Christmas Crafting: A Little Tote for a Little Niece

Back in October, my sister mentioned that a great gift for my little one-year-old niece would be a purse with pockets and real things in it that the little niece-ling could pull out and play with. I mulled this idea over for several weeks and after lots of searching online for ideas and tutorials, I settled on making this little tote bag–small enough that Lillie could carry it around, but big enough that she could still carry it when she’s older.

Lillie's Bag

The original pattern is very simple. It requires just three fat quarters, and there are no zippers or other closures to sew. So, if you’re looking for something for a beginner sewist to do, this could be a great option.

LB Lining

I used some sport twill from my stash for the body of the bag and purchased half a yard of quilting cotton for the lining and a fat quarter for the straps. I also used a bit of a leftover fat quarter for the lining of the zippered pockets.

LB Zippered Pocket

I decided to add the zippered pockets to give Lillie more places to store and explore. Which brings me to this tutorial I used to learn how to insert those zippered pockets. The instructions were mostly easy to follow. And, I figured out about halfway through that it’s very similar to how you would insert a bound buttonhole or a welt pocket. I did follow her tip to use a glue stick to adhere the zipper to the opening before sewing. It really helps stabilize the zipper without needing to fiddle with pins.

The fabric around the zippered opening did turn out pretty wrinkled, and I think this is because I had some trouble sewing the corners of the opening exactly right.

I also added a magnetic snap to keep the top closed. Adding these snaps is so easy–zero sewing involved. All you need is scissors and small pliers.

I originally planned to do some embroidery on the outside pockets, but I quickly learned that embroidering sport twill was simply not going to happen. Instead, I decided to give applique a try. As it turns out, it is both easier and a little trickier than I anticipated. It’s mostly tricky if you’re doing a curved object that requires turning the fabric just right.

LB Applique

I did have to go searching online to find a tutorial to learn how to draw an oval. Once I had my template, I cut out a couple of the animals pictured on some of the leftover lining fabric. I picked a bunny and a bird.

LB Bunny AppliqueLB Bird Applique

Lillie (and her mom) loved her little bag–I think mostly because I put some old keys in it for her to play with.

LB Lillie 1

But she also seemed to enjoy carrying it around.

LB Lillie 2

I know she doesn’t look super excited here, but all the pictures where she was actually smiling were blurry. Because she’s happiest when she’s in motion.

Like I said, this is a great pattern for beginners. You can keep it simple like the original pattern, or you can make things complicated, like I did, and adorn it to your heart’s content!

P. S. If you want to make this bag, can I give you a little tip that really helped me? If you plan to box the corners (which, I think you should because it’s so cute that way!), before you start sewing, go ahead and draw a line 2 1/4″ (or 1 1/4″ depending on the corners you’re doing) from the bottom on the wrong side of your bag body and lining pieces. You will be so glad you did as it makes boxing the corners so easy! Also, I recommend marking your pocket placement on the outside rather than eyeing it like I did. It turned out okay, but it took forever to get the pockets even.


8 thoughts on “Christmas Crafting: A Little Tote for a Little Niece

  1. That is the most darling tote EVER!! It’s just so cute ~ as is your little niece 🙂 My niece is a little older but I think she’d like one if I made it with owls. Think I’ll have to make it now – thanks for the tip on boxing the corners.

    • Thanks! It was really fun watching Lillie figure out how to carry it on her shoulder 🙂 The tote is pretty much the perfect size for smaller kids.

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