Updated on September 1, 2022 by Sarina

A tote bag is a very simple, very useful, medium-sized every-day bag you can carry anywhere. It is made of a somewhat sturdy bag material and is usually left unfastened. It is a good handbag for your simple everyday uses – shopping, going to the library, taking around your laptop etc. You may have got some of them as give-aways at supermarkets, bookshops, boutiques but with their own logos prominently displayed. It is easy to make a tote bag on your own without these unwanted embellishments, with some pretty fabric and a sewing machine. 

A simple tote bag

The tote bag is usually made of thick and heavyweight fabrics like canvas, upholstery materials, denim, pleather and leather. Learn more about the popular bag fabrics and the bag materials used to make bags.

Here is my favourite way to make these unstructured, uncomplicated and unlined tote bags. 

How to sew an easy Tote Bag


Step 1 Cut out the fabric pieces. 

The bigger fabric piece is the bag body ; 24 inch long pieces are for the two bag handles and the 16 inch pieces are for the facings. 

cut out 16 inches by 36 inches fabric for main bag body and 24 inch by 3 inch fior handles and 2 facing pieces
Bag body, Handles and facing

You can decorate the bag fabric the way you want it. I have appliqued another fabric piece on the front side of the bag. 

applique made on totebag fabric

Step 2 Make the straps

Fold the edges of the strap piece 1/4 inch to the inside.

make the tote bag handles

Fold by the middle; Press in place with iron.

fold the edgs of the strap material to the inside and sew in place

Top stitch the edges and make your straps. 

Step 3 Join the straps

Keep the strap on top of your body fabric piece as in the picture below. The edges of the strap should project out about 1/2 inches.

Ensure that it is arranged so that there is a distance of 4 inches between the handles – use tape measure to place accurately. Pin in place. 

Bag handle kept on bag surface
Keep the handle on the edge of the bag top, a little bit projecting to the outside

Keep the facing piece on top of these, at the top edge. Pin in place. Stitch the top edge, joining all these, with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

sew a tote bag

Turn the facing to the back.

Facing turned to the inside

Sew in place after folding the cut edge to the inside. 

Facing stitched place

Do the same for other side as well.

Step 4 Sew the sides

Keep the bag body in front of you, right side to the outside.

sew the sides right sides outside

You will be making a french seam on the sides – which is why the right side is kept to the outside. Check out the tutorial for French seams here.

Sew the sides with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance to 1/8 inch.

Now turn the bag wrong side out.

Turned to the inside and sew in place

Sew the sides again with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, thereby enclosing the seam allowance inside the seam. Thereby you will not have any loose edges inside the bag to deal with. 

The red line in the picture above is the stitching line.

Step 5 Sew the boxed corners 

Take the bottom corners – pinch it so that the seam is by the middle. Mark across 2 inch down from the corner. Sew across.

Pinch cornes and sew acriss

Do the same for both the sides. When you have done the sewing it will look like this.

Flat bottom for the tote bag

Leave the corners as it is (ie do not cut it off) – it will add to the strength of the bottom part of the bag. You can, maybe, hand stitch it in place. Turn your bag rightside out. 

Very easy to ,make tote bag tutorial tote bag

Related post : Sew a reversible hand bag. 

Did you like this post?

Click on the stars to rate it!

Average rating / 5.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

    1. Hi Sheila
      If you are using interfacing you will have to use another fabric to shield it, inside – ie sandwich outerfabric, interfacing and lining and treat them as one.