Friday, January 11, 2013

Thirty-One Utility Tote Liner Sew Along Part 4 - Attach and Divide the Pockets

Hiya!  Well, after a few days away, I thought we might jump back into making the lining for our Thirty-One Utility Tote.  If you have one of these totes, you know that the outsides are usually beautiful and covered in lots of practical pockets.  From a quality of construction standpoint, they hold up really well to extensive abuse.  The only real problem for me is that the inside is a bare, plain white.  No lining, no pockets.  Here's one that was given to me a couple of years ago: 

I'm lining this tote...

to make it into a pretty diaper bag for my friend B., who's due with her first baby any day.   But a nice diaper bag needs divider pockets on the inside, too.  So functional is a must, and really, when you're saddled with perpetually lugging a portable baby wardrobe, kitchen and bathroom, wouldn't you at least like it to be pretty outside AND in?  :) 

So far in our project, we've accomplished the following steps:  (Catch up and join us!  Click the links below to see the related posting.)

- project planning and fabric prep
- cutting and interfacing the pieces
- preparing the organizing pocket pieces

Time to attach the organizing pockets to the tote liner sides.

First grab your interfaced side pieces.  (These are the largest sections you cut.)  Then lay the pocket piece across the bottom half, lining up the bottom and side edges.  Remember, your pocket strips don't look exactly the same on both sides.  One side of your pocket should fold over onto the back side.  The side that looks the same from top to bottom is the outside, and should not face the larger piece.  Like so...

Pin in place.

Next, using a large basting stitch on your machine and a scant 1/4 inch seam allowance, secure the pocket to the liner side piece.  This large basting stitch will keep the layers from moving while you attach and divide your pockets.  It's not intended to be a true seam or to support the final construction of the bag.  Basting stitches are considering temporary and aid us in keeping everything lined up.  When you seam the bag sides later on, these basting stitches will be hidden. 

Here are my machine settings for basting.  Your machine may look slightly different.  The most important number here is the 5.0 -- that's the longest stitch-length setting on my machine. 

Quick Tip:

As you baste, control your speed.  Basting stitches are so large that your fabric can fly through your machine and get away from you quickly.  Take your time and be deliberate.  Here's what my basting stitches look like...the pin is provided to give you an idea of scale.

Repeat this basting process with both pocket strips. 

Next, you must decide how many pockets you'd like to have in your bag.  I'm going to divide one side into two equal organizer pockets and the other side into three.  Measure your pocket strips from side to side, and using your ruler and a disappearing marker, mark where you want to place dividing lines.  On one side, I divided the pocket width in half and marked one dividing line in order to create two pockets.  On the other side, I divided the pocket width in thirds and marked two dividing lines to create three pockets.  See below.

From end to end, your strip will probably measure 15 1/2, because that's where we cut it.  I actually measured the distance between my basting lines instead of from edge to edge.  That gave me an even 15 inches without compromising on accuracy, and the math was MUCH easier!

If you aren't making a diaper bag like me and would maybe like to make this more of an office or school bag with dividers for pens, business cards or notepads, just decide how much room you need and mark your lines applicably.  I always thought this would make a cool tote for a painter, too, with lots of little dividers to hold different paintbrushes in place.  Machts nichts, as they say.  As long as you understand the process, you can customize it to fit your needs! 

The dividing lines are faint, but you can just see them below.

Next, you want to stitch straight down the line.  It's helpful to use a walking foot to keep the layers moving through the machine at the same rate, but if you don't have a walking foot, start at the bottom of the pocket so that you push any bulk to the center of the bag.  (Since the bottom is basted already, you don't want to push the bulk toward the basting line and accidentally create a tuck.)

I used a triple stitch to give the pockets lots of strength.  On my machine, it looks like this:

Next, I decided to mark a little "X" with a box around it at the top of each dividing line, overlapping the pocket and the liner side fabric right where they meet.  A few years ago, I made myself a diaper bag and put dividing pockets on the inside without any of these strengthening techniques.  Just a few weeks into normal use, the pockets began to rip away from the sides.  I don't want that to happen to B.,  and it won't!  By stabilizing the sides with fusible fleece interfacing, stabilizing the pocket strip with webby, triple-stitching the dividing lines through all those layers, and finally, with this little "X" technique, you could probably hang a 20-lb turkey from the divider pockets and they wouldn't tear away.  :)

I used a regular stitch and foot for the boxed "X."  Here's what it looks like completed.  Repeat for every dividing line.

Once you do this on both sides, dividing the pocket strips as many times as you want, you're done with this step.  Ta da!

Next time, we'll put the entire liner together!  (Homestretch, y'all!)

Here's the link to Part 5 of this tutorial!