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Tutorial: Sew a Stylish Tote Bag With Lining – Easy DIY Pattern Guide (2024)

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tutorialshow to make a tote bagYou’re in for a trendy DIY project – sewing a stylish tote bag with lining!

This tutorial demonstrates how to craft a sturdy, chic carry-all from start to finish.

Select suitable fabrics like canvas or polycotton blends. Cut precise pieces, and sew the main bag and lining carefully. Create structured corners, attach adjustable straps, and insert the lining smoothly.

Top it off with topstitching along the edge for a polished finish.

Customize your tote further with pockets, appliques, or contrasting fabrics – let your creativity shine!

Ready to unleash your inner designer? Let’s delve into the nitty-gritty.

Key Takeaways

  • Let’s get crafty, folks! There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of rocking a stylish tote you made with your own two hands. It’s like wearing a badge of honor that says, "I’m a DIY maven, and I look fabulous doing it."
  • Choosing the right fabrics is key to creating a bag that’s both practical and eye-catching. Think of it as a fashion designer’s palette – you’re blending materials, colors, and textures to craft a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that’s uniquely yours.
  • Dive into the nitty-gritty of construction with confidence that would make a seasoned seamstress proud. From cutting precise patterns to mastering those box corners, you’ll be channeling your inner sewing guru with every meticulous stitch.
  • Don’t be afraid to put your personal spin on it! Embellish with appliquĂ©s, switch up the strap style, or get funky with fabric combos – the sky’s the limit when it comes to expressing your unique flair. After all, a tote bag is like a blank canvas, just waiting for your creative touch.

Choosing the Right Fabric

Choosing the Right Fabric
When selecting fabric for your tote bag project, you’ll want to choose a sturdy yet lightweight material for the main fabric, like canvas or cotton duck. For the lining, consider a complementary cotton print or a slick fabric like polyester that will allow items to slide in and out easily.

Selecting the Main Fabric

When choosing your main fabric, consider fabrics like canvas, duck cloth, or a polycotton blend for durability. Opt for a medium-weight fabric that can withstand everyday use while maintaining its shape. Feel free to experiment with patterns, colors, or textures that suit your style. The main fabric sets the tone for your tote bag’s overall aesthetic.

Choosing the Lining Fabric

Building on your main fabric choice, you’ll need to select a complementary lining fabric. Consider these four factors:

  1. Pattern: Do you want a solid color or fun printed design?
  2. Material: Opt for a durable cotton, canvas, or polyester blend.
  3. Color: Coordinate with your outer fabric or go for a bold contrast.
  4. Weight: Choose a lightweight to medium-weight lining that doesn’t add bulk.

With the right lining, your tote will be both stylish and long-lasting. Keep in mind how you’ll use it when making your selection.

Considering Fusible Fleece for Added Structure

For added reinforcement and stability, consider using fusible fleece between the main fabric and lining. This lightweight interfacing provides stiffness and durability, ensuring your tote bag maintains its shape and structure. However, if you prefer a softer, more pliable bag, omit the fleece for a drapier look.

Cutting the Fabric

Cutting the Fabric
To cut the main fabric pieces, measure and cut two rectangles from the main fabric, one 17" by 12" for the tote bag body and another 17" by 8" for the bottom. For the lining fabric, cut two rectangles identical in size to the main fabric pieces, and for the straps, cut two strips measuring 31" by 4" from the strap fabric.

Measuring and Cutting the Main Fabric Pieces

Cut two rectangles from the main fabric, measuring 17" by 12". Allow an extra 1/2" on all sides for seam allowance. Opt for durable fabrics like canvas or duck cloth. Pick colors and patterns that spark joy! For extra personalization, consider a contrast color for the bottom portion of the tote bag.

Cutting the Lining Fabric Pieces

Now you’ll need to cut the lining fabric pieces. Grab your lining fabric and scissors. Cut out:

  1. Two rectangles the same size as the main fabric pieces
  2. Make sure the lining fabric has a soft, breathable texture
  3. Consider a lining color that complements or contrasts the main fabric

The lining fabric placement and pattern are up to your personal style preferences. Cut carefully for a neat finish.

