Day Six: Tote Bag

On the Sixth Day of Sewing…

We took inspiration from one of our favorite fabrics in the shop. This tape measure canvas has been calling to us for some time now to make it into a tote bag and today was the perfect day to do just that. You can never have too many tote bags- especially adorable ones like this! An easy project to complete in just a few hours, this handy tote bag would make a great handmade gift for anyone on your list.

Gift Idea: Canvas Tote Bag
Gift Idea: Canvas Tote Bag

Here are our instructions and tips for sewing this amazing tote bag. It includes one of our favorite methods for bag construction- a bit unusual but it will change you sewing life! At least it did for us when we first learned it.

Tote Bag Tutorial:

Note: All seam allowances are 3/8″ unless otherwise noted.

1. Gather your supplies- cutting tools, matching thread and fabric amounts listed below:

  • 2/3 yd for bag exterior- we prefer canvas or other durable fabric (you can take a lighter fabric and fuse interfacing to the wrong side to strengthen it)
  • 5/8 yd for bag lining- this can be any weight woven
  • 1/4 yd for bag contrast- canvas or other durable fabric is preferred
  • 1/3 yd for bag handles- canvas or other durable fabric is preferred
  • Fabrics used here: Measuring Tape Canvas, Plaid Sateen, Brushed Twill Magenta, Cotton Twill Black

2. Cut out your pieces.

  • Cut (2) 18″ squares from exterior fabric
  • Cut (2) 18″ squares from lining fabric
  • Cut (2) 7″ x 18″ rectangles from contrast fabric
  • Cut (4) 2-1/2″ x 27″ from handle fabric
Cut tote bag pieces.
Cut tote bag pieces.

3. If desired- fuse interfacing to the wrong side of the exterior pieces and (2) handle pieces. (We did this on ours for a more stable tote.)

4. Prepare the handles.

  • With right sides together, match up (2) handle pieces and stitch along both long sides. Carefully turn handle right side out and press. Repeat for other handle.
  • Topstitch the length of both sides of each handle using a 1/4″ seam.
  • Find the center of each handle and make a mark 2″ on either side. Fold the handle in half and stitch along the open edge between the two marks. This creates a nice hand hold.
Sewn handles.
Sewn handles.

5. Prepare other pieces.

  • Exterior and lining- cut a 2″ square out of the bottom (2) corners of each lining and exterior piece. This will be used to create the gusset/bottom of the tote during a later step.
  • Press contrast pieces in half lengthwise, wrong sides together- they should measure 3-1/2″ x 18″ when folded.
Preparing the Exterior and Lining Pieces.
Preparing the Exterior and Lining Pieces.

6. Attaching the handles.

  • Find the center of each exterior piece along the top edge. Center both handle ends along this edge, right sides together, spacing them approximately 4″ apart. Pin in place.
  • Lay a contrast piece over the top, unfolded, and pin along the top edge. The handles should now be sandwiched between the exterior and the contrast band. Stitch in place and press seam toward the exterior.
Attached Handles- between exterior and contrast
Attached Handles- between exterior and contrast pieces.

7. Attach Lining- stitch each lining piece to the opposite side of the unfolded contrast band. Press seam toward the lining. You should now have two halves of your tote that look something like this.

One half of the tote bag.
Completed one half of the tote bag.

8. Now for the cool part! Sewing the bag together.

  • Match up the two halves, right sides together and carefully pin all the way around. Take extra care to match up any seams and pin securely.
  • Stitch all four sides leaving a 4″ opening in the bottom seam of the lining for turning. Leave the (4) cut out corners unstitched.
  • Carefully press all seams open.
Sewing the two tote bag halves together.
Two tote bag halves pinned right sides together.

9. Creating the gussets.

  • At each corner, match up the raw edges and seams creating a new seam- pin carefully.
  • Stitch across each of the new seams being sure to backstitch at the beginning and end for security.

10. Turn bag right side out and tuck the lining inside the bag, folding the contrast band along the pressed fold. Topstitch around the top of the exterior fabric using a 1/8″ seam. Also topstitch each handle in place to the contrast band.

Topstitched exterior and bag handles.
Topstitched exterior and bag handles.

11. Hand stitch the opening in the lining closed and your tote bag is complete!

We hope you love this tote bag as much as we do. Isn’t that a cool way to construct a bag- two halves make a whole in a couple of easy steps! A great gift idea for fellow seamstresses, readers or really anyone who loves a good tote! Customize the fabric to suit their personality or how they will use it and this bag is sure to be a winner!

Happy Sewing!

P.S. December 6th Only! Save 20% on select twills and canvas. Plus, get 2 sets of our favorite pattern weights for just $35! Shop Here

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