I can never seem to have enough pretty tote bags. I use them to carry groceries and stacks of library books, to organize things in my sewing room and in my car. Tote bags are simple to sew with just a few rectangles of fabric. They are perfect for any season – from carrying Halloween candy to holding ski gear or beach wear. Follow this simple tutorial to make your own pretty totes!
You can cut the tote bag out of all the same fabric or a different fabric for the outside and inside. I love using medium-heavy weight cotton, but you can use a variety of fabrics. If you have a pretty fabric you want to use but it’s not very heavy, use it as the lining or add a layer of interfacing. Cut the front/back at 15″ x13″ (2 fabric and 2 lining), the base at 13″x9″ (1 fabric and 1 lining), the sides at 15″x9″ (2 fabric and 2 lining), and handles at 4″x19″ (2 fabric). All of the seam allowances in these instructions are 1/2″ so each rectangle will have a finished size 1″ smaller than you cut it.
Sew the long edges of the front/back to the long edges of the sides, right sides together, using a 1/2″ seam allowance. This will give you a tube of fabric with all four pieces connected in the order of front-side-back-side. Repeat with the lining pieces.
Sewing the bottom onto the body is the trickiest part, but it’s totally do-able! Mark the bottom piece on the long side 1/2″ in from the short side. This mark will line up with the seam between the front/back and side pieces. Sew the long edge of the bottom to the edge of the front/back, right sides together, with a 1/2″ seam allowance, starting and stopping 1/2″ inch from each short edge of the bottom. Do this for the other long edge of the bottom and then repeat with the lining.
You will now pivot your fabric at the corner so that you can sew the short side of the bottom to the side piece, right sides together, with a 1/2″ seam allowance. Shown in this picture, the unsewn edges of the short side of the bottom and the side are at top. The seam between the bottom and the front/back and the seam between the front/back and side are both pointing down. Starting 1/2″ in, sew the bottom to side. Repeat for the other edge of the bottom and for the lining.
Fold the top of the tote bag over 1/2″ to the inside and iron down. Repeat with the lining.
Put the lining inside the tote back and pin them together so that the top edges are aligned and the various seams match.
Sew the outside to the lining all around the top with a seam 1/4″ from the top.
Sew the strap along the long edge, right sides together, using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Turn right side out and iron flat. Tuck 1/2″ of fabric in on each end and press down.
Pin the straps to the tote so that the handle is about 2″ in from the side and there is about 5″ between the ends of the handles. Sew in place by sewing a rectangle with an X in it, going over your stitching twice, as pictured above. Enjoy your finished tote!