Share this:

This project is designed by Helen Rhiannon from All Sewn Up workshops based in Gower, near Swansea in South Wales. Helen is also a fasion designer specialising in unique handmade wedding dresses.  

All Sewn Up sewing courses in Wales


Sew a simple tote bag


You will need:

Supplies for making a tote bag

1 fat quarter for bag back

2 contrasting fabrics for bag front sections - see measurements below

1/2 metre of lining fabric

1 long quarter for straps

Trims - ribbon, lace buttons

Fabric scissors



Matching thread

Sewing Machine


Prepare Pattern Pieces

 You will need to draw out your pattern pieces using the following measurements: 

 Bag strap piece 33cm long x 8cm wide. Mark to cut on the fold at one short end.
Main back bag pattern piece 28.5cm wide x 34.5cm deep.
Front top section piece 28.5cm wide x 23.5cm deep.
Front lower section piece 28.5cm wide x 13cm deep.

To Cut

Cut 2 bag straps on fold of fabric.
Cut 1 main bag back piece.
Cut 1 front top section piece.
Cut 1 front lower section piece.
Cut  2 linings from main bag back piece 

Press the cut pieces ready for sewing.

 Creating the front of the tote bag 

Sewing a vintage tote bag

Pin the top front section to the lower front section with right sides together. Sew with a 1cm seam allowance.  Press the seam open.

On the front, pin on your chosen trim over the seam using either straight stitch or zig-zag.  I chose to place a thin satin ribbon over lace and sewed with a narrow zig-zag.

 Creating the outside bag and lining bag
Making a bag lining

Place the back of your bag on the table with the right side up.  Place the front of your bag, face down so the right sides are together and raw edges together.

Pin around the side seams and the bottom seam.  Don't pin across the top of your bag as this is the opening!

 Make a lined tote bag free tutorial

 Place your linings on the table with the right sides together and raw edges together.  Pin around the side seams and the bottom seam also.  Remember to leave a gap in the lining to turn the bag through at the end.

 Sew the side and bottom seam with a 1cm seam allowance.  Trim off your corners to get a neat corner when finished.


 Making the straps

Tutorial to make bag straps

Get your straps and place them with the wrong side facing you.  Press in 1cm on each long length towards the centre. 

Fold the strap in half so the seams you just pressed are sitting on top of each other.

 Zig-zag along the open edge, making sure you go as near to the edge as possible to keep the seam edges from opening.  You can do straight stitch or an embroidery stitch, if you prefer.


Assembling the bag

Attaching straps to a tote bag

Turn the outside bag the right way around and place the end of the straps on the top of the bag where you want them positioned.  Make sure the right sides are together and the raw edges together.

  Assembling a tote bag

 Keep your lining inside out so you are looking at the wrong sides.  Now place the outside bag into the lining so the right sides of the lining are facing the right sides of the outside bag.  The top raw edges of both the lining bag and outside bag are together.

 Pin around the top of the bag so you are pinning through one layer of lining and one layer of the outside bag.  Pin the whole way around, matching the side seams.


Sewing with the free arm of your machine

 Sew a 1cm seam allowance along that seam.  To help you sew this seam, you can remove the free arm of your machine and place your bag around the machine a little easier.


 Turning your bag through

Making a simple bag tutorial

Turn your bag the right way around by pulling it all through the gap in the lining.  Pull your outside bag one way and your lining the other way.  Pin and sew the gap in the lining by machine (straight stitch along the edge).

  Then push the lining into the outside bag.  Using the iron, press the top of the bag and use a bit of steam to get a flat finish. 


 Finishing touches
 Embellishing a bag project

I then added a bit of 'Great British Stitcher' tape for fun with a button hand sewn on and a thin ribbon tied around the button.  

 Make an easy bag project

Do share pictures of your tote bag on the All Sewn Up Facebook page.

  If you enjoyed this bagmaking project, take a peek at some other great free bagmaking ideas

 Free bag projects to sew