I adore Vera Bradley’s line of purses, tote bags, accessories, etc, and this past summer when she came out with her “Seashore” line, I was in love. Namely- I fell in love with the Seashore Tote- an oversized straw bag with an appliqued anchor on it. Now, being a Jersey girl, one who spends her summers at the beach, I already have a dedicated beach bag- a large straw bag that holds my towels, cosmetic bag, sunscreen and a book, so I really had no need for this Vera bag. Then I remembered that next month, my fiancé and I will be travelling to St. Lucia on our honeymoon, and I’ll be needed a cute bag to bring with me to the beach there. My regular beach bag is too heavy to be easily packed, so I decided I would buy the Vera bag because it would easily fold flat in my luggage. Then I got to the store….and I got sticker shock at the price. Now, I do own several Vera Bradley purses, and I know they are quality made and therefore slightly more expensive then a normal purse, but I was shocked that this simple straw bag was $65! I took a look at its construction and decided I could easily DIY it.
Check it out- looks just like a Vera bag, but at a fraction of the cost!
To make your own, you’ll need:
-A large tote bag. You could make your own, or do as I did- hunt the aisles of WalMart. I found this one for under $7!
-A fat quarter or a scrap of fabric in a color of your choice
-1/2 yard of Wonder Under (it is a double sided fusible interfacing) If you can’t find it locally, there are many options available on Amazon, including thisThermoweb Heat’n Bond Ultra Hold Iron-On Adhesive
-Thread to match (or coordinate)
-Sewing machine, and an understanding of the basic workings of it
-Scrap paper/newspaper (for making your anchor template)
Seriously- $7! It might not be the most well-made tote bag, but it’ll easily fold flat in my luggage, and was a good basis for my bag.
1. Follow the directions on your Wonder Under/Thermo Web and iron it onto the back side of your fabric. Make sure there is a good adhesion because this is what will help you adhere your applique to your bag later!
2. Using scrap paper or newspaper, make an anchor (or whatever shape you’d like!) template. I’d provide mine here, but each tote bag will be a different size, so it wouldn’t be useful for most. I laid out a piece of newspaper the size of my bag and sketched it until it looked right. It took me 3 tries to get one that looked good to me. Don’t give up! Tip** Keep your design simple- no hard corners or tiny shapes. You’ll be sewing around these edges later, and small spaces make for difficult appliquéing.
3. Lay out your template onto your fabric and trace the pattern. When you are done, carefully cut it out.
4. Carefully peel the paper backing off of your anchor. Make sure that the glue stays adhered to your fabric. If it is still stuck to the paper, re-iron the paper to make sure the glue sticks to the fabric. Allow to cool before peeling again.
5. Lay out your applique on the bag in the location you would like it to be. I made mine off center and titled just like the original Vera bag. Carefully iron the applique down using the hottest setting that will work with your bag.
6. Thread your machine in a coordinating color thread. Make sure your bobbin is full because you’ll use a lot of thread! Adjust your machine so that it is on a fairly wide, and very close zig zag stitch. I set mine at a width of 4 (out of a possible 5) and a closeness of .4. Every machine will be different though. I suggest testing on a piece of scrap fabric to decide the settings.
7. Place your bag onto the arm of the machine, making sure that you are not sewing through the back side of the bag or the handles. Slowly make your way around the edge of the applique with your zig zag stitch. This process is very time consuming, so be patient and take your time. If you rush it, you’ll have gaps in your sewing, or worse, you could break a needle. Be extra careful when going around curves, and go extra slow. Don’t expect to start at one location on your applique and be able to make it all the way around in one shot. I had to start and stop about 4 times so that I could rearrange my tote bag. I found it easiest to start in the bottom corner and make my way up to the top.
Enjoy your new tote bag!