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How to make a tote bag

Kate Smith / 15 April 2016

Find out how to make this easy and practical cloth tote bag that can easily be rolled up when not in use.

Homemade tote bag
An easy-to-make tote bag

You will need

  • Fabric (50cm x 110cm)
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Pins and thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Thin elastic cord (15cm)
  • Button

Making the handles

Step 1

Cut a piece of fabric measuring 12cm x 110cm.

Fold in half lengthways with wrong sides facing, and press. Open the fabric out, then press each long edge in towards the centre. Fold in half again and press, to conceal the raw edges.

Step 3

Stitch down the open long edge with a 0.5cm seam allowance to hold the fabric together. Cut the fabric in half widthways so you have two straps, each measuring 55cm.

Making the tote bag

Step 1

Cut a piece of fabric measuring 38cm x 88cm.

Step 2

2 Fold in half widthways with wrong sides facing. Pin together down each side, then sew each side seam with a 1cm seam allowance.

Step 3

Turn inside out and press flat down the side seams. Pin down each side and then sew with a 1.5cm seam allowance. This is a French seam.

Step 4

Fold the top edge of fabric over by 2cm towards the wrong side, then fold over by another 2cm. Press flat.

Step 5

Tuck the ends of your handles under the top fold, one on each side of the bag. Make sure they are symmetrical to each other and the centre of the bag.

Step 6

Pin in place, then machine stitch all the way around the top of the bag, catching the handles in place. I sew criss-cross lines onto the handles (see photograph) to make sure they can carry the weight of whatever I want to pop in the bag.

Step 7

Fold the elastic in half and tie the loose ends together with a secure knot. Place the knotted end on the inside of the bag at the top centre point, on the front or back (in between one of the handles). Stitch securely in place.

Step 8

Hold the bag closed and fold the looped elastic over to the other side, and make a small mark where it ends. This is where you will need to sew on the button, to hold your bag closed.

Step 9

Whenever you’re not using your bag, you can roll it up and keep it neatly stored by securing it shut with the elastic. Just fold the handles down into the bag, then fold the right- and left-hand sides into the centre. Roll the bag up from the bottom. Loop the elastic all the way around it to hold it closed.

Related: more craft projects


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.