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Quilty Jolts #1 – Tote To Mini Quilt

Hello Creatives!! Today I have a question for you. Do you ever feel like you are jumping from one project to another project without replenishing your creative being? I am definitely guilty of this, throwing myself into many projects at once. I get tunnel vision seeing only the gigantic list of things I have yet to finish. Spreading myself thin and wondering why I feel uninspired. Because of this, I decided to host a six-month series of Quilty Creative Jolts, with the first project Tote To Mini Quilt. I will post them on the 3rd week of every other month. So for the next year, stay tuned and stay creative!

Challenge #1 Tote To Mini

For this first jolt, we will be repurposing a tote bag. Taking one item and turning it into something else is a great way to stretch your creativity. You get to imagine what your end product might look like and think of ways you can make it function and into something you will actually use.

I totally have way too many tote bags (and T-shirts). I keep some in my car so I don’t bring more plastic bags home from the grocery store. Somehow, I forget to bring them into the store, but that’s a different issue. I have tote bags from grocery stores, conventions, sporting events, and farmers markets. Last year, I went to Sew Pro and, you guessed it, I got a free tote bag. It really is a lovely bag. Red and white, what a beautiful contrast, with a large clear icon.

At Sew Pro, it came in handy. I was able to keep all of my stuff together. However now that I am home, I have a larger bag I use to carry my quilts and fabric around. I didn’t want to put it with the rest of the totes, so it stayed in my sewing room with the things I got from Sew Pro still inside. This just added to my quilting clutter.

Making your mini quilt

Then a light bulb went off. I should make a mini quilt out of it. That way I can see it every day and it will remind me how much I learned at the convention. When I see it, I can ask myself, am I on track? Am I headed in the right direction? It can keep me on point.

All the pieces needed to turn a sew pro tote into a mini quilt

To start, I pulled from my stash for this project. The tote bag is red. I went through a red phase in 1999. I didn’t make the quilt I intended to make with the fabrics I had collected, instead I traded that fabric with my sister Michelle. When I made the Healing Hands on Hearts quilt, we traded again and I got a slightly different palette of reds back. Luckily, I still have a large stash of red fabrics to pull from and will have plenty for this project. I want to use as much of this bag as possible, so first I will dissect it. Saving the handles for another project. The back of the bag will be perfect for the back of the mini. What else could I do… a pocket! That way I can put a few keepsakes from the convention with the mini.

The finished size of my Tote to Mini Quilt is 15.5″ x 15.5″.

Tote to mini project close up

Materials Needed:

  • Dissected Tote Bag
  • Red fabric: Two fat quarters for back and binding and Mini top
  • White fabric: 8″

I got a little fancy. I placed the directions for the tutorial in a accordion style layout because I loved the way it looked. Click on the subheads Cutting, Making the Strips, Putting the Tote to Mini Quilt together and Finishing the Mini with a Pocket to reveal the text. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make them all show when you entered into this post, but I was not successful. GURRR!


Cut the top (focal point) into a square. 10.5″ x 10.5″, leaving the back of the bag with as much fabric as possible so it can be used as a back pocket.

Cut strips of white
Two – 10.5″ by 1.5″ (Strip B)
Two – 14″ by 1.5″ (Strip D)
Two – 14.25″ by 2″ (Strip F)
Two – 16.5″ by 2″ (Strip G)
One – 12.25″ by 1.5″
One – 8″ by 1.5″
Two – 1.5″ by 1.25″ rectangles

Cut strips of red
Two – 12″ by 2.25″
One – 8″ by 2.75″

Making the Strips

  • Sew together a red strip that measures 8″ by 2.25″ to a white strip that measures 8″ by 1.5″. Then add another red strip that measures 8″ by 2.2″ to the white side of strip set making it a three-strip set. Press flat.
  • Place the strip set on your cutting mat and measure 1.25″ down and cut. Do this for a total of eight.
  • Sew a white 1.5″ by 1.25″ rectangle between two of the three-strip sets. Press flat. Making a total of two. Set aside (Strip C).
Tote to mini Strip C
  • Locate one of your three-strip sets. Take out the seam in between a red and a white. Creating a two-strip set. Make a total of two.
  • Sew the white side of a two-strip set to the red side of a three-strip set. Press flat. Make a total of two.
  • Locate the red strip that measures 2.75″ sew it to an 8″ by 1.5″ strip. Press flat. Take it to your cutting mat. Measure 1.25″ down and cut. Make a total of four.
  • You now have two alternating strip sets made up of five pieces and four strip sets made up of two pieces. Sew the white side of the two-piece strip set to the red side of a five-piece strip set. Repeat until you have two different nine-piece strip sets that start and end with red. Set aside (Strip E).
Tote to mini Strip E

Side Note: On this bag the paint was not heat-set, so when I put a hot iron directly on it, the paint smeared. I suggest to spot check in a small area, maybe the back where the logos are. Place a piece of fabric over the tote areas so you don’t put heat directly on the paint or material. 

Tote to mini diagram

Putting the Tote to Mini Quilt Together

  • Pin and sew a white strip (Strip B) to the top and bottom of the focal square. Press flat.
  • Pin and sew a Strip C to the top white fabric. Repeat on the bottom. Press flat.
  • Trim the edges straight. Pin and sew a white strip (Strip D) to the left side of the mini.
    Repeat on right side. Press flat.
  • Center, pin and sew a Strip E to the left side of the mini. Repeat on the right side. Press flat.
  • Trim the edges straight. Pin and sew a white strip F to the left side of the mini. Repeat on the right side. Press flat.
  • Trim the edges straight. Pin and sew the white strip G to the top of the mini. Repeat on the bottom. Press flat.

Finishing the Mini with a Pocket

Sandwich the Tote to Mini Quilt – The top will be the focal square with batting in the middle and use one of the fat quarters for the bottom. Quilt the mini as desired. Cut down your mini and the back of the tote so they are the same size. Measure 3.5″ down from the top left side of your bag back and  10″ into your bag top. Draw a diagonal line that looks like this and cut. Bind that cut edge. Line up the mini with the bag back and safety pin together. Bind the bag back and mini as one.

Place your keepsakes inside the Tote to Mini quilt and hang it on your wall of minis.

Adding a pocket to your mini can help you organize the items you took home from a convention

The Challenge

The beauty of this project is that you are your own creative director.  You have the ability to change the focal item from a tote bag to a T-shirt (even a tea towel) or you can create a pillow instead of a mini. The sky is the limit. So have fun and throw the rules out the window. For this Sew Pro mini, the logo is my focal point. I wanted to accent the focal point but not dominate it. This is the simple design I came up with. Feel free to test your own creativity and come up with your own designs. Share them on Instagram using #totetomini. I just love this project. It looks great on my wall and it’s functional. Warning – don’t put too many things in the mini because it will not stay on your wall.

I will be announcing the winner of this Challenge the 3rd week of October January (15th-21st when I post the next Quilty Jolts Challenge) so get your pictures on Instagram on or before Jan 14th. 

My Mini Sew Pro tote is hanging on my wall
I hope you enjoy creating your own Tote to Mini quilt and hope you receive a jolt of creativity while making it. Come back in two months for our next Quilty Jolt.

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