How to Make a Reversible, Lined, Tote Bag

I know the world probably doesn’t need another tutorial on how to make a tote bag.  But, this tote bag is different ~ sort of.  It’s a reversible, lined tote bag for a guy.  So, the world does need another tote bag tutorial.

Here’s the thing ~ Mr. Seasoned Homemaker takes his lunch to work almost every day.  Why ~ {obviously} it saves money, but our bigger concern is the quality of food available to him near his downtown office.

How to Make a Lined Reversible ToteFor several years now he has packed his lunch and carried it in a plastic grocery bag ~ but these are now banned in the city of Austin.  This caused me to hoard said bags and complain when he didn’t bring his bag home {I know, some people can obsess about the silliest things}.  That caused Mr. SH to snatch one of those green bags they have at the grocery store check out and claim it for carrying his lunch {plus his thermos of coffee and work portfolio}.

Overall, the bag was the right size ~ and it had a wide bottom ~ which makes it more suitable for carrying a lunch container. Unfortunately, his lunch bag caused some good-natured comments at work

I ask you ~ what’s a wife to do?  Hmm.  Maybe I should make him a manly-man lunch totin’ bag.

Reversible Tote Bag TutorialIf you need a refresher, here’s another TOTE BAG tutorial that I did a while back.

Today’s tutorial will be slightly different.  It will be in a manly-man two-tone (aka color block) brown and black and it will have an interior pocket to hold a thermos and eating utensils.  The bottom of the tote will be significantly wider to accommodate a storage container,  thus making it perfect for carrying lunch {plus a few work-related items}.

The Supplies

Reversible Tote Bag Tutorial

For my tote I’m using a heavy canvas (sometimes called Duck cloth).  I am also making the bag tall because my guy carries home binders of work-related papers.  Making it large will give him room for these extra things that he carries back and forth to his office.

  • Cut 2 Pieces 11″ x 20″ for Bag Top
  • Cut 2 Pieces 9″ x 20″ for Bag Bottom
  • Cut 2 Pieces 20″ x 20″ for Bag Lining
  • Cut 2 Pieces 4″ x 22″ for Bag Handle
  • 1 Piece of 9″ x 10″ Plastic Canvas {Optional}
  • Cut 1 Piece 13″ x 15″ for {Optional} Interior Pocket – The size will depend on what will be in the pocket. Mine is over sized to hold a thermos, but 8″ x 15″ would work to hold small items like a cell phone.

The Tools

  • Sewing Machine
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Iron & Ironing Board
  • Heavy Duty (Jeans) Sewing Needles
  • Removable Fabric Marker

The Process:  Outer Bag

Attach Bag Top to Bag Bottom using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Color Block Tote Bag

Press seam towards Bag Top.

How to Make a Reversible Tote

Top stitch to make seam sturdy.

Color Block Tote Bag

With right sides together, carefully match the sides and pin to hold.

Colro Block Tote Bag

Stitch the side seams and bottom using a 1/4″ seam allowance.   Be sure to leave the top open.

Reversible Tote Tutorial


In order for the bag to have a flat bottom you will need to create a pleat on both sides.  To do this, fold the bottom corner of the bag until it creates a corner triangle.  Match up the side seam and bottom seam and it will line up perfectly.  Press with steam.
Reversible Tote Bag
Reversible Tote
Pin the triangle to hold.  With a removable marker, make a mark 4″ in from the corner and 8″ across the triangle.
Reversible Tote
Reversible Tote
Stitch across the pleat.  Clip away all but a 1/4″ seam allowance.  Repeat on the other side.

Reversible Tote
Set bag aside.

Reversible Tote


The Process:  Bag Lining

Prepare the Pocket for the Bag Lining by ironing under a 1/4″ hem on the two long sides and the bottom.  Note:  My pocket is 13″  wide x 15″  tall in order to accommodate a thermos.

Fold under a double turned hem on the top edge and top stitch.

Reversible Tote

With right sides together, pin together ONE of the Bag Lining sides.  Stitch using a 1/4″ seam allowance.  Press flat.

