In high school I had a “business” selling handbags. The majority of the styles were based on one of two construction techniques. I’ll call them the strip method and the flattening method. The strip method involves sewing on side and bottom pieces to face panels to make a bag. The flattening method create the side and bottom by flattening the middle.
Bag using "Strip Method"
Tote bag using "Flattening Method"
There are pros and cons to each method. The strip method uses a lot more pieces and as a result has a rigid, well defined shape. But the extra pieces mean it’s more time consuming and easier to mess up.
The flattening method is much easier and faster. However, it does not have the best shape definition.
There are a few different options for a tote bag.
To start I’m going to go over how to make the most basic, lined tote bag (Option 1) using the flattening method.
What you’ll need:
- 1 main fabric
- 1 Contrast fabric (for the inside and handles
- Pins, Chalk
For these directions, solid colors indicate the front of the fabric (blue for main fabric, magenta for contrast fabric). And striped colors indicate the back side of the fabric.
1. Cut out 1 piece of the main fabric and 1 piece of the contrast fabric 25″x13″
2. Chalk (or pencil) mark 1/2″ from the edge on the short sides of the fabric (all the way across)
3. Fold the main fabric in half (width wise), right sides together
5. Using a 1/2″ seam allowance, sew down each side leaving the top open.
6. Repeat steps 3-5 for the contrast fabric
7. Iron seams open
8. At the bottom corner of the main fabric (left or right doesn’t matter), create a 90 degree triangle so that the open seam faces up and is exactly in the middle of the triangle.
9. Pin in place
10. With chalk or pencil, mark a line exactly 2″ long (should end up being about 1″ down from point)
11. Sew across line.
12. Repeat steps 8-12 for both bottom corner on the main fabric as well as the contrast fabric
13. At the 1/2″ line that you marked in step 2, fold the top edge back and press into place. This creates a clean top edge
14. Turn the main fabric piece so the right side of the fabric is facing out.
15. Slip the contrast fabric inside the main fabric.
16. Line up the side seams and top edges and pin together.
17. Set the pieces aside
1. Cut 2 pieces 2″ x 20″ out of the contrasting fabric
2. Fold piece in half long ways and iron
3. Open up (Do not press!)
4.Fold each of the long edges into the middle crease. Press folds
5. Fold in half again (down original crease) and press
6. Sew with a 1/4″ – 3/8″ seam allowance. You can sew down both sides or just the open side. it’s up to you.
7. Mark 1″ from each end with chalk
18. On the front of the main fabric, measure in 4 inches from the side seam and mark with chalk. Do this for each side seam, for each face of the fabric (you’ll end up with 4 marks)
19. Unpin pins near mark
20. Slip each end of the strap in between the main fabric and contrasting fabric. Line up the mark on the main fabric face with the outer edge of the strap. And line up the mark on the strap with the top edge of the main fabric. Pin in place
21. Do this for all 4 ends. Make sure not to twist the straps when you are attaching them. Both ends of the strap should be on the same side of the bag.
22. Sew around the top edge with a 1/4″ – 3/8″ seam allowance.