Last week I pulled out my sewing machine for the first time in 10 years. I made a tote bag loosely based on a tutorial from Sew Mama Sew. I am awful at following directions so I sort of did my own thing. Below you will find a step by step tutorial on how I made my tote bag. I’m no expert, so be warned. I broke this tutorial down step-by-step using diagrams for those of you who are visual learners like me.
Step One: Lay your fabric down and cut it out
- 2x 20 by 21 inch rectangles (body of the tote)
- 2x 5 by 26 inch rectangles (handles)
Step 2: Sew the tote body using a French seam
If you are new to sewing you are probably wondering what the heck a French Seam is? A French seam is a way of ensuring the inside of your item looks finished when you do not have a serger. When I first went to attempt the tote bag I was really confused about French seams, but I found this tutorial over at Freshly Picked incredibly helpful.
Put the two pieces of your tote body together (wrong sides together, right side facing out). I know it feels counter-intuitive… you just have to trust me on this one. To start the French seam, with a ¼ inch seam allowance sew seams along the bottom and the sides of the tote bag.
Seam Allowance: ¼ inch
To get a really crisp looking seam you will want to iron the seams open (See figure 2 of the Freshly Picked tutorial)
Next, you will turn the bag inside out (Right Sides Together, wrong side facing out) and sew along the same three edges using a ½ inch seam allowance
Seam Allowance: ½ inch
Step Three: Make the Handles
With the fabric wrong side up fold the straps in half and press with an iron
Open the fabric, fold and press the two edges towards the original center fold (aka the dotted line)
Fold and Press the Center Piece closed again (your handle should be a quarter of the width you started out with)
With a ¼ inch seam allowance, sew the edge of the strap
Step Four: Attach the Handles
It’s time to hem the bag and attach the handles!
With your tote inside out, create a 2 inch hem along the top of your tote by folding down the top raw edge. Press the hem line so it is nice and crisp.
Measure five inches from each side and place both ends of a single handle under the fold, aligned with the five inch measurement. Hem the bag using a 3/4 inch seam allowance. Repeat the process with the other handle.
Press the handle upwards and secure the strap in place by sewing it down in the shape of an hour glass. Repeat this step on the other side of the bag. Flip the bag right side out, press it one last time and you are done!