Easy Tote Bag

This is a very easy project to complete in a day and an ideal beginner project.

I love to make a new tote to match my mood or to give as a quick pressie.

It’s reusable, can be as big or as small as you like, you can add pockets or not. It’s up to you!


The requirements will make the perfect all round shopper sized bag.

50 cm each of 2 fabrics (1 will be the main, 1 will be for the inside lining)

50 cm of thin fusible batting or (50cm x 85cm) if using scraps ( you can use pellons, parlan, fusible foam etc)

1.5mtrs of 25 – 38mm wide herringbone tape (this is used for quick handles, you can make your own out of fabric if you prefer)

Threads to blend with your colours

Optional piece of template plastic or similar for bag base


Cut 2 pieces of fabric 50 cm x 85cm these will be your main and lining pieces.

Cut your wadding to 50 x 85cm

The extra fabric can be used to add pockets

Sewing instructions

I like to sew with a seam the width of my foot for this project to make things as easy as possible and stitch length on my sewing machine at 2-2.5mm

Fuse your wadding to the wrong side of your main fabric being careful not to get the sticky side on your iron or ironing table. ( if your wadding is not fusible then use lots of pins to keep it together)

Set up your machine with a walking foot if available and stitch length 3-3.5mm

Sew / quilt the 2 pieces together. Now if you’ve never done this before you can do straight lines or wavy lines etc for this project I just did straight lines about 5cm (2inches) apart down the length.

Change your stitch length on your machine back to 2-2.5mm for the next bit. You can leave your walking foot on or go back to your standard foot.

Adding pockets

Now is the time to add pockets. You can add them on the outside or the inside or both. I am going to tell you how to add the simplest pocket but first we need to know where it’s going.

You currently have 2 pieces of material, one quilted, one lining fabric. If you fold the fabric in half you will be able to see the top and the bottom of your bag forming. Have a think where you would like to put your pockets.

Next how big? Well at least deep enough that the items won’t fall out too easily and secondly will my hand fit in and can I get things out of the bottom? Will my mobile phone or sunglasses fit? Remember you can have large and small pockets. A large pocket can be divided to form 2 just by sewing through the middle..

I have placed my pockets on the inside middle, big enough to fit either my mobile or sunnies and down from the top so that they are a little bit hidden.

Now you’ve worked out where and what size you need to iron down a the raw edges as we’re going to add it as a patch.

Sew across top edge about 1 cm down

This gives strength to your pocket edge

Next pin your pocket on either the lining or the outer fabric as desired and sew around three sides leaving the top open.

Pockets are a great way to add interest to a bag by adding trims such as ribbon or braids or adding an applique or iron on motif.

Making up the bag

Fold your fabric in half with right sides together and sew up the sides to form the pouch of your bag.

Do the same with your lining piece.

Next we are positioning the handles. Cut your herring bone tape into 75 cm lengths.

Measure in 10cm (4 inches) in from the side seams on both sides of the main fabric piece and pin one of your herring bone tape pieces at each point on one side of the top edge to form a “U” shape making sure that the tape is not twisted. Repeat on the other side. See picture.

Sew across handles to keep in place

Optional base finish

At this point we can keep it simple and just finish off or we can add a flat base finish to our bag and add a piece of board or plastic to give it a harder bottom. Your choice!

If you want to add that base this is how………….

Take your main bag piece and fold it in half with right sides together, the centre of the bag as the outside edge. This will form a point down at the bottom of the bag which we are going to mark.

Draw a line about 6 cm up from the corner and pin. See pic Repeat on the other side and also on the lining. Sew across and trim off the corner.

Fold with seams in the middle
Sew across bottom corner
Cut off excess fabric

You have now created your base!

The final steps

Once your handles are sewn in take the lining and with right sides together fit the bag inside the lining. Pin the two pieces together and sew around the top of the bag making sure to sew through the handle tops but not catching the rest of the handles. Leave an opening of approximately 12cm (5 inches) to pull your lining

through to the right side after sewing.

Leave a 12cm opening across the top of the bag

You’re nearly there!

Once sewn pull your bag and lining right sides out and tuck the lining inside. Now if you’ve made a base and want to insert some plastic or board now is the time to insert it before you sew up the top. Measure your base width and length to get your base size. Mine was around 10cm x 37cm

Give the bag a press and sew a top stitch around the upper edge of your bag reinforcing the stitches across the handles and tucking in the raw edges on the opening.

If you’ve forgotten to put on the handles you can still do that by sewing them on the outside of your bag or you might have found a pair of leather handles to use.

This is just the start of your bag making it’s a simple design but you can adapt it any way you like. 😊

Hope you enjoyed this


PS if you’re interested in the fabrics I used. The outside fabric was a combination from Anna Maria Horners Conservatory fabric. I used a metre of each fabric and created 4 bags along with 2 metres of lining.