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Sew-cial Circles: Simple Tote Tutorial

September 22, 2011

Here is my Simple Tote Tutorial! I know, it’s a ubiquitous tutorial, but hey, everyone has their own way of doing things and maybe someone will find this one helpful. This is a lined tote with a flat bottom and one interior and one exterior pocket. It’s pretty big too, easily carrying 3 beach towels with room to spare. So without further ado:

Simple Tote Tutorial


1/2 yard of outer fabric (I used basic quilting cotton fabric)

1/2 yard of lining fabric


The obvious sewing supplies – machine, scissors, iron, etc.


Step one – cut the pieces. You will need one outer piece and one lining piece around these measurements 17.5″ x 44″; two handles measuring approximately 3.5″ x 31.5″; and two pockets measuring 8.5″ x 6.5″. All of these pieces can be altered to your liking, just make sure your handles are the same length and your outer fabric and lining pieces are the same size. Also, I usually do about a 1/4 inch seam, but remember all of this is easily adapted to whatever you are comfortable with or prefer.

Step two – prepare the pockets. Fold and press all sides of the both pockets in about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Select which side will be the top of each pocket, and fold that side in one more time and press. Sew the top edge of each pocket down. I did a double seam, but this is optional. Remember that you can’t sew this down when you sew the pocket on because you would be sewing the pocket closed.

Step three – Sew the pockets on. Lay your outer piece of fabric out, right side out, and pin one prepared pocket approximately in the middle, keeping in mind that you will be seaming one side and the bottom, so the bag will not be quite as tall or as wide as it appears now. Sew down three sides (not the top, obviously). Starting on one side stitch until you are close to the end of that side, stop your machine with the needle down, lift the presser foot and rotate the material positioning it to sew for the next side, lower presser foot and sew the next side. Repeat for the third side. Repeat this process for the second pocket on the lining piece of fabric.

Step four – Prepare the handles. Take the long pieces and fold them in half long way (hotdog way, if you remember that from school) right sides together and press. Sew along the long open edge, leaving the two ends open. Turn right side out and press. I double top stitched my handles on both sides, I would suggest at least topstitching the side that you just sewed to help the handle keep its shape.

Step five – Fold your outer fabric piece in half with right sides together. Sew along the bottom and side of the outer part of the bag. Repeat with the lining fabric piece.

Step six – make the bottom of your bag flat. I guess you could leave this part out, but I find that you can’t put as much into the bag when you skip this step… To make a flat bottom, you need to sew the corners. First, hold the outer part of the bag so that one bottom corner is pointing at you. Pinch either side of the bag, and pull the sides apart. Flatten the corner out matching the centers of the sides you did not pinch. Then, sew across the newly folded  corner about 2 inches from the point. This is really hard to put into words, so hopefully the pictures will help… Feel free to leave any questions in the comments, I check them regularly. Repeat this step with the other bottom corner of the outer bag, and with both bottom corners of the lining part of the bag.

Step seven – put the bag together. Tuck the lining of the bag inside the outer part of the bag, right sides together. It might seem weird, but you want the bag put together with the wrong sides out. Position the handles on either side, tucked in between the two layers of your bag. Pin in place, and pin around what will be the top opening of your bag. Stitch around the top, leaving an opening about 3 inches long to turn the bag right side out. At this point I reinforced the stitching every time I came to a handle (stitched backward and then forward again) just to give it a little added strength.

Step eight – final details. Turn the bag right side out through the opening. Iron around the top, folding the edges at the opening in to match the rest of the bag. Top stitch around the bag, starting on the opposite side as the opening you used to turn the bag right side out, and closing the opening as you go. I also reinforced the handles as I did this, and I did a double top stitch, so those handles aren’t going anywhere.

Step nine – Enjoy your bag! I took mine to the beach full of books and beach towels, plenty of room.

I’m linking up at:

Thirty Hand Made Days

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