How to Make a Tote Bag in a Day: Tutorial With Pictures

No matter what sewing skill level you have, learning how to make a tote bag is worth the time and effort.

Imagine yourself going on a date with your best friend after a super hectic day at work and asking for “a table for three: You, me, and my bag.” This statement flaunts your ravishing outfits and your beautiful handbag.

Handbags are women’s first love, and tote bags are the one that adds character and uplifts your entire look. If you are a true bag lover and can understand our manifold obsession with the “larger than life” tote bags, then you would have watched “Emily in Paris” or “The Bold Type.”

Tote bags are the most versatile, comfortable, spacious, and practical bags for women. They come in different sizes, fabrics, colors, and shapes. 

Made for carrying everyday essentials, these bags have secured their place in women’s hearts. Even small business owners use tote bags to promote and market their products in the market. 

With so much popularity of tote bags in the fashion and business world, learning how to make a tote bag is important. They are super easy to make and take less time to complete.

In this article, we have prepared everything you need to know about tote bags and how you can make one at home. Let’s take a look. 

How to Make a Cute Tote Bag: Top Uses of Tote Bags

Tote bags gained popularity among cosmopolitan citizens in the 1980s. Not just women, tote bags have also secured their place in businesses. 

New York’s popular bookstore – The Strand, launched a new tote bag in New York City, which gained sudden popularity. This opens the door for all other businesses to leverage tote bags to promote and market their small business.

Cloth tote bags with print
Image Source: Musa Ortac On Pexels

Tote bags for women are a surreal winner because of their multi-purpose uses. Knowing these bags’ uses before learning how to make a cute tote bag is essential.

The following are some popular uses of tote bags. 

For the Work

Professional tote bags are one of the best fashion statements for work. This smart and chic style is a must-have for every professional or busy woman. 

How to make a tote bag
Image Source: The New York Times

Having a busy day and spending your time running errands, nothing can be life-saving than reliable and spacious tote bags. These types of bags can carry all your work materials and personal essentials in a single, fashionable bag. 

If you are a working woman, then you must learn how to make a cute tote bag for yourself. You can also use some fashion-forward elements such as stylish zippers, locks, buckles, etc. but keep a minimal look. 

For Everyday Use

Be it carrying books or groceries; tote bags can do it all. These bags are versatile, spacious, and save the environment. Owning a tote bag will make your everyday task easier. If you are a book lover, you can use tote bags to carry your books.

Do you know each American uses 365 plastic bags every year? Terrible right? Why not replace plastic bags and opt for more sustainable bags? 

Use tote bags at home to carry your everyday essentials. The large size tote bags can be used to carry a significant number of groceries. These bags are also an excellent way to store your dirty laundry.

For the Beach or Gym

DIY tote bag
Image Source: Pinterest

Since tote bags have plenty of room to store your items, they are great for a day trip to the beach or gym. Their lightweight design and vibrant colors can give you bohemian vibes.

Learning how to sew tote bags will help you make a custom tote bag that you can use to store your sunscreen, lunch, towel, books, gym essentials, different types of clothes, etc. What else could you ask for? 

For Baby Gear

Looking for spacious yet fashionable bags with different compartments, pockets, and pouches? 

Tote bags are the perfect diaper bag that comes with numerous compartments and a design that does not compromise your style. They are ideal for carrying your baby’s diapers, changing clothes, water bottles, etc. 

For Schools

Easy to make tote bag
Image Source: Pinterest

Uplift your style at high school by carrying stylish yet unique tote bags. Be it going to school or college; these tote bags can carry things for you in a beautiful way. Don’t forget to wrap a beautiful, vibrant scarf to power walk to your class. 

How to Make a Tote Bag: What Fabric Can Be Used?

Going down memory lane, tote bags were found in women’s history in the early 20th century. Celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and Jessica gave us some major goals for having tote bags.

With so much buzz around, you often want to know, “What is the tote bag made of?” 

