How to sew a tote bag with shoulder straps and lining

File under: anti-corporate, DIY, environmentally friendly, repurposed materials, useful and adorable

This tote is perfect for carrying 8.5×11” spiral notebooks, binders, file folders, personal items or light shopping. It could function easily as either a purse or day bag. The straps are long enough that it can be carried by its handles or worn over your shoulder, whichever is your, um, bag.

In this version of the bag, the exterior fabric was purchased at a flea market and the interior of the bag was repurposed from the back of a men’s dress shirt. Total cost: less than $2.

35” x 13.75” outside material (here blue cotton houndstooth)
30” x 13.5” lining (here pink cotton gingham)
2 strips 36” x 3” handle material (here houndstooth again)
sturdy thread
needle and straight pins

Prep time: 8 hours, if sewing by hand

1. Fold one of the strap fabrics in half (to make a 36 x 1.5 inch strip), fabric fronts facing inward. Use a simple running stitch to sew the long side. Turn the strip inside out. Iron flat, with the seam along one edge. (There’s a pretty good description of how to make this kind of strap here.) Repeat for the second strap.

2. Fold the long side of the pink gingham in half, with fabric fronts facing, to make a 15 inch by 13.5 inch square. Using a back stitch (or any other sturdy stitch), sew the two longer sides shut to form a bag, with one open side. Repeat with the blue houndstooth, leaving the top 2.5 inches (at the open end) unsewn.

3. Turn the blue bag right-side-out, so that the seams are on the inside. Do not reverse the pink lining. Put the pink bag inside the blue bag, tacking the bottom corners so it stays in place. The lining will be shorter than the blue bag.

4. Fold and pin the excess blue fabric into the bag, to form a 1.5 inch lip. If you’re feeling fancy, tuck the edge of the fabric under itself to make a clean hem. Iron the sides and top of the bag to make sure it’s flat. Using a running stitch, sew around the bag a half inch from the top of the bag. Sew a second row an inch below that.

5. Sew one end of one strap to the inside lip of the bag, 3 inches from the seam of the side of the bag. Sew a square with an X through it, using a back stitch or other sturdy stitch. Sew the other strap to the same side of the bag, 3 inches from the opposite seam. Both ends of the handle should be on the same side of the bag. Repeat with the other strap on the other side of the bag.



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