Serge a Big-Bigger Canvas Tote

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Serge a Big-Bigger Canvas Tote

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IMG 6807For kids going off to college or college grads moving to start a career, serge a Big-Bigger Canvas Tote that expands to handle storage and laundry needs. It’s a tote that has both function and style!

IMG 6793Supplies:

  • 1 yard each of two coordinating canvas or denim-weight fabrics
  • Madeira Mouline, 100% Cotton, Six-Strand Floss or other decorative thread/floss, four packages each of two coordinating colors
  • Madeira Aerolock Premium Serger Thread
  • Pellon® Peltex® One-Sided Fusible Ultra Firm Stabilizer, 11″ x 13″ rectangle
  • 1 package Clover 1-1/4″ Create-a-Strap

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Cut outer and inner bag rectangles

All seam allowances are 1/4″ unless otherwise stated.

  • Cut two 26″ x 36″ rectangles from outer fabric, and two 26″ x 36″ rectangles from inner/lining fabric.IMG 6592
  • Turn the rectangles vertically. Mark and cut out a 6″ square from each of the lower corners. Save the 6″ fabric squares to make the tote handles!

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Serger set-up and basic seaming

  • Thread serger with Madeira Aerolock Premium Serger Thread. Set machine for a 4-thread overlock stitch.
  • With right sides together, serge lower base seam. Press seam to one side. Repeat for inner/lining fabric.


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  • Press 11″ x 13″ Pellon® Peltex® One-Sided Fusible Ultra Firm Stabilizer rectangle to center base of outer fabric.
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  • Align side seams, right sides together; serge seam. Repeat for inner/lining fabric.

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  • Press seams to one side.

Note From Team Nancy    To prevent the serged edge from leaving an impression on the right side of the fabric, press seam over a sleeve board or dowel.


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Form and stitch gussets on bottom of tote

  • With right sides together, fold side seams to align with lower base seam, forming gusset.

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  • Serge gussets, trimming off excess fabric. Repeat for lining fabric.

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Assemble, stitch, and attach lining to tote

  • Turn outer fabric tote right sides out.
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  • Insert lining tote inside outer tote, wrong sides together. Pin or clip edges together with Wonder Clips.
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Serge top edges

  • Set up serger for a standard 4-thread stitch.
  • Set the length and width settings at the longest and widest stitch options.
  • Insert Madeira Mouline, 100% Cotton, Six-Strand Floss into the upper and lower loopers.


Note From Team Nancy 

     When using decorative thread in the upper and lower loopers, we use the “lasso technique” along with Baby Lock’s ExtraordinAir or Jet-Air Threading feature.

  • Cut about 30″ of all-purpose thread, loop in half, insert the cut ends into the threading ports, hold on to the lasso end, and push the button that threads the loopers.
  • Insert the decorative thread through the lasso of the all-purpose thread (as pictured below). Manually pull the ends of the all-purpose thread, which will thread the heavier thread through the loopers.

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  • Thread needles with coordinating Madeira Aerolock Premium Serger Thread. On a scrap of fabric, test the stitch. Adjust the stitch length or width as needed.
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  • Serge the tote top edges, trimming off approximately 1/8″. Overlap ending and beginning stitches about 1/2″.
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Note From Team Nancy     Pull thread tails into stitching, using a large darning needle.

Make handles

  • Place two outer 6″ fabric squares right sides together.
  • Join squares by serging or stitching one edge. Press seam to one side. Repeat for inner/lining fabric, pressing seam in opposite direction.

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  • Fuse two strips of Clover 1-1/4″ Create-a-Strap to wrong side of outer fabric handle rectangle.

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  • Layer inner/lining fabric handle rectangle behind outer fabric handle rectangle.
  • Cut handles at edge of Create-a-Strap.

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  • Place inner/lining fabric handle and outer fabric handle rectangles, wrong sides together. Serge fabric handle edges, trimming off about 1/4″ on each long edge.

