Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

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Inside: Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

One of the first projects most new sewists tackle is a Tote Bag. It’s the perfect project for beginners and in this tutorial you will learn the basic steps for creating your own tote bag.

This quick and easy tutorial will show you how to make a designer-look tote bag that doesn’t require any special skills. If you can sew a straight stitch on your sewing machine, you can make this bag!

Simple Tote Bag Tutorial


Fabric for Simple Tote Bag Tutorial
  • 1/2 yd. Exterior Fabric + Handles (Exterior)
  • 1/2 yd. Lining Fabric (Lining)
  • Thread in coordinating color


Want an ad-free, printable copy of this tutorial? Scroll to the bottom of this post for more details!

A Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

This simple tote bag tutorial has a professionally-finished look and is one sturdy bag (perfect for library books or groceries) because it’s lined. This gives your bag strength and makes it durable.

Finished Tote Bag Size:  13″ x 13″ x 2″

Step 1:  Cut Out Fabric

  • From Exterior Fabric (A), cut (2) 14” x 14” for main body of bag.
  • From Exterior Fabric (A), cut (2) 4″ x 22″ for bag handles.
  • From Lining Fabric (B), cut (2) 14″ x 14″ for bag lining.
Fabric cut out for Simple Tote Bag

Step 2:  The Bag Handles

The steps for making the bag handles are simple. And the result is a double layer of fabric which gives the handles a little more stability.

1. Prepare the bag handles by folding them lengthwise wrong sides together. Press in a crease.

Bag Handle for Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

2. Fold the raw edges in on both sides in towards the crease and press again.

Bag Handle for Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

3. Fold strap in half with folded edges matching up. All raw edges should be facing inside the handle.

Bag Handle for Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

4. Clip or pin to hold.

Bag Handle for Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

5. Using a 3-4mm stitch length, top stitch 1/8″ down both sides of bag handle. Pro Tip: If you have an Edge Stitch Foot this is the perfect place to use it!

Topstitching Bag Handle for Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

6. Repeat for second handle.

Step 3:  Making the Body of the Bag

1.  With right sides together, stitch the side seams and bottom of Exterior Fabric, leaving the top open.  Use a 1/4” seam allowance. Note: Be sure to change your stitch length back to 2.5mm.

2.  With right sides together, stitch the side seams and bottom of Lining Fabric, leaving the top open.  Use a 1/4” seam allowance.

Stitch side seams and bottom of Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

Step 4:  Making a Pleat in the Bag

1.  In order for the bag to have a flat bottom you will need to create a pleat.  To do this, fold the bottom corner of your bag so it creates a triangle in the corner.  Matching up the side seam and bottom seam will make this line up perfectly. 

Make corner pleat for Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

2.  Pin the corner; and with your water erasable pen, make a mark 1.5” away from the corner.
3.  Draw a stitching line and then stitch across to create a pleat.

Mark pleat for Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

4.  Clip away the triangle, leaving a 1/4” seam allowance. Be sure to remove the markings.

Stitch marked line for Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

5.  Repeat on all corners of the Exterior and Lining of bag. 

Step 5:  Putting it all Together

1.  Insert the Lining Fabric inside the Exterior Fabric with right sides together. Line up side seams.

Put lining fabric inside exterior fabric of Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

2.  Insert one of the bag handles between the Exterior Fabric and Lining Fabric about 3” from the side seams (like a sandwich). Be sure your handles are straight and do not twist.

The raw edges of the bag handles should be placed side by side, approximately 5” apart. 

Place handles inside Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

3.  Pin in place and repeat on opposite side of bag.  BE SURE TO LEAVE A 3” OPENING FOR TURNING YOUR BAG. 
4.  Using a 1/4” seam allowance, stitch around the top edge of your bag.

Stitch top seam of Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

Step 6:  Finishing Touches

1.  Turn your bag right side out and carefully press the top seam.

Turn bag right side out on Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

2.  Push the lining fabric into the bag and press the top edge.

3.  Top stitch around the entire top of the bag using a 1/8” seam. Pro Tip: This is the perfect place to use an Edge Stitch Foot!

Topstitch to seam on Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

Other ideas for this bag

Now think of all the ways you can embellish your next bag. For more experienced sewists, maybe add a pocket on the inside or make a two tone bag. Or applique a monogram or favorite design.

You could make the bag firmer by adding Fusible Fleece. It’s also possible to scale the bag up – 1″ at a time until you get the perfect size!

With this bag, the possibilities are endless.

>>> Want a printable version of the post? Click the pink button, and download the Printable PDF instructions.

Here’s an image to pin!

Finished Simple Tote Bag Tutorial

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  1. What a great project. As always, your instructions and pictures are absolutely the best. There is no such thing as having too many bags so I will be making a few of these for sure.

  2. This is the perfect project for my 12 yr. old granddaughter. She loves to sew and I’m sure she can follow the pattern without my help. Your pictures and explanations are so easy to follow. I will definitely make sure she gets the pattern. Thank you.

  3. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this tutorial, it is very clear and I think I’ll be making a few for Christmas

    1. Changing the depth of the pleat which forms the bottom will make it wider. I would recommend adding a little to the width and height, as well.

  4. I just made this tote and your pattern and instructions were very easy to follow! Thank you, I’m very pleased with the result. My machine did have some problems sewing through the parts where the handle was sandwiched, but that might be because of my beginner machine.

  5. Thanks for sharing this tutorial, I made one tote bag for myself and I made one for a friend, she told me that she loved hers!

  6. Thanks for the easy to make bag. My sewing group has been running these up to send to Ukraine with diabetes supplies and other care package items to help out those who have been going through such a hard time as well as trying to live with their diabetes. It is the perfect size.

  7. Thanks for great bag instructions. You always have such wonderful projects and tips. This will be a great project to do with my granddaughter.

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