Sewing tutorial: Tiered Tote Bag with Rosette Embellishment

One of my favorite Christmas gifts I've made this year is the Tiered Tote Bag. It turned out so stinkin' cute that I had a moment of weakness when I almost considered keeping it for myself. Alas, I love the aunt I created it for, so off it went. At least I'll get to visit it every year. :) 
Sewing tutorial:  Tiered Tote Bag with Rosette Embellishment
To make one for yourself (and I highly recommend you do!), you'll need:

1 canvas tote bag - I got mine at Hobby Lobby for $1.99
fabric for ruffles - 5 strips, cut to 5 1/2" wide, and bolt length (no trimming needed)
contrasting fabric for rosette
clasp/pin to attach rosette to bag
hot glue

First, you'll need to serge all the edges of the 5 strips. If you don't have a serger, don't despair. Simply fold under all the edges 1/4", twice, and sew a straight stitch, locking your threads by backstitching when you start and stop. If you've used a serger, now take one strip and fold under both long sides 1/4" once and sew a straight stich, backstitching at beginning and end to lock threads (If you didn't use a serger, you've already done this! woo hoo!). Now take the remaining four strips and repeat, but only on one long side of each strip.

Now you've got 5 strips, all with serged (or folded under seams) edges. Four of the strips have one long side folded under and one long serged edge. One of the strips has two long sides folded under. Got it? K. Now we ruffle.

There are a lot of ways to do this. Some prefer gathering the fabric by sewing two wide running stitches and pulling one of the threads. It's a lot better way to create ruffles because you can control and adjust the length of your fabric and density of the ruffles...but I personally despise that method. It takes up too much of my time and the thread inevitably breaks. I dream of owning a ruffle foot attachment for my sewing machine, but until then, I just ruffle the wrong way. It drives my mother crazy because she's a real seamstress. The kind that does it all correctly and measures it all out. She's also the one that gets me out of the sewing jams I inevitably get into because of my aforementioned lack of measuring and doing things the wrong way. (Love you, Mom!)
If you're lazy like me, gather your fabric underneath your presser foot and sew on top of the gathers, very slowly. You'll do this along the serged edge of four of the strips of fabric, and one of the folded under edges of the remaining strip.

The strip with both long edges folded under will be your top tier. Line this strip up with the opening of the bag and pin in place. Sew a seam 1/4" from the opening of the bag, backstitching at beginning and end to lock threads. Be sure to line up the ends of your fabric at one of the bag's side seams. It will help create a more professional look.

Where your fabric ends meet, tuck under the edge of one end. You'll sew these two ends together and it will help hide the seam.

You can do this step now, or wait to do all five layers at one time. See where my finger is separating the fabric? That's the two ends that make up the side seam in the picture above. Pull the fabric away from the tote bag and sew the ends together to make one continuous ruffle. Backstitch!
Now you move on to the next tier. Pin it in place so that its top serged edge will be covered by the first tier. You should measure. I did not. You'll see how that worked out for me in a minute.

Be careful not to catch other parts of the tote bag in this seam. This gets a little trickier with each subsequent tier.

Repeat until all five tiers are sewn in place and your side seams are sewn together so that you've got five separate continuous ruffles.

This is my bag, flipped inside out. See how my seams look so pretty when I'm close up?

But here's the ugly truth... Like I said, measure! The beauty of this bag though, is that even sloppy imperfections (as illustrated below) aren't visible. My kind of project!

The bag is super cute by this point, but it could really use a littlepop! I've made rosettes before, but I wanted something a little different, something a little fuller than the typical rosette. look like this:
Now hot glue a clasp or pin to that circle backing.

And now you've got one of my favorite rosette styles ever!
Since it's pinned to the tote bag, it can be removed for washing, or stolen to accesorize an outfit when you just need a little something extra.


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