Free Tote Bag Tutorial

A little while back I had the pleasure of teaching a couple of lovely ladies on how to make a tote bag. Please see pictures below:

 Here’s Kristin hard at work on the lining


Gaby’s doing a pretty good job of it too!

 They both managed to make lovely bags to take home and they seemed to have enjoyed the class. I thought it would be nice to share my tutorial with you!

So without further ado please find the tutorial below:

How To Make A Tote Bag


By Birdie & Boo Designs

NB: Please feel free to use my tutorial but note that it is for personal use only and is not to be copied and/or distributed without my consent.

Please respect the fact that I put this tutorial together through a lot of hard graft so do not pass this off as your own.



How To Make A Tote Bag

You will need:
  • Ruler
  • Ripper
  • Measuring tape
  • Fabric (outer fabric & lining fabric)- 1/2metre each
  • Thread
  • Machine needles
  • Dressmaking  scissors
  • Chalk/erasable pen
  • Sewing pins
  • Hand-sewing needle
  • Fat knitting needle or the like for poking out corners
Sewing Basics
  • Make sure that you are using the correct machine needle size. For this project you will need to use a size 80/12 .
  • The fabric must not be creased before cutting. Iron if necessary.
  • If using printed fabric, make sure that the front and the back are there same way up before pinning together.
  • Seam allowance for the bag is 1cm.
  • Pin fabric together carefully before sewing pieces together, remembering to remove the pin or you may sew over them damaging your needle.
  • Remember to backstitch initially and at the end of your work- this means you start stitching 4 or 5 stitches and then reverse over these stitches and then forward again. This will prevent the stitches from undoing.


  • To turn corners, leave the machine needle in the down position placed in the fabric. Lift the foot up and move the fabric appropriately before putting the foot down. Carry on sewing. See picture below.

Bag Making Instructions

  1. Make a paper pattern 45cm x 42cm

3.  Fold the outer fabric so that you can cut out 2 pieces using pattern A. Pin pattern A to the outer fabric. Cut out carefully. Do the same with the lining fabric.

 4. Cut out 2 fabric handles with pattern B as you did above. You can use either the outer fabric or the lining fabric.

5. Lay one fabric strap in front of you with wrong side facing upwards. Fold the short edges in 1cm and then iron the crease.

6.  Fold the long edges together and the iron to create a crease.

7. Open the fabric again with the wrong side facing upwards, fold the long edges to the inner crease to create 2 more folds and iron (do not open). The image below shows the strap fabric open just to illustrate the folds.

8. Finally fold the strap in half. Pin in place and then stitch along the outer edge (approximately 3mm from the edge).

 Repeat the same for the other strap. Iron both straps.

9. Place the exterior fabrics with right sides together. Pin together around the edges. Sew around the two sides and bottom edge. Open seams and iron flat.

10. Repeat the same for the lining fabrics but this time remember to leave a gap in the bottom of about 15cm.

11. Turn the exterior bag with the right side facing outwards.

12. Place the lining bag over the exterior bag so that the right side of the bag and lining are touching.

13. Pin the top edges of both bags together and then sew all the way around the top edge of the bag.

14. The next bit may seem a little tricky but is actually quite easy. You will need to pull the exterior through the gap in the bottom of the lining.


Poke the corners of the exterior and lining with a knitting needles (or something similar) through the gap in the bottom of the lining.

15. Then sew the hole in the bottom of the lining closed and then iron the entire bag.

16.  Push the lining into the exterior.


17. Now to neaten and re-enforce the top edge of the bag, topstitch* 5mm from the edge. See pictures below. Iron the top edge of the bag.

 *Topstitching- stitches that run parallel to the edge. These stitches are fairly close to the edge in this project approximately 5mm.

18. On one side of the bag, mark the position of the end of the handle straps 13cm from the seams and the base of the strap 5cm from the top edge of the strap. Fix the strap ends with pins and then sew a box and cross formation on each end to make a strong handle.



Box & Cross Formation

    1. Repeat this on the other side of the bag.
    2. Iron the bag and voila one completed tote bag!

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