Are you awake from your holiday food and party fog enough to craft yet? Did you receive a new sewing machine or other sewing accessories for Christmas? Whether you are a beginner sewer or an experienced one just needing a project warm-up for the day, I've got an easy to make tote bag tutorial for you.
While I've quilted since the ripe old age of 18, I have not branched out into many other sewing projects until the last few years. I would consider myself a beginner in the way of non-quilting related sewing projects, and this tote bag was a breeze! There are many tutorials for tote bags out there, but some of them skip over the very basics assuming the reader knows it already. While this tutorial assumes some working knowledge of sewing, I tried to go into a little more detail about basics like hemming. If anything is unclear, please feel free to leave me a comment or email at email@example.com and I'll do my best to answer any questions. Otherwise, you can use my method of winging it or googling sewing concepts!
I took my two oldest children to Jo-Ann Fabrics and let them pick out their fabric. Of course we ended up with Disney Princess for the little princess and Star Wars for my big boy. Because they chose their prints, these bags are made from 100% quilting cotton, which will not be as durable. On the plus side, the fabric was on sale and each bag cost less than $3 to make.
If you want longer lasting bags, choose a heavier weight fabric or at least line the bags. I figure these bags will have a short life span in our home, but they are just for fun for taking to the library or carrying books and Bibles to Awana at church.
This project is also a great start for a child learning to sew. My daughter is interested in learning but is only 3 so I'm not quite ready to turn over my sharp objects and needles yet, but I know the day will be here soon enough.
Cut the following pieces:
A: Two rectangles measuring 14 in by 16 in (front & back of bag)
B: Two rectangles measuring 3 in by 24 in (straps of bag)
C: One rectangle measuring 7 in by 8 in (pocket)
I used my pinking rotary blade for all cuts so I didn't have to finish the edges (although I just found out I am "inheriting" a barely used serger! Yea!). Have I mentioned that I love my pinking rotary blade? Oh yes, I believe I shared that little fact when working on my No Sew Christmas Wreath! If you don't have a serger or pinking shears/blade, you can zigzag stitch the edges that will show on the inner seams to help keep them from unraveling.
I cut the straps a little longer for my son's bag (27 inches). You may want to adjust the strap length depending on the size of the user. These measurements were used for a 3 year old and the straps are a little long for her.
Fold over the side and bottom edges of your pocket 1/2 inch and press. Fold over the top edge of the pocket 1 inch and press in preparation to hem.
Hem the top edge of the pocket 1 inch with a straight stitch across. (I have a confession: this seam wasn't perfectly straight. Don't tell my daughter...I think the pocket will still hold princess accessories!)
Once your pocket is created, center it on the wrong side of the fabric of the rectangle which will become the front of the bag. I like to do this step on my ironing board because I can stick a pin into the fabric of the board to mark my place. Then pin your pocket into place. I pinned it with the top of the pocket 4 inches from the top of the bag. Keep in mind when you're deciding where to place the pocket that you're going to hem the top of the bag, so leave some room!
Now you have a choice to make. You can leave the seam as is and have a rectangular bag without a defined bottom. It is fine to leave the bag this way. It will still function.
Or you can round the corners. I prefer this method as it gives a more finished bottom to the bag. I have to admit I was once timid to try this method as I assumed it would be difficult, but good news...it really isn't difficult! I rounded my corners and realized I forgot to take pictures of the process. Fortunately I found this tutorial from Sewplicity with excellent pictures and instructions. My rounded corners ended up like this:
Next fold the top edge of the body of the bag down 1/2 inch. Press and fold again 1 inch. This folding will give you a smooth finished edge.
Stitch the 1 inch hem across to secure, roughly 1/8 inch from the edge.
Now all you need are straps. Take the 3 inch by 24 inch rectangle and fold the long edges over 1/4 inch and press. Now fold edge to edge and press.
Stitch around the 3 edges of the strap (about 1/8 inch from edge) to secure.
Measure to be sure your straps are centered where you want them, then pin and attach. I stitched a square around the edge of the straps to the bag and then gave them extra security by stitching an X inside that square.
You did it! You should now have a basic tote bag with pocket ready to use. Good job!
Thanks for learning with me today. If you decide to make one of these tote bags, I would love to see a picture of your project. Leave me a comment with your link so I can come check it out!
And now modeling the first bag I made is a handsome young 5 year old who is quite proud to have his own Star Wars tote bag. How do you like his modeling pose?
Joining the runway is his 3 year old sister who is quite excited to have a princess bag but is too cool to show it in pictures.