How to Make a Tote or Storage Bag in Six Steps

If you're like me, you've got lots of supplies that keep piling up, despite your attempts to organize. I'm running out of closet space for my fabrics, and my hubby wasn't too pleased when a big pile of fabric fell out on his head as he was reaching for a shirt the other day.

I decided to make a few bags for storage, from a vintage pattern. Because they are flexible, I can squeeze them into small spaces, hang them in the closet or on hooks. I think this is a project for an intermediate level seamstress.

Supplies: I used a stiff black and white canvas fabric for the bag and dark blue linen for the lining. This is a great way to use up some of the remnants you have around the house. If you don't have remnants, you'll need:
3/4 yd fabric (35-45" wide) or 1/2 yd fabric (54" wide)
same amount of lining fabric
stiff iron-on interfacing
4 yds gross grain ribbon, 1" wide
2 yds cord, 1/4" wide
cardboard 5" x 15"
* Seams are 5/8 " wide

Cut a large rectangle 32.5" long and 16.75" wide from bag fabric.
Cut two small rectangles 14.5" long and 6.5" wide from bag fabric.
Cut the same sized rectangles from the lining fabric and from the interfacing.

1. Bag Section
Iron interfacing to wrong side of bag fabric pieces (one large rectangle and two small ones).

Spread out the large rectangle, interfacing side up and place a piece of cardboard 5" x 15" in the middle, over the interfacing. Hold in place with tape. This will be the stiff bottom of your bag. The center of the short side of the cardboard is at 16 1/4" (the halfway point on the long side of the large rectangle).

2. Handles
Cut four pieces of ribbon, 15" long and four pieces of cord, 15" long as well.
Stitch 2 pieces of ribbon together close to one long edge. Do the same with the remaining two pieces of ribbon.
Insert 2 pieces of the cord and stitch the other long edges together using a zipper foot, encasing the cord inside the ribbon.

On the right side of bag, stitch handles to bag.

These are 5 1/4 " from the sides.

3. Lining
On the right sides of the lining fabric, you'll need to mark four small dots in chalk. These will help you later to make the corners of the bag. These dots will form a rectangle which corresponds to the cardboard rectangle you have taped to the inside of your bag.

Spread out the large rectangle of lining (dark blue linen here).
Measure lengthwise from each corner toward the center to 13.5". Mark a small dot in chalk, 5/8" in from the outer edge. Mark the other three dots measuring in from the corners. With right sides together, pin lining to bag. Stitch the two short edges in a 5/8" seam. Turn right sides out, press. Machine baste raw edges of bag and lining together along seam line (5/8").

4. Side Sections
With right sides together, pin lining to side sections of bag. Stitch the short edge on each one. Turn right sides out, press. Machine-baste raw edges of side and lining together along seam-line, around the other three sides, being careful to stitch 5/8" from edge. The corners of your basting will be matched to the small dots you chalked on the bag lining. To make matching easier, place a small dot at each corner.

5. Stitching the Side Sections to the Bag

Clip bag and lining to all four small dots, being careful not to cut basting stitches.

With right sides together, pin side sections to bag, matching small dots. Finish seams, press towards sides. In the photo above, you see the bag spread out flat, both sides sewn on.

With lining sides together, pin all four sides together, having raw edges even and on the outside. Stitch along seam line. Trim seams to 3/8".
6. Finishing
Encase seams in ribbon, turning under ends at top and bottom.

Et voilà! You have a tote or storage bag!

If you have any How to posts you'd like to see here, leave your suggestions in the comments!

Posted by Laura of Blue Terracotta.


kathiroussel said...

what a wonderful tutorial laura-- everything so beautifully clear and easy to follow with your exceptional photo diagrams-- a what a great bag-- i might just try to make one for myself after i come back from my july break ( a plan to extend my fun...)

thanks for the excellent post!!

paula said...

love seeing your bag how to here, great job and hopefully will give others a nudge to do so as well!

anakim said...

What a wonderful tutorial and great idea! Thanks for sharing.

feyzadem said...

Such a nice and helpfull post from dear Laura , thanks :))

Dawn of LaTouchables said...

Your instructions are magnificent, and so is the bag! i will have to try this one! Thank you, Laura!

pey said...

What a great idea, love it !

Michelle said...

Laura, this is stunning,
just wish I would have some more Time
to try it,
really well done!!!