Easy Embellished Tote Bag Tutorial

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Denim tote with white sequin fabric embellishments. These are multiple layered flowers.Lime green canvas bag with a single layer of grosgrain ribbon circles sewn on. I like how they look like scattered flower petals. Bright and Colorful- 2 layer embellishments with a sequin circle in the middle.Close up of the layered embellishments
Denim tote with white sequin fabric embellishments. These are multiple layered flowers.
Denim tote with white sequin fabric embellishments. These are multiple layered flowers. | Source
Lime green canvas bag with a single layer of grosgrain ribbon circles sewn on. I like how they look like scattered flower petals.
Lime green canvas bag with a single layer of grosgrain ribbon circles sewn on. I like how they look like scattered flower petals. | Source
Bright and Colorful- 2 layer embellishments with a sequin circle in the middle.
Bright and Colorful- 2 layer embellishments with a sequin circle in the middle. | Source
Close up of the layered embellishments
Close up of the layered embellishments | Source

Learn how to make a beautiful embellished tote bag to carry your books or other things in. This project is quick, easy and it's very inexpensive to make. The flower embellishments on the tote are made from fabric. Any fabric will work fine for this project, as long as it isn't too heavy. I like to use synthetic type fabrics because of a few tricks that I learned that can only be done with synthetics. I will share more about this technique below, in the tutorial. I have even used wide grosgrain ribbon before to make these "flower" embellishments and they have always turned out very nice.

As mentioned earlier, this project is a very quick one. I've embellished three different tote bags now and I was able to finish two of them in one sitting. The green one took me a couple days but that is just because I was limited on time and only had about half an hour to work on it when I started it. I was able to finish it the following evening. I finished the cream one with all the bright flowers the quickest. I had already taken fabric glue and layered the flowers before I started AND I used Mighty Mend It to glue the flowers on. We will see if it holds up in the long run.

I hope you enjoy this tutorial! These are lots of fun to make and I can't wait to do my next one!

  • Plain tote bag, even a used one would work
  • Fabric - 1/4 to 1/2 yard should be plenty depending on the amount of embellishments you want
  • Scissors
  • Lighter or candle (if it's synthetic fabric)
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Small embellishments like beads, rhinestones, buttons, etc.
  • Fray stop if using a fabric that will fray

plain tote bags
plain tote bags | Source

First things first, get your tote bag ready. You can use a new blank one purchased at the store or you can use an old one that you already have. I've used both new and used. The used one was a solid whitish color with a picture on the front. I just used the embellishments and covered up the picture. Just be sure to wash it first, If you want to embellish a used bag. You can purchase blank tote bags at Wal-Mart, super cheap. That is where I got mine and it was a package of three!

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Cut squares of fabricFold square in half- the dotted line indicates where you should cut.Cut the circleDifferent sizes of circles- large to smallestStack of circles ready to be sewn on.
Cut squares of fabric
Cut squares of fabric | Source
Fold square in half- the dotted line indicates where you should cut.
Fold square in half- the dotted line indicates where you should cut.
Cut the circle
Cut the circle
Different sizes of circles- large to smallest
Different sizes of circles- large to smallest
Stack of circles ready to be sewn on.
Stack of circles ready to be sewn on.

Cut your fabric into circles of different sizes. I did mine with the largest being about 1.5 to 2 inches across and then cut a few more that were gradually smaller. I would stack them up with largest circle on bottom and smallest on top and would have 4 to 5 circles per stack.

**Tip** A quick way to cut lots of circles is to first cut your fabric into different sizes of squares. Then fold the squares and starting on the fold, cut half a circle shape. You can even fold a couple or three squares together and cut 2 to 3 circles at once! Don't worry if your circles are a little wonky. They don't have to be perfect.

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Stacks of circles- ready for the edges to be singed.Singe the edges of all circles in each stack. The one on the right is singed- notice how the edges pull up... and it takes on a sort of cup shape.
Stacks of circles- ready for the edges to be singed.
Stacks of circles- ready for the edges to be singed. | Source
Singe the edges of all circles in each stack.
Singe the edges of all circles in each stack.
The one on the right is singed- notice how the edges pull up... and it takes on a sort of cup shape.
The one on the right is singed- notice how the edges pull up... and it takes on a sort of cup shape.

Cut about 10 to 12 stacks of circles and then stop. This is about how many you will need to get your design going. The next thing to do is to figure out what you need to do about the edges of your fabric circles. If you have cut the circles out of a type of fabric that doesn't fray, you can go on to the next step.

If the fabric you are using does fray, you will need to go ahead and apply some fray stop or something like that around the edges. If you are working with a synthetic material, you can use a lighter to lightly singe the edges of the circles to stop the fray PLUS it will cause the edges of the circle to draw in and create a little cup shape which is a really cute effect and it makes the stacked circles look even more like layered flowers. This is that technique I mentioned in the beginning of this hub.

Do each one, stack by stack, keeping each stack together with the largest on bottom to the smallest on top.

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Decide where you want the first one. Start the stitch from inside the bag, do at least two stitches and tie a good knot.Pretty ruffled flower embellishment!
Decide where you want the first one.
Decide where you want the first one. | Source
Start the stitch from inside the bag, do at least two stitches and tie a good knot.
Start the stitch from inside the bag, do at least two stitches and tie a good knot.
Pretty ruffled flower embellishment!
Pretty ruffled flower embellishment!

