How to Make Your Own Simple Six-Pocket Tote Bag

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

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!

finished fabric purse with keys and lotion bottle

How to Sew a Simple Bag

Supplies Needed

  • ¼-yard cotton fabric (straps)
  • Fabric shears or scissors
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil or pen
  • ⅔-yard cotton fabric (pockets)
  • 2 10¼×14¼-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: 8×10×4 inches
  • Quantities are for 44/45-inch-wide, 100 percent cotton fabrics.
  • Measurements include ¼-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

cutting fabric for sewing six pocket fabric tote bag

BHG / Sanja Kostic

The first thing you'll need to do is decide which fabrics you want to use. You can make this bag from all the same fabric, or opt for three coordinating fabrics for the straps, pocket, and lining. Once you've chosen your fabrics and washed and dried them, cut your pieces in the following order using fabric scissors ($12, Walmart).

For the straps: Cut two 4×34 ½-inch strips

For the pocket: Cut two 14½×16½-inch rectangles

For the lining: Cut two 14½×20½-inch rectangles

Step 2: Assemble Straps

assembling straps for sewing six pocket fabric tote bag

BHG /Sanja Kostic

To assemble the straps, take one of your 4×34 ½-inch strips and fold it in half lengthwise with the wrong side inside, and press. Open and fold long edges into the center, then press again. Refold the strip in half and press. Topstitch ⅛-inch from the outer edges to make a finished strap. Repeat this step with your other 4×34 ½-inch strip to make a second strap.

bag pattern17

Step 3: Assemble Bag Pieces

Fold one of the 14½×16½-inch rectangles in half lengthwise with the wrong side facing in to make an 8¼×14½-inch pocket rectangle, then press. Repeat with the other rectangle to make a second pocket rectangle. Referring to Diagram 2, with right sides together, layer a 14½×20½-inch rectangle lining rectangle and a pocket rectangle.

Place a 10¼×14½-inch batting rectangle under the layered pieces, then pin all layers together with sewing pins ($6, Walmart). 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 the strap 10¼ inches from the bottom edge. Beginning at the bottom edge of layered pieces, topstitch one side of the strap up to the pin marking 10¼ 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.

bag pattern19

Step 4: Layer Bag Pieces

Layer both bag pieces with right sides together and pin, making sure to pin the 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. (Refer to Diagram 3 for this step.) Press the seams open.

bag pattern19

Step 5: Finish Bag

finishing the bottom of the fabric tote bag

BHG / Sanja Kostic

To shape a flat bottom for the bag, at one corner match the bottom seam line to side seam line, creating a flattened triangle (as seen in Diagram 4). Use a sewing gauge ($5, Walmart) to measure 2 inches from the point of the triangle; draw a line across the triangle. Sew on the drawn line, then trim the excess fabric. Repeat with the remaining bottom corner of the bag, then turn the bag right side out through the opening and finger-press the seams. If desired, slip-stitch the lining opening so it's completely closed, then insert lining into the finished handmade bag.

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