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Shopping Bag Project

How to sew a fabric shopping bag

The single layer shopping bag rolls up nice and small to fit in your handbag so you always have a bag on hand when you need one.  Plus it will save you having to pay for a plastic bag.  I added applique to mine as I didn’t want a plain bag – I used woodland animal acrylic stencils from Kallosphere which were made to my specifications.  To get your own bespoke templates, or to shop for their pre-designed templates visit:



1/2m or 2 fat quarters of fabric for bag body

21 x 8 inches of fabric for the handles

Scraps of fabric for applique

1/4m of Bondaweb for applique

Acrylic stencils from Kallosphere or you can find some free ones to download here

How to sew a shopping bag


Cut the main fabric for your bag 2 pieces which are 20 inches (high) by 18 inches (wide).  If you are using a directional print make sure it is facing the right way up!  I left the selvedge on mine because I knew it would go into the seam allowance on the base and not be visible.

How to add applique to a bag

If adding applique to your bag place your templates on the fabric and draw around with chalk.  The benefit of using acrylic templates rather than printing them on paper is you can see through them so you can fussy cut the fabric to get the perfect part of the print.   Cut out your applique pieces by cutting on the chalk lines.

How to do bondaweb applique

Reverse your templates and place them onto the paper side of the Bondaweb, trace around them with a pencil.  Cut out by cutting slightly inside of the pencil line to ensure it will fit within the fabric and not be larger than that fabric (which can lead to sticky glue on your iron or ironing board). Following the instructions on the Bondaweb iron it onto the back of your applique pieces.

Woodland animal applique

Measure at least 3 inches up from the bottom of your main bag pieces and at least 2 inches in from the other edges and then place the applique pieces where you want them to go.  Once you are happy with their positioning iron them in place. 

How to sew applique

Once ironed, allow to cool and then stitch into place with an applique stitch or zig zag stitch.  If you prefer raw edge applique you can straight stitch into place.  Stitch on any features or additional lines you want to add to your applique pieces.

Finding the best applique stitch on your sewing machine

TIP – I always test my applique stitch on a piece of scrap fabric first to get the right size and width of stitch for my project.

How to make a single layer shopping bag

Turn the top edge of your bag pieces under 1 inch and press.  Open it up and fold inwards towards the press line, press in place.  Fold the top of the fabric over again enclosing the raw edge and stitch into place.   This is a double fold hem, if you don’t want to overlock stitch the edges of the bag in the next step you could do double fold hems on these too.  

How to protect the raw edges of fabric

Place your 2 bag pieces right sides together matching your hems at the top.  Make sure they match exactly on all the edges, trim off any bits that don’t using the overlock stitch on your machine (or an overlocker if you have one) stitch around the 3 raw edges.   Alternatively you could zig zag stitch it, make double fold hems or bind them.

TIP – I tend to straight stitch around the edge first before I overlock the edges just to reinforce them given the bag could be holding lots of food/weight. 

How to shape the bottom of a bag

Fold one of the bottom corners into a triangle as shown in the picture, pulling the sides out either side of the corner.  Draw a line 2 inches from the point with chalk and then sew along it.  Cut off the corner a few millimetres from your line of stitching and overlock stitch the raw edge.    Repeat for the other corner.

Again I would straight stitch the seams too for extra reinforcement. 

Bag making project

Taking the pieces of fabric you’ve cut for the straps fold in the first ½ inch either end (lengthwise) and press.  Fold the whole strip of fabric in half length wise and press.  Open up and fold the raw edges into the centre line and press into place.   Then fold in half again with both the raw edges hidden in the middle.

Topstitching bag straps

Top stitch ¼ inch around all the edges.  

How to attach straps to a bag

Fold your main bag pieces in half width wise to find the centre and mark with chalk.  Measure 4 inches out in either direction and mark.  This is where you will stitch either end of your handles.  I put mine about 1.5 inches from the top edge and used 3 rows of triple stitched stitching to hold them in place.

Roll up shopping bag project

Now your bag is finished, you can easily roll it up to fit in your handbag.  Why not make a few so you always have a fabric shopping bag to hand when you need it.

Woodland shopping tote project