Lay Bag Lining flat.  Mark the center of the Pocket.  Place wrong side of Pocket to right side of Bag Lining. Line up the center of the Pocket with the Bag Lining seam.  Pin 1.25″ from top edge.  Sew Pocket to Bag lining by top stitching down the sides and across the bottom.

Reversible Bag

With right sides together, attach other side seam and bottom seam.

Using the same technique as above, create a pleat in the bottom of the Bag Lining.  Pin to hold, press, and mark 4″ in from the corner and 8″ across.  Stitch across mark and clip away excess.  Repeat on other side.

Reversible Bag

Set Bag Lining aside while you prepare the Bag Handles.Reversible Tote

With right sides together, fold Bag Handles lengthwise and pin to hold.  Stitch using a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Reversible Tote

Using either a turning tool or safety pin, turn Bag Handle right side out.  Press flat and top stitch 1/8″ down sides.  If you have an Edge Stitch Foot, this is a great place to use it.

Repeat for second Bag Handle.

Reversible Tote

Turn Bag inside out.  With right sides together, insert Bag Lining into Bag.

Reversible Tote

Insert the bag handles between the Bag and the Bag Lining about 6″  from side seams.  Be sure the handles are straight and do not twist.  Bag handles should be side-by-side, sandwiched between the right sides of the fabric.  The raw edges of the bag handles should be approximately 6″ apart.

Reversible Bag

Pin in place and repeat on opposite side of bag. Using a 1/2″ seam allowance, stitch around the top edge of your bag.


Reversible Tote

Reversible Tote

Turn Bag right side out and press top seam.

Reversible TotePush Bag Lining into Bag and press top edge. Pin the opening before stitching closed.  Using a 1/4″ seam, top stitch around the top edge.

How to Make a Reversible Tote

And, you are done!

Whenever I make a pattern from something that has no pattern, I really never know what it is going to look like.  I had to imagine my hubby walking through downtown Austin carrying a tote bag.  Would it look like a girly-girl bag?  I chose brown and black to give it a masculine feel.  What I didn’t realize was how suede-y it would look.

It looks like something a guy could use to carry tools or hunting stuff.

Reversible Tote

After creating this bag I realized how perfect it would be for carrying groceries.  Since most stores in Austin no longer offer plastic bags it has become necessary to have a few reusable bags on hand.  {More than once I’ve had to wheel out my groceries in the cart and dump them into a laundry basket in my trunk because I was bagless.}

Tote Bag Tutorial 31 Reversible Tote

This all-purpose bag is tall and has a wide bottom making it perfect for carrying groceries.  It’s also tough and will not tear apart easily because it is made of canvas.  Because the bag can easily be washed and dried I won’t have to worry about harboring bacteria in my bag.

All in all ~ a perfect all purpose bag.



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  1. Sandra says

    oh what a great idea and tutorial. I will try to make one as soon as I come home from vacation (this would be great for one shopping tote and a other for my daughter school lunch.
    Blessings from France

  2. Debbie Rines says

    Great idea. I think I need to make a size to fit my granddaughter so she can haul her favorite toys to the car for her trip to Grammys. Thanks

  3. says

    You’re right–it really does look suede-y!
    I see the optional plastic canvas in the list of supplies, but I don’t think I see it in the tutorial itself.
    I just used plastic canvas yesterday in the cat bag and found it really makes a difference as to the look of the bag.
    Anyway, another great tutorial from you!

    • Leslie says

      Great comment. For my hubs lunch, he prefers no canvas. For groceries, I keep canvas in the bottom. It works great for heavier items. To size correctly, trace the finished bottom of the bag and then cut out.

  4. says

    I really like the looks of your manly tote-bag! Nice design and size too! Great job! I will have to give it a try sometime.
    Never heard of a city banning plastic bags, but I’m sure lots more will in the future.