Different materials and styles have revamped the luxury of tote bags, and we can’t deny that. These beautiful, minimalistic silhouette bags are made from various durable materials, making them an ideal choice for carrying all kinds of items.

​​How to make a bag
Image Source: Vie Studio On Pexels

While learning how to make a tote bag, you should know all types of fabric or materials that can be used to make tote bags. 

It may be easy to make a tote bag based on color, pattern, and size but choosing the right material is essential. After all, the material makes all the difference.

The following are some of the popular fabrics/materials for tote bags. 


Cotton is the most demanding fabric for making sustainable items. The natural fibers of cotton fabric are perfect for making tote bags as it is soft and comfortable to carry the bag all day long.

They have a more refined texture, making them the preferred material for promotional bags, tote bags, gift bags, and casual purses. 

The best thing about cotton tote bags is they are reusable and recyclable. So learning how to make simple tote bags from cotton material will encourage you to adopt more sustainable solutions. 


Canvas tote bags
Image Source: PurseBlog

When learning how to make a simple fabric tote bag, we can not ignore canvas fabric. This fabric is made from cotton and uses a plain weave to make it sturdy and resilient. 

Canvas is not just used for making tote bags or shopping bags; they are also used for heavy-duty bags, tarps, tents, etc. 

Canvas tote bags are best for the promotion of small businesses as you can print your brand logo, tagline, and message on the bag. Learn how to make a canvas bag if you want a tote bag that lasts for years. 


Jute is a rough fiber made from the stems of an old tropical world or herbaceous plant. This plant is used for making twine and rope. 

Types of jute tote bags
Image Source: HandCraft Worldwide Company

Jute gives a rustic and natural look which makes it fashionable. The jute fibers are resilient, which helps you carry heavy items in the bag without the fear of tears. 

The jute tote bags are also recyclable and biodegradable. They are affordable and are easy to maintain and wash (the care labels come with the washing instructions for jute bags). 


It is another popular material used for making tote bags. Polypropylene is a plastic-type fabric and texture which gives you the utmost durability and convenience of a fabric-based bag. 

Tote bags made from Polypropylene material are easy to clean, have high water-resistant, and are lightweight. If you are someone who prefers stylish tote bags, then do not go for this material. 

These bags can carry your gym wear, unwashed dirty clothes, and diapers. They can also be used for packing your basic snacks and other essential items for traveling. Learn how to make a drawstring bag with Polypropylene material. 


Nylon is a stretchable material, which means it can accommodate many things without tearing apart. The best thing about nylon material is that it is waterproof, so you can make a cute nylon tote bag that can protect your mini electronic items from unwanted rain. 


Leather is known for making luxurious items. This natural material comes from the animal skin and is soft and resists abrasion. 

How to make a simple bag
Image Source: LivvyLand

Learning how to make a simple handbag from leather material is easy and takes less time. You can use leather to make an entire tote bag or just use it as decorative stirps. Since leather is a thick material, it can give your tote bag a classic look. 


Wool is durable, heavier, and warmer material than any other material. When wool is dyed or treated with chemical compounds, the outcome can be darker instead of lighter when washed. The tote bags made from wool material are popular among aged women. 


Linen tote bag how to make
Image Source: Pinterest

Think of linen as a grandmother of the fabric world. Linen is not as strong as cotton or durable as canvas, but the tote bag made from linen fabric looks elegant and stylish. This material is breathable, easy to wash, and easy to sew.


Polyester is a smooth and comfortable-to-touch fabric. It doesn’t have a shiny texture but can withstand any rough treatment. 

The tote bags made from polyester fabric do not get wrinkles and are roomy. These tote bags can be used to carry your grocery, lunch boxes, and water bottles while going for a one-day picnic. 


PVC fabric was popular in the 1990s for various clothing items. Pop star-like Briteny Spears, Spice Girls, and Shania Twain increased PVC clothing’s popularity. 

