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Soft & Stuffable Fabric Shopping Bags

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As more and more stores up their recycling commitment (some entire cities have banned plastic bags), it's becoming pretty common to have to bring your own shopping bags. Fabric bags are the go-to alternative and widely available, particularly the heavier, structured bags. Lightweight, flexible bags that would best replace plastic can be harder to come by. Luckily, you're a clever sewing person and can make your own... with a little help from your friends at Sew4Home.

These bags are made from two layers of quilting weight cotton with just a bit of batting in the base. As the name implies, they're meant to be wonderfully soft and stuffable. 

We chose three different coordinating florals for our sample bags, alternating the fabrics to create the exterior and lining sets. We love the fresh colors, which are sure to make shopping more fun.

Roll up or even wad up the bag to fit one or more into your purse, the glove box or your bike bag. Will it wrinkle? Yep. But it smooths out as soon as you load it up, and if you're worried about wrinkles in your shopping totes... well, we really can't help you with that!

Two layers of cotton are quite strong, and these bags can hold a lot... more than a plastic bag for sure! The single strap, which is adjustable, keeps them well-balanced and easy to carry. Load up at the grocery store and farmer's market. Or use one as the perfect lightweight tote for a lazy afternoon in the park. 

Our simple design is super fast and easy. You could whip up several in a single afternoon for yourself – or how adorable would these be as a wedding shower gift in the bride's favorite colors?! We offer a multi-part pattern download below. 

The shoulder straps knot at the top so they're easy to adjust. A shortened strap will make it easier to carry a heavy load. 

If you like this bag design, you may also like our other on-the-go shopping bag alternatives:

Foldaway Grocery Bags with Carrying Case
Rip Stop Grocery Bags with Carry Pouch
Classic Structured Grocery Bag
Insulated Shopping Tote

Each shopping bag finishes at approximately 12" wide x 6" deep x 20" tall from small top knot to base. The strap is adjustable with a simple knot.  

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

Getting Started

  1. Download and print the FIVE pattern pieces: Shopping Tote Pattern Piece 1, Shopping Tote Pattern Piece 2, Shopping Tote Pattern Pieces 3 and 4 (two pattern pieces will print on one sheet), and Shopping Tote Pattern Base.
    IMPORTANT: Each pattern download is ONE 8½" x 11" sheet. You must print the PDF files at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide line on each page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
  2. Cut out each pattern along the solid line. Assemble the four pieces that make up the full body of the bag, aligning the guide arrows on each piece.
  3. From the fabric for the exterior, cut TWO from the assembled body pattern and ONE from the base pattern.  
  4. When cutting on the fold, to make the best use of the one yard of fabric, first place the fabric right side up and flat on your work surface with the 44-45" width along the top and bottom and the 36" length along the sides. Fold in each side about 10" toward the center. You are folding in the raw edge just enough to fit the pattern. Do not cut down the center of the fabric. 

  5. Pin and cut one piece from the right folded edge.
  6. Then pin and cut a second piece from the left folded edge. As you can see in the illustrations above and below, you will cut one with the pattern right side up, then flip the assembled pattern to cut the other.
  7. Unfold the fabric to reveal the remaining fabric at the center. Use this section to cut the one base rectangle. 

    NOTE: If you'd rather not cut on the fold, you can print TWO SETS of the pattern pieces. Assemble both sets of four, then flip one set to the wrong side and butt together the two assembled units along the center edge – the edge that would have been used to cut on the fold. As above, butt together and tape; do not overlap. Do the same for the base, but you are just working with two pieces, one right side up and one wrong side up, aligned at the center fold line. This is what we did to cut our base as shown in the illustration above.
  8. Repeat to cut TWO body pieces and ONE base piece from the lining fabric. For each bag, you should end up with two pieces for the exterior, two pieces for the lining and two pieces for the base.
  9. Use the base pattern to cut ONE from the batting. 

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Create the upper bag

  1. Place the two exterior pieces right sides together and pin along both short sides. Repeat to pin the two lining pieces right sides together. 
  2. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch each short seam (four seams total).
  3. Turn the sewn lining right side out but keep the sewn exterior wrong side out. Slip the lining instead the exterior so the two layers are now right sides together. Align the side seams and the raw edges of straps. Pin up and around both curves and straps. The straps look like two long bunny ears above the main rectangle of the bag.
  4. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the entire curving seam, starting and stopping at a side seam. Go slowly, stopping with your needle in the down position as needed to adjust position as you move around each curve.
  5. Clip and trims all the curves, both the inner curves...
  6. ... and the outer curves.

    If you are new to sewing, this is a great project to practice keeping your seam allowances even. Check our our tutorial Sewing Smooth Curves Every Time for extra tips and techniques. 
  7. Turn the bag right side out through the open bottom. Use a long, blunt end tool, like a knitting needle or chopstick to help round out the curves. 
  8. Press the bag flat. Because you read our tutorial and did such a good job on your stitching and clipping, both the inner curves of the sides...
  9. ... and the outer curves of the top of the straps are both lovely. 

