Essentials Tote Bag Tutorial

 How to make this handy tote for all of your "essentials." It works for busy parents, and it's a handy bag for just about everyone with errands to run and things to tote!


 I’ve been wanting to design a diaper bag or a “Mom Tote” for a long time. Even if you don’t have a baby or if you’re not a mom, you can still make– and use— this bag. It is, after all, designed for all of the essentials. Enjoy!
Finished dimensions are 16″ x 11″ x 5″.


1 1/4 yard Exterior (I used Essex Linen in “Pool.”)
5/8 yard Exterior Accent A (Birch Fabrics “Bevy Shell”)
3/4 yard Exterior Accent B (Birch Fabric “Dots Cream Multi”)
1/2 yard Exterior Accent C (Birch Fabrics “Main Dusk”)
1/2 yard Lining (Birch Fabrics “Dragonflies Cream”)
1 Fat Quarter Interior Accent (A) (Birch Fabrics “Frog Pad Moss”)
1/2 yard 54” wide Canvas/Duck Cloth
4 1/2 yards Fusible Med-Weight Interfacing (such as Pellon SF101)
1 Package Craft Size Warm N’ Natural Cotton Batting

Hardware + Notions:

One 14” Zipper poly coil standard zipper (exterior pocket)
One 18” or larger poly coil standard zipper (interior pocket)
6” length of 3/4”-1” wide velcro
Six 1 1/2” D-Rings
One 1 1/2” metal slide
3/4” Leash Clip
1 yard 1/4” elastic
80/10 sewing machine needles
Denim sewing machine needles


Sewing Machine
Rotary Cutter
Cutting Mat
Acrylic Ruler
18” Grid Ruler (optional)
Fabric Pen
Point Turner
Iron/Ironing Board
Clips (optional)
Pen + Paper (for labeling pieces)

Cutting Instructions:
These instructions assume the fabric is 42” wide. Label each piece as you cut!

WOF= Width of Fabric
(IF) indicates piece needs interfacing; interfacing will not be listed for cutting.
Measurements listed width x height.
Exterior Fabric:
– Cut 2 Front/Back 17” x 12” (IF)
– Cut 1 Bottom 17” x 6” (IF)
– Cut 2 Sides 6” x 12” (IF)
– Cut 1 Strap 6” x WOF (IF)
– Cut 2 Strap Tabs 6” x 4” (IF)

Exterior Accent A:
– Cut 1 Exterior Pocket A (Cargo) 24” x 18” (IF)
– Cut 1 Exterior Pocket B (Flat) 17” x 18” (IF)

Exterior Accent B:
– Cut 2 Handles 6” x 21” (IF)
– Cut 4 Handles Tabs 6” x 4” (IF)
– Cut 1 Exterior Zipper Pocket 13 1/2” x 13 1/2” (IF)
– Cut 1 Exterior Pocket Tab 4” x 8”
– Cut 1 Interior Zipper Pocket Lining 17” x 10”

Exterior Accent C:
– Cut 2 Elastic Pockets 8” x 18” (IF)
– Cut 2 Elastic Straps 2” x 8”
– Cut 1 Cell Phone Pocket (IF)

– Cut 2 Front/Back 17” x 12”
– Cut 1 Bottom 17” x 6”
– Cut 2 Sides 6” x 12”

Interior Accent:
– Cut 1 Interior Zip Pocket 17” x 10” (IF)
– Cut 1 Key Fob 3” x 10”
– Cut 1 Binky Tab 4” x 8”

Canvas/Duck Cloth:
– Cut 2 Front/Back 17” x 12”
– Cut 1 Bottom 17” x 6”
– Cut 2 Sides 6” x 12”

Cotton Batting:
– Cut 2 Front/Back 16” x 11”
– Cut 1 Bottom 16” x 5”
– Cut 2 Sides 5” x 12”

Assembly Instructions:
Seam allowance is 1/2” unless otherwise noted.
1. Cut out all pieces using your rotary cutter, acrylic ruler and cutting mat. Label each piece as you go to keep your project organized. See next step for cutting interfacing.

2. Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse interfacing to wrong side of all coordinating pieces. To save time, lay the wrong side of the fabric on top of the glue side of the interfacing; fuse following the instructions, then cut out. This will save you tons of time!

