For kids going off to college or college grads moving to start a career, serge a Big-Bigger Canvas Tote that expands to handle storage and laundry needs. It’s a tote that has both function and style!


  • 1 yard each of two coordinating canvas or denim-weight fabrics
  • Madeira Mouline, 100% Cotton, Six-Strand Floss or other decorative thread/floss, four packages each of two coordinating colors
  • Madeira Aerolock Premium Serger Thread
  • Pellon® Peltex® One-Sided Fusible Ultra Firm Stabilizer, 11″ x 13″ rectangle
  • 1 package Clover 1-1/4″ Create-a-Strap

Cut outer and inner bag rectangles

All seam allowances are 1/4″ unless otherwise stated.

  • Cut two 26″ x 36″ rectangles from outer fabric, and two 26″ x 36″ rectangles from inner/lining fabric.
  • Turn the rectangles vertically. Mark and cut out a 6″ square from each of the lower corners. Save the 6″ fabric squares to make the tote handles!

Serger set-up and basic seaming

  • Thread serger with Madeira Aerolock Premium Serger Thread. Set machine for a 4-thread overlock stitch.
  • With right sides together, serge lower base seam. Press seam to one side. Repeat for inner/lining fabric.



  • Press 11″ x 13″ Pellon® Peltex® One-Sided Fusible Ultra Firm Stabilizer rectangle to center base of outer fabric.
  • Align side seams, right sides together; serge seam. Repeat for inner/lining fabric.

  • Press seams to one side.

    To prevent the serged edge from leaving an impression on the right side of the fabric, press seam over a sleeve board or dowel.


Form and stitch gussets on bottom of tote

  • With right sides together, fold side seams to align with lower base seam, forming gusset.

  • Serge gussets, trimming off excess fabric. Repeat for lining fabric.

Assemble, stitch, and attach lining to tote

  • Turn outer fabric tote right sides out.
  • Insert lining tote inside outer tote, wrong sides together. Pin or clip edges together with Wonder Clips.

Serge top edges

  • Set up serger for a standard 4-thread stitch.
  • Set the length and width settings at the longest and widest stitch options.
  • Insert Madeira Mouline, 100% Cotton, Six-Strand Floss into the upper and lower loopers.



     When using decorative thread in the upper and lower loopers, we use the “lasso technique” along with Baby Lock’s ExtraordinAir or Jet-Air Threading feature.

  • Cut about 30″ of all-purpose thread, loop in half, insert the cut ends into the threading ports, hold on to the lasso end, and push the button that threads the loopers.
  • Insert the decorative thread through the lasso of the all-purpose thread (as pictured below). Manually pull the ends of the all-purpose thread, which will thread the heavier thread through the loopers.

  • Thread needles with coordinating Madeira Aerolock Premium Serger Thread. On a scrap of fabric, test the stitch. Adjust the stitch length or width as needed.
  • Serge the tote top edges, trimming off approximately 1/8″. Overlap ending and beginning stitches about 1/2″.

     Pull thread tails into stitching, using a large darning needle.

Make handles

  • Place two outer 6″ fabric squares right sides together.
  • Join squares by serging or stitching one edge. Press seam to one side. Repeat for inner/lining fabric, pressing seam in opposite direction.

  • Fuse two strips of Clover 1-1/4″ Create-a-Strap to wrong side of outer fabric handle rectangle.

  • Layer inner/lining fabric handle rectangle behind outer fabric handle rectangle.
  • Cut handles at edge of Create-a-Strap.

  • Place inner/lining fabric handle and outer fabric handle rectangles, wrong sides together. Serge fabric handle edges, trimming off about 1/4″ on each long edge.

  • Secure thread with Fray Block™.
  • Speed-dry Fray Block™ by placing handles between layers of paper towel and press with a hot iron.
  • Fold and press under 1/2″ along handle short ends. Repeat steps above to create four tote handles.

  • Pin a handle at top edge of inner tote, at each side seam. Position the end of the handles 1″ from upper edge and centered 3″ over side seams. Make certain that the handle is not twisted.
  • Topstitch handle to tote along handle top, bottom, and sides forming a stitched rectangle.

     We use the laser feature on our Baby Lock Destiny to diagonally stitch an “X” pattern, to secure handles in place. Repeat steps above and attach handle at opposite side.

Add second set of handles

  • Fold top tote down about 10″.
  • Pin a handle to inner tote at both side seams. Position handles 8″ below top edge, pin through all layers.
  • Place inner side of handle to inner side of tote, centering the handle ends 3″ over the sides. Extend the handle towards tote bottom.
  • Topstitch handle to tote following steps above.

Serging is both decorative and functional

Decorative threads in the upper and lower loopers creates a beautiful finished edge for the tote top and handles.

Big-Bigger Canvas Tote Features

  • For a big fabric tote, fold top edge over at secondary handles.

  • For bigger tote, extend tote fully up.

  • Reverse Big-Bigger Canvas Tote for a whole new look.

It’s time to do laundry in style!

We hope you’re inspired to serge the Big-Bigger Canvas Tote. Experiment with different decorative threads and other heavyweight fabrics. Enjoy the process.

Watch Ultimate Serger Techniques (Part One and Part Two) on Sewing With Nancy online.

Nancy Zieman's Blog Giveaway

Clover's 5-in-1 Sliding Gauge by Nancy Zieman of Sewing With Nancy

For a chance to win a 5-in-1 Sliding Gauge from Clover, please leave a comment and share how you’d use the Big-Bigger Canvas Tote.

Nancy Zieman's Giveaway Winner

The randomly selected winner of a copy of Nancy Zieman’s I Sew For Fun book and DVD from Nancy’s Notions, is Rose.

Nancy Zieman's I Sew For Fun

Her comment is: I’m starting my 4 year old granddaughter at the sewing machine by sitting her on my lap and I guide her hands to feed the fabric. I just purchased a safety presser foot from Clover to give her a little more freedom but keep her little fingers away from the needle.


Happy Serging,

Team Nancy Zieman

Nancy Zieman Productions, LLC.

Nancy Zieman Productions, LLC

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