where vinyl is located at your store, you’ve probably walked by it without even noticing!  The clear stuff is typically rolled like this, with tissue paper in between to keep it from sticking to itself.  And the solid-colored vinyl is probably in the same area in large rolls (near the home dec/upholstery area).

How to sew with Vinyl

Clear vinyl comes in different “gauges” which means different weights or thicknesses.  I prefer a lower gauge (such as 4) for these bags because stiffer plastic will be hard to turn right-side out when you’re done sewing.

• You need about a 1/2 yard of clear vinyl (for the bag).
• You need an 1/8 of a yard of solid vinyl (for the straps).

• Start by cutting each handle 1 inch x 27 inches, using a rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat. You only need two handles, but I was mass-producing so I cut many.  The best way to do this is to cut one very long strip 1-inch wide (you can fold the vinyl in half while you cut).  And when you’re done, cut each strap 27 inches long.  Now set the straps aside for a moment.

How to sew Vinyl straps

Let’s talk about sewing with vinyl.  It’s similar to sewing with oilcloth.  It has a tendency to get stuck under your presser foot.

There are a few tricks to solve this:
1. Place transparent tape on the bottom of your presser foot.
2. Use the “tissue paper” method.
3. Use a Teflon presser foot.

Each of these methods are outlined in detail HERE.

My preferred method is a Teflon foot. It’s inexpensive and can be purchased for most machines.  Just snap it right on and you’re ready to go!

• Sew each strap by folding it in half (don’t pin) then sew straight down.

how to use a Teflon Presser foot
Vinyl straps for tote bags

Set the straps aside for now and let’s work on the bag itself.

• You need 3 identical pieces of clear vinyl for the front and back of the bag.  The front is made of two pieces of vinyl, with the paper artwork/quote sandwiched in between.  And the back of the bag is just one piece of vinyl.

You can make your bag any size to accommodate any artwork.
I cut my pieces:
• 12.5 x 15 inches (for a child-teen size bag)
• 15 x 17 inches (for an adult size bag)

how to sew with clear vinyl

The best way to do this is to cut a long strip from the vinyl with scissors first, about 18-19 inches wide, to give you some wiggle room.  Then go to your cutting mat and cut 3 pieces that are 15 x 17 inches.

using clear vinyl on MADE

• Take two of the pieces, remove the tissue paper, and sandwich the piece of artwork in between the two vinyl layers.  Make sure nothing else slips in there! like a piece of lint, hair, threads, etc.
• Now sew around the artwork paper so it stays in place.  You don’t need to pin anything (and you shouldn’t place pins in vinyl because it will leave holes).  The vinyl pieces actually sort of “stick” together making it easier to sew.  Sew around all four sides of the paper.

how to sew artwork into your bag

Now sew a hem on the top of the bag pieces.  Typically when making a tote bag, I sew the hem last so the side seams are enclosed nicely.  But it will be too difficult to do that later, due to the stiffness of the vinyl/plastic.  So we’ll do it now.

• Fold the top of the bag under about 1 inch and “finger press” it in place (you don’t want to iron vinyl).  Sew it in place.  And do the same thing on the back piece of the bag.

NOTE about “pressing”:  Yes, vinyl which is plastic will melt under your iron. But you can actually use a iron on a very low setting with a press-cloth (lightweight towel) over the top if you’d like a nice crease.  Just be careful and always try it on a test piece of fabric first.  You can read more about that in my Sewing with Oilcloth post.

sewing with vinyl
tips for sewing with vinyl fabric

Now let’s sew the straps in place.  Measure in about 3-4 inches from the sides of the bag and clip a strap to the front of the bag.  Again, you don’t want to use pins or they will leave holes.
Instead, I LOVE Wonder Clips!

Wonder Clips on MADE

• Sew each strap in place by sewing a small rectangle around the ends of the straps. For more details, watch my Tote Bags video HERE.   First sew the strap to the front of the bag, then sew the other strap to the back of the bag.  Make sure the straps aren’t twisted!
• Then, with right sides of the vinyl together, Wonder Clip the sides of the bag together and sew down and around the sides and bottom of the bag.

How to sew straps on a tote bag

We’re almost done!

how to sew vinyl tote bags

• Trim the corners of the bag, turn the bag right-side out, and press the corners out as best as you can.

* This is going to be awkward to do.*  Not gonna lie.
It will feel really stiff and like it’s not going to work.  But the stiffness of the vinyl is actually going to give the bag great shape.  So just get in there, crumple it up, and keep smooshing it around.
* Tricks to help soften the plastic: use a press-cloth over the top of the bag and lightly press it with the iron on a very low setting (as mentioned above.  But be cautious that you don’t melt anything!)  Or use a blowdryer to warm it up a bit.  These will both make the plastic more malleable.

And here’s where the artwork will get crumpled in the process! But that’s part of the charm.

sewing vinyl tote bags on MADE

You’re done!

I’d say you shot for the moon and succeeded.
Good job!
How to sew vinyl bags with quotes. Quote Totes on MADE

  1. 1) Carissa

    CAREFULLY pressing the clear vinyl using a warm iron and a press cloth will soften the vinyl and make it easier to turn. Just be VERY careful to never directly touch the vinyl to the iron because it will melt (always use a press cloth in between ). After the vinyl cools it returns to normal. 🙂

    • 2) Dana

      Yes. That’s a great idea! I do that with oilcloth also. I’m sometimes worried to mention that to people. But I’ll add that detail in.
      Thanks Carissa 🙂

      • 3) Carissa

        Yes, I worried about mentioning it too since it can be so easy to melt the vinyl (ask me how I know! ).

