How to Make a Canvas Tote Bag You'll Take Everywhere

This DIY carry-everywhere bag is customizable, cute, and ready for adventure.

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.

yoga mat in canvas tote on floor near shoes and water bottle
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 1/2 x 15 x 6 1/2 inches.
  • Quantities are for 44/45-inch-wide, 100 percent cotton quilting and canvas fabrics (Joann, $13).
  • 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 instructions, you can create your own oversized canvas tote bag. You should be able to complete this craft project in just a couple of hours.

canvas tan blue floral light brown leather fabric strips
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 the fusible fleece, cut two 18 3/4 × 22 1/2-inch rectangles.

Step 2: Prepare the Handles

Fit your machine with a 90/14 heavyweight sewing needle (Walmart, $7). Make the handles by folding two long sides of two 3 × 22-inch vinyl strips to the center, overlapping slightly. Hold in place with clips. Sew a 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.

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 the seam toward the vinyl and topstitch on the front side of the 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 the canvas-only (top) edge open.

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

Step 4: Create the Bottom of the Bag

Create a flat bottom for the bag. Align the 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 the triangle 1/4-inch from the seam. Repeat for the other bottom corner.

Step 5: Attach Handles

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

close-up finished leather strap sewn to tan canvas floral canvas pinned
Jacob Fox

Step 6: Make the Lining

Make the lining. Adhere fusible fleece interfacing (Joann, $12) to the wrong side of the 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 the 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.

Step 7: Create Facing

Create the 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.

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 the handles down against the sides of the bag.

Step 9: Finish the Bag

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

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