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 Sarah Martens
Updated January 25, 2021
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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.

Credit: Marty Baldwin

How to Make a Canvas Tote Bag

Supplies Needed

  • 3/4 yard faux leather vinyl or printed fabric (handles, bag bottom)
  • 1/2 yard natural canvas fabric (bag front and back, facing)
  • 7/8 yard patterned fabric (lining)
  • 1-1/4 yards fusible fleece interfacing
  • Fabric shears or scissors
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil or pen
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Quilter’s pins and clips
  • Sewing machine
  • 90/14 heavyweight sewing needle
  • Denim sewing needle
  • Thread
  • 6-inch sewing gauge

Finished Bag Tips

  • Finished bag measurements are 15 1/2x15 x 6 1/2 inches.
  • Quantities are for 44/45-inch-wide, 100 percent cotton quilting and canvas fabrics ($10, Joann).
  • 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.

Credit: Jacob Fox

Step 1: Cut Your Fabrics

Cut your fabrics. From the lining fabric, cut two 18 3/4×22 1/2-inch rectangles with 22 1/2-inch length parallel to the selvages. From the faux leather, cut two 6 3/4×22 1/2-inch rectangles and two 3×22 inch strips. From the canvas, cut two 12 1/2×22 1/2-inch rectangles and two 1 3/4×22 1/2-inch strips, From fusible fleece, cut two 18 3/4×22 1/2-inch rectangles.

Left: Credit: Jacob Fox
Right: Credit: Jacob Fox

Step 2: Prepare Handles

Fit your machine with a 90/14 heavyweight sewing needle ($3, Walmart). Make handles by folding two long sides of two 3×22-inch vinyl strips to the center, overlapping slightly. Hold in place with clips. Sew seam in the center, then stitch on either side of the center for three rows of stitching total.

Editor's Tip: Needles size 90/14 and 100/16 have a strong, sharp point and are intended for denim and tightly woven cottons, such as canvas, and for leather and nonwoven material such as leather and vinyl ($12, Etsy).

Left: Credit: Jacob Fox
Right: Credit: Jacob Fox

Step 3: Assemble the Bag

Make the sides of the bag. Lay one canvas rectangle and one vinyl rectangle right sides together and hold with clips. Stitch along one long side with a 1/2-inch seam. Finger-press seam toward vinyl and topstitch on the front side of vinyl 1/8-inch from the seam. Repeat for the other side. Create the bag body. Lay the pieces created, right sides together, and clip. Stitch around three sides: vinyl only (bottom) and two long canvas and- vinyl sides. Leave canvas only (top) edge open.

Editor's Tip: Rather than trying to force pins through thick layers of canvas and vinyl, use clips (from $2, Etsy) to hold the pieces together. Almost any type of clip will do.

Left: Credit: Jacob Fox
Right: Credit: Jacob Fox

Step 4: Create Bottom of Bag

Create a flat bottom for the bag. Align side seam and bottom seam, clipping in place to create a triangle at one bottom corner. Measure and mark 3 1/4-inches from point of the triangle, drawing a line across the triangle. Sew on the line and cut off triangle 1/4-inch from the seam. Repeat for the other bottom corner.

Left: Credit: Jacob Fox
Right: Credit: Jacob Fox

Step 5: Attach Handles

Attach the bag's handles. Turn bag body right side out. Mark center on the outside top edge of one side of the bag body. Measure 5 inches from the center and clip-on ends of the handle. Stitch handle ends to bag body. Repeat for the other handle on the other side of the bag.

Credit: Jacob Fox

Step 6: Make the Lining

Make the lining. Adhere fusible fleece interfacing ($11, Joann) to the wrong side of lining fabric following the manufacturer’s instructions. Repeat steps 3 and 4 (create bag body and flat bottom) with lining pieces. Insert the lining into the bag body with wrong sides together (outside of the bag with handles on the outside; right side of the lining facing in). Align side seams and bottom corners. Pin around the open top of the bag and stitch the top perimeter’s raw edges. Do not fold.

Left: Credit: Jacob Fox
Right: Credit: Jacob Fox

Step 7: Create Facing

Create facing for the top edge. Press both 1 3/4×22 1/2-inch canvas strips 1/2-inch along one long edge. Stitch the two strips together at both short ends with the ironed folds on top and bottom—the ironed fold is the wrong side—stitching flat the ironed fold.

Left: Credit: Jacob Fox
Right: Credit: Jacob Fox

Step 8: Stitch Facing

Align the facing piece’s raw edge with the raw edges at the top of the bag with canvas right sides together and stitch with handles down against the sides of the bag.

Left: Credit: Jacob Fox
Right: Credit: Marty Baldwin

Step 9: Finish the Bag

Turn the folded edge of the facing piece to the inside of the bag, pin, and topstitch with handles up to finish the bag.

Comments (1)

Anonymous
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!!