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Big Canvas Beach Tote with Rope & Grommet Handles

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Our big beach bag is all cotton so it breathes well and dries in a snap, but it's not waterproof and so isn't designed to take a dip in the salty surf. Its job is to keep you looking good on your way to the water's edge. We're on board with that! We used a beautiful cotton/linen blend canvas paired with natural canvas duck. It's a super stylish combo for our on-the-go beach tote. Rope handles add a nautical touch and make it easy to open wide so you can load up plenty of towels and other important beach gear. Don't forget the sunscreen.

Two layers of interfacing (mid-weight fusible plus a fusible fleece) provide structure while still allowing plenty of flexibility so you can stuff it full. 

The rope handles act as their own drawcord, weaving through eight metal grommets with great chunky knots at either side. 

We've spaced the grommets carefully so when the bag gathers closed, the softly rippled top is as pretty as the ocean waves.

Part of the bag's flair is how the seams of the upper and lower panels are off-set. The upper panel has bold center seams front and back to showcase the topstitching.

The lower panel has traditional side seams, leaving a flat front for the generous exterior pocket.

We originally used Cotton & Steel Mesa Metallic Canvas for the accent print, an older collection that is no longer readily available. Have no fear! We've selected six brand new canvas options that are just as beautiful for your day at the beach bag! Click on a swatch below for more information.

                

Our beach bag finishes at approximately 15" high x 17" wide x 6" deep with a 12" - 13" drop on the handles. It's large enough to hold enough supplies for a full day of fun at the beach.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies    

  • 1⅓ yard of 44"+  wide medium-weight cotton canvas or similar for the upper panels and lining
    NOTE: This yardage allows you to cut either horizontally or vertically. If using 44" wide fabric, you will use the entire width.
  • 1¼ yard of 44"+ wide medium-weight cotton canvas or similar for the lower panels
    NOTE: This yardage allows you enough to fussy cut a directional motif. If your fabric is not directional, you can get away with one yard.
  • 1 yard of 45" fusible fleece; we used Pellon Fusible Thermolam Plus
  • 1 yard of 45" mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor Bond
  • Plastic canvas or super firm interfacing for bag base - you need an approximate 6" x 17" rectangle; we used Timtex super firm interfacing
  • 4 yards of ⅜" - ½" rope; we used a poly/cotton basket-weave rope, purchased locally
  • EIGHT Extra Large Eyelets (grommets); they need to be large enough to fit your chosen rope - we used an antique brass, purchased locally
  • All purpose thread to match fabrics
  • All purpose thread in a slightly contrasting color for all topstitching; we recommend Coats Dual Duty Heavy thread or Dual Duty Jeans-Topstitching thread - we used a copper color
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Small scissors to cut grommet holes
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle

Getting Started

  1. From the fabric for the upper panels and lining (Natural Duck in our sample), cut the following:
    TWO 24" wide x 10" high rectangles for the upper exterior panels
    TWO 24" wide x 16" high rectangles for the lining panels
  2. From the fabric for the lower panels (Aqua & Copper Mesa in our sample), fussy cut the following:
    TWO 24" wide x 13" high rectangles for the lower exterior panels
    ONE 16" wide x 15" high rectangle for the pocket
    NOTE: Fussy cut to center the motif across the front and back, along the sides, and to match the pocket to the front panel. If you are new to this technique, check out our fussy cutting tutorial as well as our tutorial on how to exactly match a pocket to a panel
  3. From the fusible interfacing, cut the following:
    TWO 24" x 13" rectangles for the lower exterior panels
    TWO 24" x 6½" rectangles for the upper exterior panels
  4. From the fusible fleece, cut TWO 24" x 16" rectangles.
  5. From the plastic canvas or heavy interfacing, cut ONE 5⅞" x16⅞" rectangle.
  6. Cut the rope in half into TWO 2 yard lengths. 

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Fusing

  1. Find the four exterior panels and the four interfacing panels. 
  2. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing the wrong side of each exterior panel. 
  3. On the upper panels, the interfacing should be flush along both sides and along the bottom. Across the top it should sit 3½" down the raw edge of the fabric. This will allow the self-facing to remain without interfacing. 

Construct the upper unit

  1. Find the two 24" x 10" upper panels.
  2. Fold down the top raw edge ½" along each panel. Press to set a crease line.
  3. Place the panels right sides together and pin along both 10" sides. Unfold the ½" hem at the top to allow the seam to go all the way to the top.
  4. Stitch both sides, using a ½" seam allowance, creating a loop.

    NOTE:
    We decided to add the extra fusible interfacing during our second sample prototype. So, if interfacing seems "missing" from some photos, don't worry. The construction steps shown remain the same, interfacing or no.
  5. Press each seam allowance together and to one side. 
  6. Turn the loop right side out. 
  7. Re-thread with the heavier, contrasting thread in the top and bobbin. Increase the stitch length. 
    NOTE: Throughout our project, we lengthened our stitch for all topstitching. 
  8. Topstitch ¼" from each side seam, securing the seam allowance you pressed to the one side.
  9. Set aside the upper unit.

