Guest Blogger Barbara Talbert talks about her fabulous travel totes!

Travel in style – your style! That’s what you’ll do when you stitch up The Quilted Traveler’s Tote. To make this sturdy, roomy bag, reminiscent of ready-made quilted bags, you get to choose two fabrics you love—and then quilt your own fabric.

Fabric Selection
Since the selection of already-quilted double-sided fabrics is very limited, I think you’ll love this pattern. The quilting is really easy to do because you cut the bag pieces from the two fabrics and lightweight batting first, and then quilt the panels. That way you don’t have to handle a large fabric-and-batting sandwich at the machine. The pieces are cut oversize to allow for the natural “shrinkage” that occurs when you do the machine quilting.

Of course, if you do find a quilted fabric you like, you can substitute it and eliminate the quilting steps. Cutting for already-quilted fabric is included in the directions. If you want to use a fashion fabric or an outerwear fabric instead of making a quilted travel tote, be sure to check out my other similarly-styled pattern—The Terrific Travel Tote. Because it has no batting, it’s a lighter weight—perfect for packing in your suitcase for long trips—so you have an extra carry-on bag for packing travel treasures!

To keep bulk to a minimum, the bottom panel is interfaced only, and the pocket panels are quilted to a layer of cotton flannel, rather than to batting. When I first designed this bag, all the pieces were quilted, which made the side seams way too bulky. The new bags I’ve made are easier to sew because the layers are thinner.

You should know that the yardage requirements are generous in this pattern. They are based on using a fabric that has 40″ of usable width after preshrinking and the pieces are cut as if you are using a directional fabric. That means you will extra fabric left over of the two main prints. But, that’s good, because you can use it to make one or more coordinating bags for packing small essentials. I used my Accessory Bag pattern that is included with my Easy Breezy Padded Tote pattern. It’s easy to make and is quilted-as-you go using the stitch-and-flip method of construction.

For the quilting, I usually use a simple 2″ diamond grid that is super easy to mark and stitch. It’s especially easy if you are new machine quilting. If you wish, you can substitute other favorite quilting designs on the panels.

To mark the lines for quilting, you will need a favorite marker—dressmaker’s chalk, air- or water-erasable pens are the most common choices. Or you can mark with a hera marker. It’s explained and illustrated in the directions. It leaves a crease to follow—with no marks to remove after the stitching is done.

I highly recommend using a walking foot or even-feed feature when you do the quilting to keep the layers smooth and pucker free.

Why I Love this Bag
•    It’s sized to fit in the overhead compartments on airplanes.

•    It has a zip-top closure so you can fill it to the max when traveling. Or, you can leave the zipper open if you want an open-top tote for carrying supplies to your favorite quilting class or when using it as a carryall for shopping or errands.

•    One of the outside pockets features a zipper, making it a great place to stash your travel documents for safekeeping.

•    The outside pockets are divided into 3 pockets when you sew the straps in place. That gives you several places to tuck small items for easy access.

•    There is a hanging pocket inside the tote—another easy-access place for safe storage of small items.

•    The straps wrap all the way around the tote, making it very sturdy. I usually use 1″-wide cotton, polyester, or nylon webbing for my tote straps but the colors are limited. For this tote, webbing wasn’t available in any color but white. When I got ready to stitch the white in place, it stood out like a sore thumb even though there is white in the print! Back to the fabric store I went, where I found the perfect 3/4″-wide green polyester grosgrain ribbon. I bought the same amount as the webbing and then stitched it in place on the white webbing. A bit of white shows at the edges and that’s OK with me!

I hope you enjoy making up your travel tote and matching accessory bag.

Here’s wishing you happy sewing and safe travels!
Barbara Weiland Talbert
Jo-Lydia’s Attic


  1. Deanna Geiger - August 21, 2012


  2. Virginia Odien - August 23, 2012

    This is so cute. I love that bag (both of them actually).