Want a cool tote bag that you can make yourself? Keep reading! We've collaborated with designer Chris Carey (aka Ikue) who's designed this 'Totes Awesome' embroidery pattern just for you. You can learn how to make the original vector design here. This design is great because it combines an edgy tattoo-style with the texture of various old-school embroidery stitches. Let's get started.
- Cotton tote bag
- Water soluble stabilizer
- Colorfast embroidery floss (6 strand)
- Embroidery needles
- Embroidery hoop
- Click here to download the embroidery pattern
1. Transfer Your Pattern
Transfer the embroidery pattern to your water soluble stabilizer.
You can transfer your pattern to the stabilizer by printing directly onto the stabilizer using the draft setting on your inkjet or laser printer. This helps save you time and is far more accurate than tracing, especially in patterns with a lot of detail and thinner lines like the one we have here. Using water soluble stabilizer is my preferred method of pattern transfer because it can be used on any fabric regardless of the fabric's thickness or color.
Trim the stabilizer around your pattern so you don't have too much excess. You can save this for smaller projects in the future, though they will need to be traced onto the stabilizer rather than run through your printer.
Position your pattern on your tote bag.
Play around with where you want your pattern to be on your tote bag. Do you want it centered? How far from the bottom of your tote do you want it to sit? Reposition until you are satisfied.
Remove backing and stick pattern to your bag.
Smooth out any air bubbles by pressing gently from the center of your pattern and working outward. The adhesive backing is still able to be peeled off and repositioned if necessary. Press firmly to ensure your pattern isn't going to move around while you are stitching.
Secure your embroidery hoop around your pattern.
While your pattern is on stabilizer, which adds stiffness and stability to your fabric, I find an embroidery hoop aids in giving you something to hold onto while stitching. Since we have placed our pattern onto a finished tote bag, you will find it necessary to turn the project a great deal while working, and the hoop aids in that as well as keeping your entire work surface taut and flat.
2. Stitch Your Pattern
Take a look at your pattern and decide which stitches you'd like to use on different sections of the design before you even pick up your needle and floss. In our pattern, there is a sailor's rope that weaves throughout the pattern. It's a wide line and would look best done in a stitch that will fill that line. Using all six strands of floss and a chain stitch will give it texture.
While you are working, weave in loose ends on the back of your work to keep them neat and clean. You can also tie knots if necessary.
There are solid areas in the stars and lettering, so using all six strands of floss in a satin stitch will fill those areas quickly and neatly.
There are lots of very thin outlines in the pattern. Use two or three strands of the six strand floss to keep those lines looking delicate. A backstitch is great for outlining, as it's not as fussy as a chain stitch, and you can work quickly while making clean straight lines.
Finally, you will notice some small circles in the center of our flower. Since they are so small, a satin stitch would be impractical and time consuming, even if you reduced the number of stands used. Instead, try a grouping of small french knots for each one.
Thread your needle and start stitching.
Decide if you will be using all six strands of your embroidery floss. If not, cut your length of floss and then separate your strands.
Start your first stitch.
Since the sailor's rope winds through so much of the pattern, I decided to start with that. The rope also winds behind the other objects in the pattern. When planning my stitches I like to start with things that are in the background, so any following stitches can neatly cover the edges where the two objects meet in the appropriate order.
Start at one end of the rope and work around so that your stitches all go in the same direction. Even though our rope is broken up by several other objects in the pattern, we want it to look as if it is one continuous piece of rope. You will need to turn the fabric often and follow the line as you work until you complete the entire length of rope. You will notice in some small areas that only a single chain can be stitched.
Move on to your second stitch.
Satin stitch is done by completing several straight parallel stitches very close together to fill a solid area. When possible, start with a straight edge and work your way over until your series of stitches is complete.
Work over your pattern until all the solid areas are completed before moving on to your next stitch.
Complete your french knots.
To aid in making your french knots uniform, try to start each one as close to the center of the circle in your pattern as possible. This will help ensure even spacing as well as keep your knots in a near-perfect circle in the center of your flower.
Start on whichever circle you like and then work your way around the bigger circle until you are finished.
Stitch your outlines using a backstitch.
The outlines in this pattern are very delicate, so I switched from using all six strands of embroidery floss to using only two on all the outlines.
Work your way around your pattern until all of the objects have been outlined completely, including the lettering.
3. Finish the Tote Bag
Remove your embroidery hoop from your work so you can easily turn the bag inside out if needed.
Weave in any loose threads on the back of your work and tie knots if necessary. You want the back of your work to be as neat as possible to avoid any snags when you are using your tote bag. Remember, things are going to be put inside and you don't want them to catch on your hard work.
Remove the stabilizer.
Once all your stitching has been neatly knotted, or loose ends have been woven into your stitching, remove the stabilizer by soaking it in water. Use warm water to help dissolve the stabilizer more quickly.
Small areas between stitching may also require a little agitation or rubbing to get all of the stabilizer off.
Allow the tote bag to dry thoroughly. Follow any care instructions on your tote bag. You can machine-dry according to the instructions, otherwise spread it out on a flat surface and smooth out as many wrinkles as possible.
With your iron on the cotton setting, iron out any remaining wrinkles in your tote bag.
Show Off Your Tote
Have you completed your embroidery? Nice work. Now it's time to show it off with pride. Anchors aweigh!
In this tutorial, you learned how to transfer an embroidery pattern using a stabilizer. You also discovered how to use different embroidery stitches to achieve specific looks and textures.
Why not try making embroidered totes for all your friends? They'd make great presents! You might like to try different embroidery colours and stitches, too.
Did you find this tutorial helpful? How else might you use this technique? Let us know in the comments section below - we look forward to hearing from you!