Construct the lower unit and the front pocket

  1. Find the 16" x 15" pocket panel. 
  2. Fold the panel in half, right sides together, so it is now 16" x 7½".
  3. Pin along both sides and across the bottom, leaving a 3" - 4" opening along the bottom for turning. 
  4. Re-thread with regular thread in the top and bobbin and re-set the stitch length to normal. 
  5. Stitch along both sides and across the bottom. Remember to pivot at the corners and to lock your seam at either side of the 3" - 4" opening. 
  6. Press open the seam allowances and clip the corners.
  7. Turn the pocket right side out. Using a long, blunt end tool, push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. A long knitting needle or chopstick works well for this. 
  8. Press the pocket flat, pressing in the raw edges of the seam allowance at the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
  9. Re-thread the machine with topstitching thread in the top and bobbin. Topstitch a horizontal line across the pocket, running it 1" down from the top folded edge. This creates a faux top hem for the pocket.
  10. Measure to find the exact center of the pocket. Draw a vertical dividing line at this point. 
  11. If you'd like to add your own label to your bag, stitch it in place now in the upper right corner of the pocket just below the faux hem line, re-threading the machine if necessary with thread to match your label. 
  12. Find the front lower panel. Place the right side up and flat on your work surface. Place the pocket right side up on the panel. The pocket should be 2" down from the top raw edge of the panel, 4" up from the bottom raw edge of the panel, and centered side to side. Pin the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom. Also place a few pins along the center dividing line of the pocket. If you followed our fussy cutting recommendations, you are also lining up the pocket motif with the front panel motif. 
  13. Re-thread mhe machine with the topstitching thread. 
  14. Edgestitch the pocket in place on the front panel along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. This seam seals the opening in the pocket used for turning. 
  15. Topstitch along the center dividing line. For the best look, don't back tack to lock your seam at the beginning and end. If your machine has the feature, use a lock stitch. If not, leave the thread tails long and knot to secure. 
  16. Re-thread the machine with regular thread in the top and bobbin and re-set the stitch length to normal. 
  17. Place the front and back lower panels right sides together, sandwiching the pocket between the layers. Pin along both 13" sides.
  18. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both side seams, creating a loop.
  19. Turn the loop right side out and press flat, pressing the seam allowances together and to one side. 
  20. Re-thread with the heavier, contrasting thread in the top and bobbin. Increase the stitch length. 
  21. As you did above for the upper unit, topstitch ¼" from each side seam, securing the seam allowance you pressed to the one side. 

Assemble the upper and lower units and box the corners

  1. Find the upper and lower units.
  2. Re-thread the machine with regular thread in the top and bobbin and re-set the stitch length to normal.
  3. On the lower unit, place your ruler along the center dividing line of the pocket so the ruler reaches the top raw edge of the lower unit. Place a pin at this point. 
  4. With the upper unit wrong side out and the lower unit right side out, slip the upper unit over the lower so the two are now right sides together. You are aligning the center horizontal raw edges: the bottom of the upper unit and the top of the lower unit. 
  5. The seams are off-set. Align one seam of the upper unit with that center pin point marker you set into the lower unit. On the front, make sure you align the topstitching line on the upper unti with the center dividing stitch line on the pocket (that is what your center pin point should relate to). 
  6. Flatten the loops and pin the remaining upper unit seam directly opposite the front. Then fill in with pins all around. The side seams should be directly opposite one another.
  7. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the two units together all around. If your machine has a free arm, now is a good time to use it.
  8. Turn the completed loop right side out. Press the seam allowance together and down. 
  9. Re-thread with the heavier, contrasting thread in the top and bobbin. 
  10. As above, topstitch ¼" from the seam, running this topstitching within the lower panel to secure the seam allowance.
  11. Re-thread the machine with regular thread in the top and bobbin and re-set the stitch length to normal.
  12. Flatten the loop, making sure the four seams are correctly positioned: upper seams center front and center back, lower seams along each side. 
  13. Pin across the bottom.
  14. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch across the bottom.
  15. With the bag still wrong side out, create 6" box corners, which means your "box" will be half that size or 3".
  16. Cut out this large box.
  17. Align the folded edge with the seam and flatten the corner. Pin across the corner.
  18. Using a ½" seam allowance, double stitch across the corner.

    NOTE:
    If you are new to this technique, check out our tutorial: How To Box Corners for more details.
  19. Turn the main bag right side out, push out the corners, and press.
  20. Find the plastic canvas or heavy interfacing base rectangle. Set it down into the base of the bag. Tack the panel in place against the bottom of the bag by hand stitching the ends to the box corner seam allowances.
  21. Set aside the exterior bag.

