It has been forever and ever since I’ve shared any crafty how-tos around here!  I created this bag about a year ago as part of a project tutorial for HGTV.  It has since become my go-to tote for library runs and swimming lessons.  The outer fabric is leftover from a Martha Stewart brand shower curtain I bought for my first apartment in college!  Since then I’ve mixed up my bathroom scheme a few times, but I never parted with the curtain because I still love the stripes a lot!  I also made a spare tote for Jeff’s mom as a mother’s day gift last year, and she is still telling me how much she enjoys it.  (:

This is a pretty quick, simple project for sewing beginners.  Just a few straight lines! I hope this inspires you to make one for YOU and/or someone you love, and that you’ll love it just as much!!

1. Materials Needed:

1/2 yard canvas or cotton fabric
1/2 yard of complementary cotton fabric for inner lining
1/2 yard of heavy fusible interfacing
42″ of canvas strap
fabric scissors or rotary cutter
sewing machine
Easy-Sew-Lined-Tote-Bag_Step12. Cut Fabrics:

Cut two 18″x14″ rectangles of both outer and inner fabric choices
Cut two 18″x14″ rectangles of interfacing.
Cut canvas straps into two 21″ lengths.


3. Snip Corners:

On the long side of all rectangles, snip a 2″x2″ square from only the bottom corners. Repeat for interfacing. This will form the base of the tote.

Easy-Sew-Lined-Tote-Bag_Step44. Add Interfacing and Sew Sides:

Press interfacing to wrong side of outer fabric rectangle. Tip: Follow the manufacturer’s directions for heating and adhering your interfacing. Pin outer fabric’s right sides together and sew straight 1/2″ seams along the sides and bottom of piece. Note: Leave the top and two snipped corners unsewn. Press seams open.

Easy-Sew-Lined-Tote-Bag_Step55. Create Corners:

Pinch together gaps in snipped corners, lining up the side and bottom seams in the center. Pin straight across and sew a 1/2″ seam. This step adds depth to the bag and creates a flat bottom.

6. Sew Liner Sides and Corners:

Pin right sides of inner (liner) fabric rectangles together and repeat the above steps.

7. Piece Together and Pin:

Flip liner right-side out and place inside outer fabrics so that right sides are together. Tuck canvas straps between inner and outer fabrics so that two edges of one face the front and two edges of the other face the back of bag. Pin the end of each canvas strap approximately four inches from side seam then pin fabric edges together around perimeter of bag opening.


8. Sew Bag Opening:

Beginning at a side seam, stitch a 1/2″ seam almost all the way around the tote, stopping 4″ before the starting point — this should catch all four ends of the canvas straps while leaving ample room for turning.

9. Turn and Press:

Pull both fabrics and straps through the 4″ gap, turning the tote bag right-side out. Lightly press with a warm iron to remove wrinkles.

10. Top-Stitch and Finish:

Top-stitch around the tote bag’s entire opening to finish edges. This will also help reinforce canvas straps and shut the gap left in the previous step for turning.


3 thoughts on “sew a tote bag

  1. JessicaK

    After you turn the lining right-side in (so that the right sides of the lining and outer fabrics are facing each other like you show in the picture), do you sew the lining to the sides and bottom of the outside fabric too? Or just sew the tops with the canvas straps and leave the liner sides and bottom loose from the outside fabric?

    Thank you!


    1. Jessica Post author

      Hi there! I just sew around the top with the straps. Once you flip it right side out you will see that the liner rests nicely inside your outer bag. Hope this helps!? (:


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