Learn how to make a DIY tote bag with this easy to follow free bag pattern to sew. The bag making tutorial is perfect for beginners because it also includes a step-by-step instructional video. Discover how to sew a simple bag by mirroring this DIY tote bag tutorial.
From brand logos to cool print designs, tote bag come in various shapes, sizes and colors. Using this DIY tote bag tutorial, there are so many ways to add your own customized features like inside pocket, flat bottom, lining, handles and shoulder strap.
Appreciate how to sew a simple bag by using this free bag pattern. There are a variety of options to choose from, so pick your favorite features and let’s get started.
Table of Contents
How do you make a simple bag?
Making your own reusable tote bag is actually not that hard. To tell you the truth, it is perfect sewing project for beginners!
Use recycled cotton fabric and follow this DIY tote bag tutorial for an easy beginners sewing project. Make it eco-friendly and extremely durable so that it lasts a long time.
Customize the design by using exciting patterns, attractive colors and by adding your own DIY embroidery. As a result, you can easily match it together with your casual styles and chic outfit ideas.
It’s easy to pair your cute casual outfit with your custom tote bag. It’s really fun to learn how to make a simple bag following this custom tote bag tutorial. But, have you realized that not all fabrics are created equal?
What is tote bag made of?
Totes serve the purpose as reusable shopping bags. The typical tote bag is commonly made of a durable cloth material, thick leather and occasionally vinyl. In general, the fabrics are dyed and treated to resist moisture and prevent mold.
Decorative features, a flat bottom and the addition of handles, pockets, lining and shoulder straps are all options to consider.
The design featured in this DIY tote bag tutorial uses a thick cloth fabric. However, you can easily substitute any of these materials when executing this free tote bag pattern.
What fabric is best for tote bags?
A lightweight fabric requires a stiff interfacing compared to a heavy fabric. Interfacing is used around the opening of this tote bag pattern.
A stiff fabric works best in terms of durability. I used a heavy-duty recycled canvas and was also able to make the interfacing as well. Choose a sturdy muslin, colorful canvas, or an attractive cotton print for a more decorative bag.
Cotton fabrics are also an excellent choice for a tote bag lining. However, a variety of craft materials are now available as an alternative.
How are tote bags measured?
Measure tote bags by either the finished dimensions of the design or perhaps by volume. The measurements for this free tote bag pattern are 11” x 15” with a 3” side panel. The finished bag has the capacity to hold approximately 8 liters.
How much fabric do I need for a tote bag?
Less than a yard of fabric is required to complete this free tote bag pattern. However, its best to have a little extra fabric to work with so that you don’t have to cut corners.
½ yard is required to make the outside of the bag. ¼ or a yard is used for interfacing, pocket, handles and the adjustable shoulder strap.
How do you sew sides on a bag?
Sides on a tote bag can either be independent pieces, or extensions of the original bag body. This tote bag pattern includes the side tabs in the bag body piece.
With the right sides facing each other, sew topstitch along the side seam. Then, finish with zigzag stitch.
What is the difference between a shoulder bag and a tote?
A shoulder bag is only carried over the shoulder because it has a long strap. However, totes have a bit more versatility and can be carried by hand or over the shoulder. Tote bags usually feature long handles that work well for both hand held and over the shoulder situations.
This free bag pattern to sew includes both short handles and also an adjustable shoulder strap.
How do you sew bag handles?
To strengthen the bag handles, double fold the material and edge topstitch. As a result, the handles will be much more durable to withstand the extra wear they receive.
Bag handles are attached between the interfacing and the outside of the bag. Measure the handle placement, mark and then secure with edge topstitch and finish with zigzag stitch.
How long should tote bag straps be?
When worn over the shoulder, long shoulder straps allow the bag to hang down near the hip area. Generally speaking, 40” shoulder straps will end at the hips.
For a more petite person, this length can be used as a traditional cross body style bag. Depending on how tall you are, make the final adjustments to this free tote bag pattern based on the desired bag position that works best for you.
Tote Bag Styles To Wear Today
Cotton tote bags are easy to carry and also go well with any classic wardrobe pieces when you feel lazy or are in a hurry. A plain white t-shirt with boyfriend jeans… is there only one way to style your outfit after you duplicate this custom tote bag tutorial?
Good news is you can create any style from casual to feminine and chic with this custom tote bag tutorial. Outfit ideas with your cute DIY tote bag are easy to put together.
- Feminine apparel: Simply wear a black and white gingham dress with a black faux leather moto jacket. Carry a beige canvas tote bag as an accessory.
- Minimalist wardrobe: Wear a long duster coat, a vintage t-shirt and ripped straight jeans for a classic look.
- Boho chic: A DIY embroidery t-shirt and denim shorts are a perfect spring and summer outfit.
- Airport travel fashion: Denim chambray button-down shirt with white skinny jeans is comfy for a long haul flight.
