This carry-everywhere bag is ready for any adventure. For a durable and stylish tote, pair simple cotton canvas with your favorite patterned fabric.

By BH&G Crafts Editors
Updated July 01, 2019

Make a durable canvas bag that's sure to become your take-everywhere tote. Roomy enough to stash all your essentials (and then some!), this easy sewing project can be customized with any pattern or colors you like. We added a bold floral lining and faux leather vinyl trim. Whether you’re heading out for a summer picnic or exploring your local farmers market, this handmade tote bag is the perfect accessory for every day.

Brie Passano

How to Make a Canvas Tote Bag

Supplies Needed

  • 3/4 yard faux leather vinyl or printed fabric (handles, bag bottom, piping if desired)
  • 1/2 yard natural canvas fabric (bag front and back, facing)
  • 7/8 yard patterned fabric (lining)
  • 1-1/4 yards fusible fleece
  • 1/4 yard heavyweight stiff interfacing (bag bottom)
  • 1/2 yard fusible web
  • Fabric shears or scissors
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil or pen
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Quilter’s pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Denim sewing needle
  • Thread
  • 6-inch sewing gauge

Finished Bag Tips

  • Bag size: 15 1/2 x 15 x 6 1/2 inches
  • Quantities are for 44/45-inch-wide, 100 percent cotton quilting and canvas fabrics.
  • Measurements include 1/4-inch seam allowances.
  • Sew with right sides together unless otherwise stated.

Step-by-Step Directions

With a few simple sewing skills and these how-to instructions, you can create your own oversize canvas tote bag. You should be able to complete this craft project in a couple of hours.

Step 1: Cut Your Fabrics

  • From the lining fabric, cut: 18-3/4x22-1/2 inch rectangles with 22-1/2 inch length parallel to the selvages, 2—18-3/4x22-1/2 inch rectangles and 2—7-1/2x15-1/2" rectangles
  • From the faux leather, cut: 2—6-3/4x22-1/2 inch rectangles, 2—3/4x22-1/2 inch strips, and 2—3x22 inch strips
  • From the canvas, cut: 2—12-1/2x22-1/2 inch rectangles and  2—1-3/4x22-1/2 inch strips
  • From fusible fleece, cut: 2—18-3/4x22-1/2 inch rectangles and 2—3x22 inch strips
  • From the fusible web, cut: 2—7-1/2x15-1/2 inch rectangles
  • From the interfacing, cut: 1—6-1/4x14-3/4 inch rectangle

Step 2: Prepare Handles

Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse a fleece 3x22" strip to the wrong side of each black print 3x22" strip. Sew together long edges of a Step 1 strip to make a handle (Diagram 1). Turn handle right side out and use an iron to press, centering seam on the underside. Repeat to make a second handle. Topstitch with three evenly spaced lines of stitching on each handle. If using vinyl, overlap in thirds and stitch down the center. Then add a line of stitching on either side of the center.

Step 3: Assemble Piping Strips

Fold each faux leather 3/4x22-1/2 inch strip in half, the wrong side inside, to make two flat piping strips if desired (Diagram 2). Adding piping to the bag is optional.

Step 4: Add to Bag Body

Place a faux leather 12-1/2x22-1/2 inch rectangle right side up on a work surface. Aligning long raw edges, layer a piping strip on the rectangle (Diagram 3). Baste in place a scant 1/4 inch from long raw edges.

Step 5: Form Bag Body

Referring to Diagram 4, lay a faux leather 6-3/4x22-1/2 inch rectangle right side down atop Step 2 unit. Align along edge with the piping edge; stitch through all layers. Finger-press rectangles open, pressing seam toward black print rectangle. Use your sewing machine to topstitch 1/8 inch from seam to make bag front. Repeat to make bag back.

Step 6: Sew Bag

Sew together side and bottom edges of bag front and back to make bag body (Diagram 5). Press seams open.

Step 7: Create Bag Bottom

To shape a flat bottom for bag body, at one corner match bottom seam line to side seam line, creating a flattened triangle (Diagram 6). Measure and mark on seam allowance 3-1/4 inch from point of a triangle. Draw a 6-1/2 inch long line across the triangle, and sew on the drawn line. Trim excess fabric, leaving 1/4 inch seam allowance. Repeat at the remaining bottom corner. Turn bag body right side out.

Step 8: Add Handles

Referring to Diagram 7, pin raw ends of one handle to one long raw edge of bag body; make sure handle is centered. Sew handle ends to bag body a scant 1/4 inch from bag's edge. Repeat with second handle and remaining long raw edge of the bag body.

Step 9: Assemble Lining

Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse a fleece 18-3/4x22-1/2 inch rectangle to the wrong side of each tan tone-on-tone 18-3/4x22-1/2 inch rectangle. Sew together side and bottom edges of fused rectangles. Using the tip of the iron, carefully press seams open to make bag lining. Shape a flat bottom for bag lining. Leave lining wrong side out.

Step 10: Finish the Bag

Sew together short ends of two faux leather 1-3/4x22-1/2 inch strips to make a circle. Fold under 1/4 inch along one edge of the circle. Stitch 1/8 inch from folded edge to make facing. Insert bag lining into bag body with wrong sides together and raw edges aligned; handles should be on outside of the bag. Slide facing over bag body, aligning raw edges; stitch through all layers (Diagram 8).

Turn facing to the lining side. Hand-stitch the folded edge of facing to bag lining. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse a fusible web 7-1/2x15-1/2 inch rectangle to the wrong side of each lining fabric 7-1/2x15-1/2 inch rectangle. Remove paper backings. Fuse a prepared rectangle to each side of interfacing 6-1/4x14-3/4 inch rectangle. Let cool, then trim fabric edges close to interfacing to make bag bottom. Insert bag bottom into the tote to complete your handmade bag.

Comments (1)

April 24, 2020
Any chance there is a video or better instructions for this bag? I have read this over about 100 times and it just doesn't add up. I already bought all the materials so I'm greatly disappointed. Help!!