3. Mark all four corners of all front, back, side and bottom pieces at 1/2”. This will give you a guide to place the batting on the canvas. Lay the wrong side of the coordinating exterior fabric pieces to canvas/batting pieces; quilt as desired.

4. Prep handles, tabs, straps and key fob by folding the length in half, wrong sides together; press. Open it up and fold each raw edge in to the fold and press again. Refold on the center line and press. The raw edges will now be hidden inside the tab/strap.

Note: For handle and strap tabs, fold the 6” side in half.

5. Topstitch the above pieces by stitching 1/8” away from finished edge. Start with the open, or double-folded, side to prevent twisting and bowing; stitch both sides.

6. For exterior pocket tab, turn one short edge under 1” and press. Cut a 3/4” piece of velcro, separate the two pieces, place one piece over the turned over edge, covering the raw edges; stitch in place. Set the other side of the velcro aside.

7. For the Key Fob, turn one short edge under 1” and press. Hook the leash clip through this end, and stitch edge to tab using a zig-zag stitch centered right over the raw edge.

8. For Binky Tab, follow Step 5, but do not set the other piece of velcro aside. Instead, measure down from bottom of first piece 1 1/2”. Stitch velcro in place.

9. For Exterior Zipper Pocket, find the center of the bag back and exterior pocket by folding each one in half, from side to side. Pin center marks. With RST, place zipper pocket on top of exterior back, matching centers and top raw edges. Using your 18” grid ruler, measure down 2” and draw a 4” line on either side of the center mark. Measure 3/8” down from first line and draw a parallel line. Connect the two lines on each short end, then pin pocket in place and stitch directly on the lines.

Use the rotary cutter to carefully cut down the center of the lines. Be very careful when you get to the ends and use scissors to get close to the edge. Then clip to, but not through, each corner.

Pull the pocket through the opening you’ve just created. Pull the pocket tight against the cut edge of the opening, and press. It won’t necessarily look “pretty” from the back, but that’s okay. This part will be hidden and it won’t affect the pocket function.

Turn this piece over. Place a thin line of Liquid Stitch glue around the opening, about 1/4” away from the opening. Place the head of the zipper into the short edge of the opening. Carefully roll the zipper down the length, making sure it’s centered. Allow the glue to dry about 15 minutes before turning over, then stitch-in-the-ditch in place. Trim off excess zipper.

Fold bottom of zipper pocket to top and pin. Stitch across the top, then down each side.

10. For Exterior Pocket B: With wrong sides together, fold the 18” side in half and press. Top stitch along the fold 1/2” away from edge.

Find the center of pocket, measure down 1” and make a mark. Lay back of pocket to bag back piece and align side and bottom edges. Baste in place. Place the piece of velcro that you set aside earlier just underneath the center mark and stitch in place. Stick the exterior velcro tab in place. It will extend past the top of the back piece. Pin the tab to the top of the bag back. I like to make the tab just a little longer. Trim excess and baste in place.

Place handle tabs 2 3/4” in from each side of back, then baste in place.

11. For Exterior Pocket A: With wrong sides together, fold 18” side of pocket down and press. Topstitch 1/2” away from folded edge. On the lining side of the pocket piece, measure down 3 1/2” and over 4 1/4” in from each side. This is your velcro placement mark. Stitch velcro to pocket. Repeat velcro placement, marking for exterior front piece. Stitch velcro in place.

Fold exterior pocket A in half to find the center and draw a line (A). Using the 18” grid ruler, measure 3/4” over on each side of the center, then draw a line (C). Measure over again, 3/4”, and draw a line (B). You should have a total of five lines. Fold and press along line B; fold along line C, bringing B to A. Press. Repeat for the other side.

Measure over 1” on each end. Draw a line (A). Measure over 1” towards the center of the pocket and draw a line (C). Measure over again and draw another 1” line (B). Fold and press B to A. Repeat for the other side.

Place this pocket piece to the right side of the exterior front piece. Carefully pin in place. Stitch the
center line first, then baste the pocket in place.

12. For Elastic Pockets: With wrong sides together, fold each elastic pocket in half, creating a 8” x 9” piece. Press and topstitch 1/2” from folded edge; this will create a casing for the elastic. Cut two 5” lengths of elastic and insert one into each casing. Pin the ends of the elastic in place, then baste.

