Workshop Tote Bag


  • Four contrasting fat quarters for the blocks
  • 1.2m material for contrast and lining
  • 40cm pelmet or craft Vilene (must be 90cm wide)
  • 45 x 120cm wadding
  • 20cm calico (for Windmill block)
  • 45 x 120cm calico or similar for backing (will not be seen in finished bag)
  • Useful gadget - a rouleau turner or fast turn
  • Six buttons

Finished Size

16 x 17in (40 x 43cm) plus handles (16 x 34in (40 x 86cm) open)

Skill Level


You can download a pdf copy of the original magazine pages for this project here, Workshop Tote Bag

This bag is designed by Davina Thomas to hold all your small cutting mats and rulers and is ideal to take to workshops and classes. No more last minute rush searching for your equipment. It has a button fastening on the sides, which opens to reveal even more pockets and ties inside. It was designed for beginners as it covers several simple blocks and techniques but if you are adventurous you could change the blocks or even use up some UFO’s from last year.

The blocks

Spirit of St Louis (12in finished size)


  • Four 2 1/2 x 6 1/2in strips of dark fabric
  • Four 2 1/2 x 6 1/2in strips of medium fabric
  • Four 2 1/2 x 6 1/2in strips of light fabric

Sew into groups of three in order - dark, medium, light and press. Assemble as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Spirit of St Louis piecing
Figure 1: Spirit of St Louis piecing

Chequer board (12in finished size)

Choose two fabrics which contrast and cut

  • Three 2 1/2 x 15in strips of dark fabric
  • Three 2 1/2 x 15in strips of light fabric

TIP! If you have sufficient fabric you can cut a bit longer which allows for slight inaccuracies in your cutting.

  1. Sew into pairs RS together, one light and one dark strip. Press towards the dark fabric.
  2. Cut each of the strips into pieces 2 1/2in wide. You need eighteen in total.
  3. Assemble into one block as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Chequer board block
Figure 2: Chequer board block

Flying geese (4 x 10in finished size)

Choose two contrasting fabrics and cut

  • Five 2 1/2 x 4 1/2in strips in dark fabric for the geese
  • Ten 2 1/2in squares for the corner triangles in light or medium fabric
  1. Press or mark the squares on the diagonal. Place a square RS together on the rectangle and sew on the marked line.
  2. Press open and trim away excess fabric from the back.
  3. Place another square RS down on the other end (see Figure 3) and sew as before. Make the remaining geese in this way.
  4. Sew into a strip of five geese - all pointing the same way.
Figure 3: Chequer board block
Figure 3: Flying Geese

Windmill pockets (6 x 6in finished size)

Choose three fabrics. Cut

  • Four 4in squares from light fabric
  • Two 4in squares from dark fabric
  • Two 4in squares from medium fabric
  • Two 6 1/2in squares of calico for lining the pockets
  1. Fold the light squares and press on the diagonal or mark lightly with pencil.
  2. Place each light square RS together with a dark or medium square. Sew carefully 1/4in away from the marked line on each square. Repeat this sewing 1/4in away on the other side of the line.
  3. Cut apart on the marked line and press towards the dark or medium fabric.
  4. Trim each to 3 1/2in square if necessary.
  5. Arrange into blocks and sew, press carefully. See Figure 4. Note that Davina has arranged the blocks in two ways.
  6. Place each block RS together with calico and sew round edge leaving a 2in gap for turning in one side - this should not be near a corner.
  7. Turn through and press, folding the unstitched edges in place. You do not need to sew as they will be caught down when the pocket is stitched in place.
Figure 4: Windmill blocks (two variations on block layout)
Figure 4: Windmill blocks (two variations on block layout)

Sashed nine patch (10in square)


  • Nine 2 1/2in squares of dark or medium fabric
  • Four 2 1/2in squares of light fabric
  • Four 2 1/2 x 6 1/2in strips of dark or medium fabric

Sew into a block. Note that in Figure 5 only two colours of fabric have been shown, but you can add more as in the photograph of the bag.

