Before I began my foray into sewing clothes, I first tried to create totes. My first victims were my unfortunate sisters and one friend, for whom I sewed toile totes that were just like pillow cases with straps. Cute, but would fall over like tipped cows when you put them on the floor.
It was driving me crazy trying to figure out how to give it a 'bottom' like totes everywhere. Then, I found an absolutely terrific tutorial online from Super Eggplant that solved the whole mystery and gave great instructions on how to square the corners as well as integrate the straps into the seams and give it a pretty lining fabric. THANK YOU, SUPER EGGPLANT!
After that, my tote making took off.
(I just noticed she also has a pillowcase tutorial that I'd like to try sometime...)
I love to cut letters out of felt and sew them to an outside pocket for to personalize for kids.
YOU MUST DO THIS BEFORE YOU SEW UP YOUR TOTE!
You basically type out the letters on a computer to size, print them on laser paper BACKWARDS. Most print menus have this option to reverse your image, if not you could probably flip it in a photo program).
(Note: after this post I found out about the wonder that is freezer paper. So you could print the letters frontways on freezer paper and then adhere it to your felt to cut out instead.)
I apply interfacing to the felt to give it more body. Then you slap your letter printout on a light table or tape it to your window, and trace the letters backwards on the interfacing side of the felt. The whole backwards thing is to save you from having any traces of pencil or pen on the front after you cut them out, plus the interfacing is much easier to trace on. Of course, you could use a dissapearing pen and do it frontwards (is that even a word???), but I find those pens don't show well or write well on some felts. Up to you.
After that you carefully cut them out and then glue them with dabs of fabric glue to the pocket. I love and adore Fabritac glue. I glue them instead of pin, much more accurate to work with, and doesn't slip. Use the glue sparingly.
Then you sew the letters around the edges using a satin stitch or short straight stitch. Then, after you are done embellishing the pocket, you are ready to sew your tote. You could sew the pocket lining and pocket outside together either before or after applying the letters, but the difference is seeing the stitching for the letters inside the pocket or not.
Or you could just buy those iron-on letters at Michaels. But that would not be very Martha of you. :-)