Got a fabric poster? Sew yourself a tote!

So, you have a fabric poster from a conference. Awesome. Let’s make a bag from it instead of shoving it in a drawer or throwing it away. I’m going to try to illustrate with drawings and pictures, but if you have question reach out to me on twitter.

First things first, you will need, a poster, a sewing machine, scissors, thread, lining fabric of your choice, a ruler and an iron (not pictured sewing machine and iron).

Poster from the amazing Nour (@Nouronal on twitter)

Before you start sewing iron your poster and lining fabric so that they’re smooth and flat. Be extra careful when ironing your fabric as some types of printing is more delicate than other. Always try a test a patch on the edge, and if it starts to melt use a lower temp for ironing and a piece of fabric between the iron and the poster.

Now that you have your tools and your fabric is prepped, you need to decide what size bag you want to make. The bag in this tutorial has width and depth instead of being flat like a typical tote bag. I like my bag to be a bit larger on the face than a laptop, and my base to be about 3 inches, and the sides to be about 3 inches as well.

To make a pattern follow the following diagram, cut a rectangle that’s your desired height + 2 inches + ½ the base + your seam allowance (I typically use ¼ inch), then your desired width + the size of your desired side + seam allowance.

Cut out the bottom two corners that are ½ the width of your base, and ½ the width of your sides. So. you end up with something that looks like the following image.

Now that you have a pattern, I usually draw it out on some scrap cardboard or tape a few pieces of paper together. Alternatively, you can draw it out with pencil on the back of your poster, just make sure you are making square corners and straight lines.

Cut out 2 of your pattern using your poster fabric, pay special attention to the lay out so that the areas you most want to be seen are in the center of your pattern. Leave two continuous strips of your poster that are each about 6 inches wide (for a 1 ½ inch wide strap, or desired strap width x4) and are the length you want your straps. These strips will become your straps. Next cut out your lining, this is 2 additional cut outs of your pattern but they should be 1 inch shorter from the top side.

Please ignore my non-ironing of the lining. Don’t be like me.

Now with the printed sides together, sew along the two long sides and the base of your two poster pieces leaving the bottom squares unsewn (NB: if your poster is stretchy fabric, it’s probably best to sew it together using a zig-zag stich for knits, but use your best judgement). Repeat this for the lining, with the nice/ pattern side together.

sew along the outside edge and the bottom

Next sew the box corners. This part is a little hard to explain; open the bag a bit so you can squeeze the non-sewn squared corners together along their diagonal, with the bottom seam and the side seam meeting together, then sew along that edge.

Do the same for the lining fabric.

Iron all your seams flat, and the flip the outside/ poster part right side out, so that all the seams are on the inside and things are starting to look a bit more like a bag. Leave the lining fabric wrong side out.

2 bags, lining and outside

Next let’s make the straps. Cut 2 strips of your poster that are the length of your desired strap + 4 inches. Iron each strap in half, with the good/ right side out, then fold in the two sides to the middle fold so you have nice edges all around, like making double fold bias tape. Next sew along the outer edge where the folded edges of the fabric meet, so the strap lays flat. Repeat for the other strap.

Sewing the straps flat

Now let’s put everything together. Pop the inside-out lining bag inside the right side out poster bag, line up the seams on the edges and fold the top of the poster-part down inside by 1 inch, twice so that the raw edge is enclosed, and the folded edge of the poster is over the top of the lining. I flipped everything inside out during this step as it made it easier to align the straps, but you can do what works for you.

Tuck in the ends of your straps so they are under the folds and they’re aligned evenly on the sides. Fold the straps up so they’re vertical above bag like normal tote straps. Pin the straps in place (or clip them, I love these vendor clips), and pin the rolled top to hold everything in place.

Clip and sew!

Next sew around the top of the bag both at the bottom of the rolled hem top, (~ 1 inch from the top of the bag, then again just below the top edge of your bag. This extra seam should help your straps stay put, but if you’re worried about them being sturdy, run over them a few more times, or sew Xs over the strap attachment areas.

lining side

And you’re done, now you have your very own reversible poster bag!

Fancy outside!