Create and insert the lining

  1. Find the 24" x 16" lining panels and the matching panels of fusible fleece.
  2. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the fleece to the wrong side of each panel.
  3. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
  4. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. 
  5. As above, create 6" box corners.
  6. On the lining, you can simply align the seams to create the flattened corner.
  7. Leave the completed lining box wrong side out.
  8. Find the exterior bag, it should be right side out. 
  9. Along the top of exterior bag, make a 3½" hem. To to this, re-fold the top raw edge along the original ½" crease line and press.
  10. Then fold down an additional 3" and press again.
  11. Slip the lining inside the exterior so the two are now wrong sides together. Push the lining all the way down against the base of the exterior, aligning the bottom and side seams. 
  12. Tuck the top raw edge of the lining under the folded hem of the self facing. The lining should extend under the facing by about 1". Pin the facing in place over the lining all around. 
  13. Re-thread with the heavier, contrasting thread in the top and bobbin. We also switched to our Walking foot to help handle the multiple layers.
  14. Topstitch all around the upper edge of the bag, ¼" down the top fold. 
  15. Topstitch all around again just shy of 3" down from the top fold. This secures the facing in place over the lining. We used the measurement guides on the bed of our Janome to keep a consistent 3" stitching line; you could also draw in a guide line to follow.

Grommets and rope handles

  1. Starting on the bag front, measure 2¾" to the right of the center topstitching (the actual topstitching - not the seam line) and 2¾" to the left of the topstitching.
  2. Create a mark at each of the measured points centered between the two lines of horizontal lines of facing topstitching. These will be the center points of the two front grommets. 
  3. Cut the grommet holes.
  4. Insert the grommets.

    NOTE: I
    f you are new to this technique, we have a great Metal Grommets Tutorial.
  5. With the two front grommets in place, measure from the outside edge of one front grommet 5¾" towards the side of the bag. Make a mark at this measurement, as above, it should be centered within the two lines of horizontal facing topstitching. 
  6. Insert a grommet at this point. 
  7. Repeat to measure 5¾" from the outside edge of the other front grommet towards the opposite side of the bag. Insert a fourth grommet at this point.
  8. You now have two front grommets and two front-side grommets.
  9. Repeat to create two back grommets and two additional back-side grommets. The pairs of side grommets should be centered over the lower side seams.
  10. Find the two lengths of rope. 
  11. Weave one length through the front four grommets and one through the back four grommets. 
  12. Adjust so there is a handle loop hanging down to the base at both the front and back of the bag. 
  13. With these handle loops in place, and the bag's top completely open, grasp both ends of the rope and tie them into a knot. Cinch the knot up against the side of the bag between the grommets. Cinch tightly but keep the fabric between the grommets flat. 
  14. The rope tails should also fall to the base of the bag or even a bit below. Cut one tail 1" shorter than the other. 
  15. Make a knot in each tail approximately 3½" - 4" up from the end: one knot should sit slightly above the other.
  16. Unravel the rope below each knot to create tasseled ends.

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild

Section: 

Comments (14)

Connie G. said:
Connie G.'s picture

What size rope and grommets did you use for this? I'm having a hard time finding the grommets locally so will probably order online.

deelee45 said:
deelee45's picture

Made two of these for Christmas presents. One of my daughters is using it as an overnight bag for my granddaughters. Very roomy.

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

@Deelee45 - That's great to hear. So glad they were a hit! To use as an overnight bag is a great idea. 

QueenieDogsMom said:
QueenieDogsMom's picture

Hi, Cute bag! Where do you get the Sew4Home labels?

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

@QueenieDogsMom - Those S4H labels came from Cruz Label. 

BeckyT said:
BeckyT 's picture

I am ready to put the grommets on the bag, you do not state how far down from the top of the bag to place these, you only say how far from each side of the center of the bag to place them.

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

@ Becky - Glad it's coming along. As we mention above, the grommets are centered between the two horizontal lines of stitching. We'd love to see a picture of your bag when it's done. 

BeckyT said:
BeckyT's picture

I am not finding my upper edge & lining piece fit together very well. I also am unclear if the top edge is 3 1/2 inches including the folded 1/2 inch. Am I suppose to fold this upper piece twice?

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

@ Becky - sorry things aren't coming together the way you'd like. That top fold is 3-`1/2" total - fold 1/2" and then fold an additional 3". When done, the lining should fit up under the folded hem by about 1". You just need it to extend under enough in order to catch it in the topstitching.

Momo said:
Momo's picture

This Floridian LOVES beach bags, and this one hits all my sun spots!  The rope handles are perfect for both looks and being an easy solution.  I am a huge fan of canvas, too, and often make small bags for myself, my 4 guys, or gifts for others because it is so sturdy, loks great, and sews easily.  I keep it on hand always as my go-to staple.  I am going to update my stash so I have some new printed canvas, though! 

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

@ Momo - thank you so much! Yes on the canvas - we love it too, and there are SO many great print options these days.

Georgette said:
Georgette's picture

Quite a lovely simple and clean design so appropriate for the beach. -Not so fussy that I will regret replacing it with another version later in the summer. 

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

@ Georgette - Thank you! Let us kow how yours turns out!

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