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DIY Cut-and-Sew Tote Bag

This is a sewing tutorial made to accompany my DIY cut-and-sew reversible tote panels available at Spoonflower (I add new colors and prints seasonally!). I’m about to walk you through step-by-step from beginning to end, and before you know it you’ll have a brand new tote bag to show off at knit night. Now, let’s #craftrealmagic!

I designed this tote to be extra tall, not only to fit larger knitting projects like sweaters and shawls, but also so you can fold over the top to help keep your precious cargo more secure when your tote is on the floor. There’s nothing worse than a tote tipping over at knit night and everything spilling out under your seat! Oh, and did I mention this tote is fully reversible!? Well it is 🙂

Please read through all instructions before you begin cutting!

Supplies Needed:
To make this tote you’ll need one DIY cut-and-sew tote panel (available here), a few straight pins, a small ruler or seam gauge, your iron and ironing board, fabric scissors, a spool of thread and, of course, your sewing machine.

A 1/2″ seam allowance has been built into all pattern pieces.

Step 1: Prep Your Fabric
If you plan to wash your tote bag regularly after you’ve completed it, you’ll want to pre-wash your fabric before you start. If you wash your tote bag for the very first time after you’ve completed it, you may experience some fabric shrinkage and side seams that warp. If your tote panel is wrinkly or has heavy creases, you’ll find the fabric much easier to cut and sew once it’s been ironed. Keep in mind that aggressive ironing could stretch your fabric, and if your fabric is overly stretched, your pieces may not fit together as they should.

Step 2: Cut Out Your Pieces
There are only 4 pattern pieces to keep track of with this tote project: One tote body, one tote lining, and two straps. Cut along the dashed lines of each of the four pieces.

Step 3: Identify Pattern Markings
On your pattern pieces you’ll notice a few markings. There are two circles to note on the tote lining, and also a few notches on both the tote lining and tote body. There are two notches along each top edge of the tote body piece, which we’ll use to place our tote straps, and a notch to mark the center of each boxed corner. Make a mental note of each of these markings – we’ll use them soon!

Step 4: Sew the Tote Straps
I prefer this “foldover sandwich” method of making straps because it negates the very fiddly turn-a-small-tube-inside-out step. Start by folding the 1/2″ seam allowance to the wrong side along the length of each strap edge. Use your iron to press the fold nice and flat as you work. Once both seam allowances are folded in towards each other and pressed well, fold the strap in half so the pressed edges meet, then pin in place. Stitch down the entire length of each strap edge to secure the seam allowances in place.

Step 5: Attach Straps to Tote Body
Pin each strap in place by aligning the strap edge to the outside of each notch along the top edge of the tote. There will be 4 inches of space between the strap ends when pinned correctly. Double-check to make sure your strap isn’t twisted before basting in place. Repeat on the other end for the second strap.

Step 6: Sew the Tote Body and Tote Lining
Pin and sew the tote body along each side using a 1/2″ seam allowance. Repeat for the tote lining.

Step 7: Sew the Boxed Corners
To make a boxed corner, press the side seams of your tote body open. Match the middle of the seam with the center notch of the boxed corner. Pin in place and stitch across at 1/2 inch. Repeat for the tote lining.

Step 8: Join the Tote Body and Tote Lining
Turn the tote lining so the right side faces out and slip it into the tote body. The right sides should now be facing together. Pin the lining and body together at the top, aligning side seams and leaving the space open between the circle markings. Make sure your tote straps are still neatly tucked down along the tote body. Stitch across the top using a 1/2″ seam allowance, and don’t forget to leave that space open between the circles!

Step 9: This step feels kinda like magic…
Now we’re going to turn the tote inside-out by gently pulling the lining out through the gap we left open between the two circles.

Step 10: Almost done!
Once your tote lining is pulled all the way through, and both the body and lining are right-side-out, tuck the lining back down inside the tote body. Arrange the top seam neatly and press flat, tucking the seam allowance of the opening to the inside. Pin the opening closed and top-stitch around the entire perimeter of the tote to close the hole. I like to add a second line of stitching below the top line of stitches to give the straps added strength and take some stress off the top seam of the tote.

Step 11: DO A HAPPY DANCE! YOU MADE A TOTE!!
BEHOLD THE FRUITS OF YOUR CRAFTY MAGNIFICENCE! YOU FIBER-WIZARDING GENIUS, YOU! IS THERE NO END TO YOUR SUPERHUMAN ABILITY?! I don’t know about you but sewing/knitting/crafting literally makes me feel like this. I hope it makes you feel the same!

Step 12: (optional) Compost Your Fabric Scraps!
I love Spoonflower because they’re an earth-conscious company. Inspired by their efforts, this year I’ve started composting my fabric scraps! I’ve specifically designed the cut-and-sew tote panels to utilize as much of the yardage as possible (just like I do with my project bags) so there’s very little waste leftover to stress about. 100% natural fibers like cotton will biodegrade with time, so if you have a compost bin at home you can cut up your tote scraps into small pieces and add them right to the pile! Natural fabrics are considered a “brown layer” or carbon layer in your backyard compost lasagna, so sprinkle the scraps in with the next batch of dried leaves/twigs/staw/etc. Spoonflower fabrics are produced without flame-retardants or harmful chemicals like formaldehyde and lead, which is important information to know when considering what’s going into your compost!

Thanks for sewing along with me! Wear your crafty handiwork proudly!

Finished tote dimensions: 13″ wide across the top and 18″ tall with a 5″ boxed corner and 30″ straps.

Please share your tote with me on Instagram so I can see what you’ve created! – @homerowfiberco #homerowfiberco

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