Tag Archives: How to Make a Tote Bag

Make It Yourself

As you may have noticed (or not!) I have had a bit of a rearrange of my categories and menu. I’ve made a new category (and archive page) for posts where you could make the things yourself – like my tutorial for making a tote bag and how to make a running armband: Make It.

I thought I’d write this quick post to let you know all the ones I’ve written before, which are now in the archive. I’ll be checking through them to make sure they all have comprehensive enough instructions for you to follow. Let me know if you spot anything that needs better instructions.

I’m hoping to add new posts of crafty, and thrifty things you can make yourself. I love sharing things I’ve made, but I want to encourage other people to make things too.

You can make food shopping/ planning less painful (well, I find it less painful!) with this meal planner pinboard.


Make your very own Doc Brown costume from Back To The Future – though it might be too late now it’s not 2015 any more 😦

Finished 2

One of my favourite ever makes, A Beautiful Mess’s Felt Allotment, could be made for any kid in your life – and, in fact, I kinda want one myself!


Do you know a kid with a favourite show or book? Why not make them a cushion with the character on, like my Sarah and Duck cushion?


Have you set a New Year’s Resolution to take up jogging (or another kind of exercise)? Make yourself an armband to hold your phone so you can listen to chunes while you work out!


Ah, the tote bag. If you’re living in the England, then what better way to avoid the new plastic bag charge than by making up a bunch of tote bags?


I made these tea cup candles a while ago, and I plan to make more as they’re so cute!

Tea Cup Candle

If you know someone who recently had a baby, but don’t really know what to get them, why not applique some animals or flowers or letters or anything at all on some babygrows? Clothes are always a useful gift and this way they’re a bit more personal!


I made this Polaroid camera case for a friend of mine a while ago, and the principles could be transferred to any camera. Of course, not everyone will probably like an anatomical heart adorning it…….

Polaroid Camera Case

This has to be one of the easiest makes ever – you just need a clock kit from ebay! And a vinyl record, of course.


For one of my many friends who likes BBC’s Sherlock I made this Kindle cover – it’s got silhouettes on one side and the purple shirt of sex and John’s cabled jumper on the other side!

Finished 1

If you don’t fancy making a cushion for a kiddie, you could make a wall hanging instead, like this one of Norman The Slug With A Silly Shell!


Homemade Christmas Presents

Usually around this time of year (i.e. after Christmas) I start posting about all the homemade gifts I’ve made for people. But this year, for the first time in about 6 years, I haven’t made anyone a present. I found this year that the run-up to Christmas was a bit stressful and it went really quickly – I had only about 4 evenings and 2 weekend days off in the month running up to Christmas! So instead of posting this year’s makes, I thought I would round-up the things I’ve made in previous years. Maybe if I start having ideas now, by next year I’ll have made a couple of things!

I’ll list these from quickest to longest to make (roughly), so you’ll have an idea of what you can complete in time if, like me, you start too late!

You can easily, and quickly, make a bowl out of a vinyl record for someone, like I did with this one for my brother-in-law.

Vinyl Bowl c

Or another idea for a vinyl record is to make it into a clock.


Tea cup candles are pretty and can be flavoured – I gave mine a chocolate smell! And they’re not as scary to make as you might think!

Tea Cup Candle

You can always make clothes for someone else (and not just for yourself!) as I did with this Grainline Scout Tee for a friend, out of Strawberry fabric – Strawberries are her favourite thing!


A good alternative to clothes is an apron, which you can customise depending on the taste of the person you’re making it for – this one is cake themed for my baking friend.


An easy gift for any new babies in your family or friendship group is to applique some baby grows. You could do flowers or trains or other animals, or whatever the kid is into (if they’re old enough to have interests).


If you fancy a bit more sewing, you could make a tote bag for someone, using this tutorial, with their favourite thing on – in this case BBC’s Sherlock (who’s excited for New Year’s Day!?).


Or, also requiring a bit more sewing, you can make some baby clothes.


If you’re not into sewing, or if you fancy a non-sewn gift, you can make a scrapbook, like this one I made for my dad’s 60th birthday.


If you know how to knit and know someone who likes lego, what better than this knitted lego brick doorstop (with an actual brick inside).


Again for the kiddies, maybe for older ones than the baby grows, why not make a cushion or wall hanging with their favourite book or character on?



Probably the first thing anyone makes when they learn to knit is a scarf, so why not knit one (or more) as gifts?


If you’ve got a bit more sewing time, and an older kid than for the cushion or wall hanging, you can make a felt allotment or a (travel) matching game. This both take a while because there’s lots of bits to make (and lots of squares to sew for the matching game!), but you can make then as complicated as you like or have time for.



Finally, if you have lots of knitting time (in front of a boxset, perhaps?!), then you could make a rug like this one, which was based on a cushion pattern).

Round, stripy rug

Do you make Christmas presents for people? If so, how early do you start and what have been your favourite makes?

