Freebie Friday: The Totoro Bag

Ah, yes! Finally I’m getting into some of the things that I love 😀 This, of course, is Totoro, the loveable fuzzy forest creature from the Ghibli children’s film, My Neighbor Totoro. It’s probably one of my favorite Miyazaki movies, and really epitomizes the fantasy and innocence of childhood I think.
I had some gray twill that I originally used to make another bag. And while I kept making much plainer bags out of my other stashes of gray fabric, it finally clicked in my head that Totoro is gray, and would make for a perfect oval-shaped bag! I thought it was especially kismet when I saw this scrap of green linen and thought it would be perfect for the little leaf on his head. The leaf serves as the bag’s closure, which has a metal snap on the inside to keep everything together.
In addition, it’s covered in appliqué to give the adorable Totoro face and body, it has handles shaped like his ears, and I even lined the inside with an awesome leaf print fabric. There are quite a few details to get through, but I definitely think it was worth it for this awesome look, so I hope you’ll try it!


The details take some time, but overall the process is straightforward.
Makes one 11” x 14” x 3” bag

Materials & Tools:
• ⅔ yd. of 60” wide or ¾ yd. of 45” wide medium to heavyweight gray fabric for body and straps (denim or canvas would be good, I used twill)
• 6” x 6” scrap of green medium weight fabric for leaf (twill or light canvas is good, I used interfaced linen)
• ⅔ yd. of lightweight fabric for lining (I used quilting cotton)
• ⅜” metal snap (sew-in variety would be good, I used the hammer-installing variety)
• Sewing needle
• Matching sewing thread

• Appliqué supplies:
• 12” x 12” scrap of white fabric for belly, smile, & eyes (I used more twill, but cotton or felt is also fine)
• 5” x 5” scrap of black fabric for whiskers, nose, & pupils (I used more twill, but cotton or felt is also fine)
• 5” x 5” scrap of gray fabric for stomach markings (I used the same twill as from the main bag, but cotton or felt is also fine)
• Fusible web (optional)

Before you begin:
1. Print out the project pattern here
2. Assemble the pattern pieces, see the page here for more help
3. Lay out the pattern pieces on your fabric and cut them out
4. Mark the fabric pieces with the markings from the pattern

1. Appliqué your face and body pieces to the bag front. Arrange them according to the guidelines on the pattern piece. You can iron them on with fusible web if you desire, then sew them to the bag with a zigzag or straight stitch. I personally used a straight stitch around the perimeter of the appliqué pieces, then left the edges raw. I though this added to the organic feeling of the character that I always get with the Miyazaki films. Also don’t forget to stitch along the teeth lines – I used a straight stitch here as well.

2. Take one of your leaf pieces and straight stitch along the guidelines from the pattern to give it the decorative lines.

3. Install your metal snaps on the bag pieces. The socket should be on the bag front where the pattern indicates, right above Totoro’s face. The prong should be on your other leaf piece, the one without the decorative stitching you’ve just done. I had to apply some interfacing because my linen wasn’t very thick and resilient, so I recommend the same if you have thin fabric. I also recommend using a smaller sew-in variety of snap if you have those or are used to them, which will make step 4 much easier for you.

4. Layer your leaf pieces together with right sides facing, and sew around the perimeter. Leave the tip of the leaf stem open for you to turn the leaf right side out. Clip and trim the seam allowances, turn the leaf right side out, and press.

5. Now to make the straps! Layer two of your strap pieces together with right sides facing and sew down each side. Leave the ends free for turning it right side out. Clip and trim your seam allowances and turn it right side out with a safety pin. Be sure to use a chopstick or something similar to poke out the corners of the ears afterwards to get the right definition, then press the straps flat.

6. Now baste the straps to the top of your bag pieces. Follow the pattern guidelines to attach them at an angle. This is so that when they’re flipped upward they’re perfectly vertical. Repeat this with the back of your bag as well.

7. Also on the back of your bag, baste your leaf in place towards the middle following your pattern guidelines.

8. Now to attach the bottom of the bag, or the gusset. Start by lining up the short edge of one side of your gusset with the square marking on the bag front. Start lining it up towards the bottom, where the notches should match up. Finally as you keep wrapping it around, the other edge of your gusset should match up with the other square marking. Sew along this curve, clipping the seam allowances in the gusset by about ½” or so to make the curving easier. Repeat this with the other side of the gusset and the back of your bag.

9. Now we’re making the inner pocket! Place your two pocket pieces together, aligning all the edges and putting right sides together. Sew along the bottom curved edge, and leave the top straight edge open for turning the pocket right side out. Notch and trim the seam allowances, turn the pocket right side out, and press it flat.

10. To go with the raw-edge look I already had, I just hemmed the top of the pocket without turning under the raw edge. You could turn yours under, but this way is easy (^-~) and cute.

11. Line up your pocket with one of your lining pieces according to the pattern guidelines. Sew along the bottom curved edge and leave the top straight edge open so you can put stuff in it! Your pocket is now complete :B! Now you’ll need to go back to step 8, and repeat the same procedure of sewing in the gusset with your lining pieces, but be sure to leave an opening in the bottom on one side as the pattern indicates so you can turn the whole bag right side out later.

12. With your main bag and lining complete, you’ll need to sew them both together. Nestle your main bag into your lining with right sides facing, and line up the top edges. This includes the curved edge and both the front of the bag and the back, and also the little spots on the side where the gusset gets very narrow. It’s a little tricky, but still doable. Then sew along this entire perimeter. Clip and trim your seam allowances, especially in that corner area with the gusset, and turn the bag right side out from the opening in the lining. Iron the top seam of your bag really nicely, then sew the opening in the lining closed with either a hand-sewn ladder stitch or just turn under the seam allowances and use your sewing machine 🙂 Either way, rejoice, because you are DONE!

Whew! So that last part was tricky, but totally worth it, don’t you think? 😀 I absolutely love how this bag turned out, and there isn’t much I would change about it if I did it again.
I’d love to hear what you think of the bag, or maybe just about Miyazaki movies in general! Let me know in the comments!
If you do wind up making the project, I’d love to see it! And I’ll send you free patterns from my Monthly Crafting Challenge!

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6 thoughts on “Freebie Friday: The Totoro Bag

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