Diane Gilleland’s Button Sampler Tote

Diane Gilleland generously shares these step-by-step instructions for sewing her lovely Button Sampler Tote. Thanks, Diane!

Diane Gilleland's Button Sampler Tote

You’ll need:

-3/4 yard each of 45” wide, medium-weight cotton twill and 45” wide, medium-weight cotton fabric for lining
-Matching thread for sewing the tote, and perhaps a different color for sewing on the buttons
-21 buttons in assorted sizes. For this design, you’ll need seven groups of three buttons, in graduated sizes.
-Two 6” diameter circle purse handles, in bamboo or another material to coordinate with your buttons
-Straight pins
-A fabric-marking pencil or water-soluble fabric marker, in a color that’s easily visible on your fabrics
-Sewing machine
-Needle for hand sewing
-Fabric glue

1. Cut a large rectangle, measuring 16” x 35”, from the twill. An easy way to do this is to cut a 16” x 17.5” rectangle on the fold.


2. At one of the 16” ends of this rectangle, measure and draw a line on the wrong side of the fabric, 2.5” from the raw edge. Now, measure along this line and find the center. Measure out from the center 1.75” on each side, and make a small mark that crosses your drawn line. Then, carefully cut the fabric along the line, between the small marks. This results in a 3.5” slit.

3. Repeat all of Step 2 on the other 16” end of the rectangle. Set this piece aside.

diane - 2

4. Cut two small rectangles from the twill, each measuring 4” x 9”. Fold each one in half so that the 4” edges meet, with right sides together. Sew along the 4” edge. Trim the seam to 1/4”, and turn each piece right side out. Press each piece so that you have a flat tube with the seam falling in the center. These pieces will attach the handles to your bag.

5. Now, take the large rectangle you cut in Step 1. Fold it in half, right sides together, so that the 16” edges meet. You should have a fold at the bottom, and the edges that you measured and marked in Step 2 at the top.


6. Sew along the two side seams. Press the seams open.


7. Now, create a square bottom for your bag. With wrong sides out, place the bottom of your bag on a flat surface, and flatten out one corner of the bag against it. As you flatten, line the side seam up with the fold at the bottom of the bag. Use a ruler to locate where the corner measures 4” across. Draw a line on the fabric, across the corner. This line will be perpendicular to the side seam.


8. Sew along this line across the corner of the bag. Repeat Steps 7 and 8 with the other corner of the bag.

9. Turn the bag right side out.


10. Locate the lines and slits you made at the top of the bag in Step 2. Fold the top edge of the bag to the outside, along your lines.

11. Now, take the small tubes you created in Step 4. Fold them in half, with the seam to the inside, so that the two 3.5” edges meet.



12. Take one of these pieces, and place a purse handle in the middle of this fold. Now, insert the raw edges of the handle-holder through the slit you cut in the top of the bag back in Step 2. Match the raw edges of the handle-holder with the raw edges of the slit in the bag. Pin the handle-holder in place. Repeat these steps with the other fabric rectangle and purse handle.

diane - 9

13. Sew around the top of the bag, 3/8” from the edge of the fabric. This seam will sew the handles in place and finish the top of the bag.


14. Turn this seam right side out, so that the handles of the bag face upward and the folded edge now faces the inside of the bag. Press this fold in place and then topstitch close to the top edge of the bag.

15. Follow the instructions on page 151 of Button It Up to add buttons to your bag in Diane’s beautiful configuration.

16. To line the bag, cut a 15” x 35” rectangle from your lining fabric. Follow Steps 6-8 to make a slightly smaller bag.

17. Place the lining inside the bag, wrong sides together. Make sure that the bottom of the lining lays against the inside bottom of the bag.

diane - 11

18. Fold the top of the lining down to the inside, so that the folded edge sits just below the top of the bag. Attach the lining to the bag by slip-stitching along the folded edge.


1 Comment »

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  1. I am not a sewer (more to the point – I don’t really like to sew), but I’m going to give this a try. It looks like a relatively easy project for a ‘once or twice a year’ sewer like myself. lol Thanks for the instructions!

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