Tote bags made from PVC fabric are used to pass through tight security checks at concerts, airports, and amusement parks. 


DIY twill tape tote bag
Image Source: Crafterhours

Have you ever wondered if your dad’s pants can be recycled into a beautiful tote bag? Twill is a heavyweight material known for its durability and strength. Tote bags made from twill materials can be carried to almost anything without worrying about them tearing apart. 

How to Make a Tote Bag For Beginners – Simple Instructions 

With ever-increasing concern for the environment, people are leaning towards adopting more sustainable solutions. If you take a tip from 1950s homemakers, they will say learn to sew your own go-to bags at home

They are one of the best ways to polish your sewing skills while contributing something to protect our earth.

How to make a fabric tote bag
Image Source: Monica Turlui On Pexels

This quick and easy step-by-step tote bag tutorial on how to make a tote bag for beginners will help you make a useful yet stylish tote bag at home. Polish your sewing skills and make a perfect bag for work or everyday use. 

Supplies You’ll Need

The following are some supplies you will need to begin your journey of how to make simple bags from cloth.

How to make a bag easy
Image Source: Antoni Shkraba On Pexels 

    • ½ yard exterior fabric
    • ½ yard of lining fabric
    • Matching thread
    • Sewing machine
    • Rotary cutter
    • Iron and Ironing board
    • Walking foot
    • Straight pins
    • Erasable pen or marker 

Choose Your Fabric for the Tote Bag

Once you have gathered the sewing kit essentials, it’s time to choose the suitable fabric for your tote bag. Choosing the right fabric is the hardest part of how to make a fabric tote bag project. 

Fabric for making tote bags
Image Source: Pixabay On Pexels

There are various fabrics available that can be used for making a tote bag. Any type of fabric works, but you should go for cotton, linen, wool, leather, or nylon fabric if you want to make an everyday use tote bag. 

We have already discussed various fabrics or materials that can be used for tote bags in the above section. Choose the right fabric, learn how to make a bag pattern, and move to the next step. 

Layout and Cut Your Fabric

Based on the size of the tote bag, you need to start measuring the fabric. Measure rectangles, and use a pencil or marker to define the line where you will be cutting the fabric. 

Use fabric scissors and cut out the rectangle to begin your journey of how to make a fabric carry bag.  Repeat this step for cutting the second piece of the fabric so that you have two rectangle pieces.

How to make a simple handbag
Image Source: Cottonbro On Pexels

The finished tote bag will be one inch smaller than the rectangles you just cut as the fabric will be hemmed.

Here’s how to make a basket bag or tote bag size suggestions:

Type Size
Small Tote Bag 12 *14 inches
Medium Tote Bag 14 *16 inches
Large Tote Bag 24* 20 Inches

Mark for Handles

Now it’s time to fold the rectangles 1/3 lengthwise and use fabric chalk or marker to mark the two inside creases. The marks will further help you to align handles later. Don’t forget to fold the fabric lengthwise and not to the downside. 

Hem the Top Edges

The next step of how to make a tote bag for beginners is to hem the top edge, which will become the two separate edges at the opening. 

How to sew a tote bag
Image Source: First Day of Home

To hem the top edges, you need to lay the rectangles flat in a way that the wrong side of the fabric faces you. Start folding the top edges down by one inch and use a straight pin to secure the fold. 

Iron the edges to create a crease and keep repeating the same steps for the other rectangle so that you get the hem. Use a sewing machine to create a straight stitch that is half-inch below the folded edge.

If you have an uneven line, you can use a seam ripper to rip out the stitches and start over. 

Sew Fabric Pieces

Now you need to put the hemmed rectangles so that the fabrics’ wrong sides face towards you. Start sewing the sides and bottom using a straight stitch, and don’t forget to keep the top open. 

As you begin to sew the bottom edge of your tote, take extra care to ensure that the seam is straight and secure, as this will be a high-stress area of the bag.

