Reverse star applique tote bag tutorial.

This is a tutorial for an easy reverse applique tote bag. Usually applique involves a fabric shape being stitched on top of fabric. Reverse applique is a way of revealing a fabric placed underneath the top layer of fabric. In this tutorial I will show you how to make a star shape applique on a roomy box bottom tote bag. The same technique could be applied to lots of different shapes as well as different items.


Medium weight fabric – I used Robert Kaufman Essex yarn dyed cotton/linen blend60cm x 112cm wide

Lightweight calico – 50cm

Applique fabric – I used an Art Gallery quilters weight cotton. -25cm

Lining fabric – I used fabric to match the applique. -60cm

Star embellishments (optional)


Follow the dimensions in the star bag pattern file to create a simple pattern or draw them directly on the fabric.

star bag pattern

star pattern

Cut 2 bag shapes in outer fabric

Cut 2 bag shapes in lining fabric

Cut 2 bag shapes in lightweight calico

Cut 2 wider strap shapes in outer fabric

Cut 2 narrower strap shapes in lining fabric

How to make:

1. Decide where you would like your applique to be. I chose to place it quite randomly off centre towards the bottom of the bag. Using the template draw around it in the chosen position onto one of the calico panels.

2. Place the calico right sides together over one if the outer fabric pieces, matching raw edges.  Pin the two together around the star so that the pins don’t need to be removed when sewing.

3. Stitch around the star shape on the chalk line.  Cut the centre of the star shape away leaving a small seam allowance approximately 1 cm. Clip as close to the stitching as you can at the star points.

4. Push the calico through to the back, easing the shape out and pushing the points in to place.

5. Press the shape. If it hasn’t turned through very well you might need to go back and clip the points a little bit more.

6. Cut the applique fabric roughly 5cm wider all the way round than the star shaped hole.  Place the applique fabric behind the hole. Turn the work over to check the fabric is not to close to the star edges. Pin and ideally tack the fabric around the star edges.

7. Top-stitch around the star shape on the outside approximately 3-4mm from the edge.

8. You could add some extra embellishment like these brass clawed stars.

9. Trim away some if the excess applique fabric at the back of the applique. Press. Join the side seams and the lower edge seam of the bag. Treating the outer fabric and the calico as one fabric(the calico is acting as interfacing), stitching through all four thickness. Leave the corners un-stitched.

Do the same with the lining leaving a small gap in the lower edge for turning through.

10. With right sides together and side and base seam matched stitch across the corners. Repeat this on the lining.

11. Make the straps, with right sides together match the long edges of the strap lining to the long edges of the strap outer. Stitch using a 1cm seam allowance.  Turn the straps to the right side.

12. Press so that there is an even narrow border each side of the lining. Top-stitch along the seam of strap lining.

13. Place the straps right side together at the upper raw edge of the bag.  Measure 10cm in from the side seam to strap edge. Ensure the straps are not twisted. Stitch in place close to the raw edge.

14. With right sides together place the bag inside the bag lining. Pin around upper edge with side seams matched. Stitch using a 1.5cm allowance.

15. Turn the bag through the gap at the base in the lining seam.

16. Press the upper edge of the bag before pushing the lining inside. Top-stitch the upper edge.

17. With the seam allowance folded inwards press the gap in the lining to line up with the seam and machine stitch the gap closed close to the edge.

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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