essential tote bag topstitching detail

Sewing skills project 9: Essential Tote Bag


Essential Tote Bag from School of Sewing by Shea Henderson

Project features:

  • topstitching
  • boxed corners
  • interior pocket
  • strap length options
  • pieced stripes

Process notes


  • chambray
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Stone
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Black
  • Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton in Navy
  • Pellon SF101 Shape-Flex woven fusible interfacing
  • Pellon 971F Thermolam Plus interfacing

Equipment and settings:

  • Universal 90/14 needle for most of the project, except for the straps used Jeans 100/16
  • used default stitch length setting 2.5, except for topstitching and quilting used 3.5
  • for topstitching the straps used 1/4-inch guide foot and edge joining foot


This project has a few really nice options with the instructions, and I chose to make the striped version, with long handles and an inside pocket. It’s a very roomy tote, and the Thermolam gives it good structure without being overly stiff.

My 1/4-inch guide foot and edge joining foot were invaluable for this project — I’m so glad to have them! For making the 1/4-inch quilting stitches next to each stripe seam, I just ran the guide down the ditch and it was a piece of cake. I ran into little hiccups when topstitching the opening in the last step because my guide would run into the straps and get hung up. As was mentioned in the book a few times, going slow on the topstitching really does help. After hearing it from several places, it’s finally sinking in that there’s nothing wrong with sewing slowly. In fact, it’s faster in the long run if stitches don’t need to be ripped out and re-sewn.