You can also use a drop cloth on the surface of the bag to prevent any accidental spills or stains.

Milter Corners

Now you need to fold the bag in a way that the bottom seam and side seam are stacked on top of each other.

Start sewing the corners and keep the seam perpendicular to the current seams. Repeat this process for all the corners so that when you flip the bag inside-out, the corners will be blunted. 

Cut Handles from the Fabric

Now it’s time to decide the length of the handles of your tote bag. You need to cut two-inch-wide strips from the fabric based on how long you want the handles to be. 

Fold each fabric strip in half-length, and the inside material faces outside. You can use an iron to create a crease on the strips. 

Sew the Long Edges Together

At this stage, you need to use a sewing machine to make a straight stitch on the edges of the handles. Turn the handles inside-out and feed a wire through the tube. 

Make sure the wire reaches the end of the tube and pull it back. Use an iron to flatten the handles of your tote bag. 

Sew the Handle Pieces to the Bag

By this step, you are close to making your own tote bag. Start folding the handle’s ends by half an inch and iron them to get the perfect crease.

How to make a fabric carry bag
Image Source:

Do you remember the marks we did in step 2? It’s time to put the ends on those marks. Make sure you place the ends about half an inch below the bag opening edge. Just pin or baste them.

Finishing Touches

Apply a top-stitch onto the overlapping handle to secure it with the bag and remove any excess thread you find around the fabric.

Man carrying tote bag
Image Source: On Freepik

Voile! Your fabric tote bag is ready to store your essentials. Don’t forget to personalized your unique tote bags using Superlabel Store’s woven labels and hang tags that are:

    • Super easy to design
    • Super Customizable
    • Super Quality

You can also use some decorative items like buttons, embroidery, or your small business log, tagline, etc., to decorate your tote bags. 


Frequently asked questions

How do you make a waterproof tote bag?

One of the simplest methods to waterproof your canvas tote bag is by using waterproofing sprays and seam sealers. Not only do they prevent the canvas material from discoloring, but these products are also readily available at almost any store where fabric waterproofing sprays are sold.

Can I use leather handles on my tote bag, and how do I attach them?

Yes, you can use leather handles for your tote bag. They add a stylish touch and durability to the bag. To attach the leather handles, fold the tote bag in half lengthwise and mark the center point on the top edge with a drawn line. Place the leather handle on top of the tote bag with the bottom corner of the handle touching the drawn line. Use a zig zag stitch to sew the handle to the tote bag, making sure to reinforce the stitching by sewing back and forth a few times. Repeat the same process for the other handle on the other side of the bag, making sure they are even and symmetrically placed.

What type of fabric is best for a tote bag?

If you want a sturdy bag for carrying heavy items, you should choose a heavy-duty fabric such as canvas or denim. For a more lightweight tote bag, cotton or linen fabrics are a good choice. Another option is to use a durable outdoor fabric, such as nylon or polyester, which are water-resistant and easy to clean. If you want to customize your tote bag with a design or print, make sure to choose a fabric that is suitable for printing or can be easily embellished.

What is a seam allowance, and how much should I use when making a tote bag?

A seam allowance is the amount of fabric between the edge of the fabric and the stitching line. It’s important to use a seam allowance when making a tote bag to ensure that the stitching line doesn’t unravel or fray over time. The standard seam allowance for a tote bag is 1/2 inch (or 1.27 cm) but it may vary depending on the pattern you’re using.


High-end tote bags are making their way to fashion and business as they are versatile, easy to carry, and fashionable.

Tote bags play different roles and provide answers to all your queries related to carrying things. These sustainable bags

‘Totes’ are perfect in all other ways, and learning how to make a tote bag for yourself or your small business would be the best decision you ever make.

We hope the above-listed information helps you make super customizable tote bags that reflect your style while carrying lots of items for you. Choose your style, fabric/material, and get ready to make a unique style statement with tote bags.

Happy learning and happy sewing!