Tote Bag Tutorial

First off, no, there are no handles on this bag. Yet. I am in the process of searching for grommets to make said handles, and have so far been unsuccessful. I may have to order them online. But I promised I would post this tutorial. Twice. And I did not want to break my promise the second time, because I'm sure everyone was on the edge of their seat waiting for this. I know the picture is dark and blurry, but I promise, this bag is pretty darn cute in real life. And giant. I have so much trouble finding bags for school that are big enough and strong enough for all of my books. But I think this one might do it.

My mom got me this vintage upholstery fabric from a thrift store a few weeks ago when they were having a 50% off sale. It cost $2.50 for 5 yards. I had no idea what I was going to do with all of it, but then I saw this tutorial and decided to make my own version of it to use for school. I made mine pretty big, but the size can be adjusted to whatever you like.

Follow the jump for the tutorial.

To make this bag, you will need two different fabrics. I used the heavy upholstery fabric for the body of the bag and a light-weight cotton for the lining.

First, you'll make the lining. Cut out two pieces of the fabric in whatever size you want, being sure to add a seam allowance. Mine ended up being 21in x 23in. Then, cut out your pockets. I wanted two larger pockets on one side and three smaller ones on the other, so I cut out one rectangle that was 11in x 9 in and another that was 14in x 6in.

Fold over each edge, starting with the sides, of your pockets about 1/4 inch and then again. Iron in place and sew the top edge down. Pin the pockets onto the right side of the lining, and sew around the side and bottom. Since I wanted two pockets on the one side, I sewed a straight line right down the centerof the pocket. On the other side, I sewed two lines.

Once your pockets are in place, pin the two lining pieces right sides together and sew around the two sides and the bottoms, with about a quarter inch seam allowance. The create a boxed bottom by lining up the side seam with the bottom seam so that the bottom corner forms a point and ironing it flat (a more detailed description of this can be found here). Then, you are going to sew a line straight across. The size of your bag will determine how wide to make the boxed bottom. For example, my lining pieces were 21in x 23in, and I made my bottom by drawing a line where the corner measured 7 1/2 inches across. When you have decided how wide to make the bottom, draw a straight line across and sew over it. Repeat on the other side. Turn your lining right-side out and make sure both sides look even. Turn it inside out again and cut off the extra fabric at the corner. Then turn down the top of the bag about 1 1/2 inches and iron in place.

Here is what the lining looks like complete
Now you are going to make the body of the bag. Do the same thing as you did for the lining, only without the pockets (unless, if course, you want pockets on the outside).

Okay, now once you have both the body and the lining completed, turn the body right-side out and insert the lining into the bag. Pin them together at the corners and the side seams, just to help keep everything in place while you're sewing. Fold down the top of the body of the bag about an inch and pin the lining and the bag together all around the top. Sew all the way around.

Now for the so far non-existent straps. You will need four 1 inch grommets, like these. Place them where you want your straps to be on the bag according to the package instructions. Then make the straps. You can either buy reversible webbing, use scraps of leather, or make some with the fabric you used on the bag. To do that, cut out four strips as long and wide as you want your straps, with a seam allowance.  Place two of them right-sides together. Sew a line down each side and turn right side out. Repeat with other two strips of fabric. Loop one end of a strap through the grommet and sew in place, making sure to sew under any raw edges. Repeat with other three ends. I'm having a difficult time explaining this without pictures, so here is a reference. I will definitely update this with pictures of the finished bag and of how to do the handles when I finish.


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