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.
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.
You can decorate the bag fabric the way you want it. I have appliqued another fabric piece on the front side of the bag.
Step 2 Make the straps
Fold the edges of the strap piece 1/4 inch to the inside.
Fold by the middle; Press in place with iron.
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.
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.
Turn the facing to the back.
Sew in place after folding the cut edge to the inside.
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.
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.
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.
Do the same for both the sides. When you have done the sewing it will look like this.
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.
Related post : Sew a reversible hand bag.