Sew Easy Tote Bag

At The Crafty Co, we love making things that can be used time and time again. This gorgeous tote bag not only looks fab, it can replace carrier bags when you are out and about . It’s quick and easy to make and will have shoppers staring with envy. You can make it out of scraps of material so it’s a good way to use up your fabric stash. And let’s face it, we all have a huge one don’t we?

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED

oddments of material (we used 1/2 a metre for the back and bottom front, a small piece for the top front and approx 1/2 metre for the lining) (the lining was an old unused duvet cover)

sewing thread

scissors

pom pom tape

pins or sewing clips (you can purchase clips here)

marker/fabric pen

iron

ruler/tape measure

 

Here’s what you do

The size of the bag is entirely your choice. You can follow our dimensions or use your own, the principal is the same. We chose this size bag, as you will be able to fit loads of shopping in. As we mentioned, it’s a great excuse to use up all your scraps of material.

When selecting the fabric for your bag, decide what you need it for. If you want a bag that you can screw up small and pop in your handbag, choose a lightweight material. A thinner bag will not hold as much weight, but it will take up less room and can even be stuffed in a pocket. A heavier weight material will be more bulky, but the bag will look more expensive and hold more weight.

We had a scrap of llama material left from another project, so used that for the top of our bag. It is wise to make the two pieces different sizes. If you put the join in the middle of the panel, one pattern will dominate the other and they won’t look even. So if you intentionally make one bigger, it will give more of a design feature.

Cut the top front piece 19 inches wide by 7 inches. This fabric frays alot so we over locked around the edges. Don’t worry if you don’t have an overlocker, a zig zag stitch on your machine (all machines should have this stitch) will be fine.

For the bottom piece, cut your chosen fabric 19 inches wide by 11 inches. How deep you make your bag is your choice so adjust it as desired. Zig zag or overlock the edges on this bottom panel. You don’t have to, but once the bag is finished it’s nice knowing that it will last longer as the edges have been protected inside the bag.

For any sewing project to look professional, it’s worth taking your time when cutting out your pieces. That way, when joining pieces together, sewing corners, adding lining etc, the more precise you can be, the better the item will look.

The two pieces are now joined together to form the front panel of the bag. These clips are amazing for sewing as they don’t mark your fabric. You can purchase them here 

Place the right side of the bottom edge of the top piece against the right side of the top edge of the bottom piece together and pin or clip together to secure. Before you stitch, it’s a good idea to fold the top piece back to check that the pattern is the right way up.

Sew along this edge to attach the two pieces. A top tip for seam allowance is to find a foot that you can use as a guide. Make sure you use the same foot (apart from the zipper foot) for all your seams to keep them the same. As you sew, you can look at the foot and make sure that it is in line with the edge of the fabric. For sewing seams a stitch length of 2.5 is perfect. The sitches will be nice and close togther and hold the seam firm.

Your top and bottom pieces are now sewn together.

To achieve a nice flat seam to add the pom pom tape to, it’s a good idea to press the seam open at the back. Take care when pressing and a top tip is to never let the iron come in direct contact with the fabric. Use a tea towel or some material that you know is suitble for ironing between your fabric and iron. Take care with the material guide for using heat as you don’t want to ruin it. If you want to, at this point you can sew a line of top stitching on both sides, close to the centre seam. This will keep the material flat and make it easier to add the pom poms.

Lay the pom pom tape on the front of the panel so that it covers the join. We don’t pin ours as we like to add it as we go. If you prefer, you can secure yours prior to sewing with pins. You may need to jiggle the tape about, depending where the pom poms fall. There maybe a bit of waste and you may need to remove the ones at the end so that don’t get caught in the seam.

You should have a zipper foot with your  machine and these are great for working with tape. They allow you to work really close to the edge.

Sew two lines of stitches down the tape. One at the top and one close to the pom poms. Keep checking that the tape covers the seam for a neat finish.

The front of your panel is now complete.

Cut the back panel out of your chosen fabric. You can use once piece of material or several joined together. Make sure that the back is exactly the same size as the front panel and over lock or zig zag stitch to stop the edges fraying.

This particular bag is lined.

The lining will cover all the seams and make the bag look just as good from the inside. Lightweight material is great for lining. We used a cotton duvet cover which was perfect as we were able to recycle it. You will need two pieces of lining and these can be cut together. Fold the material in half and lay the back panel down on it. Cut the lining to the exact size.

You should now have one back panel, one front panel and two lining pieces.

The next step is purely optional.

We are going to cut out the bottom corners of the pieces so that we can create a box bottom to the bag. It will allow you to get bigger items in the bag. To make the corners, cut out a 3 inch square from both the bottom corners of the front panel. We laid all our pieces down one of top of the other so that we could cut them all exactly the same. Again, we stress that the more accurate you can be at the cutting stage, the neater your finished project will be.

