Simple Tote Tutorial

I have always wanted post more tutorials here. I tend to make a lot of one-of-a-kind things because when I come across something that inspires me, I study it to figure out how to make it, and then just start cutting, forgetting to document what I did.

Every store I go into has it’s own version of a reusable tote, from the grocery store to the book store to the pet store. Lots of people are making their own tote bags because most of those store versions are so generic, stiff and just kinda ugly. I got a boring black tote bag from a swimwear store last summer that I used as a model for my latest tote bag obsession.

I thought it would be fun to share my version of a girly tote bag. I used single pieces of fabrics, but you could do so much with this size, from stripes of jelly rolls strips to a patchwork block framed in linen fabric.


One half yard fabric for outside and one strap (additional fabric required if you want the straps to match)

One half yard fabric for lining and the second strap


Cut two pieces 13 inches wide by 14 inches tall from the outside fabric and from the lining fabric.

Cut two strips of fabric 5 inches wide by 24 inches long for the strap.

Sewing the Bag Pieces

Lay the two outside fabrics right sides together and sew together with a 1/4-inch seam. Turn right side out.

Lay the two lining fabrics right sides together and sew together with a 1/4-inch seam, leaving a two-inch opening in the center bottom of the lining. Leave the lining inside out.


Fold one of the strap fabrics in half, wrong sides together and press. Open and fold raw edges toward center fold and press.

Fold in half again so all raw edges are tucked inside, and press.

Top-stitch on each side, about 1/8-inch from folds. Measure the straps to gauge the length. Mine came to about 23 inches long, which was fine for me.

Attaching Straps

Measure 2.5 inches in from the left edge of the outside bag, and pin one end of the strap, leaving a 1/4-inch overhang. Do the same on the right side and pin the other end of that strap, leaving a 1/4-inch overhang, and pin, making sure the strap is not twisted. Baste in place using a 1/8-inch seam.

Optional: Making a Flat Bottom

To prepare the corners for a flat bottom, pinch a corner so the seams line up, making the corner look like a triangle. Measure 1 inch from one side of the triangle to the center seam, and draw a line all the way across. Stitch on that line, which will give you a 2-inch bottom.

Snip off the corner, leaving a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Repeat for the remaining corners.

Assembling the Bag

Insert the outside bag (which should be RSO) into the lining bag (which should be inside out), smoothing the layers together and making sure the handles are neatly tucked in between the two bags. Pin, pin, pin. Sew the two layers together with a 1/4-inch seam.

Pull the outside bag through that hole in the bottom of the lining fabric to pull the two bags right side out.

Smooth out the two bags so it looks like one long piece.

Tuck the lining inside the outside of the bag. Press along the top, and pin pin pin.

Top stitch the top of the bag to hold the layers together and give it a nice finish. I switched to pink thread here, just for fun. Then I decided to add some pink rick-rack over that top stitching for that extra little touch.

Whipstitch the opening in the lining fabric closed.

Put your stuff inside and show it off!

If you want to print the directions without the pictures (which can use up so much toner!),email me at and I will send you a shortened version. If I can figure out how to attach a link to a pdf, I will add that here.

EDIT: the shortened instructions are here, thanks to Sandi who shared the easy instructions for adding a pdf to this post!

Enjoy your stylish new tote!