Cutting the Strap Fabric

Next, you’ll need to cut the fabric for the straps.

Cut two strips measuring 31" x 4" from the same fabric you used for the main bag pieces.

This length allows for a comfortable over-the-shoulder strap.

Feel free to adjust it based on your preference.

Consider using a coordinating or contrasting color for the straps to add a pop of visual interest.

Sewing the Tote Bag

Sewing the Tote Bag
Now it’s time to assemble the main fabric pieces of your tote bag. Pin the side and bottom seams, ensuring the edges align properly, then sew them together using a straight stitch and a 1/2" seam allowance. Next, follow the same process with the lining fabric pieces, sewing the side and bottom seams.

Once both the main fabric and lining pieces are sewn, create box corners on the bottom seams of the main fabric to give the bag structure and shape. To do this, pinch the bottom corner into a triangle, measure a few inches from the point, and sew across.

Assembling the Main Fabric Pieces

With the fabric pieces prepped, let’s assemble the tote’s main body. Place the two main fabric rectangles right sides together and pin along the sides and bottom. Using a 1/2" seam allowance, sew the pinned edges to create a fabric tube. Next, box the bottom corners for extra structure. Don’t sew the top edge yet—we’ll attach the lining later.

Sewing the Lining Fabric Pieces

Next, you’ll sew the lining fabric pieces:

  1. Pin the lining fabric rectangles right sides together.
  2. Sew along the side and bottom seams, using a 1/2" seam allowance.
  3. Backstitch at the beginning and end for reinforcement.

As you sew, pay close attention to proper stitching techniques – keeping an even seam allowance and avoiding puckered fabric. With care, your tote’s lining will look polished and professional.

Creating Box Corners for the Bottom

For a professional finish, you’ll create box corners on the bottom seams.

With right sides together, pinch the sewn bottom seam to form a triangle. Make sure the side seams align, then sew across the triangle’s edge using the seam allowance.

This technique reinforces the corners, preventing premature wear in a high-stress area. For thicker fabrics, clipping the corner slightly aids in turning the fabric.

Attaching the Straps

Next, you’ll construct the straps. Cut two 31" x 4" fabric pieces. Fold each strap in half lengthwise, right sides together, and sew along the long edge. Turn the straps right-side out using a safety pin. Pin the strap ends between the main and lining fabric openings, evenly spaced. Sewing the straps in place secures them for carrying the tote.

Finishing Touches

Finishing Touches
It’s time to insert the lining into the main fabric of your tote bag. First, carefully place the lining fabric bag inside the main fabric bag, making sure the right sides are facing outward. Then, pin around the top edge, leaving a small opening for turning the bag right side out later.

Inserting the Lining Into the Main Fabric

With the main fabric and lining prepared, it’s time for lining placement. Confirm fabric compatibility, then insert the lining fabric into the main bag, aligning side seams. Pin meticulously, using a 1/2" seam allowance around the top edge. This lining attachment creates structure while allowing top edge finishing in the next step.

Pinning and Sewing Around the Top Edge

With the lining tucked inside, pin the top edge, ensuring a 1/2" seam allowance. Carefully select the appropriate needle size and thread for your fabrics. Sew around the circumference, leaving a 4" opening. When nearing the end, consider a backstitch or alternative edge finishing technique to strengthen the seam. Topstitch close to the edge for a professional look.

Turning the Bag Right Side Out

Turning your tote bag right side out is the penultimate step. Here are 3 tips for turning:

  1. Carefully push out the corners from inside
  2. Gently pull the lining fabric through the opening
  3. Smooth the bag into shape, ensuring the lining lies neatly

Topstitching the Top Edge

With the bag now right side out, you’ll topstitch the top edge for a professional finish. Topstitching choices include using a contrasting thread color for an eye-catching detail, or matching the main fabric for a more understated look. Consider the fabric texture—heavier materials may require a heavier thread weight.

