Simply Stylish Tote Bag

Tote bags are a practical and stylish gift for any woman — from teacher to new Mom to Grandmother — simply change the fabric pattern or size to suit the tote's recipient.


Project by Caroline Ritzer, Pink Lemonade Bags

Project by Caroline Ritzer, Pink Lemonade Bags

By: Caroline Ritzer


3 coordinating fabric prints, one each for the middle, the base and handles and the liner
fusible interfacing
magnetic snap
grosgrain ribbon
rotary cutting tool
sewing machine
ironing board
parchment paper for pattern
straight pins
Fray Check or lighter for sealing ribbon ends


1. First, create the pattern. On parchment paper, draw a rectangle measuring 7 1/2 inches tall by 13 inches wide for the bag's middle panel. For the bag's bottom, draw a rectangle 6 inches tall by 13 inches wide; on the bottom of this rectangle cut away a 2" x 2" square on each corner. For the handles, draw a rectangle 3 inches tall by 25 inches long. The liner pattern should measure 13" x 13" square with a 2" x 2" square on each corner. Cut out all pattern pieces.

2. Pin the parchment patterns to the fabric and cut out pieces. Cut two each of the middle panel, the bottom and the handles. Then cut fabric for the liner. Cut two pieces of fabric for the liner and a piece for the pocket. Tip: Using decorator or upholstery weight fabrics will make for a sturdier bag.

3. Once the fabric pieces are cut, iron as necessary to remove any wrinkles. Lay fabric interfacing, adhesive side up, lay a fabric piece on top as a pattern and cut interfacing to size. Preheat iron, set it on the cotton fabric setting with no steam. Then iron each fabric piece to the interfacing following the manufacturer's directions. Follow these steps to add interfacing to the middle and bottom pieces of the bag.



Adding interfacing to handles.

Adding interfacing to handles.

4. Interface the fabric for the handles next. Fold over the long sides of the handles using a 1/2-inch allowance and press. Match the long sides of the handle and fold in half, and then press. Stitch the handles together using a 1/4-inch seam allowance and set aside.

5. Sew the middle and bottom bag pieces together using a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Repeat with the other middle and bottom piece. Next, press seams open on both panels.



Adding ribbon to tote.

Adding ribbon to tote.

6. Cut two strips of grosgrain ribbon a little longer than the width of the bag. Create a hand-tied bow with a smaller bit of ribbon and set aside. Stitch the strip of ribbon trim onto the middle of the bag, covering the seam between the middle and bottom pieces of fabric. Stitch as close to the edge of the ribbon as possible. Complete this step for each panel. Finally, stitch the bow onto the ribbon.

7. Constructing the bag. Lay both of the tote bag panels, right sides together, matching up the ribbon trim. Stitch one side of the panels together using a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Match the ribbon trim on the other side of the panel and machine-stitch together with a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Then stitch the base together with 1/2-inch seam allowance.



Pressing seams before turning bag inside-out.

Pressing seams before turning bag inside-out.

8. Press open the three seams with an iron. Open the sides of the bag and the base of the bag and match the seam together. Next, stitch the side and base together using a 1/2-inch seam allowance on both sides.

9. Turn the bag right side out. Fold the top of the bag over 1/2-inch and press. Then press the entire bag, beginning with the side seams. Next, iron the back and front of the bag.

10. The next step is constructing the liner. First, stitch the pocket piece together wrong side out, then turn right side out and press seams. Next, pin pocket piece to the liner. Pin lines for the dividing pocket seams. Then stitch the bottom edge of the pocket. Place both pieces of the liner right sides together. Sew both sides and the bottom piece together with a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Open the sides of the liner and the base of the liner and match the seams together. Sew the side and base together using 1/2-inch seam allowance on both sides. Press the top only of the liner with an iron to remove any wrinkles. Fold over the top of the liner 1/2-inch and press.



Adding magnetic closure to top of bag.

Adding magnetic closure to top of bag.

11. Now that the bag is roughly constructed, it's time to add the magnetic snap. Cut two 3" x 3" pieces of interfacing and center them at the top of liner. Press them with the iron onto the liner. Measure the desired length from the top of the liner down for the holes for the magnetic snaps, using scissors make two small slits. Turn liner over and repeat the previous steps. Separate the magnetic snap into male and female pieces with a stabilizing ring each. Attach the male piece and stabilizing ring into one side of the liner and fold over the fabric. Repeat for the female piece on the other side.

12. Next, pin both handles to the bag. Match up the side seams of the liner to the bag's side seams, pinning the liner in place. Sew the liner, handles and bag together using a 1/4-inch seam allowance, removing pins as you go. Finally, seal the ribbon ends to prevent fraying with Fray Check or carefully melt the ribbon ends with a lighter or match.

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