My quilt-as-you-go (QAYG) tote bags are some of my most popular makes whenever I post them on IG so I wanted to create a quick tutorial/demo here on the blog for anyone who might want to make their own QAYG tote bag panel. They’re really fun, easy, and forgiving. Not to mention, they’re a great way to use up your scraps - even the smallest ones!
- A pile of scraps in a variety of sizes. The scraps I am using for this project are all Ruby Star Society (my favorite!). I suggest choosing a loose color scheme but also being flexible as you work. I like to go with the flow when I make these and just see where the scraps and colors take me.
- A piece of batting. This batting is about 16” x 18” but you can make it whatever size works for the bag you’re making (or the pattern you are using). I tend to wing it and play around with sizes a bit but you could also use a pattern to help guide you. (Note: It’s possible that the batting might stretch or distort a little while you’re sewing, so if you want to be safe, cut it a little larger than you want your bag panel to be.)
There are three basic steps that you’re going to repeat over and over as you make your panel:
- Cut your scrap piece to size.
- Place it right sides together with your previous work and sew in place.
- Fold it back and quilt it.
I’m going to walk you through each piece of fabric that I add to my panel so you can see how it comes together!
Choose your first piece and where you want to begin! It can be any size. I prefer to start with something small and I like to place it generally near the center but offset it a little to avoid making things too symmetrical. Quilt it to the batting. My quilting style for these projects is just random. Do what makes you happy!
Note: Start sewing a few stitches before the fabric and keep going a few stitches after to make sure all of the quilting get stitched over by the next piece’s seam and doesn’t pull loose.
Choose a second scrap and cut it down to size. This photo shows the size of the scrap I had. I need to trim it so it’s the same size as the edge of the first piece.
Place it right sides together (RST) over the piece you just quilted. Sew it along the edge with a 1/4” seam allowance. I suggest not worrying AT ALL if it’s a bit wonky!
Fold it to the right side, quilt it however you like, trim the threads, and choose another scrap piece. You can see in this photo that I am adding the next piece to the top but you can let your work flow in whichever direction you like.
Place this scrap piece RST against your previous work and sew a 1/4” seam.
Open it up and quilt it! Are you starting to notice the rhythm we’ve got going here?
For this one, I started sewing at the top (pictured to the left in this photo) and curved my stitching to give it some extra interest and detail - and to practice some fun quilting techniques!
Next I’m adding the strawberry scrap over to the right side. For each new piece, just cut your scrap down to the length of the work you’ve already done. You do not have to use strips. You could use a wider square or rectangle if you like.
Fold your piece back, quilt it to the batting, then add the next piece by cutting it to the size you want, placing it right sides together, and attaching it to the panel. (Then repeat!)
As the patchwork starts to grow, I prefer to sew multiple scraps together rather than using a single large scrap piece. In the next photo you’ll see I sewed two pieces together, then cut them down to the size of my previous work.
Just like a quilt, you’re going to square up your panel at the end, so it’s okay - and preferable - if the fabric overhangs the batting a bit. Just make sure your favorite parts of the print aren’t too close to the edge because they might end up getting trimmed off or hidden in the seam when you make your bag.
Sometimes when there are two pieces attached at once, I will give them different quilting designs to help them stand out. The curved quilting lines make the fabric look a little bunchy but once it’s ironed and made into a bag, I think it will be okay.
Here I made another strip out of multiple scraps.
I quilted straight lines across the entire piece, then added some diagonal lines on one side for fun.
Next up, I added another piece to the top in a similar style.
We’re getting so close to finishing the panel. For the left side, I chose a single fabric since it’s kind of a thin area to cover. Since the previous work was not exactly straight, some of the top strip is hanging out. You can pick out the stitches and trim this if you are worried about it showing through. (I am not worried about that so I won’t bother!)
Quilt it up to the edge of the batting (a bit hangs off the edge here).
I really had fun making this bottom piece. I love these bags because you can use up all sorts of scraps, including pieced strips or blocks from other projects.
(Also - it’s definitely time to break out the iron now for that star fabric!)
Once I pieced the bottom strip, I realized it was a little too short so I added one more on the end (the bottom right grid fabric). Last, I added the top and the batting is completely covered. Time to square it up!
Ta-da! Now it’s all done and ready to be used to make a bag!
I hope you enjoyed seeing how I put together my QAYG panels. If you did, please leave a comment - and if you decide to make your own, please share with me on IG by tagging me @greatheronthreadco and using the hashtag #greatheronQAYG!
Come back for Part 2 at a later date and I’ll show you how to turn your panel into a tote bag. (In the meantime, feel free to use your panel for your favorite tote bag pattern!)
Update September 22, 2021: Since I’m clearly not getting around to doing a tote bag tutorial any time soon, I thought I would add a list of some of my favorite patterns and tutorials here. Simply choose a pattern and create your QAYG panel based on the outer panel size.
- Denver Tote by Sotak Handmade
- Crescent Tote by Noodlehead
- On-the-Go Project Bag (from That Handmade Touch book) by Sotak Handmade
- Chubby Tote Bag (FREE tutorial) by Sotak Handmade
- To Market, To Market Tote by Patterns By Annie