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How to make a Tote Bag - for beginners

Welcome to your exclusively free and oh-sew-simple tutorial from Sew Retro on how to make your very own fabulous tote bag, from scratch!

What you will need:

50 cm of medium weight fabric (I bought my fabric from Ditto). Cotton is easier to sew for beginners and a firm cotton fabric is suitable for a tote bag.

2 x meters of webbing 4cm wide for the handles (I bought mine from Merchant and Mills).

Matching thread, pins, tape measure, and scissors

Quick tips for beginners;

Pinning the fabric for sewing. Place the two pieces of fabric together, with right sides facing (the correct side of the fabric) and pin the raw edges together.

1cm seam allowance. This is the distance between the edge of the fabric and the stitch line. You will find a series of parallel lines engraved on the needle plate of your sewing machine pick the one marked with the measurement you need and keep the edge of the fabric to this guide.....

1 .Cut out your materials according to the diagram; make the template 5cm x5cm square in paper or card.

2. Cut out a 5cm square using the paper template you have just made from each bottom corner of the main fabric. See image below;

With the right side of the fabric facing, pin the front and back together along the side and bottom edges.

Now you are ready to sew!

3. Thread your sewing machine in matching thread according to the manufacture instructions. Line the first seam up to the 1cm seam allowance guide on your sewing machine.

Sew a few stitches forward hold down the reverse button or leaver, reverse stitch for a few stitches, Sew to the end of the pined seam, using the reverse button or leaver, make a few stitch back to secure the seam. At the beginning and end of every seam you sew you will need to repeat this process. (This stops the stitching unravelling.)

4. Sew along the remaining 2 seams, securing the stitching at the beginning and end of each seam.

5. Change to zig zag stitch, to neaten your seams and stop the seam fraying, using the zig zag stitch sew on the edge of the 3 seams you have just sewn. You now have sewn 3 seams and are ready to make the corners of the tote bag.

6. As shown, open out and re-fold the corners so that the side and bottom seams match up. Pin and machine stitch taking a 1cm seam allowance.You are now ready to neaten the top.

7. As shown in the photo, measure and pin down a 2cm turning using a tape measure to make sure the depth is consistent. Press the top edge. Keeping the 2cm turning tucked under, turn the top of the bag down again for 6cm, and press. Machine stitch around the bag 5.5cm from the top edge of the bag, to hold the turning in place. Machine stitch around the top of the bag, placing the foot of the sewing machine to the edge of the fabric, or use the guide on you sewing machine.

Adding the handles

8. Cut two pieces of webbing to measure 86cm, fold each of the 4 ends under for 2cm pin and press. Pin the handles to the top edge of the bag so that the outside edge of the handle lies 8cm in from the side seam and the short ends are lined up along the stitch line, pin and tack, then sew down securely with a box of reinforcing stitches. Starting at the top right hand corner, stitch a square, going back over the existing stitch line. Sew diagonally across to the bottom left hand corner, along the bottom edge then diagonally up to the top left hand corner, repeat on the remaining handles.

Congratulations you have made your first tote bag!

Tag us on Instagram or Twitter to show us your designs, we'd love to see how you got on.

Interested in more sewing projects for beginners? Follow the tutorials on our blog or come along to our regular sewing classes to meet others and expand your skills.



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