How to Make a Tote Bag: Easy 12 Steps Guide With Images
To help you out, we created this detailed guide so you never have to ask yourself again how to make a tote bag.
To make a special, one in the world and unique tote bag, you need to follow some simple steps.
How to Make a Tote Bag
- Prepare the materials
- Prepare the equipment
- Pick a print for your tote bag
- Iron and prepare the fabric for cutting
- Follow the marked guidelines to cut out your tote bag
- Prepare and sew the front and back of your tote bag
- Turn the straps so that the print is on the outside
- Iron and topstitch the bag straps
- Add structure to the bottom of the tote bag
- Prepare the top edge of the tote bag and attach the straps
- Secure straps and topstitch the opening of the tote bag
Are you ready to make your first tote bag? Let’s get started.
1. Prepare the materials
The classic tote bag is made from canvas. But you don’t have to stick to the classics. The choice is all yours. As long as you stick to choosing any medium weight, woven, cotton fabric that is suitable for this project. We particularly recommend Organic Drill, Organic Panama, Calico Plain Cotton and Organic Calico.
Whatever you choose, you need these dimensions:
- 50cmx100cm of your chosen fabric (you can fit 3x bags in 1 metre of a 140cm width fabric)
- Sewing thread
2. Prepare the Equipment
Did you know that you can create a tote bag even without a sewing machine?
The equipment you need for this project is the basic sewing repair kit, a perfect start for a beginner.
- A ruler – at least 35cm length is ideal
- 1 x fabric scissors / rotary cutter + cutting matt
- Sewing needle or sewing machine
- 1 x fabric marker or tailor's chalk
- An iron + ironing board
- Overlocker machine – helpful but not essential
3. Pick a print for your tote bag
Choosing a print is the most exciting part of any sewing project, it’s the most important piece of the puzzle.
You can, of course, pick a plain white fabric and add appliques or draw on it, but you can also choose a nice pattern.
Life’s too short to create and wear boring tote bags 🙂
We used Floral Confidence design by AriBombari. Printed at 150dpi on our Calico Cotton Plain fabric base.
About the print:
A cheerful floral pattern. Featuring an assortment of paper cut flowers on a pink-lined background. Each flower and motif is an actual paper cut collage. You can see the paper details in the pattern.
4. Iron and prepare the fabric for cutting
Now, everything is prepared, we can start the project.
Iron the fabric on the non-printed side and remove any creases.
Use a ruler and fabric marker to mark out the following measurements for your tote bag:
- 46.5cm x 50cm – Front of tote bag
- 46.5cm x 50cm – Back of the bag
- 6cm x 80cm – Strap 1
- 6cm x 80cm – Strap 2
You will have a leftover piece of fabric measuring 20cm x 12cm. Why not use this to make a pocket or a bow to customise your bag! Try to reuse
Helpful tip: You can fit 3 tote bags into 1 metre of a 140cm width fabric by following these measurements.
5. Follow the marked guidelines to cut out your tote bag
You can use fabric scissors or a rotary cutter for this. If you are nervous about keeping to the guidelines with a rotary cutter, use a metal ruler to stabilise the cutter.
6. Prepare and sew the front and back of your tote bag
Place the front and back pieces together with the printed sides of the fabric facing each other.
Make sure that the design is in the right direction/the print is upright.
Secure the fabric with pins and sew the 3 outer edges at a 1cm seam allowance as above (dashed line). If you are using an overlocker, overlock all edges now.
7. Prepare and sew the straps of your bag
Fold both straps in half widthways and sew the length of the straps at a 1cm seam allowance as above (dashed line).
Sew to close both straps widthways at one edge. This will help with turning the straps the right way round in the next step.
8. Turn the straps so that the print is on the outside
Push the short sewn edge of the strap inside itself using a thin object (pen, pencil, knitting needle etc.). Feed the item through the tube until the straps are showing the full printed side of the fabric. Once you reach the sewn edge, cut the edge and remove the item.
9. Iron and topstitch the tote bag straps
Press the straps flat with an iron and topstitch the long edges at 1-2mm from the edge of the straps. This will add strength to the straps and add a nice decorative touch.
10. Add structure to the bottom of the tote bag
Your tote bag is still inside out. Take the bottom corner of one side of the bag and put the bottom seam and side seam together.
Use a ruler and fabric marker to draw a line at 90 degrees, 3cm up from the pointed corner of the bag. Repeat for the other corner of the bag and sew along the marked line.
If you are using an overlocker, overlock this edge to square off after sewing.
11. Prepare the top edge of the tote bag and attach the straps
Fold the top edge of the tote bag to measure 4cm in width all around and iron flat.
Place the straps on each side of the bag, 9cm from te side seams of the tote bag. Fold the edge of the straps underneath the folded edge and secure with a pin.
12. Secure straps and topstitch the opening of the bag
Sew a topstitch line at 3.5cm from the top of the bag to secure the straps and folded edge.
Sew a crosshatch on each of the straps to add strength to the tote and add a nice decorative touch.
Turn your bag the right way around and begin filling it with all your daily essentials!