General Tote Instructions
Create your own magnificent tote bag with these general instructions.
The small tote measures 9-1/2 x 12 x 5 inches. The large tote measures 12 x 12 x 5 inches. The shoulder-bag-style handles are 24" long. The handbag-style handles are 15 inches long.
- 1/2 yard of Fabric A for exterior
- 1/2 yard of Fabric B for lining
- 1/4 yard of Fabric C for handles
- 1-1/3 yards of Timtex interlining fabric
Quantities specified are for 52/54-inch-wide decorator fabrics.
All measurements include 1/2-inch seam allowances, unless otherwise noted. Sew with right sides together unless otherwise stated.
Cut the Fabrics
Download the free patterns for this project (Downloading requires Adobe Acrobat software).
- Cut two Pattern A pieces from both Fabric A (exterior) and Fabric B (lining) for the front and back tote panels. Cut one of Pattern B from both Fabric A (exterior) and Fabric B (lining) for the bottom panel. Transfer any notch marks found on the patterns to the cutout pieces.
- For a shoulder-bag-style tote, cut two 3 x 26-inch strips from Fabric C (handles). If making a handbag-style tote, cut two 3 x 17-inch strips from Fabric C.
- For the large tote, cut two 17-1/2 x 12-1/2-inch side pieces and one 11-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch bottom piece from interlining fabric. For the small tote, cut two 15 x 12-1/2-inch side pieces and one 9 x 4-1/2-inch bottom piece from interlining fabric.
- Fold the long handle strip edges under 1/2 inch; press. Fold each strap in half lengthwise with wrong sides together, matching folded edges; press. Edgestitch along long edges.
- Place a handle strip on the front and back tote panels, extending the ends of the handle strips 1 inch above the stitching line on the top edge of the tote and 2-1/2 inches from the center of the bag. Baste along the stitching line.
- Sew the front and back together along the sides. Press seams open.
- Clip 1/2 inch at notch marks on lower edge of tote body. Sew the bottom panel to the body, matching notches at the corners. Trim the seam allowances at the corners. Turn the body right side out; press the seam allowances flat. With wrong sides together, press in creases at the seams to form crisp edges along all of the bottom seams.
- Sew the body lining pieces together along the side seams, leaving a 6-inch opening along the middle of one side seam. Clip 1/2 inch at notch marks on lower edge of tote body lining. Sew the bottom lining to the body lining, matching the notches at the corners. Press the seams as in Step 4.
- With right sides together, sew the lining to the tote bag at the top edge. Pull the tote bag through the opening in the side of the lining. Press in creases at the corners of the bag, using the notches for guides.
- Sew or glue the interlining fabric panels together at the sides, over-lapping the pieces 1/2 inch. Insert the bottom panel into the tote through the hole in the lining. Insert the sides through the hole in the lining, arranging so the corners line up with the corners of the tote.
- Whipstitch the lining closed. Press the top edge seam flat. Edgestitch the top edge of the tote bag to finish. To prevent the lining from shifting and pulling out of the bag, hand-tack the lining to the body of the tote through the seam allowances at the bottom.