Easy Embellished Tote Bag Tutorial
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
- Lighter or candle (if it's synthetic fabric)
- Small embellishments like beads, rhinestones, buttons, etc.
- Fray stop if using a fabric that will fray
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!
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.
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.
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!