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Folding Tote Bag Project

Folding tote bag

This folding tote bag project was written by Debbie von Grabler-Crozier.



60cm (24”) fabric for the outer. My choice this time is Framework Albarise from the collection for Art Gallery Fabrics by Katarina Roccella 

60cm (24”) coordinating fabric for the lining. I love Vitrine Gems from the Grid collection by Katarina Roccella for Art Gallery Fabrics.

Both fabrics were kindly provided by Hantex, find your stockists here


F8th Decovil I Light (Vlieseline)

F8th H630 fusible wadding (Vlieseline)


Everything Else:

55cm (21 ½”) plastic main zipper


NB: seam allowances are all ½ cm (1/4”) unless otherwise stated. Please read all instructions through and assemble the equipment before beginning.



From the outer and fabric:

–        2 pieces 41cm x 41cm (16 ¼”sq.) for the front and back outer

–        2 pieces 10cm wide x 56cm long (4” x 22”) for the handles

–        1 piece 12cm wide x 31cm long (4 ¾” x 12 1/4”) for the base

TIP: you can make the handles as long or as short as you like. Keep in mind though that longer may change the fabric requirements and also add bulk which all has to be stowed inside the ‘wallet’ when it is zipped up.

From the lining fabric:

–        4 pieces 41cm x 41cm (16 ¼” sq.) for the front and back lining

–        1 piece 12cm wide x 31cm long (4 ¾” x 12 1/4”) for the base

From the Decovil I Light:

–        1 piece 12cm wide x 31cm long (4 ¾” x 12 1/4”) for the base

From the H630:

–        I piece 12cm wide x 31cm long (4 ¾” x 12 1/4”) for the base


Making the folding tote bag

How to sew bag handles

Fold the handles in half lengthways and press. Fold the two raw edges in to the centre crease and press. Topstitch down each long side to close the handles and decorate.

Make the outer by placing the two pieces cut for this purpose right sides together and sewing the side seams.


Sew a fabric shopper

Make the zipper pocket in the base- take the base outer and fuse the H630 and then the Decovil I Light over the top of it onto the wrong side of the fabric. Round the corners of the base. 

TIP: this makes it so much easier to install the zip! Use a teacup or a quilting ruler – anything round and not too sharp a curve.

Find the middle of the base on one side. Pin or clip the zip around the edge of the base with the right sides together.


Sew a bag in a pouch pocket

TIP: I like to hand baste the zipper into place to get the pins out of the way.

Clipping curves

Some small snips on the zipper side will help you to negotiate the curves. Be careful not to snip too far in. Stay inside the seam allowance.

When you get to the middle point on the other side (opposite where you started), undo the zipper beyond the edge of the base and curve the zip around.

TIP: as you sew and baste, start and stop each side of the zipper opening so that you can close the zipper up. We will deal with the excess at the end.

Take the outer and pin/ baste it to the base.

TIP: because everyone’s choice of curve is different on the corners (cups, mugs or rulers of different sorts) I have given you a bit of ease on the side seams. Check the fit and trim where necessary before you commit to the hand basting.

Sew right around the base with your zipper foot, starting and finishing at the point where the tail of the zipper emerges leaving a small gap by the zipper.

TIP: this gap does not have to be very big, just enough to wiggle the zipper pull through.

Sew a carrier bag

Notch the curved corners to reduce the bulk there.


Trim excess zip

Turn the outer the right way out, reach in push the zipper pull through to the right side. Close the gap now and trim the excess zipper away.

TIP: I like to topstitch around the edge to keep the zipper down at this point. You won’t be able to go right around so work from the zipper pull around and back to the zipper pull.


Bag with its own carry case to sew

On the outer, measure in 8cm (3 ¼”) from each outer edge and attach a handle. When you put the handles on, allow about 2cm (3/4”) of overhang. This will be caught twice in the topstitching making the handles nice and strong.

Make the lining the same way as the outer and attach it to the lining base but this time, leave a turning gap somewhere along the flat side of the base

With the outer the right way out and the lining inside out, pull the lining on over the outer so that the right sides are together. Sew right around the top edge leaving no gaps.

Turn out through the gap in the lining and close the gap. topstitch twice around the top edge of the bag, once very narrowly and the second about 2cm (3/4”) under that.

TIP: you can play with the second one a bit. The idea is to trap those handle ends and make them more secure so if they are not long enough for a 2cm (3/4”) second topstitch, come up a bit.

You can decorate the base with a label if you have a personal one or, like I have done, make one from scraps of ribbon and leather. The best time to attach this is before the zipper goes on.


Sewing a fold up carrier bag
Free bag patterns

Just pop this folding tote bag in your handbag then you always have a resusable bag to hand when shopping. 

© Debbie von Grabler-Crozier 2019

I blog at https://thefolkartfactory.com/

Vlieseline from  Six Penny Memories – http://www.six-penny.com/ Tel: 01207-565728

and  Lady Sew and Sew, 0162 8890532, info@ladysewandsew.co.ukwww.ladysewandsew.co.uk

Hantex: For further details & stockists information please visit www.hantex.co.uk/mystockist

For other bag projects please visit our free projects page and click the ‘bags’ tag.