Free Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial
Reusable shopping bags are no longer a new and strange concept for most of use and that’s fantastic. We are all saving countless single use plastic carrier bags from going to landfill. Now most super markets sell several reusable options but are they the best option? When we consider production, transport, disposal, cotton, paper or plastic they are all still making a negative impact on our planet. For example; a UK study found that you would need to reuse a cotton bag at least 131 times in order to offset its production against a single use carrier bag. How crazy is that!
My personal solution to this is to make my own bags from recycled fabrics. You can make a tote out of just about anything, I’m talking curtains, jeans, table cloths, dresses, duvet covers..anything! My theory is if it has outlived its primary function then we can use the material in a new and useful way. This means the fabric was only produced once and a new purpose saves it from going up in landfill. For this tutorial I’m going to be using an old cotton sheet which I picked up in a charity shop a few years ago. This tutorial is great for beginners so let’s get started.
Things you will need:
- Tape Measure/Ruler
- Scissors/Rotary Cutter
- Sewing Machine
If you are looking to purchase any of the above items, check out my post 12 Sewing Essentials For Beginners.
Step 1 – Cutting
Let’s start by cutting your fabric. You can make your tote bag and handles any size that takes your fancy but for the purpose of this tutorial I’m going to use the following:
2 x Main Bag 46x39cm (18×15.5″)
2 x Handle straps 71x8cm (28×3.25″).
Step 2 – Main bag
Pin the front and back piece together, making sure the right sides are together.
Starting in the top right corner, with a 1cm seam allowance, we are going to sew down the right-hand side seam. When you get to the bottom, lift the foot and turn to sew the bottom seam, then turn again to sew up the left-hand side. Using an overlocker would work for these seems to keep them neater but it’s not necessary, a standard sewing machine will do.
Fold the top over by 1cm and using an iron, press all the way around the top of your bag.
Fold the top over again, this time by 2.5cm and press again. This is going to create the top opening of your bag.
Step 4 – Handles
Next you need to fold your handles in half longways and press, making sure the right side of the fabric is on the outside.
Open out the fabric and fold one of the long edges 1cm towards the centre fold and press again. Then do the same on the other side.
Do this step for both of your handle straps.
For the handles we are going to use top stitch to sew them shut. Take one of your handles and pin down the long open side.
Then using a 5mm seam allowance, sow all way down to the bottom. As your sewing will be visible, take your time and to sew as neatly as you can.
When you reach the bottom, lift the foot to turn and sew along the short edge. Keep doing this all the way around until you end up back where you started.
Repeat this step for your second handle.
Step 6 – Attaching the handles.
Measure the width of the top your bag and dive this number by 3 and mark this measurement with chalk on the inside.
Place the end of one of your handles under the flap of your bag by 0.5cm, next to one of your marks and pin. Take the same handle and pin the end next to the other mark on the same side.
Do this step for both handles, taking care not to twist them.
Using a 5mm (or less) seam allowance we are going to top stitch around the opening of the bag. This will hem the top part of your bag as well as sewing the handles in place.
With your chalk mark a square with an X inside it on both handles. We are going to use this as a guide for sewing the handles on to the bag.
The fabric will now be quite thick so please take your time and care while sewing this final steps. First sew around the square, then across the X. This will help to keep your handles firmly in place.
Repeat this step until both handles are attached at both ends.
Congratulations. Your Tote Bag is now complete.
I hope you get a lot of use out of your brand now tote bag.
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