Tutorial: Scrappy Tote Bag
I am so excited to share this scrappy tote bag tutorial with you!! I invite you to either bookmark this page or save the free downloadable tutorial as I know you'll want to make more than one of these bags!
Like many quilters, I have an abundance of scrap fabric and I have been trying to find ways to use more this year. Many quilters make gorgeous scrappy quilts, but that is something that I really struggle with so I thought I would try to use them up with smaller projects and this scrappy tote was one of the first projects I made.
Let’s start off with what you’ll need to make your own!
Fabric Requirements and Supplies
- Fabric scraps to sew one 12” x 18” scrappy or patchwork panel
- One batting scrap measuring at least 13” x 19”
- One fat quarter of coordinating linen or canvas
- Two 12” x 15” pieces of coordinating material for lining
- Disappearing ink pen (or non-bleeding marker or pen)
- Cutting mat
Make your scrappy panel
Here’s where you can really let those creative juices flow! Don’t over think it, just start sewing! I like to start by making a few wonky half square triangles and then just growing small panels from there. Eventually I sew the small panels into a larger one and keep adding until it is large enough to be trimmed to a 12” x 18” panel.
If improv isn’t your thing, you can also sew strips or simple half square triangles together to create a unique and one-of-a-kind bag!
Quilt and trim your scrappy panel
We will only be making half of a quilt sandwich for this part. Place your scrappy panel, right side down, on a flat surface and line up the batting on top. Then baste with your preferred method. I tend to prefer pin basting for quilting; however, for smaller panels I find spray basting easier.
Then quilt the two pieces however you’d like! I went with straight line quilting approximately 1/2” apart. You can use a quilt guide or mark your piece with a Hera marker to end up with perfect quilting.
Once quilted, trim back to your 12” x 18” panel. Then, cut the panel is half lengthwise so that you end up with 2 panels that measure 9” x 12” each.
Cut your Linen or Canvas Fat Quarter and Lining pieces
Next we’ll cut our coordinating linen or canvas fat quarter. You’ll need:
- Three 3” x 18” strips
- Two 6 1/2” x 12” pieces (for the bottom of your bag)
- One 5” x 12” piece (this is optional for the pocket)
When cutting the fat quarter, I like to begin my cutting my strips, and then my larger pieces, saving the pocket piece for last, knowing that there’s some flexibility to the size of the pocket.
You will also want to cut out two 12” x 15” pieces of coordinating fabric for the lining. For this, I like to use left over scraps from quilt backings that I have’t incorporated into other quilts yet.
Sew the exterior of the tote
Take your two quilted panels and your two 6 1/2” x 12” linen pieces and sew, right sides together, using a 1/4” seam using the picture below as your guide.
Then, press the linen away from the quilted panel and top stitch as close to the linen edge as possible. You want to try to stitch back through all the layers of fabric and batting again to add extra stability. Repeat this step for both sides of your tote bag.
Then, place both the front and back of your quilt together, right sides together and sew a 1/4” seam along both sides and bottom of your bag.
Box the corners of your tote.
Boxing the corners of your tote will give it some shape. I like to pull the bottom corner of the bag into a triangle, making sure to align the bottom seam with the side seam. Then, lay this triangle flat. Using a ruler, measure and mark 1 inch from the edge of the corner. Then line up your ruler and mark from edge to edge.
Sew along this marked line (perhaps twice for a strong bottom) and be sure to backstitch on both ends of the seam. Then trim 1/4 inch from this new seam. Repeat this step for the other corner of the bag.
I also like to box the sides of the bottom of the bag. If you’d also like to do this, you’ll gently fold the bottom of your bag flat, from boxed edge to boxed edge and sew. I like to using binding clips to make sure I have the bottom flat when sewing. Again, this step is entirely optional!
Once your exterior is sewn and boxed, flip it right side out and set it aside.
Sew the lining
If you are sewing a pocket into your bag, start with this step. Take your 5” x 12” piece and fold in half right sides together. Sew long the two sides with a 1/4” seam. Then, turn right side out and press.
Clip the corners from the raw edge side and fold over and press. This will become the bottom of your pocket when sewing onto your lining.
Sew your pocket on to the right side of one of your lining pieces. I like to center my pocket and place it about 3 inches below the top of the bag.
Now - let’s sew the lining pieces together! Making the lining is similar to the exterior - with one very important change! Place your lining pieces right sides together and pin the sides and bottom.
Sew the sides and bottom using a 1/4 inch seam — and here’s the important part — leaving a gap of approximately 5 inches or so at the bottom. You will be pulling your tote through this hole, so if you forget it you will be very sad. :(
Make your handles
Take your three 3” x 18” strips and sew them end to end using a 1/4” seam (press those seams open). You should end up with one long strip measuring 3” x about 54” (or so). Then, fold in half (widthwise), right sides together, and sew a 1/4 seam along the full 54” or so length.
Then, using a safety pin, turn your tube right side out and press. Then, top stitch 1/4” from each side of your long piece. I find this creates a strong handle. Now, fold your handle strap in half lengthwise and cut into two equal strips for your handles.
Construct your tote!!
We’re so close to the finish!! You will be filling this tote (or overfilling if you’re like me) before you know it!!
Take the exterior of your bag with right sides are facing out and pin your handles in the desired location. Leave a little bit of an overhang at the top and pin in place. Then, using the front of your tote as a guide, pin the handles on the back of your tote.
Next, keep your lining inside-out and place the exterior of your tote inside the lining so that right sides are together. Then, align both side seams and pin in place. Pin all the way around the top of the tote. Note - I tend to leave the pins that I already used on the handles in place and just pin a little bit of extra around them to ensure they don’t shift.
Sew around the top of the tote with a 1/4” seam. When I get to the handles, I usually back up and sew over them twice for added strength (this makes me feel a little better about over loading my bag, lol!).
Then, turn your bag right side out by pulling it through the hole you kept in the bottom of the lining. Go slowly and carefully not to rip the seam. Once all the way through I like to close that hole with my machine; however, many people like to hand stitch it closed (this seam is going to sit inside the bottom of your bag so go ahead and machine stitch it closed, you have my permission).
Topstitch and finish
Now that your tote bag is actually looking like a tote bag, it’s time to give it one final touch for a little bit of strength and finish.
Once the bag is completely right side out and the lining closed, I like to tuck the lining down inside and tug on things a bit to get the tote into the right shape. Then, press around the top seam. Lastly, top stitch around the circumference of your bag opening - I tend to do this about a 1/4” (or closer) from the top opening. This will give your bag some extra shape and keep the lining from bunching up or opening.
I hope you enjoy making these tote bags as much as I do! They are a fun and fast make! I also invite you to download the free tutorial to have on hand for future makes!!