Reusable shopping bags are everywhere these days. In fact, in many towns and cities, plastic and even paper bags are simply no longer available in the check-out line. I love the sturdy fabric grocery totes you normally come across, and we've made a number of them here at Sew4Home (links are included below). The only problem with the larger, heavier bags is remembering to bring them with you to the store! As an alternative, we have this pair of foldaway bags in their own carrying case. It's compact enough (just 5" x 7" x 2") to throw in your purse or keep in the car's glove box. But it still holds two generously-sized shopping duffles that will carry an amazing amount of stuff! The carrying case even has a handy front pocket to hold a shopping list, cards, keys and more.
We originally used the Simply Color collection by Vannessa Christenson for Moda, a collection that is no long readily available. Because they are created with quilting cottons, the options for new mix-and-match combos are endless. Below are a few we found to love at Fabric.com. Click a swatch to see more:
We offer a full downloadable pattern to give you the signature one-piece look of the bag and handles. As with all our Sew4Home patterns, we've condensed the pieces in order to make the printing and assembly as easy as possible. If you are brand new to working with PDF patterns, take a look at our helpful tutorial on the topic.
The bag pattern is sized to work with Fat Quarters as an alternative to standard yardage cuts. If you decide to use Fat Quarters, you will need two for each bag lining, two for each bag exterior, and one for the carrying case.
If you are interested in making other reusable shopping bags, check out these other Sew4Home tutorials:
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Quarter Inch Seam Foot; optional, but helpful since all the seams are ¼"
- Zipper Foot; optional, but helpful for sewing the Velcro® dots in place
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: Supplies shown below are for TWO bags and ONE carrying case.
- 1 yard of 44"+ wide cotton fabric for Bag 1 exterior and Bag 2 lining
- 1½ yard of 44-45" wide cotton fabric for Bag 1 lining, Bag 2 exterior as well as the carrying case
- Scrap of sew-on Velco® or ¾" sew-on Velcro® dot
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- Download and print the three Foldaway Shopping Bag pattern pieces which have been bundled into ONE PDF to make the download easier.
IMPORTANT: This pattern consists of THREE 8½" x 11" sheets. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There are guide rules on each page to confirm your print out is to size.
INSERT NEW BUNDLED PDF
- Cut out each of the pattern pieces along the solid lines.
- Butt together the three pattern pieces, following the printed arrows, to make one pattern piece. Do NOT overlap. Tape in place. This creates one half of the pattern, which is designed to be cut on the fold of the fabric.
- For EACH bag, use the assembled pattern to cut TWO pieces from the lining fabric and TWO pieces from the exterior fabric.
- From the fabric for the carrying case, fussy cut the following:
TWO 7½" wide x 9" high rectangles
ONE 5" wide x 7¼" high rectangle
ONE 2" x 7" strip
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Assemble the front and back
- Match each lining piece with a coordinating exterior piece.
- On each bag handle (the two lining handles and the two exterior handles), measure 2" down from the top raw edge and make a mark along each side of each handle.
- Place one lining piece and one exterior piece right sides together, matching all the raw edges. Pin in place along the outer edge of each handle, starting at the small lower curve and ending at that 2" mark. Then, pin in place along the inner "U" curve, starting and stopping at the 2" marks.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch each seam, remembering to stop and lock your stitch at the four 2" marks.
- Clip the curves. Press the seam allowances open.
- Turn right side out and press flat, pressing in the top raw edges of the outer edges so they are flush with sewn seams.
- Repeat with the remaining exterior/lining set.
Sew the handles together
- Place the front and back panels lining sides together, aligning the handles and the top curves.
- On one side, pull back the exterior handle layers from the lining handle layers. Pin together just the lining layers along just the top raw edge.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, start your seam at the "inside" end of the pinned lining layers (the end closet to the middle "U" seam). Stitch across the lining, holding the exterior layers out of the way.
- As you reach about the middle of this seam, start pulling the exterior layers around, twisting them so they are now also right sides together and so you can continue your seam from the lining layers onto the exterior layers.
- You may need to stop, with your needle in the down position, and rearrange the fabric to keep everything flat, as well as to match up the raw edges of the exterior layers.
- Continue the ¼" seam across the exterior layers.
- Ending at the folded edges of the exterior layers (the folded edges of that top un-sewn 2").
