Tutorial: Roll-Up Tote Bag

Tutorial: Roll-Up Tote Bag

Here you will find instructions to make your very own Roll-Up Tote Bag. It's a quick and easy project, and a practical and stylish item to make as a gift (or for yourself!). A roll-up tote bag is the perfect thing to stash in your purse or diaper bag. Rolled up, it takes a teeny bit of space. Simply whip it out when you need to carry groceries after an impromptu trip to the market!

This is a great stash and scrap buster. I thought it was great fun to mix and match various prints for a fun overall look, with some linen thrown in of course! My tutorial includes the linen strip at the top of the bag, but you could substitute a solid or another print for a different style.

Materials needed:

- Linen: 2 pieces, each 5" x 16"
- Fabric A (handles): 2 pieces, each 21" x 4"
- Fabric B (outside of bag): 1 piece, 21" x 16" (or 2 pieces, each 11" x 16" if using directional prints)
- Fabric C (inside of bag): 1 piece, 29" x 16" (or 2 pieces, each 15" x 16" if using directional prints)
- Round cord elastic, 6 inches
- Thread in coordinating color
- Masking tape
- Sewing machine, needle, scissors, rotary mat, rottary cutter, pins, iron

Finished size: 14" x 15", not including handles

*Please use a 1/2 inch seam allowance, unless otherwise indicated.*


1. Cut and press all fabrics.

2. Handles: Grab your two pieces of Fabric A. Fold each rectangle in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press. Fold in 1/2 inch lengthwise on both sides and press again.

Pin (or don't, if you want to sew on the wild side like me) and top-stitch closed 1/8 inch from the edge. Then top-stitch 1/8 inch from the edge on the other side to create an even finished look. When done, your handles should measure 1.5" wide x 21" long. Set them aside.

3. Outside Bag: If using directional prints for the outside of the bag, lay your two pieces of Fabric B right sides together, watching the direction of the prints. Stitch the bottom seam and press it open.

Right sides together, stitch 1 linen piece to one side of your Fabric B piece. Repeat with the other linen piece and the other side. Press your seams up toward the linen.

Top-stitch 1/8 inch from the seam on the linen, repeat for the second linen piece. You will be stitching over the seams you just pressed up.

Fold your fabric in half, right sides together. Pin and stitch along both sides. Press, and square off the top if needed (linen is so unruly, my top edge was wavy at this point as you can see in the photo below).

Turn your Outside Bag inside out, using a point turner for your corners if needed, and press. Your Outside Bag should measure about 15" wide by 14.5" long when done.

4. Inside Bag: If using directional prints for the inside of the bag, lay your two pieces of Fabric C right sides together, watching the direction of the prints. Stitch the bottom seam and press it open.

Fold your fabric right sides together and stitch along both sides. (Note: I think I used this print in the wrong direction. I didn't realize it while sewing, but seeing it now in photos, the flowers look all squooshed. Woops!) Your Inside Bag should measure about 15" wide by 14.5" long when done.

5. Attach Handles and Elastic: Grab your Outside Bag fabric and lay it flat in front of you, right side out. Grab one handle strap. Lining up top edges, pin one end of this strap to the top of the bag, 2 inches from the side seam. Pin the other end of the same strap 2 inches from the other seam, being careful not to twist the handle fabric. You should have 8 inches of bag between each strap end. Repeat for other side of bag, with the other handle strap.

On one side of your Outside Bag, measure the top edge and find the center point. Mark it with a pin or fabric marker. Fold the elastic in half to create a loop. Keeping both sides of the elastic as close to each other as possible, attach it to the center point of the bag's top edge with a little bit of masking tape.
Make sure the masking tape is at least 1/2 inch lower than the top edge. (Note: I've found that masking tape works better for me than pins when working with this type of elastic that tends to curl upon itself. But of course, feel free to use a pin to secure the elastic if you prefer!)

With a 1/4 inch seam allowance, stitch through the handle straps and elastic. I like to stitch and back-stitch a few times for durability. This bag will hopefully get a lot of use, which means there will be a lot of wear and tear inflicted on both the handles and the elastic. You want these to be stitched on as well as possible. It wouldn't be overkill to zigzag stitch over the edge of the strap ends at this point.

6. Assemble the bag: Stuff your Outside Bag, right side out, into the Inside Bag which should still be right side in. The right sides will face each other.

Align all seams and edges. Make sure the handle straps and elastic are tucked inside. Then pin around the edge of the top.

Stitch around the top, leaving a 4 inch gap to turn the bag inside out. You should be using a 1/2 inch seam allowance which should catch and hide your stitches attaching the handle straps and elastic (and hopefully miss the masking tape!). Turn your bag inside out. Peel off the masking tape.

Press your bag carefully and pin the opening closed.

Top-stitch 1/8 inch from the top edge all around the bag, which should close your opening and add a final decorative touch. Remove pins as you go.

You're done!

And you've got yourself a reversible tote bag:

Here's how you roll it up:

If you need a little reminder or you are giving this bag as a gift and want to include instructions, here's a little illustration you can print out.

Tutorial: Roll-Up Tote Bag

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