It's time to thread your needle and start sewing each of the stacks of circles onto the bag. You can decide the pattern beforehand or figure it out as you go. I sewed my first one on in the top left hand corner and just kind worked my way down and decided where to put each one as I went along.

Decide where you want to put the first one and on the inside of the tote bag go in behind where you have placed your circles and push the needle up through the middle of the smaller top circle. Then stitch back down and come back up again as close to the other stitch as possible and then do another stitch back toward the inside of the bag. You can do a X or just two plain stitches. Just make sure to pull the thread tight, this is what causes the ruffled effect. Then do a couple of knots to secure it and cut the thread. Your stack of flowers should be attached tight and secure.

After you sew it on, it should scrunch up in the middle a bit where you put the stitches and look sort of like a ruffly, layered flower. Go ahead and sew the rest of them on in the pattern of your choice. You can cut more circles and add them if you need them.

Once you're done with sewing them on, add a rhinestone, bead or whatever embellishments you want to the centers and then your done!


  • Grosgrain ribbon works wonderful for this! Just cut squares from ribbon and then cut circles. Different sizes of ribbon makes different sized circles- don't forget to singe the edges!
  • You could layer different colors of circles for multiple colored flower embellishments.
  • You could even layer circles cut from different types of fabrics.
  • If you know of a good fabric glue, you could use that to glue the embellishments to the tote, instead of sewing each one. It would have to be a really good glue though to last through repeated washings. In fact, if you know of such a glue please feel free to share in the comments section!!!
  • I did use Mighty Mend It to glue some on one of the totes I made and so far, so good but I haven't had to wash the tote yet.
  • Glitzy type fabrics work wonderfully for these embellishments.
  • You do not have to do lots of layers to make your embellishments. In fact, sewing on just one circle or layering two circles will still look great.
  • Use the colors orange and black to make a super cute trick or treat bag for Halloween!
  • These tote bags would make great gifts for any occasion!

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So what do you think? 22 comments

carter06 profile image

carter06 4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

Gosh your hub is beautifully laid out Jamie...and such a great craft idea...well done & up & awesome...cheers


Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas Author

cartero6- Thank you, I appreciate you stopping by! Also, thank you for the vote up and positive feedback :) Take care!


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

Very inspiring hub. You are very creative. Thank you very much for always share your creative idea with us. Voted up and shared.

Prasetio


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

This is great and looks like so much fun. I love small easy projects like this that aren't a lot of work. Thanks!


Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas Author

prasetio30- Thank you for visiting, what a wonderful compliment! The only thing I like better than making things is sharing the tutorial for them on HubPages.. Thank you for the vote up and sharing :) It's always great to see you!


Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas Author

Jackie- You are welcome, I'm glad you like it. Thanks for stopping by :)


eHealer profile image

eHealer 4 years ago from Las Vegas

Beautiful bag and great ideas. This looks fun to make on a rainy day. Thanks for the great instructions and excellent photos. Great Job Jamie.

Create on!


NetflixReviews 4 years ago from Somewhere in North America

Very nice and well written article. I am not even remotely crafty so I won't be making one but I'm sure a lot of people will like it.


Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas Author

eHealer- Thank you! They really are lots of fun to make. I'm getting ready to do a hot pink one... but can't decide on the fabric I want to use for the embellishments. It's great to "see" you again.. thanks so much for dropping by!


Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas Author

NetflixReviews- Thank you kindly, I appreciate you stopping by :)


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Not only is the bag pretty, but so is your hub! I love this bag, it's so darling. If only I had the time to make one.


lcbenefield profile image

lcbenefield 4 years ago from Georgia

This is soooooo cute. I am obsessed with handbags and love this idea. I have one similar that I used crocheted flowers to embellish with. What a fun and colorful way to accessorize! Up and beautiful, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you.


Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas Author

teaches- Thank you, that is so sweet, I appreciate it :) These bags actually didn't take long to finish, but I know it's still hard when there is so much to do. Take care!


Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas Author

Icebenefield- You are welcome, and thank you so much for the vote up, positive feedback and for sharing. I really appreciate it! These bags are so much fun to do and super easy. I'm getting ready to start on a hot pink one, still trying to decide on the fabric to use for the embellishments. Thanks for dropping by!


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa

Cute! These would make great reusable shopping bags or farmers market bags.


Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas Author

DeborahNeyens- Thank you, I didn't even think about using them as reusable grocery bags but they sure would be perfect for it! Thank you for sharing that :)


KarlawithaK profile image

KarlawithaK 4 years ago from Oregon

Oh this one makes think of all kinds of easy designs to make with circles! I need to go to the craft store! =)


Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 4 years ago from Texas Author

KarlawithaK- I love that you like the idea of the stacked circles, there really are so many easy ways you can use them. You could use them to embellish all kinds of things. Thank you for dropping by :)


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

A fun project that lets you focus on the embellishments if using a pre-made bag, proved by your brightly colored examples! Your cute hub gives me ideas for future project tutorials. :)


Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 3 years ago from Texas Author

RTalloni- I am so happy to hear this hub has inspired with some new ideas for future project tutorials! Yes, I used the pre-made canvas bags. You can get them in the craft department at Wal-Mart for just a few dollars with either two or three (can't remember) of them in a package. I was quite surprised at how inexpensive they were and loved the colors. I still have a hot pink one to decorate. So glad you enjoyed the hub!


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

I love this bag. Will consider making a few:)


Jamie Brock profile image

Jamie Brock 2 years ago from Texas Author

grand old lady- Thank you!

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