How to Make A Tote Bag

These directions are great for making any type of tote bag. It can be used for making a cool decorative Halloween inspired tote bag or and alternative to a trick-or-treat bag or a variation on a traveling case. Obviously, with the switch of fabric choices, this pattern would be great for a hand, tote, or shoulder bag by adjusting the number and length of handles.

Source

The basis for this pattern comes from Diana Rupp’s S.E.W.: Sew Everything Workshop, a beginner’s sewing book. This was the first tote I ever made, and it came out well (Thank goodness because it was a gift for someone whose birthday is around Halloween). Even though the directions were worded nicely in the book, I am simplifying the process even more. No matter how good the directions, we still learn best by doing it and adjusting along the way. The book actually provides different sets of directions based on the size and type (long-handled tote, hand tote, or shoulder tote) of bag you want to follow. But some of the numbers overlap and seem bunched together. It was a bit of information overload for a beginner. The original square tote was 12” x 12” instead of 15” x 15”. So here is my version with some additions not originally in the book, like buttons that were hand sewn on.

You Will Need:

  • ½ yard of fabric (1 yard if making lining)
  • Thread
  • Iron

Optional:

Beginning of pockets
Beginning of pockets | Source
Finished pocket pinned to lining fabric
Finished pocket pinned to lining fabric | Source

Cutting Directions:

  • Cut 2 15” squares (body of tote) (cut 2 more if making lining)
  • Cut 4 3” x 20” rectangles (for handles)

If Making Pockets:

  • Cut square(s) or rectangle(s) ½” inch larger than you would like.
  • Fold all four sides over ¼” and press with iron.
  • Sew all four sides.
  • Sew pockets to right side of material before assembling the whole tote. I placed my pockets on the inside of the tote (on the lining).

All fabrics (tote and handle pieces) pinned together
All fabrics (tote and handle pieces) pinned together | Source
You can see the contrast of lining with the main fabric
You can see the contrast of lining with the main fabric | Source

Sewing Directions for Tote:

  1. Pin the two pieces of main fabric right sides together.
  2. Stitch three sides of the square (sides and bottom).
  3. Press seams open.
  4. Turn tote inside out.
  5. Fold back the top edge 1”, press, and sew the raw edge.
  6. Complete the same steps above, in same or different fabric, if you are adding lining.
  7. Place lining of tote in bag so wrong sides of the outer tote and lining are together.
  8. Pin top edges together well.
  9. Sew top edges together.

How to Make Bias Tape

Sewing Directions for Handles:

  1. Pin two of the two pieces of handle fabric wrong sides together.
  2. Sew all four sides. I used a decorative stitch that closed up the raw edges.
  3. Repeat with remaining two pieces for handle.
  4. Pin handles to outside (or inside if your prefer) of tote.
  5. Choose a short stitch length.
  6. Stitch in place.

You can skip making your own handles by using bought double-fold bias tape. You can also use your fabric to make your own double-fold bias tape by pressing the fabric.

Optional:

  • Hand sew buttons on.
  • Add on any other notions you desire.

Various Thoughts:

  • I always find it easier to cut and pin all the pieces first so I don’t have to keep switching tasks.
  • I made the handles thicker and longer than the original because it was a gift for someone older who needed the extra support. Plus, it looked better than the skinnier handles.
  • The lining fabric was changed because I liked the feel of the silkier lining.
  • Turn you iron on in advance of working on the project so it is waiting for you and not the other way around.
  • The pocket directions given are a short cut to “real” pockets that would also have a turned down hem.

Stephanie Bradberry Crosby
Stephanie Bradberry Crosby | Source

About the Author

Stephanie Bradberry Crosby is first and foremost an educator and life-long learner. Her present work is as an herbalist, naturopath, and Reiki Master. She spent over a decade as a professor of English, Literature, and Education and high school English teacher. She is a doctoral candidate in Education: Curriculum and Teaching. She runs her own home-based business, Naturally Fit & Well, LLC, which includes her all-natural, handmade, and customizable product line, Natural Herbal Blends. Stephanie loves being a crafter, freelance writer and editor on the side.

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4 comments

thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 4 years ago from India

This is an interesting read. Though I am not very fond of stitching, I think I can make something out of this if I follow your instructions.

Voting up and sharing


sangre profile image

sangre 4 years ago from Ireland

I'm going to make one with a summer theme. You make it seem easy. Here's hoping it comes out ok.


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 4 years ago from New Jersey Author

thumbi7, thanks for reading. It is a shame you are not fond of stitching. I just took up sewing not too long ago. I am no expert, but I always use what little skills I have to my advantage.


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 4 years ago from New Jersey Author

sangre, a summer theme sounds excellent. Starting now means it will be ready for you to just pick it up on your way out the door once the weather breaks. I am sure your masterpiece will turn out fine. This was my first tote-bag and it worked well. Now I have modified the sewing to make a purse for my mom and a travel case for my father-in-law's chess set.

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