Make a DIY Canvas Tote Bag
This carry-everywhere bag is ready for any adventure. For a durable and stylish tote, pair simple cotton canvas with your favorite patterned fabric.
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.
How to Make a Canvas Tote Bag
- 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
- Ironing board
- Quilter’s pins
- Sewing machine
- Denim sewing needle
- 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 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.