The Easiest Way to Make a Tote Bag

Something i’ve been trying to do recently is remember my bloody bags when I go shopping! Reducing plastic waste is something we can all do more of and one way that I do that is by reusing shopping bags. But I’ve also discovered a really easy way to make gorgeous tote bags using tea towels, yes tea towels! It makes the process so much easier and really straight forward, no sewing patterns needed.

The Easiest Way to Make a Tote Bag, How to sew a tote bag, How to make a tote bag | Josephine Brooks

Using tea towels means that the edges are already finished for you - so less seams to finish off and it also really cuts down the cutting out and measuring time. Winning!

Plus, as an extra point in favour of the tea towel approach, you can find so many gorgeous tea towel designs, as I'm obsessed with Wire Fox Terriers ( and one day I will have one, I will) so I went for this one from Plum and Ashby - it's also a really decent size and thick linen - perfect for a tote bag.

Materiels needed for making a tote bag - thread, scissors, cotton tape and two tea towels - The easiest way to make a tote bag

What you'll need to make a tote bag:

  • 2 large tea towels is any design you like - heavier fabric is best

  • 1.5 metres of cotton webbing tape

  • Thread, Scissors, pins and a sewing machine

Fabric cut out ready to make a tote bag

1) Cut out

Lay the  two tea towels right sides together and look at the size, if you think it's about the right size then no need to chop any off the bottom. My tea towels were huge so I trimmed down the length by taking about 5 inches off the bottom of each one. Next trim a 3 inch square into the bottom corners of your tea towels - like I've done in the picture above

2) Add a pocket (optional)

If you want to add a pocket, you need to do this next. If you have any spare fabric from trimming down your tea towel you can use that, if not find another scrap of fabric which will work. Cut out a rectangle to the size you want the pocket to be plus 1 cm on each side. Fold down each side of the rectangle and iron it in place. Pin your pocket into place on the inside of your tea towel - about 3 inches down from the top seam is a good place to attach it. Sew neatly around the sides and bottom of the pocket to secure it in place

Attaching a pocket to the inside of a tote bag
Sewing the sides together when making a tote bag

3) Sew your seams together

Pin the right sides together along the sides and bottom of your tea towels and stitch in place. the great thing about using tea towels is that the seams are already finished for you, so no need for serging or zig-zag stitching

4) Create the shape

This stage gives your bag a boxy shape. Pull the points of the corners on each tea towel away from each other to create a straight line along what was the 90 degree angle (hopefully the image below helps to illustrate this)! Pin the seam together an sew it together. As this seam will be unfinished you'll need to serge/ zigzag stitch along the seam to stop it from fraying

Base seams pinned in place to make the box-shape - The easiest way to make a tote bag
Bottom seams sewn up and zig-zag stitched to prevent fraying

5) Attach the handles

There's no exact science to this - decide how long you want the handles to be and cut two lengths of webbing the same length. Pin them in place on the outside of your bag and sew them on. Turn your bag the right way round and you're done

The perfect tote bag for post office runs and taking all of your work stuff to a cafe

Finished tote bag with a bunch of flowers - The easiest way to make a tote bag
Cotton tote bag in fox terrier design with a bunch of flowers
How to make a tote bag using tea towels, Easy tote bag sewing pattern, Sew a tote bag | Josephine Brooks
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