How To Make A Tote Bag Step-By-Step

Tote bags are bags of different sizes that don’t have fasteners, zippers or any other means of closure; just handles on either side of the bag. Their main purpose is to be used to carry shopping. They differ in size, structure, straps and style from all other types of bags. Tote bags are usually large to be able to carry all the things you need for the day. They are just big bags with no structure or structure to feel comfortable enough for you to carry your shopping, personal stuff, a book bag etc. What’s more, they usually have two long straps and a wide-open to hang them on the shoulder and have easy access.

A woman with a tote bag made of canvas is shopping in the supermarket

If you fancy tote bags and you’re a bit experienced in crafty things, including sewing, crochet, drawing and papercrafts, then you can make a tote bag. It’s an easy tote bag sewing project. It’s similar to creating your own cushion covers with a zipper. You can find several free patterns and tutorials on the Net. But even if you don’t have a tote bag pattern or don’t know how to sew, you can still make your DIY tote bag. With our step-by-step tote bag tutorial, you will make your own. Ready to find out how to make a simple tote bag? Let’s get the sewing party started!

Which is the best fabric to make tote bags?

Before getting deeper into the DIY tote bag project, we need to figure out the most suitable fabric for such a bag. You can use denim from a pair of jeans of yours or silk to make a more fancy bag. However, NOT all fabrics are perfect for such a sewing pattern. When you choose what fabric to use, you should bear in mind the purpose you will use your bag for.

A tote bag , smartphone and accessories on white wooden background

If you are going to use it for your everyday shopping, you need a firm fabric like heavy cotton, canvas or thick polyester. On the other hand, if you want to make a lined tote bag, you better choose two types of fabric; a soft one for the liner and a more solid and sturdy one for the outer part. They come in a great variety of colours and prints. As for the straps, you can use cotton or polyester webbing to make excellent handles. 

The materials and tools that you’ll need

Do you know how to sew a drawstring bag? If you like sewing projects, you’ll probably have most of the tools you need for this sewing tutorial. You can get them in your nearest sewing shop if you don’t have them.  

The fabric depends on the size of your bag. Three of the commonest bag sizes are:

  • 30x 35cm for a petite tote
  • 35 x 40cm for a medium tote
  • 61 x51cm for a large beach tote

For this DIY sewing tutorial, you are going to need:

  • Canvas fabric
  • 100% cotton lining fabric
  • Cotton webbing for straps. ( optional)
  • Thread in coordinating colour
  • Sewing machine
  • Measuring tape
  • Water-erasable pen (or any other marking tool)
  • Straight pins or dressmakers pins
  • Fabric scissors or rotary cutter
  • Sewing pins
  • Iron 

The steps to follow(or Step-by-step instructions)

Having these tools and materials, we will show you a simple sewing tutorial for a large bag. For the outer piece, you’ll need 0.58×1.04cm, for lining 58x94cm and for the straps, four pieces 6x86cm. Ready? Let’s start!

Step 1: Cut the fabric

Cut two pieces of fabric rectangles of equal size. Use a marking tool to mark where to cut and your scissors or cutter to cut the pieces. Next, mark the place you want your handles to be. Fold your fabric in thirds lengthwise and mark the centre inside the creases for your handles. 

Step 2: Sew the pocket

Now, you need to decide if you want a pocket on the inside of the bag. Cut a piece of the outer fabric. Make sure you have an extra piece to do that. Zigzag stitch the pocket piece and iron 2cm along the top edge. Don’t forget to press the sides and the bottom. Fold the lining and the pocket in half to make a crease and be able to find their centres—line up and pin to the right side seam of the lining. Sew the pocket. Sew the right side, the bottom and back up the left side seam.

A woman sewing a pocket on a tote bag

Step 3: Sew the bag

Then, hem the top edges of the one rectangle. Lay the fabric so that the wrong side is facing out, Fold the top edge down by 2.54cm. Using straight pins, secure the fold and iron it to create a crease. Do the same with the second piece of fabric. Create a straight stitch 1.3cm below the folded edge on both pieces. With your sewing machine, you can sew the two pieces together with a 0.63cm or ¼ inch seam allowance. Plae the rectangles back-to-back so that the wrong sides are facing out and sew along the sides and the bottom of the bag with a straight stitch. After that, fold the bag so that the bottom corner and side seam are stacked on top of one other and sew. Do the same on the other corner as well. Make sure that the side and bottom seam are aligned.

Step 4: Place the handles

It’s time for the handles. Cut off the fabric about 5cm wide strips of equal length. Fold each one in half to include both raw edges and that the inside of the fabric faces out. Iron to create a crease. Sew the long side of both handles. Turn the handles right side out and insert a wire from a coat hanger. Iron again to flatten the handle. Fold, next, the long edges of the handles by 1.3cm seam allowance and iron to make a crease. Place the edges on the marks you’ve made at the beginning. The ends should be about 3.8cm below the top of the bag. Pin them in place. Topstitch a square onto the handle to secure it. 

And you’re done! Your bag is ready. Trim first any threads and then you use them as you wish. What’s more, you can decorate your bag. You can paint it with fabric paint, sew buttons, add an applique or rhinestones. You can do whatever you like.

A woman carrying a bunch of flowers in her beige tote bag

Tote bags are perfect to carry your everyday shopping and also the personal things you need for work. They are also a perfect homemade gift for your loved ones on birthdays or a gift for Mother’s day. Get a gift bag or make a box yourself and gift this bag to someone special. With this simple sewing pattern, you’ll have a great tote bag at no time!

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