The Jordy Tote Bag

with variations

size: 13" x 13" x 5"

September 2012

Oh yes, this is Yet Another Purple Tote Bag. :-)

Middle Dear Daughter requested a tote bag to contain specific items, so the dimensions of the tote bag needed to be a specific size. What mother would deny a daughter's request for a homemade item? Certainly not this mother. [certain restrictions apply]

I rummaged through my stash and came up with some jeans-weight purple overdyed denim. This would be *perfect* for the exterior. [aside: this denim is vintage stuff. I remember buying it when she was knee-high to a grasshopper, with the intent of making her an Oshkosh-by-gosh overall. Well, this daughter is now 23 years old. I think the timeframe for overalls with this fabric has passed. :-)] She liked the denim. One fabric acquired.

The search was now on for the lining fabric. She requested pink polka dots. Well ... what does that MEAN???? Pink background with polka dots? or Pink polka dots on a background? It actually meant a pink background with teeny-tiny white polka dots. Very specific stuff.

This posed a problem. I don't DO polka dots. They just don't thrill me. This required a jaunt to the fabric store. Wouldn't you know, there was NO pink background with teeny-tiny polka dots in stock. There was pink background with medium dots and pink background with teeny-tiny brown dots but nothing in line with what she wanted. So, I bought one-half yard of each, "just in case", and sent pictures to her for evaluation.

I was fortunate that she liked the medium dot fabric ... so that became the lining. Second fabric acquired.

Since this tote bag was to carry heavier items, she requested that the straps go all the way around the tote bag instead of simply being attached at the top. This wasn't a problem. She asked that the straps be the same fabric as the exterior, i.e. the denim fabric. This turned out to BE a problem since there simply wasn't enough of the denim to be both the exterior of the bag PLUS the length required for those long straps.

BUT, since I knew this tote was going to be heavy-duty use bag, I had decided that a second layer of fabric on the bottom of the bag was in order. I had obtained a hefty remnant of a suede-like fabric. Since this stuff was polyester, I knew it would wear like iron. It was also sufficient for both the second bottom plus the straps. Additionally, there as enough to make the zipper unit closure. Problem solved!

I probably have a commercial pattern for tote bags. I probably could have also just drafted one myself; they just aren't that difficult. But, I went to the internet for someone who had already worked out the kinks of making tote bags. Why reinvent the wheel? :-)

The first tutorial that caught my eye had the *precise* contrast second bottom and long straps that I had in mind! Bingo! I made a test bag first, as I didn't want to risk the limited amount of denim I had on an untested tutorial. Boy, was I glad that I did. This particular tote bag is very handsome. But the *construction* of the bag is horrible and unnecessarily complicated. I finished the test bag but marked the tutorial as quite unacceptable.

I found another tote bag tutorial (there are hundreds of them available ... go look for yourself!) that was much, much simpler in construction. In fact, it is *just* a basic bag. It's called The Jordy Bag. Designed by Jordyn MacKenzie, the pattern used to be available on her website at It was the Pink Olive tutorial that I used to create this tote bag. Alas, that domain has disappeared. :-) But the construction is VERY easy and results in a very basic bag that can be altered to include your own customizations.

Luckily, the tutorial is *still* available on Craftster, although it is not the one I used.

The variations that I did for this bag are:

Lengthen the Straps
I calculated the length of the straps by the height of the bag (twice; once for the front and once for the back) plus the depth of the bag plus however long I needed the loop to be. In this bag's case, it was 13 + 13+ 5+ 22 = 53". The width of the strap fabric was 3 times the width of the strap webbing plus 1/4" for a foldover hem. I like to use commercial webbing for straps because I know they are strong. In a pinch, I will use sturdy interfacing or fleece, but I prefer webbing. I divided the strap fabric lengthwise into thirds, put the webbing in the middle third and top-stitched the fabric in place along both long edges.

Zipper Closure
While I was still perusing Craftster, I also found a tutorial for exactly the zippered closure I had envisioned.

This zipper closure tutorial is authored by Queen of DIY.

What I liked about this zippered closure is that you don't lose any of the depth of the tote bag when it's zipped closed. If I had sewn a zipper directly to the exterior/lining, you wouldn't have the full depth of the bag all the way to the top.

Zippered Inner Pocket
Interior pockets are necessary to have frequently used items accessible. I didn't want open pockets inside the tote bag. Those are handy for the user but also handy for pickpockets.

Instead, I wanted a zippered pocket. Additionally, I didn't want a patch pocket. There's nothing "wrong" with patch pockets; it was simply a design feature that I didn't want for this bag.

Remember the pink background with teeny-tiny brown polka dot fabric that I bought "just in case"? Well, that fabric became the hidden pocket.

Once again, the internet came to the rescue with a tutorial. The technique isn't difficult and I could have figured it out myself, but I had happened to come across the Hidden Zipper Pocket tutorial from Jeri Sews blog. It's an excellent, short, CLEAR tutorial.

A Clip Ring
Dear Daughter has her keys on a carabiner. She requested a ring inside the bag so she could clip her keys to it, so that she wouldn't have to dig around the bottom of the bag for them.

Discerning eyeballs will observe that the ring is .... purple. :-)

Additional Bottom Layer
Since this tote bag was going to be used for carrying heavier items, I wanted the bottom of the tote bag to be able to stand up to wear and tear. To this end, I put an additional layer on the bottom and carried it up a short amount onto the bag itself as a contrast.

While the bag was still flat, I simply cut the additional fabric the same dimensions as the bag's bottom and top-stitched it in place over the previously stitched straps.

Vanity pirate tag
Well, that's my own machine-embroidered "pirate" tag. :-) It's a teeny-tiny skull-and-crossbones that fits so perfectly on narrow ribbons and adds a unique touch to my projects.

Ah yes ... how could I not put in my own self-embroidered, vanity pirate tag? All the very best articles have something to identify the brand. :-) Pirates R me! :-)

One aspect of lined bags that drives me crazy is having the lining detach itself from the bag and emerge with whatever item you are removing. So, one extra thing that I did do was to attach the corners of the exterior and the lining together.

The exterior and lining are constructed separately. Each has the corners boxed to create the flat bottom. I left one side seam of the lining open for most of its length (I sewed that side seam about 3" at the top and bottom only, leaving the rest of the seam unsewn.)

The lining is attached to the top of the exterior in a knife-edge seam and the exterior bag is then pulled through the open side seam of the lining. Before I sewed the opening shut, I pulled out the matching boxed corners and re-sewed them together. This permanently attached the lining to the bag *at the bottom* so that when you pull something out, the lining STAYS PUT.

Dang, I'm clever. :-)

What didn't I do?

Well, the tutorial calls for stiffening the exterior of the bag, with either interfacing or fusible fleece, so that the bag will stand up on its own. I had also considered quilting the exterior before construction, to provide extra padding for the items inside, but Dear Daughter said that was unnecessary.

So this bag is on the floppy side. It won't stay up, which is why my hand is in some of the above pictures: I had to hold the bag upright in order to get the picture I needed. :-)

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