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  • Secure thread with Fray Block.
  • Speed-dry Fray Block by placing handles between layers of paper towel and press with a hot iron.
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  • Fold and press under 1/2″ along handle short ends. Repeat steps above to create four tote handles.

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  • Pin a handle at top edge of inner tote, at each side seam. Position the end of the handles 1″ from upper edge and centered 3″ over side seams. Make certain that the handle is not twisted.
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  • Topstitch handle to tote along handle top, bottom, and sides forming a stitched rectangle.
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Note From Team Nancy     We use the laser feature on our Baby Lock Destiny to diagonally stitch an “X” pattern, to secure handles in place. Repeat steps above and attach handle at opposite side.

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Add second set of handles

  • Fold top tote down about 10″.
  • Pin a handle to inner tote at both side seams. Position handles 8″ below top edge, pin through all layers.
  • Place inner side of handle to inner side of tote, centering the handle ends 3″ over the sides. Extend the handle towards tote bottom.
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  • Topstitch handle to tote following steps above.
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Serging is both decorative and functional

Decorative threads in the upper and lower loopers creates a beautiful finished edge for the tote top and handles.

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Big-Bigger Canvas Tote Features

  • For a big fabric tote, fold top edge over at secondary handles.

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  • For bigger tote, extend tote fully up.

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  • Reverse Big-Bigger Canvas Tote for a whole new look.
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It’s time to do laundry in style!

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We hope you’re inspired to serge the Big-Bigger Canvas Tote. Experiment with different decorative threads and other heavyweight fabrics. Enjoy the process.

Watch Ultimate Serger Techniques (Part One and Part Two) on The Best of Sewing With Nancy online.

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The Best of Sewing With Nancy TV Show hosted by Nancy Zieman

Nancy Zieman's Blog Giveaway

For a chance to win an I Sew For Fun 5-in-1 Sliding Gauge from Clover, please leave a comment and share how you’d use the Big-Bigger Canvas Tote.

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Nancy Zieman's Giveaway Winner

The randomly selected winner of Nancy Zieman’s New! Afternoon Picnic Fat Quarter Pack is Jennifer Padden.

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Her comment is: I still miss Nancy’s PBS shows. I am thankful to have the videos on her site though. Thanks for keeping her legacy alive. I love her fabric!


Happy Serging,

Team Nancy Zieman

Nancy Zieman Productions. LLC.

Nancy Zieman Productions, LLC

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  • Sharon
    August 24, 2019

    I haven’t decided just yet how I’d use it.

  • Carol Netzler
    August 24, 2019

    I wonder if it would make a good ruler tote!

  • Teresa Bishop
    August 24, 2019

    I think this would make a fabulous gift bag that could be filled with clothing, household items, or even baby necessities. Better than paper that gets tossed away.

  • Nancy Lewis
    August 24, 2019

    I would love to make these for my college aged grandchildren. Their dorm rooms are really compact, and this would give them extra storage space.

  • Vivian Oaks
    August 24, 2019

    I’ve often considered making a bag like your Big/Bigger Canvas bag!! I’m currently sorting through my fabric stash and this bag would be perfect for storing pieces of fabric while moving them from one spot to another. It would also be great just for storing the fabric!! (Especially if I run out of room elsewhere!) 🙂

  • Joyce
    August 24, 2019

    There are so many things I could use this tote for. But right away I would use it to put all the T-Shirts I am saving to make a T-quilt!

  • Nadine Donovan
    August 24, 2019

    I could use this gauge for many things- quilting,embroidery,making pillows,house decorations! It would be useful for me in my life!

    • Nadine Donovan
      August 24, 2019

      I could use this tote for so many things- traveling to a Quilt retreat! Packing up my quilting for show and tell, moving my kids in and out of their dorm rooms. This tote would be very useful in my house!

  • Dixie
    August 24, 2019

    I think it would be great for taking things to class.