Insert the base panel

  1. Pin the layers together along the raw bottom edge. You are not pining the open bottom closed; you are just pinning the lining layer to the exterior layer.
  2. Run a basting stitch around the entire bottom opening through both layers. Don't lock the seam at the beginning or end so this basting seam can also work as a gathering stitch. In this way, you can both keep the two layers secured for the final steps and can slightly gather the bag if need be to best fit against the flat base. 
  3. Layer the three pieces that make up the base. Place the lining piece wrong side up and flat on your work surface. Place the batting on top of this piece. Place the exterior panel right side up on top. This creates a classic quilt-type sandwich with the fabric wrong sides together and the batting in between the layers. 
  4. Baste around the entire base to hold the layers together. Keep your stitching close to the raw edges.
  5. Fold the base in half horizontally and vertically to find the center point of each side. Place a pin at each point. 
  6. Similarly, find the center point of the open bottom of the bag. The side seams are two of the center points. Place these side seams together and flatten the bag. The outer folded edges are the opposite center points. Press to create a crease, and place a pin at each fold. Bring these pins together to double-check that, when flattened, the side seams are still exactly opposite one another. 
  7. Turn the bag lining side out. Set the base into the bottom of the bag. The base should also be lining side out. Matching the center points, pin the base to the bag, right sides together. 
  8. Match up each center point to start, then fill in all around, easing and gathering the top of the bag to fit the base. 
  9. This is very similar to how you would insert a flat circle into a tube. If you're new to this technique, we have a full step-by-step tutorial on the process
  10. Using a ½" seam allowance and starting at a side seam, stitch around the entire perimeter of the base. 
  11. Inserting the base in this manner results in a visible seam allowance on the inside. No worries; you're going to cover it up! 
  12. Cut a length of bias binding to fit around the entire base plus a couple inches for overlap. 
  13. Wrap the binding over the seam allowance, encasing the raw edges to give the seam allowance a finished edge inside the bag. 
  14. Leave 1" extra at the tail for an overlap. Pin in place all around. Don't be afraid to use plenty of pins. 
  15. Fold back the tail of the binding and overlap the head for a clean finish, trimming away the excess binding as needed. Pin in place. 
  16. Stitch the binding in place over the seam allowance. Remember, you are stitching only the seam allowance; don't stitch onto the main bag itself. Go slowly to insure you are catching both the front and back of the binding in the one seam.
  17. Turn the bag right side out and tie the straps together at the top with a cute little knot, adjusting for your best fit.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Leah Wand


Comments (21)

Nancycm said:
Nancycm's picture

Great pattern, especially for those of us (at least here in Southern Cal) who pay $.10/bag, plastic or paper.  Great stash buster while making something fun, easy and worthwhile all at the same time!  Thanks for the easy pattern and instructions.  I learned a new way to cut on the fold which is great-I love learning new techniques large and small.  This is my first Janome Sew4Home pattern!  I see many more in my future.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Nancycm - Welcome to the world of Sew4Home! We're glad you're here and already found a favorite pattern. And yes, Janome is one of our many great sponsors, although we are a separate business. We hope you'll come back often - and will bring all your friends 

Riva said:
Riva's picture

This actualy fun project to do. Is there anyway you can do videos of these tutorials as well?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Riva - glad you enjoyed the project! Doing videos is not in our budget at this time. 

Diana said:
Diana's picture

Love this patern! Have you thought to use In-R-Form Plus,  (a double sided fusible foam Stabiliser) instead of the wadding .  I've been trying this amazing product out, and it's great for bag making!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Diana - we have used that Bosal foam, as well as a similar product we like by Pellon called Flex Foam - both are indeed great for bags! However, for this design, we wanted these bags to be able to be folded, rolled or even squished up to almost nothing, so the foam would have been too stiff. 

Linda Cole said:
Linda Cole 's picture

Great tutorial fabric selection looks good, looks easy for beginning crafter. Thanks...

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Linda Cole - They ARE super easy. Have fun and let us know how they turn out for you. 

Meg said:
Meg's picture

thanks for this fun and fast pattern!  Truly appreciate.

gracious said:
gracious's picture

I have volunteered to make reusable  bags for our church Food Pantry, serving those in the community that need help with their groceries. Looks like the perfect pattern to use up my stash and be productive at the same time.  Timing is everything. Thanks.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ gracious - what a great project. Please send us a picture of all the bags when you're done ( We'd love to see all the pretty bags in the pantry - ready to load up to help.

adnil said:
adnil's picture

Move the strap to the top edge of your fabric and extend the sides and you really would better use your fabric AND have a deeper bag.  Win win 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@adnil - this pattern is a super easy option with the two mirror images pieces, and they really hold a lot! But we always love to see the options people add to make a project their own. 

sandie said:
sandie's picture

Your bag is gorgeous.  Love the material.  looking forward to making it.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ sandie - thanks! Enjoy - and let us know how it turns out for you.

doro von hand zu hand said:
doro von hand zu hand's picture

they look great! (who needs a plastic bag at all?)

thanks for sharing your tutorial! i set a link and hope you agree.

best wishes, <a href="">doro von Hand zu Hand</a>

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ doro von hand zu hand - thanks for the links. Hope you enjoy making the bags. 

IreneMR said:
IreneMR's picture

Hi!  Thanks for this wonderful pattern, however, i cannot print out the base, only the other four pieces.  Would you please check if I'm wrong?  Thanks!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ IreneMR - I'm sorry you're having problems. We have checked, and all the pattern pieces are delivering correctly from our server, including the base. Perhaps you can re-load the page and try again. 

Savitar said:
Savitar's picture

Materials list is incomplete - it doesn't give yardage for lining.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Savitar - the exterior and the lining each take one yard. It wasn't stated very well in the list; I've added copy to make it more clear. Thanks for the heads up.

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