This is a tote bag that I decided to make for both my mom and mother-in-law for Mother's Day. It is a basic hand tote with a lining. The one featured in the photos is the 12" by 10" horse print bag I made for my mother-in-law.
- I chose to use three different fabrics: a basic black fabric for a liner, a thicker (almost suede) material that will be used for the handles and bottom, and a decorative fabric that catches the eye.
- I also am using a clear nylon thread that can be used with almost any fabric: I did not have to change the thread or bobbin once during the complete process. But like any time you start or end a new stitch, DON'T FORGET TO LOCK YOUR THREAD!
Step 1: Making the Bottom
Once you have chosen your fabrics and you know the size of the bag you want to make, you will cut your thicker fabric to be used first. This piece of fabric will be folded in half, so you need to double the amount of fabric you would like to see on one side, plus leave some fabric for seam allowance.
For example, I decided that I would like to have two inches of the thicker fabric on the bottom of my bag for decoration, so I cut a rectangle 11" x 5", so that when folded lengthwise I would still have 1/2 inch on each side for a hem.
Once the fabric is cut out you can start with the hems. I folded and pinned two 1/2 inch hems lengthwise down the fabric to be sewn.
Step 2: Sewing Hems
Time to sew your hems into place. Just make a stitch straight down the side of your pinned area, wrong-side up. I chose to sew at the 1/4" mark.
When you are finished stitching, your piece of fabric should look like my second photo when turned right-side up.
Step 3: Making a Canoe
First to finish the bottom there are a few things we need to do. Your thicker piece should have two folded hems running lengthwise down it at this point. Now you are going to fold a hem on the four inch side. Again, I folded a 1/2 inch hem. From here, your fabric will be folded in half lengthwise, to make the two inch decorative bottom that you had desired initially-- be sure to either hold on tightly or pin the hem you just folded to make sure it does not slip. Now the edge that you just folded should look like a "V". Pin the whole folded portion to one of the sides of the fabric wall.
You will now repeat that same process to the other side, resulting in a piece of fabric kind of resembling a canoe.
Step 4: Closing the Sides
Now that you have pinned the edges down, we're ready to sew our "canoe" together. Turn your "canoe" inside out-- you are going to be stitching up the inside. Make one straight stitch from the outer hem to the inner fold along the area you pinned. I used a 3/8 inch allowance. Make sure that you do not have both walls of your fold under the needle or you will end up having the side sewn shut. Do this for each of the pinned areas.
Now the bottom portion of your bag is complete.
Step 5: Making the Cut
Since we have the bottom finished, we now need walls for our bag. You need to cut out some fabric from both your decorative and lining fabrics for your walls, keeping in mind your seam allowance and the fact that you're going to have two walls.
For example, my bag will be 12" tall x 10" wide when finished so I cut out two 13"x11" pieces from both the decorative and lining fabric, leaving that extra inch on each side since I am pretty new to sewing.
Step 6: Putting Up Walls
Go ahead and put aside your lining for now-- we'll get back to that later. Right now we are going sew together the outer walls. You need to turn the fabric over so the right-side (the side with more vibrant color) is facing inside when you sew. You are going to be making two straight stitches down the right and left edges of the bag. Be sure to leave the top and bottom of the pieces open. Go ahead and pin the pieces as needed and make your stitches. I left a 3/8 inch allowance.
Step 7: Attatching the Bottom
The fabric that you have sewn together for the walls of the bag should have an open bottom at this point. We are now going to attach the thicker fabric to the walls to close the bottom.
Slip the fabric of the walls into the "canoe" and pin it in place. I choose to pin the decorative fabric all way towards the fold of the thicker fabric, just to aid in the ease of sewing when I stitch them together. Then just hold and sew both fabrics together around the perimeter of your "canoe" along the stitch you made side hems.
Now you have a bottom on your bag!
Step 8: Sewing the Liner
At this point you have a good portion of your outer bag finished. Now to the liner. You have already cut the fabric for your liner, so now you need to sew the two pieces of lining fabric together. Make sure that they are both right-side facing inside.
Now sew along the perimeter of the wrong-side. Leave one of the four sides open for where the seam at the top of the bag will be. I used a 3/8 inch seam allowance for this stitch.
Step 9: Adding the Liner
At this point, both the outer portion and the liner of your bag have three of the four sides closed. Now you will be putting them together.
You will need to fold and pin a part of the open portion of the decorative fabric for a hem/seam towards the inside of your bag (towards your extra fabric for seam allowance). Do the same for the open portion of your liner, but fold and pin towards the outside (remember that the liner wrong-side out at this point).
Now slip the liner into the outer fabric. Pin the two fabrics together at the folds you just made.
Step 10: Making Handles
Before we can sew the liner in, we need to make handles because they are going to be sewn in between the liner and outside.
To begin, you must choose the length and width of your handles, double it, and remember to add for seam allowance. For example, I wanted two handles 1 inch wide and 20 inches long. I cut my fabric (remember this is the same fabric you used for the bottom) 5 inches wide because I will cut it in half to use for each handle as well as seem allowance. I cut the fabric 22 inches long because each side of the handle will be sewn into the bag one inch for stability. Then cut it in half lengthwise. I then I had two pieces of fabric 2 1/2 inches by 22 inches.
Now we're going close the handles. You want to fold and pin each of the pieces of fabric in half lengthwise, wrong-side out. Then make one long stitch along the edge to close the handles (leave the two sides unsewn). Your handles should now somewhat resemble a straw. Now turn your handles right-side out. This may take a while. I use a metal coathanger to aid in keeping the fabric straight.
Once the handles are turned right-side out, we are just going to add one more stitch to them before sewing them to the bag. Center the stitch down the middle of the handle and pin it in that position. We are going to sew another stitch in the same place of the other, but this stitch will go through the whole handle for stability and will make the handle flat rather than straw shaped.
Step 11: Adding Handles
Now that our handles are flat, we are going to add them to the bag. Choose where you would like them positioned on the bag: I chose 1/2 inch from the side seams. Make sure that the handles are facing with the double stitch towards the inside of the bag and slip the handle one inch down between the lining and outer portion of the bag-- pin the handles into place.
You are now going to sew around the perimeter of the opening of the bag to stitch the lining and handles into place. I sewed from the inside on the lining using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
Step 12: Locking Handles
Now that we have gotten the handles actually put on, our last step is to lock them into place. You are simply going to make a stitch in the shape of a "V" on each of the places where a handle was inserted. Just sew diagonally towards the center of the edge of the handle from the hem of the bag (I like to place a pin in the center to keep track). Then turn and sew diagonally the opposite direction to finish the "V". Your handles have been locked into place and you're finished with your tote bag!