Make a Tote Bag with Vintage Doilies

While teaching and traveling in Australia this last February, I was given quite a few lovely pieces of handwork and Aussie fabrics. I have them all hanging in my studio and a few weeks ago I was inspired to create something special with two of the pieces.

On my longarm I have a backing, then Hobbs 80/20 batting, then the super cute, Koala background fabric. At this point, I ran an edge to edge design over the background fabric, THEN, laid the two doilies on top of the fabric.

Let’s start at the beginning and I’ll take you through the process. Under each linen I added a single layer of Hobbs 80/20 batting to give an extra loft. It also hides the print that is under the doily. I cut the batting larger than the doily and trim it away after I have quilted the linen.

I stabilize the piece by “ditch” stitching around the inside edge of the crocheted trim. I leave that scant 1/8″ so that I can trim away the batting later. You’ll see what happens when I finish quilting. I quilt on a Handi Quilter Fusion and here I am using the “Glide” foot. It is almost a necessity when stitching lace and embroideries. You can see it glides right over all the thickness.

At this point I will stitch around ALL the embroidery. I never stitch over the handwork, but around everything! It gives the piece great definition and pops it right out of the linen. Deciding on the design usually comes as I am outlining all of the embroidery. ย You can see the spine I have created for the eventual feathers. I like to use a blue, water soluble pen for marking. (TIP: to remove blue marks completely and seemingly forever, mix 1 t baking soda to 1 cup of water, place in a spray bottle. This mix must be fresh each day it is used.)

I trimmed the batting to the inside edge of the trim crochet, using a curved pair tiny, sharp scissors. My favorites are a simple pair of cuticle scissors!

After the batting is trimmed, I lay down the crochet and stitch the outside edge to cover any of the batting that might have not been precisely trimmed. It always covers that raw edge of batting.

You can see here how much stitching I put into the embroidery.

The full piece was taken off the frame and split in half, therefore, creating both sides for the tote bag. I made both sides a bit different. I also TEA stained the pieces once I had the quilting done to make the fabric match the age of the linen. This really made the whole thing come together!

Next, I sewed the halves together and also made a lining WITH a pocket for the inside.

Handles were added, also tea stained.

And there you have it! A new tote bag made by repurposing an antique linen. It’s also a fabulous reminder of the great friends I made in Australia! (Special thanks to Lynne for the handwork and Caroline for the fabric!)

I hope this post helped to see the process for some of the bits of handwork we all have hiding in our drawers. Try it, you’ll become a lover of vintage repurposing!


  1. Leave a Reply

    Gina M
    July 3, 2017

    I *love* re-purposing vintage doilies! I frequently use them for quilt labels. They also ‘immortalize’ the original hand embroiderer… ‘What is her name, I wonder. Wistfully, I wish I knew.’

  2. Leave a Reply

    Dayle Gruder
    July 3, 2017

    Wonderful job! I’m going to try this as well. That is, as soon as I get my other stuff done! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

  3. Leave a Reply

    Kathleen Hilbert
    July 3, 2017

    This is such a lovely tote, the doilies and background fabric beautiful. I really enjoy seeing your work.

  4. Leave a Reply

    Julie Beard
    July 14, 2017

    Hello Kelly,
    I wanted to let you know that I just watched your wonderful video that you did with AQS. I loved it all and wanted to tell you that you have greatly inspired me to start collecting my own doiles and linens and incorporate them in my quilting projects too! Currently I am making a crazy quilt I will be doing all of the above and some more into my rather small quilt. I’ve just subscribed to your blog so I can follow you and learn some new tricks along the way. Thanks again. I look follow to seeing what you do next. Julie Beard Adelaide Australia.

    • Leave a Reply

      [email protected]
      July 14, 2017

      HI Julie, thanks! It was the Handi Quilter page, but thank your for your comment. Quilting these vintage pieces is a great way to bring them out of the closet!

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