Home Top Ad

Free Tote Bag Tutorial

 Instead of carting around my son’s library books, I decided to make him his own book bag especially for the job! A small library card pocket and adjustable strap make this the ideal tote for a young reader.
Stitch one up in your child’s favorite colors or use special inkjet printer fabric to showcase their favorite characters. You can even lengthen the strap to make an adult-sized bag.

Finished size: 5″ x 9″ x 11 1/2″ (depth / width / height)
Note: All seam allowances are 1/2″.

Materials + Supplies:

Exterior fabric (home dec, canvas or similar heavy weight fabric): 1/2 yard

Lining fabric (home dec, canvas or quilting cotton fabric): 1/2 yard

Canvas or polyester webbing or belting: Child/Tween: 1 yard, Adult up to 5′ 6″: 1 2/3 yards, Adult over 5′ 6″: 2 yards

2 adjustable sliders (center bar can be movable or stationary), 1″ wide inside dimension

Optional: 1 sheet of printable fabric for home inkjet printers


Exterior fabric: Cut 1 rectangle 15″ wide by 30″ tall

Lining fabric + library card pocket: Cut 1 rectangle 15″ wide by 30″ tall for the tote lining, cut 1 rectangle 3 5/8″ wide x 8 1/2″ tall for the library card pocket

Strap: Cut a 7″ short strap from the total strap length

Library Card Pocket Assembly:

Fold the pocket piece in half lengthwise with right sides together.
Sew along the two long open edge sides then clip the corners.
Turn right side out and fold the open edge in by 1/2″ and press. Pin the open edge together.
To close the opening, sew a seam 1/8″ away from the edge and a second seam 1/2” from the edge.

Strap Assembly:

Take the 7″ short strap piece and loop one end over an outside bar of one adjustable slider. With right side facing down, fold the strap over by 1″ and use a zigzag stitch to secure the end, going back and forth several times to prevent fraying.

Note: If using a synthetic strap material, use a match or lighter to slightly melt the cut edges before sewing to further prevent fraying.

Take the long piece of strap and loop one end around the middle bar of the second adjustable slider. Fold it toward the back of the slider by 1″ and zigzag stitch to secure.

Position both the long and short straps so the right sides are facing up. Take the end of the long strap without the slider and feed it through the top of the slider on the short strap. Then feed the same end under the outer bars and over the middle bar of the slider on the long strap.

Tote Assembly:

Fold the tote lining and exterior fabrics in half lengthwise with right sides together.

At the corners of the fold, cut a rectangle 2″ tall by 2 1/2″ wide.

Sew the long sides of both the outer fabric and the lining fabric. Press side seams open.

Open up each of the four rectangles cut at the bottom of the tote in Step 1 and fold the opposite edges together. Pin and sew shut to create the boxed bottom. Press the seam toward the bottom of the tote.

Flip only the exterior fabric right side out, then nestle the liner inside. All seams should be hidden.

Press and pin along the bottom of the tote on the front and back, but not the sides. Make sure to catch both the outer fabric and the liner, and topstitch along the edge with a 3/16″ seam allowance.

At the top of the tote, fold 1″ of the raw edges of both exterior and liner fabrics toward each other so the raw edges are hidden between the two layers and press. Pin exterior fabric and lining together. Insert the straps 1 1/2″ inside the two side seams and pin in place.

Sew around the top of the tote with a 3/16″ seam allowance, then sew a second line with a 1″ seam allowance. To secure the straps, on the outside of the tote sew a rectangle on top of each strap with an X inside.

Form the boxed sides of the tote by pinning the four sides going straight up from each corner 2 1/2″ from the center seam. Sew 3/16″ in from the edge.


Center the library card pocket on one of the exterior sides of the tote with the bottom edge of the pocket 5 1/2″ from the top of the tote.

Pin in place and stitch around the sides and bottom of the pocket with a 1/8″ seam allowance. Reinforce the stitching at the tops of the pocket. Your library card should fit snugly in the pocket.

Print a favorite book or comic book cover image onto fabric for inkjet printers. This type of fabric comes in 8.5″ x 11″ sheets and can be used in your home printer using the manufacturer’s instructions. Image size should be approx. 6″ x 8″.

Trim the printed image, leaving a 3/8″ border. Fold and press the border to the back. Center the image on the front of the tote, pin and sew with a 1/8″ seam allowance all around.

No comments