My Totally Reversible Tote Tutorial

Friends of mine have just opened a fabric, haberdashery and craft shop in my home town and being such wonderful people they agreed to stock some of my little bags. You can find them online on Facebook or Twitter.  Share the love and give them a wee like or a follow!

Being even more amazing they have asked me to come down to give some classes for beginners so I’ve made up a tutorial on how to sew a lined tote bag that would be perfect for a bit of shopping, going to the library or if you make a wee bit smaller perfect for a kiddie to carry whatever random things they like to carry around!  I know my two love carrying stuff around in bags!!

So here you go, my first ever bag making tutorial.  I hope you can follow it.  Let me know how you get on!  For my bag I used quilt weight cotton.  You could use heavier fabric but your machine might struggle a bit with some of the thicker seams like over the straps.


  • 2 x Rectangles Patterned Fabric 14 x 15 inches
  • 2 x Rectangles Plain Fabric 14 x 15 inches
  • 2 x Rectangles medium weight fusible interfacing 13.5 x 14.5 inches
  • 2 x Rectangles Fabric 4 x 22 inch (either matching or contrasting)   OR  2 x 22 inch lengths webbing


Attach the interfacing to the patterned fabric following the instructions given with the interfacing.  You can get away without the interfacing but I like a little bit of structure in my bags!

  • Ensure you apply the interfacing to the WRONG SIDE of the patterned fabric so the interfacing will be on the inside of the bag
  • Also be sure that the gluey side of the interfacing is facing the fabric before applying the iron or you risk fusing the interfacing to the iron or the pressing cloth (if you are using one). The gluey side is the rough side due to all the little dots of glue impregnated in it!
  • It is helpful to have the interfacing a bit smaller than the fabric you are applying it to so that you do not fuse the interfacing to the ironing board beneath
  • Once the interfacing has been applied to the fabric it should not be sewn for at least 20mins to give the glue time to cure/dry. If you do not do this you risk getting a sticky needle and broken thread.

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Construct the straps (if not using webbing)

  • Take one of the two 4 x 22 inch pieces of plain fabric
  • Fold it along the middle of the long edge wrong sides together (WST) and press along the fold
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  • Open it rectangles out and fold one edge towards the middle crease WST and press along the fold
  • Repeat this on the other side
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  • Fold both sides towards each other along the original middle crease and press again
  • You should now have a length of material that is folded over on itself four times and measures 1x 22 inches
  • Pin along the length of the strap and topstitch along the length on each side
  • Repeat this with the other length of fabric
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Construct the main body

  • Take each of the pieces of patterned fabric and cut a 2 inch square from each bottom corner
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  • Place the patterned fabric right sides together (RST) and sew along the side seams and the bottom seam. DO NOT sew around the edges of the cut out squares
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    Obviously this is the plain fabric sewn together, but you get the idea!

  • Press along the length of the seams you have sewn then press the seams open

Seams pressed open

  • Pinch one of the cut out corners at the bottom of the bag, match the raw edges together and make sure the centre of the side seam lines up with centre of the bottom seam.
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  • Press this if necessary, pin it and sew along the raw edge
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  • Repeat this with the plain fabric

Attach the straps

  • Turn the bag made from the patterned fabric right side out (RSO)
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  • On both sides mark four inches in from each end of the bag
  • Line up the end of the strap with one mark. Match the raw edge of the bag with the raw edge of the strap.
  • Pin in place.
  • Line up the other end of the strap with the other mark on the same side of the bag
  • When the strap is pinned in place it should be pointing towards the bottom of the bag.
  • Either machine or hand tack the strap in place close to the edge and remove the pins
  • Bar tack the straps for strength 3/8 inch from the raw edges. To bar tack set the sewing machine to zig zag stitch, middle stitch width and very short stitch length, nearly at zero.

Join the bags

  • Insert the patterned bag RSO into the plain bag wrong side out (WSO) and match the raw edges
  • Make sure the side seams line up for a professional finish and pin around
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  • Sew the two bags together with a 5/8inch seam and leave a three inch gap for turning


Turn the bags RSO through the gap


Press the bag & pin the gap closed

Topstitch the bag to close the gap


And TA DAH! You have a totally reversible tote bag with box corners for a bit of room in the bottom. All your raw edges and seams are hidden inside the bag too so it’s nice and neat. Perfect for a bit of shopping, or your latest work in progress.

I hope you can follow my tutorial and please let me see any bags you make! Plus I’m here or on Twitter @jubublian to answer any questions you have!

I had my first two students this morning and they had next to no sewing experience. They both managed to make their bags within two and a half hours (and that included a bit of practicing on scraps before we got stuck into the bags) so this is the perfect beginners project!