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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tutorial Tuesday: No Pattern Tote Bag

What is summer without a cute tote bag to bring to the pool or beach? You can make one yourself to match your favorite beach wear without worrying about reading a pattern. Yes, really. If you can measure, you can make this! Plus, this bag is reversible, so choose cute fabrics for the outside and inside!

For this project, you'll need:

1/2 yard of fabric for outside
1/2 yard of fabric for the lining
Scissors, pins, ruler, needle, and thread

This tutorial is for a bag that ends up being about 11" x 10" x 2", but its very easy to it alter to fit your needs. To start, I cut out two 13" x 12" rectangles from each kind of fabric. But wait, if the bag is 11" x 10", why such big pieces? With the sewing of corners, the bag goes from flat to having a bottom and that takes up space. I'll get to that in a bit.

Next, with the right sides facing, sew around three sides of the outside fabric rectangles leaving the top of the bag open. Do the same with the two inside rectangles except mid way down one side, leave a 4 inch gap along one side for turning inside right later on. Basically, start near the top of the bag, sew a little, leave a gap, then sew around to the other side of the top. You'll fix this later.

Now you have two bags with unfinished tops. Next, you're going to create that fancy bottom I was talking about. Flatten a corner (instead of it laying flat, pinch it together so the seams from the bottom and side are touching) and measure 1 1/2 inches from the corner. Draw a line. Do this for the other three corners.

Just like you can adapt this to increase or decrease the overall bag size by changing the size of the rectangles, you can change the size of the bag's flat bottom by increasing the measurement from the corner tip to the line you draw. At 1 1/2 inches, the line you draw is 2" across, creating a 2" bottom. Get it?

Next, sew across that line on all four corners (left picture), making sure the seams from the side and bottom line up. When you turn the bag inside right, you can marvel at your pretty corner (right picture). 

Now you have two bags with unfinished tops and nice pointy corners. Time to work on the straps. This is another place you can play with the measurements to fit your needs. For this bag, I cut out two 4" x 20" strips from the outside fabric. Fold each strip in half and sew it with a 3/8" seam (left picture) and turn inside right. I use a thick gauge knitting needle to gently push the fabric tube through its self. To finish the straps, iron flat with the seam down the middle and top stitch along both edges.

Now you have two pointy corner bags and two straps. Time to put it all together! Okay, this can get confusing, but hang in there. Turn the outside of the bag so the right side is facing in and the inside of the bag so the right side is facing out. Put the inside part into the outside part. In the end, you want the right sides of the fabric facing each other. The top edges should line up. Insert a strap in between the fabric layers on each side so each strap end sticks up 1/2" past the unfinished edge of the bag. Place them evenly and pin them in place. Also pin the seams so they line up and a few other places to keep everything nice and still. Sew around the top, double backing over each strap end to reinforce it.

Almost done! Pull the inside of the bag out and find the little hold you left on the side seam. Using that hole, turn the bag inside right. Using a blind stitch, close up the hole. If you don't care about the bag being reversible, you could always just machine stitch this closed. You are 95% done!

Now that the bag is turned inside right, push the inside of the bag inside and poke the corners down to fit into the corners of the outside part. Iron around the top to flatten the seam. Using a quick straight stitch, sew around the top to give your bag a more finished look. Ta Da! You have a custom tote bag!

Some variations on this simple project include adding pockets to the inside or outside or adding batting in between and top stitching it to give it a quilted look. Play around with it and make it what you want.

If you have any questions or would like a custom tote bag, please let me know!


  1. This is the same method I use for making lined tote bags. Easy peasy. Great tutorial!

    New follower from Toddle Along Tuesday

  2. New follower from TAT. Great blog! I can't sew for anything, but that tote is adorable! Maybe, I can get motivated enough to learn to sew to make one of those:)

  3. Thank you, ladies! You should totally try it out. Even if you can just borrow a machine from a friend - sewing is so relaxing. Start with something simple, like curtains for the kitchen or something. Easy measuring, straight lines, a few hems, and if you mess up, who cares! Good luck!