Inside: Make a Cute Library Tote From Placemats
Summer is upon us and that means lots of free time for the kiddos. Lots of free time subsequently means lots of library time.
We’re big readers and usually walk out of the library with armloads of books. Sometimes, I grab a reusable shopping bag; but those get scattered and forgotten in the car.
And they’re huge and floppy, the book corners bang around inside the bag, and they end up hitting us in the legs when we try to walk.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a designated library tote just for books? Something that would be just the right size and unique enough to remember to use? With a little bit of padding!
How To Make a Cute Library Tote From Placemats
Pre-quilted placemats are the base for this quick and easy project. They are already “finished” and the quilting provides that little bit of padding so those sharp book corners don’t poke you as you carry it.
- (2) quilted placemats (These are from the Pioneer Woman line at Walmart)
- (2) 2.5″ x 15″ (6.4 x 38 cm) Strips of coordinating scrap fabric
- (2) 1.25″ by 15″ (3.175 cm x 38 cm) Strips of fusible interfacing
- Sewing machine
- Universal Schmetz Machine Needles in either sizes 90/14 or 100/16
- Fabric pen
- Rotary cutter
- Self healing mat
- Acrylic ruler
Before you begin, determine the size of library tote you want to make. These instructions are for an 11″ x 10″ x 4” (28 x 25 x 10cm) tote that can easily be made from a 19″ x 14” (48 x 35.5 cm) size placemat.
The measurements also include doubling up the ends so the tote has some extra structure and gives it a really cute accent stripe.
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Lay one placemat right side down. Place the second placemat right side up on top of the first one. If your placemats are slightly different sizes, line up the top edge. The bottom edge will be hidden in a seam.
Take your ruler and measure 2” (5.1 cm) in from the right side and draw a line. Pin the placemats together so they do not shift while you sew.
Stitch the two placemats together on the line you drew in Step #2.
Open up your very wide seam allowance. Pin to hold in place. My placemats were “sticky” enough to not need any pins.
Sew along the bound edge of the placemats. This will allow you to hide your stitches and will make the bag look like you’ve added binding to the two sides.
On the opposite side, take your ruler and measure 2” (5.1 cm) in from the left side and draw a line. Pin the placemats together so they do not shift while you sew and stitch on the line.
Once the other side of the bag is sewn and you have another wide seam you will need to top stitch it down like you did in Step #4. Since you cannot lay this side flat to sew down these wide seam allowances, you will have to do a little bit of wiggling and manipulating of the tote but it will work, I promise. And you’ll love the clean appearance of no seam allowances inside the tote!
Note: This step is easier if you sew half way down the bag, cut your thread, and sew from the other end to meet in the middle.
Turn your tote inside out. Remember at the very beginning when you decided which way was the top? Determine which side is the top again to make sure your top edge is nice and even.
Note: Because these placemats are inexpensive, they are not always uniform in size. If that’s the case, you will have uneven sides. Make sure the top edge is even and then adjust for unevenness along the bottom edge.
Sew the bottom edge. This is where any unevenness will get absorbed into the seam allowance and disappear. I sewed just inside the binding.
Focus on one bottom corner. Refold the corner so the bottom and the side seams line up. Pin or clip into place. Notice that the topstitching lines from Steps #4 and #5 run perpendicular to the side/bottom seams.
Sew along that topstitching line to create a little triangle in the bottom corner. However, be sure to sew slowly and carefully as there are many layers in this section and you don’t want to break a needle.
Trim the excess fabric from that corner. Zigzag along the seam allowance to prevent any loose threads from unraveling in the bottom of your tote. Repeat Steps #8-10 on the other bottom corner of the tote. Turn your tote right side out and admire your perfect corners.
Fold one strap lengthwise in half wrong sides together and press.
Place your interfacing in the folded strap against the fold line. Press to fuse.
Open the strap and fold over .25” (.63cm) along one long edge. Press. Repeat for opposite edge.
Press everything once more to get nice crisp edges. Open up the strap and refold right sides together along that center fold line. Pin each short end.
Sew one short end of your strap. Your strap will look a bit funny at this point.
Clip your corners. Repeat on the other short end of your strap. Refold your strap so it’s right side out and make sure your corners are sharp. Topstitch around the entire strap. Repeat these steps for the other strap.
Place your tote in front of you and grab one strap. Find a placement that feels right for you. For this tote, I placed each end of the strap 2” (2.5 cm) in from each side and 1.5” (3.8 cm) from the top edge. Pin into place.
Using the diagram below, stitch a box with an X in the middle of it at both ends of the strap. Repeat these steps for the other strap on the other side of your tote.
I know some of you learn better from video so I’ve created a quick video of this project, too!
Wasn’t that a fun project. And so simple!
Admire your great work and enjoy the sunshine with a walk to the local library carrying your new library tote!