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Writing the blog post about Fabric Manipulation books gave me an idea for this tote bag. I really love the texture and structure the pin tucks create, so I decided to fill half of the bag surface with them!

As you can imagine, the project turned into a true pin tuck exercise. Sewing this tote requires a certain amount of precision and patience. If you feel like giving it a go, you can get a free pdf pattern to download here:

In case you want to draft the pattern yourself, you will find the blog post on pleats useful, because adding tucks to a pattern works exactly the same way. It’s just that the tucks are much tinier.

Cutting the tote pieces

I made my tote with a fake jeans -type of fabric. I think it must be medium weight cotton or similar. As the pin tucks create some bulk, I’d say medium weight fabric might be the best choice. Heavy weight will probably become too bulky. You’ll need about 70cm (0,77yd) of fabric.

Except sewing the tucks, this tote is a pretty simple make. You have 3 rectangular pattern pieces and you need to cut 2 of each.

I added seam allowance in the pattern, but you can change the amounts if you want. This being just a bag means that it won’t cause any problems.

Remember to clip little marks where the tucks are (lots of marks, I know!). This is where you need to start being precise.

Preparing the pin tucks

The easiest – and maybe even the only – way to sew straight tucks, is to press them first.

Starting from one side, fold the first tuck, matching the marks you just clipped. Keep the same distance from the edge for the whole length and press. It’s important to get the first fold right, because you will be using it as a reference for the next fold.

Now you have a fold line that will help you to keep the following fold straight. Again, match the clipped marks and press. There should be 2cm (0,79in) in between the folds.

Now you have a reference point for the following fold. Continue pressing all the folds the same way.

In the end you should have both pieces with all the tucks prepared for stitching.

Next you’ll sew the pin tucks in place. If you’re using the pattern I prepared, the tucks are 0,5cm (0,2in) wide. This might take a while!

sewing pin tucks

After you’re done, you can congratulate yourself, as you’ve finished the most difficult part of the whole project!

Then try to stretch the pieces a bit with the help of the iron. They should be as wide as the upper part of the bag. If you didn’t sew the tucks exactly in the right width, the result will be a piece that’s either too small or too wide. You could then either adjust the tucks or change the width of the upper piece, but the front- and back- sides of the bag should at least be the same size.

pin tucks right side and wrong side

Sewing the bag

At this point you can sew the upper and lower parts of the tote together. I added 1cm (0,39in) seam allowance here to do a plain seam. Keep all the tucks turned in the same direction while you sew.

Serge or zig zag the seams after sewing and press them towards the upper part of the tote. Top stitch to fix the seam allowance in place.

Press also the top edge of the bag, first at 1cm (0,39in) and then 4cm (1,57in) while you’re at it. It’s easier to do it at this point when the surface is still flat.

Now you can choose if you want to unite the front- and back pieces together with a plain seam or the French seam. If you are using a heavy weight fabric, it might be easier to do plain seams though.

I did French seams and here you can see the first round of stitching, wrong sides together at 0,7cm (0,28in) after which I trimmed off part of the seam allowance.

When sewing the bottom seam, keep the tucks turned in the right direction: check where the upper part of the tucks is turned and maintain the same direction.

If you chose the French seam, turn the bag wrong side out, press and sew at 0,7cm (0,28in) again.

Then you can finish the upper edge of the bag by turning that 4cm (1,57in) +1cm (0.39in) under and stitching it in place.

The tote handles

The last part that’s still missing are the handles. So fold them lengthwise in half, right sides together and sew the edges, leaving one short end open.

Trim the angles and turn the right side back out. Press flat and press the seam allowance of the remaining short end inside.

Then you can attach the handles to your bag. Pin them first and see which point looks the best. Here you can see my example.

Tote bag with pin tucks is ready!

tote bag with decorative  tucks
pin tucks on a bag
tote with pin tucks

There’s also another tote bag -tutorial and -pattern, if you haven’t checked it out yet.

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