Monday, June 21, 2010

Quick and Easy Lined Tote Bag Tutorial

Making a lined tote bag isn't too difficult once you do a couple.  The secret is knowing the mechanics of boxing out the bottom corners and how to insert and sew in the lining.  Step 1 is to cut out two big rectangles-one of your outside fabric and one of your lining, then fold each of these in half.  The pieces you see in this photo are folded in half.  I don't use measurements because I just eye-ball how big I want the bag to be.  Your final bag will be a few inches shorter than the size of your original folded rectangle.  You could also cut out two separate pieces and sew them together for your outside fabric if you want the front and back of the bag to be different fabrics, just as long as you end up with a big rectangle of fabric!  (Note: I also cut out one of these pieces in a heavy canvas that I'm going to line my bag with to make it more durable.  This is an optional piece depending on how sturdy you want your bag to be)

Step 2 is to form your outside fabric and your lining into the boxy shape you need for your tote bag.  I discovered the trick I'm going to demonstrate for boxing out corners in a book.  Since I'm using canvas to make my fabric sturdier, I'm simply putting it with my outside fabric and treating them as one piece.  In front of you should be the large folded rectangle your using for the outside of your bag.  Lay it on the table with the folded end towards you.  I like to pin this fold down to help hold it steady.

Step 2.1 Fold down the top layer of your rectangle like you see in this picture.  The amount of overlap you create will determine the size of the bottom of your bag.  For instance, in this picture the overlap is approximately 3", so my bag will have a bottom that is 6" across.  Pin down the top of this fold as well.  You can see my pin in the picture
Step 2.2 Pick up your fabric by pinching it where it is now three layers thick, near your pins on each side, and allow the side furthest from you to drop down and create a fold like you see in this picture.  This is harder to explain than it is to do!  Once you get your fold right, pin it down.  (I promise, once you figure it out, Step 2 takes about 2 seconds to do)

Step 3 Sew up the sides (over the folds you made).  When you flip your bag out you will have nice boxed out corners like this! 

Step 4 Repeat Steps 2 and 3 for your lining.  If you would like a pocket inside your tote bag, sew it in first.  Making a pocket is simply a matter of sewing two rectangles together (right-sides together).  Leave a small gap to turn it inside out from and then top stitch it to the right-side of your lining.

 Step 5 Put your outside fabric (right-side out) inside your lining fabric.  Your right-sides should be facing each other.  As you can see in this picture, the Spiderman fabric is right-side out, and the lining fabric isn't.  Line up your seams and sew around the top of your bag, leaving a gap big enough to pull your entire bag through.

Step 6 Pull your bag through the gap then tuck your lining inside.  Your bag should now be right-side out and looking like a tote bag!  Top-stitch all the way around the top, closing the gap you left.  I pulled my lining fabric down a little so there would be a red border on the top, but you don't have to do that. 

Step 7 Attach your straps.  You can use all kinds of things for straps, but to make it super strong, sewing it like you see in this picture works well (sew a box with an X in it).  I made my straps and eye-balled how long to make them and where to attach them to my bag.  You can insert your straps earlier to have them sewn in between your outside and lining fabrics, but I like to attach them last because I have an easier time lining them up.  Here is my tutorial on how to make straps.

Here is my finished product--a Spiderman tote bag!

If you have any questions about this, feel free to email me, or contact me on Facebook.


  1. Thank you soooo much for this simple easy to follow tutorial! I have now made several of these totes as gifts and all have been loved by their new owners!

  2. Thank you! I didn't think doing corners was that easy. I'm going to get some fabric and make this tote bag!

  3. Your instructions are pretty clear, but if you used two fabrics with more contrast your pictures would be much better. I would suggest using black and white fabric. Thanks.

  4. Help! I have made a bag just like it says, following your pics and all, but my "flaps", (for lack of a better term), are on the outside! I have tried it with pins folding just one sheet of fabric on both the right and wrong sides with the same results. What am I doing wrong? The fold is supposed to be on the bottom, right? Please, can you help me?

  5. I'm not sure what you mean by flaps--but this type of bag will have the corners folded on the outside as seen in the picture of step 3 at the bottom of the bag.

  6. This is yet the best tutorial ive been looking for, really easy step by step.... Thank you do much!!