Make It: Make a Tote Bag

I’ve been planning this post for ages – since I made some totes for my friends 2 years ago. I failed to take decent photos at the time, though, so when I decided to make a bag for one of my friends at work, I made sure to take plenty of step-by-step photos.

What you will need to make a tote bag:

P1020364-PS-medium labels
The dimensions of calico/ muslin that you need to cut are:

2     42cm x 42cm (for the sides)
1     42cm x 10cm (for the bottom)
2     84cm x 10cm (for the straps)

I have decorated each of the bags I’ve made with things the person would like, such as a strawberry for my friend who loves…..well….strawberries:


or a car for my car-mad friend:


The bag I photographed was for one of my many, many friends who are obsessed with BBCs Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. The templates I used here are the same as the ones I used for the Sherlock-themed Kindle case I made for my aunt.

The theory for making these silhouettes is the same for whatever decoration you decide to add. I’ve always used felt, so that it doesn’t fray.


Pin your felt pieces to one of the sides. I don’t usually measure where the middle is, I just guess and make sure they look like they’re vaguely in the middle. If you do want to measure the middle, though, you can fold your fabric in half and in half again, then mark the point.

You then need to sew all around the edges of your shapes. This can be quite fiddly so I turn the needle by hand a lot and go very slowly when using the peddle. For going around any corners (of which there are loads for these silhouettes!), keep the needle down in the fabric, lift the foot and swivel the fabric, putting the foot back down before you carry on.

Make sure you take your pins out as you go around, so the needle doesn’t hit any and jam your machine. It’s especially important for a complicated shape like Sherlock, as you might hit the head of a pin on the other side of the shape if you don’t take them out.

It’s not vital to be super, super accurate (as long as your thread is a good match for your felt), as you can’t really see the stitching too well unless you’re really looking for it.

Another way you can decorate your tote bag is with some of the decorative stitches on your machine.


I decided to sew ovals around each of my silhouettes – they look a bit bare without anything. It seems fitting since they’re Victorian-style silhouettes. I traced an oval shape onto some greaseproof paper and then put it pencil side down over each silhouette, then drew around the oval with pencil, marking the fabric. You could probably do this with a tracing wheel and something more fabric appropriate than a normal pencil, but since I knew I’d be sewing over these lines, I just used a normal drawing pencil.


Then you just need to follow your line with your chosen stitch. I put the line so it goes down the centre of my standard foot.


I overlap the stitches a little bit at the bottom – it looks a tiny bit messy, but I’m willing to sacrifice that for the stitches not unraveling!

Now we can move onto actually constructing the bag! I used all french seams as I like the inside of the bag to look all neat, and to give the seams a bit of extra strength, as they’re all sewn twice.

Pin the wrong sides together of one side (42cm x 42cm) and the bottom piece (42cm x 10cm).

Sew them together with a 1cm seam allowance.

Pin the wrong side of the second side (42cm x 42cm) to the other long edge of the wrong side of the bottom piece (42cm x 10cm).

Sew these together also with a 1cm seam allowance. To make the french seams, trim the seam allowances by about half.

Iron the seams open.

Now turn the sides so that they’re right sides together with the bottom and pin each seam, enclosing the seam and seam allowance you’ve just sewn/ trimmed.

Sew these seams with a 0.5cm seam allowance.

Your bag will now look like this on the wrong side:

Next, pin your sides together, wrong sides together. Include the bottom piece in this seam, folding it in half.

To reduce bulk, make one french seam go up and one down when you pin the bottom seams together.

Trim the seam allowances then sew the seams again, right sides together, as with the bottom seams, to make the side seams french seams.

To make the bottom of the bag square at the side seams, instead of flat as they are now, with the bag inside out open up the bottom piece and spread the side pieces at the side seam. Pin across the bottom triangle, where the 2 lines of stitching are from the bottom seams.

P1020324-PS-medium label
To make the straps, fold them in half lengthways and pin.

Sew with a 1cm seam allowance.

Turn them the right side out.

Iron the straps flat, with the seam in the middle of one edge (so it’s underneath when you sew them onto the bag).

With the bag inside out, turn the top down 1.5cm twice, to make a hem of 3cm in total. Place the straps under the hem, 5cm in from the edge, facing down (towards the bottom of the bag). Place the straps hem down, like below. Each strap is sewn onto one side of the bag – they don’t go across the top of the back, they go along each side. Sew the hem, passing through each of the strap ends.

Fold the straps up by 4cm, towards the top of the bag. The 4cm is the same as the width of the strap, so the overlap is a square.

P1020334-PS-mediumSew each strap end, sewing first in a square, then in a cross, twice – this is to make sure the straps are really securely sewn on.

Now all that’s left to do is stand back and admire your handiwork!


If you use this tutorial, let me know – I’d love to see your makes! Also, let me know if I’ve missed anything off or anything is unclear. And do let me know if you use this tutorial to make a tote bag, I’d love to see it!