Quick and easy tote tutorial

This tote pattern was inspired by the best bag I ever had: big enough to carry a small selection of groceries or a creative project, but small enough that it never felt cumbersome. To expand on that bag’s great shape, I created three different sizes, each perfectly useful in its own right.

NSB - quick and easy tote tutorial header

The simplicity of this tote design provides so much opportunity to exercise creativity! Choose a fun printed fabric and embellish it with embroidery. Create some graphic patchwork and quilt it for additional texture. Paint your own fabric to be used for the outside. Make it in leather for a chic look.

This pattern goes together so quickly, I doubt you will want to make just one!

SUPPLIES

For all sizes, you will need:

  • Fashion fabric (I used printed cotton)
  • Lining fabric (I used printed cotton)
  • Webbing or ribbon for handles
  • Thread
  • Fusible fleece (optional; this adds body to the bag and stabilizes fabric)

TOOLS

  • Rotary cutter (recommended) or scissors
  • Quilter’s style see through ruler (I use 6.5” x 24”)
  • Self-healing mat (if using rotary cutter)
  • Marking tool (pen, pencil and chalk are all fine)
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
  • Hand sewing needle (optional)

DIMENSIONS

quick and easy tote dimensions chart

Finished tote sizes:

  • The small tote finishes approximately 9.5” tall x 8.25” wide x 3.25” deep
  • The medium tote finishes approximately 12.25” t x 10.25” w x 4.25” d
  • The large tote finishes approximately 14.75” t x 12” w x 5.25” d

DIRECTIONS

For this tutorial, we show the construction of a medium tote. All seam allowances are 3/8”.

1. Cut fashion and lining fabrics to size. If using fusible fleece, follow manufacturer’s instructions to fuse to back of fashion fabric.NSB - quick and easy tote cut fabrics to size

2. For each piece of fashion fabric, find center point of top edge. Measure and mark the distance from center point according to dimensions chart (e.g. for medium tote, measure and mark 3” to either side for a total spacing of 6”).NSB - quick and easy tote mark center and strap spacing

Next, take one strap and align raw edge of webbing to raw edge of fabric along the top, matching to the  outside of the spacing mark.NSB - quick and easy tote align strap 1

Repeat with other end of strap and second spacing mark.NSB - quick and easy tote align strap 2

On sewing machine, baste straps in place (I like to sew 1/4” from the edge).NSB - quick and easy tote baste strap

3. Pin and sew one lining piece to fashion fabric along top edge using 3/8” seam allowance. NSB - quick and easy tote pin lining to outside

Repeat for second fashion fabric and lining pieces.NSB - quick and easy tote sew lining and outer pieces

Iron to set seam, then iron lining and fashion sides down (this will help create a clean finish along top edge).

4. Take one side and reopen; lay wrong side down. NSB - quick and easy tote lay wrong side down

Open second side and lay atop the first, right sides together, matching fashion fabrics and aligning the seams at edges.NSB - quick and easy tote pin tote pieces right sides together

Sew the two side seams and the bottom seam for the fashion fabric. On the bottom edge for the lining, leave a 4” to 5” opening in the center. **NOTE: it is best not to  backstitch at the corners, as these will be pressed open and cut off**NSB - quick and easy tote sew all sides leaving an opening at bottom of lining

Press flat.

5. Create the box bottom: in one corner, pull the two fabric pieces away from each other so the two seams match; press seams open. Using the ruler, measure and mark the length shown on the dimensions chart perpendicular to the seam line (e.g. for the medium tote, measure 4” from fold to fold). I find a quilting ruler marked with 45° angle to be particularly helpful to this task, as I can align with the folded edge. NSB - quick and easy tote mark box bottom outer fabricNSB - quick and easy tote mark box bottom lining

Sew on machine; be certain to backstitch at the edges. NSB - quick and easy tote sew box bottom

Trim seam allowance to 3/8”.

Repeat for all four corners. Press to set seams.

6. Turn the bag right side out through opening in bottom of lining.

Edge stitch the opening closed on the machine or blind stitch closed by hand.

NSB - quick and easy tote stitch opening closed

Fit the lining into the tote body, matching the box corners.

7. Iron the top edge (this is where that ironing in step 3 comes in handy). Pin in place, if desired.NSB - quick and easy tote iron top edge

Stitch around top 1/8” from edge; stitch again 1/4″ from edge.

8. Admire your new bag!


As mentioned above, there are many ways to personalize this tote!

In one version, I added a pocket to the lining…

…which would also work very well on the outside!NSB - reusable gift wrap large tote pocket outside

For another version, I used a printed fabric and a coordinating near solid for the lining. I added embroidery to the printed fabric and made a matching appliqué for the near solid. By finishing the ‘lining’ by hand, this becomes a reversible bag!

I hope you enjoy making your own version of this tote! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below!

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