How To Make A Tote Bag

It is a great idea to make a tote bag as carrier bags are not as popular as they used to be, a tote bag will definitely last longer than a carrier bag so let's grab our sewing machine and get busy.

This project used a lemon jelly roll, it is quite easy to make​ and very bright to look at.

I like to give my creations a name, so I think I will call this bag 'Lemon Cream Tote' wow it sounds like a lemon cream dark chocolate mmm.

Note: Just to let you know this project is up for grabs in my store...


Here are the items I will be using:

  • canvas tote bag

  • lemon yellow jelly roll cotton fabric

  • cream strapping for the handles

  • ribbon

The canvas tote bags I purchased online I think they worked out about 60p each so I bought 10 to have a little play with.

They are very thin and I don't think they would make a very good shopping bag so let's transform one and strengthen it up.

Name: Lemon Cream Tote

Step 1

Step 2

The first thing to do is cut along both seams of the bag - but not across the bottom of the bag.

This leaves us with a long strip of fabric that has handles each end.

Lay the first yellow strip at an angle across one end of the bag, then we can work our way down to the other end.

Step 3

Add the flowery strip on top of the yellow strip, we have the two pieces right sides facing, as in the photo, then machine across using 1/4" seam and don't forget to back-stitch the ends. Fold the fabric flat (right sides up) and press. 


Add the next yellow strip right sides together and stitch.

After stitching each strip I give the seam a press open on the right side before adding the next strip

Step 5

As jelly roll strips are really long, I only sewed them to the center fold of the bag, then trimmed the edge of the bag and that gave me the same amount again to finish the rest of the bag.

Step 4

Attach the rest of your strips to the bag.


Step 6

I didn't have enough strips to finish covering the bag as some of my jelly roll strips were short, so I trimmed off the end of the bag, handles as well.

Step 7

So, trim both ends cutting off the handles so we have a nice edge to work with.

Step 8

On both ends of the bag, fold 1/4" over then 1/4" over again to hide the edges and press, then stitch the edges.

Step 9

Use the two ends of the bag that we cut off to make the pocket, trim the edges then sew together.

Step 10

Press the seam open.

Step 11

Using the left over strips, sew them onto the pocket, making sure you leave enough fabric to turn 1/4" twice on each end to hide the fabric edges. 

Step 12

Once you have finished sewing the strips onto the pocket, turn the ends over and stitch

Step 13

Fold the bag in half and place the pocket where you want it and pin it on to the bag then sew it on adding a couple of rows of stitching along the bottom of the pocket.

I have sewn my strips straight on the pocket, but you can do them whatever angle you want.

Step 14

Using bias binding, lay it out the complete length of the bag, each side of the pocket, measure the gap each side of the pocket so it is even and stitch it up one side then back down the other of the binding so there are 2 rows of stitching on each piece.

Step 15

Step 16

At each end of the binding I have sewn a square to strengthen the strap.

Fold the binding in half towards the inside of the bag and stitch across to hold in place.

Step 17

Thread the binding through the bag clip and fold down towards the inside of the bag.

Step 18

Sew all four rings onto the bag

Let's make the handles.

I had no idea how I was going to make the handles as I had run out of yellow strips and my other coloured fabrics would not look right, then I thought what about the bias binding, I have lots of that and had already used it on the bag, but it would be too thin to use on it's own, so I cut three long strips enough to make two handles and turned them into a plait.

Step 19

Plait the binding and clip the end, sew across the strands a couple of times for strength.

Thread the end of the plait through the hook and sew on the inside, don't forget to backstitch each end.

Do the same for the other handle. At this point you could add some fabric to cover the part where we have just sewn, just to tidy it up a bit, but I have left mine blank.

Step 20

With wrong sides together, sew 1/4" seam down both edges.

Turn the bag inside out and with right sides together sew 1/4" seam down both edges.

Step 21

At the bottom of the side seams on the inside, fold the fabric over towards the other corner so it makes a triangle.

Measure 1" from the bottom quarter and draw a line where you will be sewing, sew the seam, do this on both corners.

We have given our bag a box shape.

Our little bag is finished.

The handles look a bit ragged but they are the softest handles I have ever felt and you can bet on it that no one else has one of these, well except me...

Here I have add two lengths of ribbon, one yellow and one white, I tied one yellow strand and one white strand to make the bow, I like it, it looks very summery.

I took the last few photos at 11.30 at night so you can see the colour change, the white ribbon looks blue, but you get the picture.

Well I hope you enjoyed following along with my tutorial, there are many ways you can change this bag, here are a few:

  • you can  keep the original handles of the canvas bag

  • you can add a lining to the bag before you sew the side seams

  • you don't have to add a pocket

There are many ways you can change this bag, if you do, share your creations with us here, we would love to see it.

Luv It!

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