This easy-to-sew bag cleverly incorporates outer pockets for everyday necessities.

By BH&G Holiday Editors
Updated February 25, 2020
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Roomy and stylish, this slouchy tote is just waiting to be filled with your everyday essentials. With a deep main compartment and six exterior pockets, you won’t be short on storage. The pockets of the simple sewn bag are cleverly formed when the straps are stitched on—no additional sewing necessary. Choose your favorite patterned fabric and this easy sewing project becomes as statement-making as it is practical. We'll show you how to sew a bag in just five steps—this is a great sewing project for beginners. Check out our free tote bag sewing pattern and get started now!

How to Sew a Simple Bag

Supplies Needed

  • 1/4 yard cotton fabric (straps)
  • Fabric shears or scissors
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil or pen
  • 2/3 yard cotton fabric (pockets)
  • 2  10-1/4-x-14-1/4-inch rectangles thin, firm batting
  • 1-yard cotton fabric (lining)
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Quilter’s pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • 6-inch sewing gauge

Finished Tote Bag Tips

  • Bag size: 8 x 10 x 4 inches
  • Quantities are for 44/45-inch-wide, 100 percent cotton 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 six-pocket tote bag. You should be able to complete this handmade tote bag in about an hour.

Step 1: Cut Your Fabrics

Cut pieces in the following order.

For the straps, cut: 2 4-x-34-1/2-inch strips

For the pocket, cut: 2 14-1/2-x-16-1/2-inch rectangles

For the lining, cut: 2 14-1/2-x-20-1/2-inch rectangles

Step 2: Assemble Straps

Fold a 4-x-34-1/2-inch strip in half lengthwise with wrong side inside; press. Open and fold long edges into the center; press. Refold in half and press. Topstitch 1/8 inch from outer edges to make a strap. Repeat to make a second strap.

Step 3: Assemble Bag Pieces

Fold one of the 14-1/2-x-16-1/2-inch rectangles in half lengthwise with the wrong side facing in to make an 8-1/4-x-14-1/2-inch pocket rectangle; press. Repeat with the remaining rectangle to make a second pocket rectangle. Referring to Diagram 2, with right sides together, layer a 14-1/2-x-20-1/2-inch lining rectangle and a pocket rectangle. Place a 10-1/4-x-14-1/2-inch batting rectangle under the layered pieces; pin all layers together. Referring to Diagram 2, pin ends of a strap to the bottom edge of layered pieces, leaving 4 inches between strap edges.

Place a pin on each side of strap 10 1/4 inches from the bottom edge. Beginning at the bottom edge of layered pieces, topstitch one side of the strap up to the pin marking 10 1/4 inches; remove the pin, sew across the strap, and topstitch back down to the bottom edge. Repeat with the remaining side of the strap to complete one side of the handmade bag. Repeat to make the second side.

Step 4: Layer Bag Pieces

Layer both bag pieces with right sides together; pin. Pin loose portion of straps in place to prevent catching them in stitching. Join the bag around all edges, leaving a 5-inch opening at the top center for turning (Diagram 3). Press seams open.

Step 5: Finish Bag

To shape a flat bottom for bag, at one corner match bottom seam line to side seam line, creating a flattened triangle (Diagram 4). Use a sewing gauge to measure 2 inches from the point of the triangle, draw a line across the triangle. Sew on the drawn line. Trim excess fabric. Repeat with the remaining bottom corner of the bag. Turn bag right side out through opening and finger-press seams. If desired, slip-stitch lining opening closed. Insert lining into the finished handmade bag.

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