Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

 Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

This particular tote bag was something of a make-it-up-as-you-go effort.  I did a little research first, and pulled techniques from three different easy tutorials to come up with this design. 

Here's what I like about it:
(1) It showcases a super fun fabric that I had leftover from updating our nursery before Little Brother was born;
(2) It has a reinforced bottom, made with a contrasting, darker fabric that will (I hope!) hide some inevitable dirt and grime;
(3) It has nice, strong handles;
(4) It actually has a base, meaning that it is not strictly flat and will (with a little help) stand up on it's own. See?

Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

I think this tote bag would be a perfect addition to a road trip, an outing to the library, or even a day at preschool. And the best part is, it is easy!  

Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

It took me about an hour and half to complete for first time--and I'd bet on an hour for the second go-round. This means, of course, that you can get it done during a single nap time (if you're not me and all your children still nap) or after your kids go to bed...without staying up all night.

It also means that a simple tote bag is a great gift--this one, in fact, is going (belatedly) to one of our favorite little girl buddies for her birthday. If you wanted to be really cute, you could stuff it with art supplies or books or a stuffed animal. OR, you could make it from more mature looking fabrics, stuff it with a bouquet of flowers, and give it to a girlfriend as a market bag. The possibilities are endless.

Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

I hope you'll find that the individual steps are easy and straightforward, and that you can add or subtract them, or change around the materials in such a way that you create a totally new look with the same basic techniques. For me, that's the most fun thing about perusing craft and design blogs--they provide inspiration to come up with something unique on my own. I don't think I'm done on the bag front--especially with Christmas coming up. Look for some variations next month:).

Find the full tutorial for the Simple Tote Bag after the jump.


3/4 yard of thick cotton fabric to serve as the body of the bag (I used a home dec version of Alexander Henry's 2D Zoo Brite that I bought from Fabricworm).

1/4 yard of another thick cotton fabric to be the bag's bottom. I had a very light-weight scrap of red kona cotton and so I went for a larger size and folded it so that the animal print wouldn't show through.

Disappearing ink fabric pen

Basic sewing supplies

1. Cut your fabric to the following dimensions:

Body:  2 pieces measuring 16"L by 14"W

Handles: 2 pieces measuring 22.5"L by 4"W

Bottom (contrasting fabric): 9.5"L by 14"W


2. Create the handles. 

 Using your disappearing ink fabric pen, draw a straight line down the center of each handle piece. Be careful to draw on the wrong side of the fabric, just in case!

Fold the outer edges of each piece of fabric inward until they meet at the line you just drew, then pin and press.

Now, fold along the drawn line, pin and press again. Using a 1/4 inch seam allowance, sew a straight seam down BOTH sides of each handle.

Here's what your handles should look like:

3. Construct the body of the tote bag. 

With right sides facing, sew the two body pieces together along the bottom with a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Note: if your fabric design doesn't have a vertical orientation, you could actually use one large piece of fabric (32"L by 14"W) and skip this step.

Fold under the length of your contrasting fabric 1/2 inch from the raw edge, so that you have a piece with dimensions 8.5"L by 14"W and pin to your body fabric, so that the exact middle of the contrasting piece is on top of the seam you just created.

Topstitch the constrasting fabric to your body fabric, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

4. Attach the handles. 

Pin the raw edge of the handles to the right side of the bag's body, four inches from each side. Be very careful to make sure that the handles are not twisted.

Sew a zig zig stitch along the entire top edge of the bag, including both ends of the handle. This will prevent fraying inside the bag. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of this step, but you can see that zig zag stitched edge in the following picture. Next, fold the top edge of the bag 1.5 inches towards the wrong side of the fabric and pin.

Sew straight seams 1/4 inch from the top and bottom edges of the fold, including the handles.

Repeat this process to attach handle #2.

4. Close the bag. 

Turn bag inside out so that right sides are facing and pin, then sew a straight seam to close each side of the bag, using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Cut corners, then sew a zig zag stitch along the raw edge of the bag that includes both sides and the bottom. Again, this stitch will prevent fraying inside the bag.

5. Construct the bag's bottom. 
With the bag inside out, lay the bag flat with side seams on top of one another. Make sure that all the pieces of the bottom seam are lying flat in the same direction.

Use the disappearing ink fabric pen to mark fabric 1.5 inches from the tip of the triangle on each end of the bag.

Sew a straight stitch along each of these marked lines to define the base of the tote bag.

This seam makes the outside of the bag look like this:

Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

Turn the bag inside out to reveal your creation. You've done it! Wasn't that easy? And satisfying?

One bag down, many more to go before Santa comes:).

Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

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