  5. says

    Great Bag. Perfect colors and design for a Manly Man. Thanks for sharing your tutorial! I love the idea of having a tote bag that will last, and can be washed and dried. I am pinning your post. ;o)

  6. says

    Plastic bags are not banned where we live, but I often feel like my husband needs something to carry his lunch in besides a grocery bag. But you’re right, there is the issue of ‘looking girlish’ carrying a ‘bag’. I think you did a great job solving this problem! :

  7. says

    This is great! Some of those reusable bags are made really cheap – I had the bottom fall out on me once (full of groceries too!)

    I recently made a tote bag for the first time, and it definitely didn’t turn out as good. I’m going to have to try one with stronger material though – hubby was just complaining that his current lunch bag is on it’s last leg.

    Visiting from Thrifty Thursday. :)

    • Leslie says

      The canvas is so sturdy. I highly recommend it for a grocery toting bag. Also, another trick is to use the triple straight stitch for top stitching. It will look nice and add in another layer of sturdiness.

  8. Rebeckah says

    I need to make this for my hubby! He has a lunch bag/box but carries all his other work stuff, papers etc in a reusable trader joes bag (used to be plastic bags too!).. Off for some fabric shopping..

  9. Eric says

    Hi Leslie,

    Thanks for this tutorial. This is really great! I am a guy looking for a bag with exact size specifications (I looked everywhere) but could not find anything anywhere so this tutorial is really great as I think I would now be able to make the back exactly how I want it to be. I just have a few questions.

    * How much seam allowance is recommended for cutting the fabric pieces of the bag?
    * Would it be easy to add a recessed zipper closure on the top of this bag? Have you got any tips or a tutorial on that as well?
    * What are your tips in adding outside pockets on the bag? Should they be sewn on the main bag’s panel first?

    Thanks again!


  10. JC Allen says

    Excellent tutorial!!! My three sons all had an additional request for theirs. They didn’t want it to look at though they had a tote bag but wanted one with a sort of flap. That way, no one could discern what was in his flapped tote. Can you work on that and get back to me???? KUDOS!!! JC Allen

    • MKEgal says

      Sew a piece of velcro on the outside of the bag a couple inches down from the edge.
      Make a flap that will fit between the handles (probably cut it at 6×4″, so it ends up 5×3″ when the bag is finished) and put the other piece of velcro on the lining side of it about 1″ up from the free end.
      When you insert the handles, add the flap too. Make sure it’s on the opposite side from the outer bag velcro, and that the lining of the flap is facing the lining of the bag.
      The 5″ direction goes between the handles, the 3″ direction is the flap.
      Could be made larger than 3″ if you want more of a flap, but remember to move the velcro.

  11. mama de Jacques says

    Thank you SO MUCH for this tutorial- it is EXACTLY what I was looking for. I whipped up the bag in an afternoon- substituted webbing for the straps to save some time.

  12. Nancy says

    I really love this bag. I made about ten of them as Christmas presents last year (mostly for women! It doesn’t have to be manly if you use pretty fabrics). The directions are clear and easy to follow and the fact that the bag is lined makes it very sturdy but also gives it a very nice finished look. Great bag, great pattern. Thanks!

  13. Lara says

    The bag is awesome. I have to wonder, though, if hubby carries a lot of work back and forth, whether a briefcase would be more suitable to his needs. It could also hold lunch and a thermos and papers and folders would be better protected.

    • Leslie says

      We thought of that, too. But, he likes his lunch container to be flat in the bottom of the bag so his food doesn’t get all smushed up.

  14. Kass says

    Hi Austinite! I’m going to use these instructions to make a quilted bag at my MIL’s house in Cedar Park. 😀

  15. Kim says

    Does having the 34 presser foot make a difference? I have tried using foot #1 and the edge foot stitch foot# 10 and my thread keeps breaking. Its mostly the top thread. I am using a universal needle and wondered if that is the problem. or if its the thread . (sulky 40wt.) Any input would be appreciated.

    • Leslie says

      You might want to try a new spool of thread, possibly 50 wt. Also, it could be timing and this would need to be adjusted by your local dealer.

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