I can’t seem to quit making tote bags, and I’m especially happy to have discovered foam batting, which makes them nice and stiff and doesn’t need to be quilted unless you just want to.
As a bonus, I’ve discovered that foam batting makes terrific handles for large totes. I just wrap fabric around it and sew it down, avoiding the awful task of turning a fabric tube inside out to make a handle. The resulting handle is quick to make and comfortable to carry. Here’s how:
Cut 2 pieces of foam batting about 1-1/2″ wide and about 1″ longer than you want the finished handles to be. Cut fabric for handles about 4-1/2″ wide and about 3″ longer than the finished handles will be.
Use a heat-resistant straight edge to turn under a crisp 1/2″ on one long edge of each handle. (I’m using a metal tool made by Dritz for turning up hems.)
Now turn the same long edge under an additional 1-1/4″ and press well.
Tuck the batting into the handle, centering it between the ends, so that one long edge of the batting is firmly inside the handle.
Now turn the remaining long edge of the handle fabric snugly around the exposed long edge of the batting and tuck this raw edge under the folded 1/2″ edge. The ends of the handle will have raw edges, but the long edges will all appear finished now.
Topstitch close to the folded edge. Place a second line of stitching near the other long edge of the handle so that you have a nice professional-looking handle.
Attach handles as usual, allowing about 1/2″ of the batting at each end to be sewn down to the bag. The rest of each end, without batting inside, will go smoothly into the side of the bag so you won’t have much of a bulge where the handles are attached. Sew that down, too.