- You have created one straight seam that kind of curves around because the handle is actually a tube.
- Turn the sewn handle right side out and press flat. Pin the original 2" openings closed.
- Slip stitch the opening closed at the top of each handle.
Side seams, side gussets and bottom French Seam
- Open up the bag and place the front and back right sides together. The sewn handles will be sandwiched in between the layers.
- Pin both sides, matching the middle seams.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch both side seams. Press the seam allowances open.
- Turn the bag right side out.
- Fold one handle in half toward the center of the bag, lining sides together and matching the top seams.
- From the top seam, measure 1½" to the left and 1½" to the right. Mark each of these points.
- Using ¼" seam allowance, sew a short seam between these two points.
- This secures the handle fold and creates the side gusset
- Repeat to fold and stitch the remaining handle.
- Machine baste or serge the lining and exterior layers together all around the bottom. This will prevent the layers from slipping during the final French seam.
- Fold in the bottom of the bag along each side to align with the handle folds. Pin in place across the bottom. You are still working with the bag right side out.
- Make a French seam along the bottom. To do this, using a ⅝" seam, sew across the bottom (wrong sides together, right side out).
- Trim close to the seam.
- Turn the bag inside out. Make sure the side gussets are still properly folded and the bag is flat. Pin in place again across the bottom.
- Stitch across the bottom again, this time with a ⅜" seam, encasing your first seam in this second seam.
- Turn right side out again and press flat. You bottom seam is now finished inside and out.
Make and place the pocket
- Find the 5" x 7¼" rectangle.
- Fold under both sides and the bottom ½" and press all these folds in place.
- Fold the top raw edge ¼" and press. Then fold the top down an additional 1" and press again.
- Topstitch close to the inside folded edge to create the finished pocket top.
- Find or cut the ¾" Velcro® dot.
- Place half of the dot at the center top of the pocket, approximately ⅛" - ¼" from the top folded edge.
- Stitch the dot in place. We used our regular presser foot, but you can also use a Zipper foot if you prefer.
- Find one of the 7½" x 9" rectangles. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the finished pocket right side up on top of it. The top of the pocket should be approximately 1" - 1¼" from the top raw edge of the panel and centered side to side. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Double back-tack at both the beginning and end of the seam to create a good secure lock at the seam's top corner stress points.
Make the tab closure
- Find the 2" x 7" strip. Fold it in half, right sides together, so it is now 1" x 7". Press to set a center crease.
- Place the remaining half of the Velcro® dot as one end of the strip, approximately ½" in from the top raw end of the strip and up against the crease line. Stitch in place all around as you did with the first half above.
- Re-fold the strip right sides together, sandwiching the Velcro® between the layers. Pin in place across the top end (the Velcro® end) and down the side.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch across the top and down the side, pivoting at the corner. Clip the corners and press open the seam allowance.
- Turn the strip right side out through the open bottom end. Press flat.
- Tuck in the raw edges of the open end approximately ½", press flat and pin in place. Remember, this is the non-Velcro® bottom end of the tab closure.
- Find the remaining 7½" x 9" panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the bottom end of the tab at the center top of the panel. Initially,the tab strip should be placed so the Velcro® dot is facing up and this dot end is pointing down towards the bottom of the panel. Center the tab 3⅜" in from each side and 2⅞" down from the top raw edge. Pin in place. Stitch across the end of the tab with a ¼" seam allowance.
- Fold the tab up towards the top of the panel, hiding that tiny bottom seam you just made.
- Secure the tab in place with a ¾" x 1¼" box stitch. Then stitch an "X" through the box.
NOTE: If you are new to this technique, we have a step-by-step tutorial on how to make an X Box.
Complete the carrying case
- Place the front and back panels right sides together, matching all the raw edges. Make sure the tab is out of the way of the seam. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Press the seam allowances open.
- Mark and cut out a 1" square from each bottom corner
- Create a 2" box corner at each side. If you are new to this technique, check our tutorial on boxing the bottom of bags and more.
- Turn the case right side out.
- Around the top raw edge, make a double turn hem to finish. To do this, fold down the top raw edge ¼" and press all around. Then, turn down an additional ½" and press again. Pin in place. Stitch in place close to inside folded edge.
- The carrying case will hold two folded shopping bags. To fold the bags, start with a flat bag. Fold it in thirds vertically, then fold it in thirds horizontally.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild