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Woodland Tote Project

Woodland tote project

This spacious woodland tote project is one of those ‘carry all’ bags in which you can fit everything but the kitchen sink! Use for shopping, for taking to the beach, to carry supplies to sewing groups or even for a weekend away. We’ve used Makower’s beautiful Woodland collection and Vlieseline’s Style-vil which is a foam interfacing that gives the tote body.



1 Metre of fabric for the exterior – we used Woodland Hedgehog

1m for the lining – We usedWoodland Forest

1m Vlieseline Style-Vil

1.5m Vlieseline F220 fusible interfacing

3 x .05 metres of co-ordinating fabrics for the pockets

A 10 inch zip (or larger cut to that size)

3m of cotton webbing tape for the strap, mine is 1.5 inches wide but it doesn’t matter if you want to use wider or slightly narrower webbing.

Makower woodland bag tutorial

Finished bag size: 26 inches long, 16 inches high and 5 inches deep.

Seam allowance – ¼ inch


Cutting & Preparation

Bag body: 

Cut 2 pieces 27 inches wide by 20 inches high from the exterior fabric, lining fabric, Stylevil and fusible interfacing

Fuse the interfacing to the back of the lining fabrics following the manufacturer’s instructions.


Zip Pocket – Cut 2 pieces 10.5 inches wide by 7.5 inches high from the pocket fabric, and 1 piece from the interfacing

Cut 2 pieces 10.5 inches wide by 3.5 inches high from pocket fabric, 1 from interfacing

Back exterior pocket – Cut 2 pieces of pocket fabric 10.5 inches squared, cut 1 piece the same size from the fusible interfacing.

Interior Pocket – Cut 2 pieces of pocket fabric 20 inches long by 9 inches high, cut 1 from the interfacing.

Fuse the interfacing pieces to the back of one of the pocket pieces.

Cut the strap webbing in half

Trimming corners to reduce bulk

Step 1 – Front pocket

Place the two 10.5 by 7.5 inch pieces of fabric right sides together. Sew around the edges leaving a gap to turn through. Trim the corners as shown above. Turn the fabrics right side out, press and then top stitch around the edges, close to the edge to close the gap you used for turning through.

Repeat this process for the 10.5 by 3.5 inch piece of fabric.

Take your zip and put the smaller fabric rectangle on one side of the zip tape (long edge to the zip) close to the zip teeth and pin into place. Using your zipper foot sew the fabric into place trying to sew along the line of stitches already on the pocket fabric. Repeat with the bottom part of the pocket, sewing it to the other side of the zipper tape.  If you are using a directional fabric like I did please make sure your fabric is the right way up before sewing into place.

Make a pocket for a bag

Trim any excess zip tape so your pocket looks like the image above. 

Free project for a tote bag

Step 2 – Back pocket

Place your two fabric squares right sides together and sew around the edge leaving a gap for turning. Turn through, trim the corners, press.


Topstitching techniques

Then top stitch around the whole outside of the pocket like you did in step one (as above).

Make a large shopping bag

Step 3 – Attaching pockets to bag exterior

Take one of your rectangles of Stylevil, place one piece of your exterior bag fabric on top making sure to align the edges and keeping any fabric print the right way up. Fold this exterior panel in half and mark the halfway point on the bottom edge with chalk (or measure 13.5 edges in and make a mark).

Measure 2.5 inches up from the bottom and draw a 10 inch horizontal line, with the centre of the exterior panel in the middle (ie. 5 inches either side of your centre crease line. As per the image above).


Attaching a pocket on a bag

That line is where the bottom of your pocket will sit. Pin the zip pocket in place and sew around all 4 edges, through the fabric and foam.

Using Stylevil for making bags

Use your hands to smooth out the exterior fabric from the pocket to the edges, and using Wonderclips or pins hold it in place. Now baste (sew with a large stitch length like 5 or 6) around the edge of the bag panel, approx. 1/8 inch from the edge to hold the Stylevil and fabric together.

Repeat the above steps for the back pocket (don’t forget to change your stitch size back after basting), but only sew the 2 sides and bottom of the pocket when attaching it to the bag exterior. Leave the top edge open or your pocket won’t be usable. 


Step 4 – Attaching the straps

Sew straps on a bag

You should have already cut your webbing in half, so you have 2 pieces 1.5m long. Pin the webbing in place so it just covers the edges of the pockets, and aligns with the bottom of the exterior bag panel.


Adding webbing for bag straps

On the webbing, draw a horizontal chalk line 2.5 inches from the top edge of the bag panel. Stitch up both sides of the webbing, along the bottom edge and stitch along the chalk line at the top. I sewed over the chalk line 3-4 times to reinforce it. I used Gutermann’s Jeans thread as it perfectly matched my strap colour and made the stitches blend in. Make sure your webbing isn’t twisted before you sew the second side down.

Repeat this process on the back of the bag,


Step 5 – Making the bag exterior

Place the 2 front panels right sides together, with the top edges (where the handles are) at the top. Sew around the 2 sides and bottom of the bag. 


How to box corners on a bag project

Cut a 2.5 inch square out of both bottom corners.


How to box bag corners

Box the corners by making sure the centre side seam lines up with the centre bottom seam as per the image above. 

Sewing a large tote bag

Sew into place then put this aside for now whilst you make the lining.

Make an internal bag pocket

Step 6 – Making the lining pocket

Place the 2 right sides of your pocket fabric right sides together and make the pocket as per steps 1 and 2. Fold the lining fabric in half to find the midway point. Measure up 6 inches from the centre bottom and make a mark. Draw a line extending 9.5 inches either side from that mark.


Divide a bag pocket

That line is where you place the bottom edge of your pocket. Pin the pocket into place and sew the sides and bottom. Also sew a line vertically across the centre of your pocket to split it into 2 smaller pockets.


Step 7 – Sewing the lining

Place the 2 lining pieces right sides together, clip into place and then sew along the 2 sides and the bottom – but leave a 10 inch gap in the bottom (for turning the bag through).  I left quite a large gap because the bag has a lot of body because of the Stylevil foam so it will be tricky to pull through a small hole.

Box the corners as you did for the bag exterior (using a 2.5 inch square cut out of each bottom corner as per step 5).

Free sewing projects

Step 8 – Sewing lining and exterior together

Turn the exterior right side outs. Put it inside of the lining, so the right sides of the exterior fabric is touching the right side of the lining fabric Wonder clip or pin in place. Make sure you tuck the straps down between the layers out of the way. Sew around the top joining the exterior and lining of the bag.

Pull the bag through the hole in the bottom of the lining to turn it the right side out. Press to remove any creases from the turning and to press the lining into the inside.


Make a large carry-all bag

Top stitch around the top edge with a co-ordinating thread and then your bag is finished. If you’d like to add a fastening follow this tutorial for adding a recessed zipper to a bag.

Below is a photo of the inside of the bag. As you’ll see it opens up very wide and can fit a lot into it. The perfect carry all bag. 

Interior of a large tote bag
Sewing a large tote bag

For other free bag making projects please visit our free sewing projects page and click the bags tag. 

This project was written by Fiona Pullen from The Sewing Directory.