Friday, January 4, 2013

Upcycled Owl Tote Tutorial - Part 1

Well folks - this blog post will be my first attempt at a so-called "tutorial" :)  I've seen them done on other fancy-schmancy blogs that know what they are talking about - haha - usually I just look at those to see how things are done.  However, this project was not one I had seen done before, so I thought I would take pictures of my attempt and share them with the world wide web.

I am creating a tote bag, using a sequined owl design from a t-shirt.  I purchased this adorable Gap shirt for my little sis a couple of years ago and she promptly outgrew it (I mean really... what did I expect), but the owl was so cute, it seemed a tragedy. Then my mom had the idea of cutting the design off the t-shirt and putting it on a bag of some sort - genius!  It was meant to be a Christmas gift, but ... well... you know how those things go.  Once I finally got my sewing space organized (see previous post)  I delved into the excitement of re-gifting a shirt as a bag to the same person (it's not every day you can get away with that).  Here's how I went about making it:

Step 1:  Materials Needed

Things remembered:  cute owl t-shirt (or any t-shirt with a design),  1 yard of coordinating fabric (or not... your call as the designer :),  ribbon or twill tape for handles,  any other embellishment (in this case, pink sequins)

Things forgotten:  thread,  fabric stabilizer,  basic sewing tools

Like I said - this is my first tutorial, so there will probably be a lot of forgotten things... sorry ahead of time!

Step 2:  Cut out tote fabric

I chose a brown / pink / ivory plaid fabric for my tote bag.  It is nice and thick, but still soft.  The measurements below are what I used for my tote, but you can obviously adjust them to best fit your design. Be sure to keep the 18" sides all the same length, or your tote won't fit together properly.

Step 2: Cut out t-shirt design

Whatever design you are working with, cut it out first and arrange it on the front piece of your tote.  Lay out any other embellishments you wish to add.  I added a pink sequin ribbon on some of the plaid lines to tie in with the sequins on the owl.  Keep in mind the seam allowances (1/2") as you place the designs.  Taking a picture of the final layout will help you remember where everything goes as you piece it together.

Step 3:  Attach design and embellishments

You want to attach all the design and embellishments NOW, as opposed to after you've sewn the tote bag together.  For this tote, I attached the strips of sequin with my machine, overlapping them horizontal / vertical / horizontal / vertical to keep the plaid feel

*Tip for machine sewing sequins:  always sew in the same direction the sequins overlap.  You should be able to run your finger over the sequins and they feel smooth - sew in that direction.  Otherwise you will have a big hot mess!

Pin the owl!  No voodoo here :)  Acupuncture... maybe.  I attached the owl in the same fashion as the sequin ribbon - starting on the right ear (?)  I sewed down along the edge until I reached the bottom center.  I repeated this on the other side.

As I began to attach the owl, I had a revelation!  Why not keep the top open and use it as an outer pocket! And who doesn't love pockets!? Not only did this work out perfectly, it also cut down on my sewing time! :)

 And the finished front design:

Up next:  Upcycled Owl Tote Tutorial - Part 2  (Putting the tote together)


  1. Shut. The. Front. Door. This is totally awesome! I can't wait for Part 2!!!

  2. So far, just too cute! Looking forward for the updates.