Sewing The 20 Minute Murse


As much as I drive the content here on Refined + Rugged, in the activity department there are two other power players who have some say-so in what I post here on the site.

Case in point– The 20 Minute Murse. My oldest asked me months ago, “Mom, I really want to learn how to sew. Can we sew something together?” I won’t go into all the ins and outs of my sewing history (or why I don’t really love to sew), but his desire didn’t end there.

He started to talk about sewing a lot. Like every other day. Now I realize that this was also a mild form of manipulation. My kiddos are smart. They know that each of them has a soft spot in their parents’ hearts. So it probably didn’t come as a surprise to my little P when I told him I would borrow a sewing machine and we would do a project together.

I scanned the inter-webs for kid friendly sewing projects and settled on this one from Purl Soho, which ROCKS by the way!! The instructions are easy to understand, the sewing is relatively simple, and I have to admit that the time element (20 minutes) really had me going!

Flash forward to the fabric center of a certain Big Box Store on a Saturday. The boys took less than 2 minutes to choose their fabric and the ribbon for the handles. I was jonesed because the project seemed to be coming together smoothly already. A sewing machine from my dear friend was waiting for us at home– bobbin wound, needle raised, foot up– we were ready.

I asked one of the sales associates if  there was someone who would come over to cut our fabric. We waited for 20 minutes and no one came. I searched out another sales associate in an adjoining isle and asked if they could cut some fabric. They also said they would put out a page on their headset.

10 minutes later, no fabric person. No person period. I did hear an all call over the intercom for a clean-up on the toy isle. Toys were right next to fabric, so I craned my neck in that direction, hoping to catch someone’s eye who would help us. Walking toward a gathering group of salespersons, I saw the puddle of bubble soap on the floor. No less than seven– that’s 7 people showed up to clean up the bubbles.

Still no one came over to help us with fabric. I asked another sales associate if they could help me with some fabric, and she said, “Oh, I heard the page. No one came?” “NO.” I replied flatly. “I’ll make another call,” she replied.

Another 5 minutes passed. No human arrived to cut our fabric. I pulled the scissors down from the shelf. Cut off half a yard of fabric, and walked, with the original bolts of fabric to the checkout stand. There it took the sales associate ANOTHER 15 minutes to find someone  to go to the back of the store and properly price the fabric. The line extended and people looked sufficiently annoyed behind me.

The moral of this story is: if it takes you more than 50 minutes to GET THE FABRIC you’d like to use for this project, it will take you MUCH longer than 20 minutes to accomplish this tote. I wish you the best of luck at whichever fabric counter you encounter! 🙂

Instructions to this fabulous tote bag are detailed below. Happy Friday! And happy sewing to you all!!!!

XX, Megan


For one tote bag you will need:

1/2 Yard of fabric

2 yards of cotton webbing or ribbon

Cotton thread to match your tote fabric


Measure your fabric to 16 inches tall and 14 inches wide. You can make your fabric into two panels or you can fold your fabric in half (as I did) to eliminate a seam.

Pin the handle pieces to the top RAW EDGE of the right side of each panel 3-inches from the sides. (Make sure you pin the handles to the RIGHT SIDE of the fabric, because you are then going to turn the handles down and eventually sew the fabric to fabric making the top of your bag much stronger.)

The raw edges of the handles should match up with the raw edge of the top of the panel so the handles will be facing down as shown in the picture above. Make sure the handles aren’t twisted.


Do a zig-zag stich across the top of the entire bag, sewing each handle to the fabric. Then turn the fabric down 1 and a 1/2 inches and sew two seams– one along the top and the bottom of that one-and-a-half inch band. 1/4 inch from the top and 1/4 inch from the bottom along each top.

Remember you should have two tops at this point, and if you are a sewing dunce like me, remember not to sew them together!!! Plus, if any of this is confusing, which is a very realistic proposition, Purl Soho has MUCH BETTER directions for this entire process!!)

Now you are ready to sew the sides of your bag! Make sure right side faces right side on the INSIDE of your bag. Then pin the edges of your bag in 1/2 inch increments. Then go to town! This part was fun, and Little P really was able to sew the entire outside seam of his bag.


Ta-DA! The finished project. I really ended up doing most of the work for my 4-year-old. We had an incident with the sewing pedal that caused me to re-evaluate his readiness to use a sewing machine. But, of course, you will know your child better than I. I read several blog posts where moms had their children using a sewing machine as young as three– yes 3!! If you do this project with your wee ones, I’d love to hear about and see your results!



5 thoughts on “Sewing The 20 Minute Murse

  1. You are clearly in the wrong fabric store… or rather, big box stores are NOT the place to buy fabric. I’ve never been sewer (Robert Young and Albert Foster had to finish my windsock in home ec… that is how bad I am) but I took a private sewing class 1.5 years ago and read a book (of course) and now I am amazing. Just kidding. I DO host a monthly sewing night in my neighborhood. Mainly it is to get together and chat. One day I’d love to be able to sew costumes instead of coughing up 40 bucks for a Poe Dameron flight suit like I just did Saturday on

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laugh out loud. I am DEFINITELY in the wrong fabric store… Well, my small town doesn’t actually have a fabric store. I take full credit for the foibles in this fabric purchasing experience! I cannot get over the wind sock, and I will forever be traumatized by a multi-floral vest (yes multi-floral meaning that there were at least 3 florals going on in this hodgepodge, quilt-looking print), and matching pants (picture MC hammer ++) that I sewed for 4-H.

      From the wind sock to the monthly sewing night, I cannot believe the sea change in your sewing landscape. I, myself, cannot even strongly commit to a bunko group hosted by some wonderful friends from P’s school. Heck, I can’t even get myself together enough to invite you and your wonderful family to DINNER at my house!! It is coming. I swear. The invitation.


  2. Oh my goodness, look at the seriousness in P’s face! I just love the determination in your family! Such a great attribute that you forge ahead and never give up, fabric cutters or NOT! The finished product looks fantastic! Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

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