Once you have cut the corners from the front panel, cut them out from the back panel.

Cut the lining corners too.

You will see in the pic below that all the pieces have corners cut out of them.

The next step is to make the handles. We have made shoulder ones. If you want to make carry handles instead, reduce the length of the straps. Cut two pieces of fabric 4 inches wide by approximately 32 inches long. You can choose the length you want here. Again, it’s a good idea to over lock or zig zag the edges to stop them fraying.

Place the right sides together lengthwise and sew a seam down the long edge.

Pull the handles the right side out. There are lots of great tutorials on the internet showing how to do this step.

Lightly press them. Try to get the seam to run down the centre. Once they are attached to the bag, the seam will be hidden. Sew a line of top stitching down each side, close to the edge. This will stop them twisting and going out of shape. For top stitching a stitch length 3 or above is good.

It is now time to assemble your bag. The first thing we need to do is mark where we want the handles to go. If you are making these to sell or will be making lots, it’s a good idea to find a method that places them in the same place each time.

To do this:

1. Find the middle of the panel at the top.

2. Measure the panel from the middle mark and the edge of the panel to find the centre.

3. Iron or mark a line at this point.

Do this for both sides.

Before you attach the handles, make sure that they are the same length. This is important as if they are equal, you can sew them in the same way to the bag and be confident that they will match. Place one end on the top of the front panel. Place it wrong side facing up, along the crease or line and  make sure that the crease is on the side nearest the edge of the panel. We find that this is an ideal positioning for handles, but you can choose where you place yours.

To attach the other end, place it wrong side facing up on the edge of the other crease line. You can see by the picture below how it will look if placed correctly. Make sure that the handle isn’t twisted at all. They are placed in this way so that when the bag is turned the right side out, the seam will be hidden underneath.

It is a good idea to secure the handles before you add the lining. This way they won’t move out of position. Sew back and forth several times near the top of the bag. We sew close to the top so that when we sew the seam, the stitches will be hidden inside the seam allowance.

Add the handles to the back panel in exactly the same way.

To sew the lining, place the top of the lining (right side facing right side of front panel) to the top of the back panel and secure with pins or clips. Make sure that the handles are tucked down and straight.

Sew along this edge, using your foot as a guide. Double check that the handles haven’t moved before you sew over them.

Do the same for the front panel. You will see that the handles have been sandwiched in between the two pieces.

Next, place the bottoms of the front and back panels, right sides together and clips into place.

Sew along this edge. When working seams in bags, a top tip is to work a reverse stitch at the beginning and end. This will stop the seams from coming undone.

Once you have sewn the bottom, place the sides together. We will sew from the centre seam down to the bottom on the panels and then do the same for the lining. Don’t be tempted to start at the bottom and work along the two pieces all in one go. Chances are, by the time you reach the centre, your material will have moved slightly and the centre seam won’t be crisp. It’s worth taking your time to match this centre seam.

Sew from the centre down to the bottom. Again work a reverse stitch at both ends.

Turn the bag over and sew down the lining. Overlap the stitches slightly to strengthen the centre seam. Sew a slightly bigger seam allowance down the lining edge. This will make the lining a fraction smaller and it will fit better into the bag.

By taking our time, you can see that the centre seam is perfect.

Sew the 2nd side in exactly the same way. When sewing the bottom of the lining, leave a gap in the centre. This is so the bag can be turned right side out.

The next step is to create the box shape on the bottom of the bag. Taking one of the side seams and the bottom seam, line them up and press flat. Take extra care to match these seams so that the bottom of the bag looks neat.

Sew along this edge to close the corner.

Do the same for the other 3 corners and over lock or zig zag the edges.

We have nearly finished the bag and it now needs to be pulled right side out. Place your hand in the lining hole and pull the handles through. Now carefully tease the rest of the bag through.

Your bag is almost finished.

To close the gap in the lining, fold in the edges and press to get an even edge. Sew closed with matching thread.

The next part is optional but we like to do it so that the lining stays in place.  Push the lining into the bag making sure you get right into the corners. Top stitch around the top of the bag. If you are confident with your stitching, you can use a contrast thread. Take extra care when sewig over the handles and seams, as the fabric will be bulky here.

Now all that’s left is for you to admire your gorgeous bag and wait for the compliments to roll in when you take it out and about with you.

Old jeans are just perfect for this project and it’s a fab way to upcycle and stop using plastic bags.

So grab all your oddments of material and get creating.

We love seeing your creations and makes, so don’t forget to tag us #CraftyCoCreations

Happy sewing

The Crafty Co

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