Find the bottom center of the sides and elastic pockets. Lay the lining side of the elastic pockets to the right side of the exterior side pieces. Pin the corners and sides first. “Walk” the excess pocket toward the center. Push the excess pocket bubble down, then pin and baste pocket in place.

Place Strap Tabs in the center at the top of each exterior side piece and baste in place.

13. For the Cell Phone Pocket: Fold pocket in half, then press and topstitch 1/2” away from folded edge. Open up the pocket, and lay face down.

*Optional: Place a 5” x 8” scrap of batting 1/2” away from left side and bottom edge of wrong side of pocket. Make sure it’s placed on the lining side of the pocket! Edge stitch in place.

Fold pocket right sides together, then pin and stitch leaving a 4″-5″ gap at the bottom for turning. Trim corners and turn pocket right side out. Press. Center the pocket on the lining front piece, 2” down from top edge, then edge stitch in place. Draw a line down the pocket where the batting stops (or 8” over from the side) stitch.

14. For the Interior Zipper Pocket: Place the zipper pocket and pocket lining pieces together, matching edges all the way around. Measure 3” down from top edge and cut. You will have a 3” x 17” section (top) and a 10” x 17” section (bottom).

Lay zipper face down on top of bottom zipper pocket piece and pin. Place the lining piece, right side down, on top of the zipper. Re-pin.

Using your zipper foot and a 1/4” seam allowance, stitch zipper in place. Press pocket/lining away from zipper and topstitch.

Pin the bottom edge of the Top zipper pocket piece on the other side of the zipper, then pin. Place the lining piece, right side down, on top of the zipper. Re-pin and stitch using a 1/4” seam allowance. Press pocket/lining away from zipper and topstitch. With right sides together, turn the pocket bottom pieces over the pocket tops and stitch.

Turn pocket right side out, then press. Pin in place along top of lining back piece and baste the top edge.
Edge stitch the bottom.

15. For Tabs/Key Fob: Measure 2 3/4” over on the right side of the zipper pocket piece, and place the key fob just inside this point. Baste.

Place the pinky tab at the stitching line of the cell phone pocket and baste.

16. For elastic straps: With right sides together, fold elastic strap in half lengthwise and stitch. Turn
strap right side out. Cut two 5” lengths of elastic, then insert one into each strap. Pin ends of elastic and baste. Measure down 4” from top edge of lining side, then pin and baste one strap in place. Measure down 4” again, then pin and baste second strap in place. Now, let’s put it all together…

17. Measure in 1/2” on the bottom corners of exterior side pieces. With right sides together, lay each side onto either end of the bottom piece and pin. Stitch between the marks, making sure to backstitch at both ends. Repeat for lining.

With right sides together, place the exterior front along the bottom piece, matching corners and raw edges. Stitch between marks, making sure to backstitch at both ends. Repeat for bag back and lining, then trim corners.

Now it’s time to change your needle to the denim needle!

With right sides together, place bag exterior inside the lining. Pin along the top edge, leaving a 5”-6”
gap for turning along the front. Stitch the lining to bag, being mindful of the thickness where the sides are sewn to the front and back. You might find it easier to “nest” the seams at these points. (Turn the lining seam to one side and the exterior to the opposite side.) Backstitch at both ends of the opening! As gently as possible, pull the exterior through the opening.

Press the bag exterior nice and flat all around the top edge. Pin or glue the opening closed, then finish by top stitching 1/4” from the finished edge. I did not top stitch my key fob or pinky tab to the bag. Instead, I pulled them free of the inside of the bag so they wouldn’t get sewn down.

18. For Handles: Insert one end of handle into one each D-Ring. Turn edge under 1”. Use a zigzag stitch to go back and forth, over and over, on top of the rough edge of the handle. (See the photo of the strap for an example.)

19. For the Strap: Insert one end of the strap through the slider. Loosen the slider and loop the same end through one strap tab D-Ring. Stick the end back through the slider and back out through the other side. Pin the end in place. Zigzag as before to finish that end.

Loop the opposite end through the remaining D-Ring, and turn edge under 1”. Zigzag in place as before.

Now, step back and admire your handiwork! Holy cow, you just made that!

How to make this handy tote for all of your "essentials." It works for busy parents, and it's a handy bag for just about everyone with errands to run and things to tote!

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1 comment:

  1. What a fabulous bag and a very detailed tutorial, thanks so much for sharing.x