- Sewing Machine
- Snap Button Pliers
- Fabric Chalk
- Measuring Tape
- Straight Pins
To make this free DIY tote bag pattern, start by cutting the specific fabric pieces:
How To Sew Sides On A Bag
- Fold the bag body piece in half with the right sides facing each other, sew ½” seam allowance on the side seams and then finish with zigzag stitching.
How To Sew A Tote Bag With Flat Bottom
- Open the flat bottom corner tabs, fold the matching seams together, pin to secure, sew ½” seam allowance and then finish with zigzag stitching.
How To Make Tote Bags With Pockets
- For a tote bag with inside pocket: Double fold 1/4” and then ½” on the topside of the inside pocket, then pin to secure. Finish with edge topstitch to close the folded line of the pocket.
- Lay both inside pocket pieces with the right sides facing each other, sew ½” along both sides and the bottom, and then finish with zigzag stitch. Flip the finished pocket right side out.
Pro tip: So the completed corners will look sharp, make sure you clip the corners to remove some bulky excess fabric.
How To Make A Tote Bag With Handles
- For a tote bag with handle strap pieces: For both straps, fold ¼” on the sides and then fold the width again in half. Secure with pins along the folded line and edge topstitch about ⅛” on both sides.
How To Make A Tote Bag With Shoulder Strap
- For a tote bag with shoulder strap, fold ¼” on both sides of the strap and then fold the width again in half. Pin to secure and sew edge topstitch along both sides of the folded line.
- To make the looped shoulder strap snap button closure, fold ¼” on both sides and then fold the width again in half. Secure with pins and edge topstitch along both sides.
- To make the short shoulder strap snap button closure, fold ¼” on both sides and then fold in half lengthwise. Pin to secure and this time edge topstitch all the way around this piece.
Pro tip: When making a tote bag with snap buttons, its best to punch all of the snap button holes first. Then do all of the caps and sockets. Lastly, finish with all of the posts and studs. It is much easier to do them in order rather than changing the heavy-duty snap button plier fittings for each task.
How To Make A Tote Bag With Snap Buttons
- To attach snap buttons to inner pocket, start by marking the middle of the pocket opening with a fabric pen. Use heavy-duty snap button pliers to make a hole.
- Then, mark through the hole onto the inside of the pocket and make another hole using heavy-duty snap button pliers.
- Place cap and socket on the heavy-duty snap button pliers and punch it on the marked hole of the outside pocket.
- Place post and stud on the heavy-duty snap button pliers and punch it on the marked hole of the inside pocket.
- To attach snap buttons to shoulder strap closure, make a hole using heavy-duty snap button pliers about ½” away from the top on the short shoulder strap snap button closure .
- Then fold the looped shoulder strap snap button closure in half and lay the strap on top the short shoulder strap snap button closure to mark through the hole. Punch a hole using heavy-duty snap button pliers.
- Place cap and socket on the heavy-duty snap button pliers and punch it on the marked hole of the short shoulder strap snap button closure.
- Place post and stud on the heavy-duty snap button pliers and punch it on the marked hole of the looped shoulder strap snap button closure.
- To attach snap buttons to bag body closure, fold both facings in half and using a ruler find the center. Mark with fabric pen on both sides and use the heavy-duty snap button pliers to make a hole in both facings.
- Place cap and socket on the heavy-duty snap button pliers and punch it on the marked hole of the wrong side of one piece of facing.
- Place post and stud on the heavy-duty snap button pliers and punch it on the marked hole of the wrong side of the other piece of facing.
How To Make A Tote Bag With Adjustable Shoulder Strap
- Put a slide buckle and rectangle ring on the shoulder strap. Slide the adjustable shoulder strap through the rectangle ring and over the middle slide buckle.
- Measure 1½” from one end of the shoulder strap and the middle adjustable buckle. Fold over the end of the shoulder strap about ¼” and pin to secure creating a loop back to the strap. Sew edge topstitch to lock in the adjustable slide buckle.
- Next, slide the looped shoulder strap snap button closure over the rectangle ring and edge topstitch to secure and lock in the rectangle ring.
- Lay the short shoulder strap snap button closure on top of the shoulder strap and edge topstitch to secure.
How To Sew A Simple Bag For Beginners
- Place the facings with the right sides together and sew ½” seam allowance on both sides. Turn the bag body inside out, fold it in half and then chalk mark the center.
- Use the center point to position the pocket, and use the pocket as the guide to place the handle. Pin both sides of the handles and edge topstitch.
- Place both ends of the shoulder strap matching to the side seam of the bag, pin to secure and edge topstitch. Slide the facing over the bag, pin around the bag opening and sew ¼” seam allowance.
- Open the facing and edge topstitch on the facing all the way around. Then, fold the facing ¼” to sandwich the pocket piece in and pin to secure. Use the ¼” folded line to pin all the way around the bag opening.
- Finish edge topstitch around the bottom of the facing. Flip the simple bag right side out and admire your finished project!
For this beginner sewing project, I grouped everything together so that sewing instructions for the simple bag were much easier to follow.
If you have any questions about this DIY tote bag pattern, feel free to reach out to me in the comments below! The questions and response really help others that may also have the same difficulties as well.
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