How to Sew a Tote Bag for Beginners - ToteBagsNow.Com
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How to Sew a Tote Bag for Beginners

Tote bags are all the rage, and for good reason. These handy bags offer both style and practicality, making them a popular choice for various occasions and outings. Best of all? These bags are also incredibly easy to make. 

If you’ve just taken up sewing, you’ll be happy to know that a tote bag is one of the first projects you can tackle; that’s how easy it is. Follow our step-by-step tutorial on how to sew a tote bag, and you’ll create a chic accessory that fits your style in no time.

How to Sew a Tote Bag for Beginners

How to Sew a Tote Bag: A Beginner-Friendly Step-by-Step Guide

To help you breeze through making your own tote bag, this guide will walk you through every step of this fun process. This includes those that take place before even firing up your sewing machine. Once you start, the entire process shouldn’t take you longer than an hour. Let’s begin!

Step 1 – Choose Your Fabrics

Before getting down to business, you must do some prep work. First, you should decide which fabric to use for your tote bag. The good news is that anything can become a tote bag. You can find an old pair of jeans lying around, or you can go out and purchase some expensive fabric like silk and make a high-end tote bag. 

Though the choice of fabrics is primarily up to your preferences, there are a few factors to keep in mind.

If you plan on carrying heavy items in your tote bag (e.g., books), you’ll want to choose a sturdier fabric like corduroy, denim, canvas, or heavy cotton. The same goes for carrying sharp items. As aesthetically pleasing as a satin tote bag looks, a set of keys or a pair of scissors might slice right through it!

Isolated black tote bag with plant shadow

Step 2 – Decide on the Tote’s Size

Though this step doesn’t affect the sewing process substantially, it directly dictates how much fabric you’ll need. If you plan on carrying larger items in your tote (e.g., beach towels), the bag should be big enough to fit them.

A solid, medium-sized tote bag calls for about 1/2 yard of fabric for the body of the bag and another 1/2 for the lining. You’ll also need some thread in a coordinating color.

Step 3 – Gather the Necessary Tools

After prepping your fabric, it’s time to gather your tools and equipment. Besides a sewing machine, you’ll need the following items:

  • A pair of fabric scissors
  • A rotary cutter with a sharp blade
  • A rotary-cutting matt
  • An acrylic ruler 
  • A marking tool (e.g., a water-erasable pen)
  • Clover clips or sewing pins
  • An iron
  • An ironing board

Step 4 – Cut the Fabrics

It will be easier for you if you prep all the necessary fabric pieces before starting to sew. 

Once you learn how to sew a tote bag, you can move on to more complex models containing an inner pocket and boxed bottom. For now, you’ll only need to cut the fabrics for your tote’s body, lining, and handles.

The tote’s bag and lining should be squares of similar size. The lining can be an inch or two smaller since the outer fabric will be hemmed. As for the handles, cut two pieces around four inches wide and 22 inches long.

Step 5 – Make the Handles

To set yourself up for success, tackle a smaller project first and then move on to sewing the tote bag. Making the handles is simple, helping you build confidence before attempting the more intricate parts.

Here’s how to make your tote’s handles:

  1. Fold each cut strip of fabric in half with the inside facing outward.
  2. Crease the fold using an iron.
  3. Fold both raw edges inward and crease the new fold again.
  4. Fold the strap in half, ensuring the raw edges face inside the handle.
  5. Clip or pin the strap to hold.
  6. Sew the long edges together with a 1/4-seam allowance.
  7. Repeat Steps 1-6 for the second handle.

Step 6 – Attach the Handles

The first step of making the body should be to create the top hem of the bag. To achieve this, all you need to do is fold the shorter side of the fabric, iron over about 1/4 inch, and then again 1 inch.

Then, you can attach the handles by following these steps:

  1. Insert the handle’s raw edge under the hem about 4 inches from the side.
  2. Clip or pin in place.
  3. Secure the strap and sew along the folded edge.
  4. Flip the handle outward and sew along its base and top edge.
  5. Repeat Steps 1-4 for the other handle.
Beautiful tote bag design mockup

Step 7 – Attach the Lining

Slide the lining underneath the hem, lining up the fabric pieces perfectly. Smooth these pieces together and trim away any excess. Then, follow these steps to join the lining and the outward part of your tote:

  1. Pin the fabrics in place.
  2. Sew along the pinned sides with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. 
  3. Turn the bag inside out.
  4. Press the side seams well.
  5. Sew along the side seams with more than a 1/2-inch seam allowance.

And that’s it! Turn the right side out, and you have your DIY tote bag. If you notice any threads peeking through the seams, trim them or burn them off (if you used synthetic thread), and you’re good to go!

How to Make a Custom Tote Bag Without Sewing

Though learning how to sew a tote bag is relatively easy, it’s perfectly understandable if you can’t do it. You might struggle with the stitching, cutting, or measuring, making this process nothing but time-consuming and frustrating. But the good news is that you can make a custom tote bag without as much as touching a sewing machine. Just design your perfect tote and order it on Tote Bags Now!

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