Sunday, 24 February 2013


...As in bags, not the bizarre abbreviation.

Whilst pondering what to do with some fabric I dug out of the cupboard yesterday I thought I would knock up a quick lightweight tote bag tutorial to post before I head off to Wiltshire with family for a few days.

It looks pretty long but don't let that put you off as it's actually quite straightforward! (I've not yet mastered the art of succinct explanations). I'm really pleased with the result too. I'd never usually put orange and fushia together but I think it really works and has a modern 'colour blocking' feel.

Anyway after finishing it I realised that I have accumulated a pretty large collection of bags already -so who fancies a freebie?

Leave a little comment at the bottom and check back next week when I'll pick a name out of a hat or something and pop it in the post (If you don't hold an account be sure to leave some form of contact info!).

[UPDATE 02/03/2012 This tote bag is on it's way to Margaret who I hope will enjoy it!]

Simple Tote Bag Tutorial
You will need;
  • Paper/Pen to create a stencil
  • Coordinating Fabric (Approx. 65cm x 90cm main body, and 35cm x 50cm contrast)
  • Sewing Machine/Thread/Scissors
  • Iron/Ironing board

The first step is to create your template. I thought I'd walk through how to draw one up rather than just posting a printable version as it's so straight forward and you can then tailor make one to your own sizing/specifications.

Start with a rectangle the approximate size you'd like your finished bag to be -Landscape/portrait, you choose! Then add sides and a base like the picture below. The base/sides dictate how deep your bag will be (the base depth and side width must be the same!).

Lastly add your seam allowances. 1cm to each side (not the base as this will be cut on the fold) and 4cm to the top for hemming. I started with a 30cm x 35cm rectangle and added 6cm sides before adding my seam allowance.

Fold your main fabric and lay it out in front of you with the fold at the bottom. Line up the base of your pattern piece with this fold then cut around it.

[If you want to keep things simple, or are using a printed fabric all over then miss out this next step]

Using your existing piece as a template, cut an identical (albeit shorter) piece from your folded contrasting fabric remembering to allow for 1cm to be pressed under at the top edges. This will serve to add decoration as well as reinforce the base of your bag.

Laying both pieces out flat with the right sides facing up, pin and then top stitch the contrasting piece onto your main body close to both turned under edges. You can now treat these two pieces as one.

To construct your tote, first use a zig-zag stitch to run along the 4 sides to prevent fraying. Now stitch the side seams with the right sides together 1cm from the edge and press the seams open.

To close up the remaining holes, simply flatten and pin as shown in the picture below, and sew (again 1cm). Run a zig-zag stitch along these seams to prevent fraying.

All that's left is to make and attach the handles. I cut a rectangle measuring 56cm x 8cm for each handle. You can adjust the length/width to suit -but be sure to allow a little extra length for attaching them!

Fold and press your handles in half, and then further press in the outer edges (like bias binding). Press in half again so that all of the raw edges are concealed then top stitch either side for a neat finish.

To hem your tote, press inwards 1cm of your extra allowance, and then fold and press inwards again the remaining 3cm. Before stitching this in place arrange and pin your handles into the seam, as shown in the picture below, making sure that both sides are symmetrical. They will point inwards for now.

Stitch your hem in place near the fold, securing the ends of the handles at the same time. Then press and pin your handles the correct way (facing outwards).

Finally, to ensure that they're attached securely, stitch a crossed box as shown at each join. Et voila.

If you give this a go I'd love to hear how you got on/see any creations!


  1. It's a great blog, but it still all looks terribly complicated when it's so simple to just buy one!lol I've never been any good at sewing and admire anyone who can. This bag looks fab so I'd love a chance to win the freebie. I'm Louisa15 on Folksy if I'm lucky enough to win and you need to contact me!:)

    1. Thanks for stopping by Margaret! It's great to hear some feedback -I'm glad you like it.

  2. I'm so looking forward now to recieving the bag you're sending me, many thanks and good luck with everything!

  3. Thank you I think even I could do this ...I am going to use some of my own fabric and then hopefully add to my product..thank you so much . ...handy tips on zips or button holes would be soooo welcome , at the moment having to pay to get all my stuff done which is a lot... Sue

    1. Glad to hear you're going to give it a go!

      I'd love to see how it turns out, do let me know how you get on :)