Topstitch Option Thread Weight Fabric Texture
Contrasting Color Medium-Weight Light-Medium
Matching Color All-Purpose Heavy
Decorative Stitch Topstitch Any

Topstitching adds the perfect finishing touch while allowing room for creativity through embellishments like decorative stitches.

Customization Ideas

Customization Ideas
You can take your tote bag to the next level by adding pockets for extra storage space or embellishing it with appliqués or embroidery for a personalized touch. Experiment with different strap lengths or styles, and get creative with fabric combinations to make a one-of-a-kind accessory that reflects your unique style.

Adding Pockets for Extra Storage

You can add zippered or slip pockets to the bag’s interior or exterior for extra storage. Create side pockets by sewing fabric pieces to the lining before assembly. An inner divider separates the main compartment, while a hanging loop keeps keys accessible. For the exterior, consider a zippered pocket on the front or back panel.

Embellishing With Appliqués or Embroidery

Add personality by embellishing with appliqués or embroidery. Consider these options:

  1. Appliqué techniques: fusible web, satin stitch, raw-edge
  2. Embroidery designs: monograms, patterns, motifs
  3. Thread colors: coordinate with fabric shades
  4. Fabric compatibility: check bleeding and shrinkage

Strategically place embellishments for maximum visual impact. Express your creativity!

Changing the Strap Length or Style

Don’t be afraid to get creative with the straps!

Consider different strap materials like leather, webbing, or thick cotton cording for a unique look.

Experiment with varying widths and colors to complement your fabric choices.

Adjust the strap length to suit your preferences – shorter for a handbag style or longer for a crossbody option.

You can also play with strap placement, attaching them closer to the sides for a slouchy, relaxed vibe.

Experimenting With Different Fabric Combinations

Don’t be afraid to mix and match fabrics!

Experiment with complementary colors or eye-catching patterns to create a truly unique tote.

Contrast textures like a canvas exterior with a satin lining for an elevated look.

Sustainable fabric choices like upcycled denim or organic cotton can add an eco-friendly touch.

With endless fabric combinations, you’ll never run out of ways to personalize your creation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I clean and maintain my tote bag?

To clean your tote, spot clean or hand wash it with mild soap and cold water. Air dry, avoiding direct heat. For stains, use a gentle stain remover before washing. Store it properly by stuffing it lightly to maintain shape when not in use.

What size tote bag should I make?

The ideal tote bag size depends on your needs. For everyday use, consider a 13"x15" size – roomy yet compact. If carrying heavy loads, opt for 18"x20" or larger. But always start smaller for a quick project to build confidence.

Can I use this pattern for other projects?

This versatile pattern can easily adapt to numerous projects. By adjusting dimensions and fabric choices, you could craft pouches, purses, or grocery totes. Get creative and repurpose materials for eco-friendly designs that reflect your personal style.

How long does it take to make a tote bag?

As you begin stitching that first seam, time seems to slow – the rhythmic hum of the machine, the crisp fibers bunching together. Generally, a simple tote takes 1-3 focused hours for most sewists to complete from start to finish.

Are there any tips for beginner sewers?

As a beginner sewer, start with simple patterns, use quality materials, and take your time. Practice stitching on scrap fabric before working on your project. Don’t be discouraged by mistakes; they’re opportunities to learn and improve your skills.


Are you ready to flaunt your custom-made tote bag?

By following this tutorial on how to make a tote bag, you’ve created a chic, versatile accessory suited to your style preferences.

Wear your handiwork with pride, knowing each stitch reflects your artistic flair.

Experiment with new fabric combinations and embellishments to craft unique designs – the possibilities are endless when you express your creativity.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a site dedicated to those passionate about crafting. With years of experience and research under his belt, he sought to create a platform where he could share his knowledge and skills with others who shared his interests.