Introduction: Pretty and Simple Everyday Tote!

About: Hi! I'm a slightly feral mountain hermit that likes to be helpful. I do community management at Instructables & Tinkercad. 🙌 Want to hear me chat about making? Search "CLAMP Podcast" on YouTube or your favorit…

You'll learn to made an outside pocket and how to gusset the bottom corners, along with a really easy way to deal with handles and linings. And you can make it in a ton of sizes - the second picture has a 15x15 bag body. :)

My mom said she'd like a tote bag made out of something sturdy like denim, with a front pocket - something big enough to take to work and carry everything she needs. She works a half hour from home so she carries more stuff and needs a bigger bag!

This project uses demin from my grandmother's fabric stash, but the lining is from mine. I think that makes it a little more special. :D

Step 1: What You'll Need:

  • 1 yard outer fabric/handle fabric - demin, canvas, cotton, any will do.
  • 1 yard lining fabric - flannel, cotton, silk, etc. Get fancy!
  • iron and ironing board
  • scissors/rotary cutter/ruler/cutting mat
  • pins
  • air soluble marking pen/something for marking
  • sewing machine
  • needles for sewing denim

Step 2: Pressing & Cutting!

This takes the longest of everything and it's my least favorite bit, so let's get it out of the way, shall we?

First, press all the fabric you're using. Make it pretty!

For this project, you need:
  • 2 pieces of outer fabric - 26x14 inches
  • 2 pieces of lining fabric - 26x14 inches
  • 9x9 piece of lining & outer fabrics if you want a pocket
  • 2 pieces of outer fabric - 6x24 inches for handles

Try your best to get nice square corners. It'll help alot during sewing if the pieces are very close. :)

Step 3: Sew the Pocket!

I chose to sew the pocket this way so that it has a nice lining.

Take your two 9x9 pieces and place them right sides together. Pin around the edges, except for the top. On the top, place the pins vertically to show you where you won't be sewing. This will leave a hole for you to turn the pocket right side out.

Using a seam allowance of 1/4 inch, sew from the first vertical needle around to the second one, backstitching at beginning and end.

Unpin and turn the pocket so the right side is facing out. You'll see that there's now a little mouth on the side. Tuck the ends in so they're in line with the rest of the edge. Press.

Now, topstitch all the way around 1/4 inch from the edge.

Press again and you have a fancy pocket!

Step 4: Sew the Handles!

Wrong side facing up, fold the handle in half and press.

Unfold that and fold the edges into the middle. Press.

Now fold in half again. Press.

Now, all you need to do is topstitch around the edges, 1/4 inch seam allowance. :)

Step 5: Sew the Pocket to the Outside of the Bag.

Take one of your outside panels and lay it down, right side facing up.

Lay the pocket on top of it, three inches up from the bottom, and about 8 3/4 inches from the sides. Pin it in place.

Now, you're going to stitch over the topstitching you previously made on the pocket. Stitch both sides and the bottom, leaving the top open.

Step 6: Sew the Outside and Lining of the Bag!

Place the outside fabric right sides together. Pin around the bottom and both sides. Make sure the opening of the pocket is facing up before you begin sewing.

Sew down the right side, across the bottom and the down the left. Use the edge of the foot as your seam allowance.

Once you're done sewing, unpin the fabric and press.

Trim off the corners and use pinking shears to trim the seam allowance. Leave the outside fabric with right sides facing - don't turn it yet.

Repeat the above steps for the lining fabric, but turn it and press at the end.

Step 7: Get the Bag Ready for Sewing - Positioning the Handles!

Place the lining into the outer fabric, right sides facing. I typically fold in the sides of the lining and shove it in that way. You can straighten it out once it's in there.

Now, take your handles and place them as illustrated in picture 3. Make sure they're bent the same way and the ends are flat. :)

Place the handles in between the outer and lining on the side that's facing up. Make the ends line up with the edges and place them about seven inches in from the sides of the bag. Pin these in place, being careful to only pin that side of the bag - putting the needles through the lining on the other side of the bag will prove problematic. :D

Repeat on the other side, and then we'll move on!

Step 8: Sewing the Handles in Place and Around the Top Rim of the Bag!

Pin all the way around the top of the bag, making sure to keep both sides separate.

On one side, between the handles, place the pins vertical again to show you where you will not be sewing. This will be the place to turn the bag right side out.

Once pinned, place the edge of the bag under the presser foot of the machine, using the right edge of the foot as your seam allowance guide. Sew from the bottom vertical pin around to the one above that. Backstitch at the beginning and end.

Unpin the bag and then begin to pull the lining out through the hole you left open. Be gentle with it - it might take a little while. Once the lining is out, begin to turn the outer fabric right side out. Lay it flat and press.

You notice we have a little mouth again. Fold over the outer fabric to match the rest of the edge and press.

Then, push the lining fabric into the bag and press again. Now we'll do the topstitching and finish the bag!

Step 9: Pressing and Topstiching!

Place the opening of the bag over the end of the ironing board and press the top edges of the bag.

Once everything's pressed and looking nice, topstitch all the way around the bag to finish the edges and close the turning hole. :D

We're almost there!

Step 10: Sewing the Gussets!

To give this bag the proper shape, we're going to be flattening the corners and sewing across them. Turn the bag so the lining is on the outside.

Take the bottom corner of the bag and flatten it out, making it form a triangle. Make sure the seams are lining up, and press it.

Take a ruler and lay it across the triangle, and mark a line 6 1/2 inches long wherever that falls on the corner.

Pin below the line. Set your machine to the longest stitch and sew across the line, backstitching and the beginning and the end.

Then, cut the corner off. I used pinking shears to prevent fraying.

Step 11: Optional Step: Cat Party Hats!

Use the corners you cut off to accessorize your cats.

Looking suave, Marcello!

(Marcello would also like to wish his grandma a Happy Mother's Day!)

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