  • Helen
    August 24, 2019

    I would use this tote for my ever-increasing stash of yarn beside my favorite crocheting chair.

  • Jennifer Farris
    August 24, 2019

    So cool! For me, I would use the big bigger bag for laundry. It’s perfect.

  • Sheila Kester
    August 24, 2019

    This is so versatile being able to use it in the shorter and then the longer version. I have some fleece that I need to store for a tile scene. This is going to be perfect. Better than a pillow case. The 5 in 1 tool will come in so handy for my sewing. I have often wanted one and didn’t feel I could get one at that time. I miss Nancy so much. Thanks for the videos so I get to visit with her that way.

  • Barb K
    August 24, 2019

    I would give it to my Grandson who is just starting college.

  • Clovis
    August 24, 2019

    Nice big & sturdy bag. Love the colors.

  • Bev Bolduc Aldridge
    August 24, 2019

    The big bigger bag is just what I need. I don’t have a serger but the basic design of this bag is perfect for uses I can do with it: library, groceries, sewing on the go supplies to name a few. Thankyou team Nancy Zieman for continued insperation.

  • Janet
    August 24, 2019

    This tote would be great to hold yarn.

  • Suzy C
    August 24, 2019

    I knew immediately what I would use this adorable tote for. Hats, scarfs, and gloves for the kids. Will always be able to find them………

  • Lorraine Alves
    August 24, 2019

    A Big-Bigger Tote would be perfect for my grocery shopping. Our local stores no longer provide single use plastic bags. This bag would hold a lot of shopping items. I would also make a Big-Bigger Tote for my laundry. The laundry room is a shared facility three doors down from my home.

  • Gail Beam
    August 24, 2019

    I would make this for my granddaughter who is in college. She has been asking for a bag to tote items back and forth from home to her dorm and this would be . Loved this easy to understand tutorial with step by step instructions and awesome accompanying photos.

  • MaryEllen
    August 24, 2019

    Definitely would use the large tote for laundry. Also, I think they would make perfect gifts for Christmas, birthdays and High School graduation. Think about it, make it in light colors for white clothes, one in medium colors for the medium color laundry etc.

  • Carol
    August 24, 2019

    It would be so handy to shop for souvenirs in a foreign country and actually have a decent tote bag in which to carry them back home.

  • Carolyn T
    August 24, 2019

    I could use a big bigger tote in Christmas themed fabric for carrying gifts to and from our family party! How fun.

  • Kay Statom
    August 24, 2019

    This will be great for my grand daughter going off to college. She can keep everything together and look good while she is at washing her clothes (or taking them home for mom)

  • Hannah W
    August 25, 2019

    We use laundry bags when traveling and with five people in our family big and bigger is helpful 🙂

  • Linda Johnson
    August 25, 2019

    This bag will make a beautiful going off to college for our dear neighbor. She was just talking to me about her needing a bag for her computer note books and text books plus extras. Thanks once again for the great ideas and patterns.

  • Susan
    August 26, 2019

    The Big-Bigger Canvas Tote would be perfect for vacations. Instead of using heavy suitcases, the tote would be ideal for packing clothes, towels or other items. Its versatility would make a very handy item.

  • Julie Kill
    August 26, 2019

    I would use the tote in my dining room for my sewing projects. With it’s decorative appeal, it’s just right to hold larger projects, and will make my dining room look more stylish and tidy, while keeping my sewing projects right at hand for easy access when I can find a few minutes to work on them! Thanks for yet another great idea!

  • Jan
    August 27, 2019

    I would use it for returning bottles..seems like we always need bags to take them back and for years I’ve used Joann Fabric green grocer bags, but after many washings, they need replacing. Keep Nancy alive with her classes and videos.

  • Anita P.
    September 4, 2019

    I’d use it for my crochet projects, especially the afghans. The afghan gets so big that it becomes difficult to put back into the clear vinyl bag that the yarn came in.

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