You can't sit and sew home décor projects all day long. Sometimes you need an exercise break ... but not a break from style. We paired a décor weight exterior with a standard weight cotton lining, both in vibrant colors and prints. Then we calmly meditated on the easiest instructions with the most stylish details. The result guarantees good karma for all who tote this tote to class.
Our generously-sized bag will hold your mat, towel, flip flops and more. The easy access horizontal opening makes it quick to load and unload, and it's simply secured with a button and loop.
The finished size is approximately 27" wide x 10½" high with 5" boxed bottom corners.
We recommend choosing a heavier weight fabric for the bag so it's sturdier and wears well. Our original sample was made from Amy Butler's Love collection, which is no longer readily available. Below are two options for canvas and lining from collections we spotted at Fabric.com and Fat Quarter Shop.
Even with the heavier weight exterior fabric, this is meant to be a soft, unstructured bag. Soft enough to fold flat when not in use.
If you'd prefer more structure, you could add fusible batting or foam to the exterior fabric - or even to both layers. Our recomendation would be to cut the batting or foam smaller than the dimensions of the fabric panels in order to keep the thickness out of the seams.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1 yard of 44"+ wide décor weight fabric, lightweight canvas or similar for bag exterior
- 1 yard 44"+ wide standard quilting weight cotton for the bag lining
- 3 yards of 2" wide cotton webbing for handles: we used an organic white cotton, purchased locally
NOTE: 2" wide webbing is a bit harder to find; the more common 1½" width would work fine as well.
- 1 large (apx. 1") button; we used a wooden button
- All-purpose thread in colors to match fabric and webbing
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- From the exterior fabric, fussy cut TWO 33" wide x 14" high rectangles.
- From the lining fabric, cut the following:
TWO 33" wide x 14" high rectangles
ONE 4" x 4" square
- Cut the cotton webbing into two 52" lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Attach the handles
- To place the cotton webbing for the handles, first make four marks with your fabric pencil on the right side each exterior fabric 33" x 14" panel: 9" in from each corner.
NOTE: Remember, any time you are working on the right side of your fabric, make sure your marking tool is one that will easily wipe away or will vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
- Starting with one length of webbing and one fabric rectangle, position one end of the webbing flush with the bottom of the fabric panel and align the outer edge of the webbing with the 9" marks. Pin in place.
- Run straight up, make a 24" loop to create the handle, then run the webbing back down the other side, lining up with your 9" marks. Pin as you go.
- Repeat with the other exterior fabric rectangle and the other length of webbing. Make sure there are no twists in the curve of the handle.
- Thread the machine with thread to best the webbing in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch. Edgestitch the webbing to the fabric along both sides and across the bottom. Your stitching on all straps should end approximately 1" from the top raw edge so you have room for a top seam allowance.
- To reinforce the top of each strap, again starting 1" below the top raw edge of the bag, stitch a 1" - 2" square. We stitched a plain empty square; you could also stitch an X through the center of the box to create the traditional "X Box" securing stitch.
NOTE: We have a tutorial on the "X Box" if you are new to the technique.
Stitch exterior panels and lining panels together
- Pin the two exterior bag panels right sides together, making sure the webbing matches up at the bottom and the handles are sandwiched in between the layers – out of the way of all seams. You can pin the handles to the center of the bag for security.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch down both sides and across bottom of bag, pivoting at the corners. The top remains open. Press the seam allowances open.
- Find your two 33" x 14" lining panels and pin them right sides together.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch down both sides and across bottom of lining, pivoting at the corners. The top remains open. Press the seam allowances open.
Create the box corners
- Press the main bag piece so the bottom seam is very sharp.
- With the bag wrong side out, flatten the corner so it forms a triangle, aligning the side and bottom seam.
- Measure 2½" down from the end of the of the seam and use your fabric pencil to draw a line straight across the folded fabric. Your line should be at a point that is 5" wide.
- Repeat on the opposite side. Check to make sure your two drawn lines are at the exact same place on both sides.
- Unfold and stitch across along on the 5" drawn line on each side.
- Trim away the top of each triangle approxiamtely ½" from the sewn line.
- Repeat to create matching box corners in the lining.
NOTE: If you are new to this technique, we have a full step-by-step tutorial that shows the two most common methods for boxing corners.
Make the button loop
- Find the 4" x 4" square of lining fabric. Fold it in half diagonally, right sides together.
- Stitch ½" away from fold. Folding and stitching on the diagonal will make your loop bias-cut, which will allow it to curve without wrinkling.
- Trim the seam allowance to ¼" and turn right side out, using a safety pin or loop turner. Press flat.
- Find the top center point of the side that will be the back of your bag. Make a mark at this center point with your fabric pencil. Then, still using your fabric pencil, draw a short horizontal line along the ½" seam line.
- Fold your loop in half and pin it at the center point mark you just made. Adjust the loop up or down so enough of it extends past the seam line for the button to pass through easily. Don't guess. Test it with your actual button. Pin the loop in place.
- Machine baste the loop in place, running forward and backwards several times so your loop is secure and can stand up to lots of wear and tear. This stitching should be within the seam allowance - not on the seam line. Trim away the excess loop ends.
Finish the bag
- Finish the top raw edge of both the main bag and the lining with pinking shears or a zig zag stitch.
NOTE: We have a four-part series on machine sewn seam finishes for more finishing options.
- Turn lining inside out. Keep the main bag right side out.
- Place the main bag inside the lining so the two layers are now right sides together. Pin around the top edge matching seams and centers and tucking the straps down (they should sit between the layers. Leave an 8" opening for turning at the center back.
- Stitch all around the top, using a ½" seam allowance. Remember to lock the seam at either side of the 8" opening for turning.
- Turn right side out and press the top edge flat, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Topstitch around the entire top of tote. This flattens the top edge of the bag and seals the opening used for turning. For the cleanest look, fold the handles down and stitch BEHIND the handles not over the top of them.
- Hand sew the wooden button to the center of the front of the bag, opposite the loop.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Jacqueline Smerek