Sew Yourself a Super Simple Tote Bag! (And Learn How to Line it!)

Hello! Today I'll show you how to make a super, super, easy tote bag. This project is SO good for beginning sewists and to make with children. I use mine for trips to the grocery store every week! It's strong, and cute, and if you choose the right fabric, is totally machine washable. 

This tutorial is part 1 of a two part collaboration with So Sew Easy. If you'd like to learn how to line the bag, there will be a link to part 2 later on in this post. If you don't want to line your bag (which is fine!) then just ignore the link later. I'll make notations in green for the directions that are different for the lining.

What you'll need: 

One piece of fabric sized 20" x 30" in cotton (quilting weight, denim, canvas, corduroy, etc.) for the exterior

One piece of fabric sized 20" x 30" in cotton (quilting weight works best) for the lining (If you're NOT lining your bag, you do not need this piece of fabric)

Two pieces of fabric sized 4" x 16"



Pins (not pictured)

Sewing gauge or quilting ruler

Step 1: Let's make our handles

Begin by ironing one piece of fabric out nice and flat. 

Then iron it in half, wrong sides together. 

Unfold the piece, and you'll see a crease that runs the length of the fabric.

Now, fold the bottom edge of the fabric up until the edge touches the crease you just made.

Iron it.

Then, fold the top edge of the fabric until it touches the center crease and iron it as well. 

You'll now hae something that looks like this:

Take the piece and fold it in half, so that both folded edges are flush.

Iron and repeat the previous steps for the second strap. 

Now, top-stitch a scant 1/4" along the both long edges of your handles. 

Good job, your handles are now finished, and super strong!

Step 2: Now let's construct the body of our bag. 

Begin by folding the exterior piece of fabric in half, right sides together, so that it measures 15" wide by 20" tall. 

Pin along the long edge opposite of the fold, and along one short edge.

Then sew a 1/2" seam along both those edges you pinned.

Trim your corner, being careful not to cut the seam.

Press the side and bottom seam allowances open.

If you want to line your bag, stop reading here and skip to step 4.

If you're not lining your bag, ignore the sentence above and keep going!

Along the top edge (the open edge), fold over 5/8" all the way around.

Then fold again, this time 1 1/2" all the way around.

Press the top well and pin.

Here's what the top of your bag should look like:

Starting at the side seam, sew as close to the bottom edge of the folded cuff as you can, all the way around the top of the bag.

Step 3: Now let's put our handles on our bag! 

Measure 4" in from each side of the bag and pin your handle there. You'll do this four times, once for each end of your handles.

Next, using a zig-zag, or a straight stitch (whichever you prefer) sew along each handle right at the bottom of the handle, and once more, 1" up from the first seam. In total, you'll make 8 seams.

Next, using a knitting needle, gently poke out the corner of your bag to get a nice, clean, corner.

Give your bag a good pressing and you're done! 

Step 4: Prepare to line your bag

To create the lining for our bag, we are going to fold it in half, right sides together, just as we did for the exterior fabric, so that we have a piece that measures 15" by 20.

Sew a 1/2" seam along the same edges that you pinned.

Trim your corner, being careful not to cut the seam.

And now that you've prepared your lining, head over to my tutorial on So Sew Easy to insert the lining into the bag. It's SUCH an easy process and will kick up all your bags, purses and totes to the next level. I appreciate you following along today, and I hope you enjoy the post at So Sew Easy. 

As always, if you have questions, or need clarification on any step, please don't hesitate to ask. Thank you, all! Have a great week!



  1. Hi! I'm a brand new newbie at sewing and I'm looking around for easy beginner patterns, and this tote bag seems really cute and simple and your tuto is easy to follow! But I don't have a lot of equipment, and can't buy anything too expensive. So my question is, is this bag doable without a sewing machine or even an iron?
    I'm not afraid of taking ages to sew any simple thing by hand, I'm just worried about the technicalities of it. As an experienced seamstress... what do you think? XD Am I naive for hoping to learn to sew completely by hand? ^^"
    Thanks and great tuto, in any case :)

    1. Hello Lily!

      Firstly, I applaud your ambition. Hand sewing is something I do at a minimum, when I have to, but something that I want more patience to do. This project is definitely doable without a sewing machine. I would highly suggest an iron, at a minimum, because ironing your project ensures that it looks really nice at the end. You are not naive at all! I say you give it a try, and when you're finished just be sure you send me a picture of your tote! :D Thank you for the question and happy (hand) sewing!

  2. I think it’s fantastic that you want to sew by hand! In this age of instant gratification, it seems to be a dying art. I do lots of hand embroidery & adding hand sewn touches to my garments. It’s relaxing & just plain worth every bit of effort you put into it.


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