        • 4) Dana

          hahaha. I’ve done the same thing with spandex. Big hole in the butt of my daughter’s swimsuit 🙁

  2. 5) Aimee

    Couldn’t you also leave the top seam open and sew the handles only to the front piece of vinyl and make it so you could change out the artwork?

    • 6) Dana

      Yes you could totally make it so the artwork is replaceable and I thought about doing that. Maybe I’ll have to do a tutorial variation!
      I really wanted everything to be finished off, and more “waterproof”. And since it was specifically for Lucy’s “Space” party, I wanted them to be keepsakes and always have those quotes in there. But yes, that’s a great idea!

  3. I love this idea! I’m thinking if some how an inner lining could be added so that you could use this as say a purse and all the contents wouldn’t be visible, but you still have the outer quote, and possibly make it as interchangeable, that would be amazing.
    Still I love this idea.

    • 8) Jacqui

      If you used oilcloth for the two inner layers and clear vinyl just for the layer you use to cover the quote then you could keep the contents hidden 🙂

      I love this, Dana, they look so beautiful in a pile together! Now just to plan a birthday party to make them for…

  4. Every time I sew vinyl I get so frustrated with the material getting stuck I swear I’ll never do it again. Not sure why I never bothered to research a different presser foot. It seems so obvious now. Although I may give the tape trick a try…

  5. These are uber, ultra cool bags! I also like the way you made your handles. You always have neat ideas. Someday I will do the freezer stencils from way back when!

    I use a teflon presser foot and love it !

    Thank you for removing the video ads on your blog–they really slowed down loading your blog on my old machine, and were annoying to boot. I understand your blog is monetized and you need to have ads, but thank you for dumping the video ones!!

  6. 11) Lynette

    These are really a cute idea! This would be perfect for a library tote or something. The quote I remember being posted in our bathroom was done by my dad. He had a picture of a dog (in full color!) printed, and then (probably in times new roman:) it said, “There’s a reason these live outside. If you don’t have time to clean up a mess, don’t make it.” I think quotes about the moon are cuter for a bag;)

  7. 12) Emily

    These are awesome! I’m wondering how well you think they will hold up. We need our youth girls camp leaders to have a bag to hold their needed info. Do you think these will hold up to carrying a light binder?

  8. 13) Paula

    Please can you tell me what your upper and lower tension settings are. I’ve tried sewing with vinyl in the past and ended up with nightmare stitches. I’d love to make these for a swim school…

  9. 14) leslie

    Dana, you are awesome and I greatly enjoy your blog. But in this case I’m wondering about the drawbacks that come with vinyl. Most items made of vinyl also come with a warning for potential pthalates and carcinogen exposure. I have a nerdy chemical engineering degree so this type of thing gets my attention. I once bought a vinyl tablecloth and returned it because it had a carcinogen warning printed on the package with instructions not to be used around food (what??). When it comes to sewing for my kids, and things in my home, I tend to stick to natural fibers that are machine washable when I can. I try to steer my kids away from plastic when there’s an alternative.

    But the idea is really cute. I may just modify with ironing the quote onto the fabric instead.

  10. 15) sarah

    These are the cutest!! I love Caravan shoppe! You have great ideas and your fabric line is adorable. Best of luck to you with it.

  11. 16) Paula Thompson

    You are SO amazingly talented!! 🙂 Since I teach, I use the summers to catch up on my “Projects!” You are a PERFECT teacher!!!! I have loved watching your videos this summer! I’m headed to the store to buy vinyl now to make your bags!!
    I have read MANY explanations of how to place letters on fabric. Someone mentioned earlier the wax paper method. What is the best way to take a printed saying and place it on a pillow? I’ve tried several methods -unsuccessfully – to print ONLY the saying without the “extra” stuff around the saying.
    Thanks again Dana for sharing so many great ideas and for motivating people like me to be crafty once again!! 🙂
    By the way – I LOVE your fabric line!!

  12. 17) Sarah

    Hi Dana! Not sure if/when you will read this comment – but……I was thinking of making this to use for our adoption fundraiser??? I was wondering if it was ok with you if we sold these? All of the money would go towards our adoption. You can email me at sarahfrazer920@aol.com.


  13. 18) Maarya

    Hi Dana!
    I love this bag.
    Just wondering what thread colour you use because the vinyl is clear?
    Thank You!

  14. 19) CarolA Fuertes

    Hi Dana, I loved these!!!

    Could they be made from just one long folded in half piece for the front and back parts? Just sewing along the sides? I’m thinking maybe with a cut out in the corners to make it easier to turn them right side out?

    Thank you so much for your blog and YouTube channel, I love all!!!

    • 20) Dana

      Sure, I don’t see why not. The only thing is that the one edge that’s folded won’t be as crisp of a line as the one that’s seamed. But go for it! And thank you for your kind words 🙂

  15. 21) Rachel Mirando

    Is the solid vinyl only in the store at joann?

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