Figure 5: Constructing the nine patch block
Figure 5: Constructing the nine patch block

Small needle pocket

Cut two 6 1/2 x 1 3/4in strips. Place RS together and sew round most of the edge. Leave a small gap for turning. Turn RS out and press the edge, neatly folding the unsewn edges to the inside. (This can be made from pieced scraps left from the other blocks.)

Make up outer pockets

  1. Measure your Chequer board and Spirit of St Louis blocks. They should measure 12 1/2in square.
  2. Cut four 2 1/2 x 12 1/2in strips of contrast fabric. Sew two strips to the sides of each block and press.
  3. Cut a strip 4 1/2 x 16 1/2in. Place the Chequer board block RS down on the strip and sew with 1/4in seam. Add the St Louis block in the same way.

Quilting and binding the large pockets

  1. Cut a piece of backing and wadding each 18 x 30in.
  2. Place the backing down and lay the wadding on top. Lay the pieced pockets neatly on top and smooth down. Tack together and quilt by hand or machine.
  3. Cut two strips of fabric 1 3/4 x 16 1/2in. Fold in half lengthwise and press.
  4. Line up the raw edges with the short sides of your block and sew with a 1/4in seam. Fold over to the back and slip stitch by hand. Repeat at the other end.

Quilting and binding the small pockets

TIP! These pockets were designed for a ruler that is 3 or 4in wide, if you want to use for a 6in wide ruler then add the spacer strips either side of the flying geese block to make that wider.

  1. Cut lining fabric and wadding 12 x 18in.
  2. Join the flying geese to the sashed nine patch, adding extra strips if either of your blocks is not 10 1/2in in length.
  3. Cut two strips 1 1/2in x 10 1/2in and add to either side to bring up to 16 1/2in.
  4. Put the calico RS down and lay the wadding on top. Place the blocks RS up and smooth out. Tack together well and quilt as before.
  5. Cut one strip 1 1/2 x 17in from dark fabric for the binding and fold in half. Sew with a 1/4in seam to the top of the pocket and slipstitch to the back. Note this pocket will need trimming later to fit the width of bag.

Assembling the inner pockets


  • One 16 1/2 x 14in strip of contrast fabric for inner bag
  • One 16 1/2 x 3 1/2in of contrast fabric for inner bag top strip
  • Four 12 x 1 1/4in strips for ties and button loops
  • Two 2 x 20in strips for short handles (cut 36in for longer handles)

Make the ties

TIP! For a fatter handle, cut a piece of wadding 1 x 24in and sew with the seam before you turn it through.

  1. Fold a strip RS together and sew along entire length. Turn to RS. Use the rouleau turner gadget or a safety pin (it can be tricky, as it is so narrow). Repeat for other strips.
  2. Cut one strip into six pieces each 2in long for button loops. Make the handles in the same way.
  3. Join the two inner bag pieces together catching the ties in place as you join the seam.
  4. Position the Windmill pockets in place and sew. Make sure you position the turning gap at the bottom and the pocket opening at the top. Add the needle pocket and sew divisions in place to make small pockets (see Figure 6).
Figure 6: The inner pockets
Figure 6: The inner pockets

Final Assembly


  • 16 1/2 x 17 1/2in of contrast for lining 1 (inside bag)
  • 16 1/2in x 35in of contrast for lining 2 (outside bag)
  • 16 x 36in of craft Vilene - trim to fit your exact bag at the last moment
  1. Tack the small pocket to lining 1. Join to the inner pocket at the bottom leaving a turning gap of at least 10in.
  2. Tack outer pocket to lining 2 and place RS up, pinning the handles and loops in place, raw edges matching. Distribute the loops evenly down the two sides of the bag.
  3. Place inner pockets RS down evenly on top and pin well, all round the edge.
  4. Sew round the entire bag. Turn through the gap. Insert the Vilene and sew up the opening.
  5. Sew the buttons securely in place
Finished Bag

First published in Popular Patchwork January 2002