Here is a simple tote bag pattern to walk you step by step through how to make a super cute tote. The best part is that it’s reversible! Make one for yourself — or make a dozen as gifts!

With a little practice, you can turn out these simple bags on a sewing machine in no time. Lined totes are super easy, and they can be made in so many cute variations. Plus, don’t miss our pattern for a matching zippered pouch!

flowered tote bag

Tote Bag Pattern

For this reversible tote bag sewing project, you will need the following fabric pieces:

  • 2 pieces fabric 13 1/2 inches X 14 inches (outside)
  • 2 pieces fabric 13 1/2 inches X 14 inches (lining)
  • 1 piece 4” X  about 44″ long

How to make a tote bag

First, let’s start by making the straps.

1. Cut a piece of fabric 4″ X 44″ long. Press fabric in half lengthwise.

2. Open the fabric up and press each outside edge to the center.

3. Fold fabric in half and press.

4. Top-stitch down each side of the strap close to the edge. Cut the fabric in half so you have two straps about 22 inches long each.

strap instructions showing folding

Now let’s make the tote bag.

1. Cut four pieces of fabric 13 1/2 inches X 14 inches.

fabric cut into pieces for tote bag pattern

2. Lay lining fabric right sides together and sew on three sides. Leave one side open for the top! Next, sew your outer fabric pieces right sides together on three sides.

For this project, the bottom of the bag is 13 1/2 inches wide and the sides 14 inches long.  But the bag can be made any size.

fabric with stitching lines to show how to make a tote bag

3. Now we need to “box” the bottom of the bag. Pinch the bottom corner together and stitch across 1 1/2 inches from the corner. Do this for the lining and also the outer fabric.

corner of tote bag

4. Repeat until all four corners have been sewn.

tote bag inside out

5. Place lining fabric inside the outside fabric right sides together. I slipped the lining fabric up a bit so you can see how it slips in.

how to make a tote bag sewing instructions

6. Place straps in between right sides of the fabric on each side about two to three inches from the side edge.

where to add straps 1 inch from sides

7. Pins straps and the top edge of the bag well. Stitch around the top of the bag 1/2 inch from the edge. Leave a 2-3 inch opening for turning the bag (I usually leave this on the side).

pinned fabric

8. Turn bag inside out.

tote bag right side out

9. Push lining inside the bag and topstitch all the way around to hem the top of the bag. This will close up the opening used for turning.

Topstitching also makes the seams more durable, so they won’t strain and pull apart if you use the tote to carry heavy stuff.

edge stitching on top of tote

Finished! How exciting! You did it. I hope you make tons of totes with this tote bag pattern! They make great gifts.

Tips for the perfect reversible tote bag

Here are some other optional tips that might help:

  • Maybe you need longer or shorter handles than the size in this pattern. To modify, just drape a measuring tape over your shoulder and see what feels right to you.
  • You can use a heavy canvas or Duck cloth — in which case you’ll need to adjust your sewing machine needle accordingly.
  • If you use a lightweight fabric, you may want to line it with a fusible fleece — just follow directions on the fleece packaging to fuse it to the wrong sides of one set of your fabric pieces.
  • Are you feeling ambitious? You might experiment with adding pockets or dividers!
  • Tote bags are perfect for taking your lunch to work, transporting groceries, or packing gym clothes. Cut down on plastic bags with washable, handy-dandy, eye-catching totes!
heather bailey fabric used for reversible tote bag

Now that you know how to make a tote bag you might also like to make a matching pleated zippered pouch to go with your new tote! A zippered pouch is really the perfect use for extra fabric leftover from making a tote bag. You will be surprised at how easy it is to put in a zipper with this zippered pouch tutorial.

flowered pleated zippered pouch

The fabrics used in these projects are created by Heather Bailey. I used Pineapple Brocade in green and Zag Stripe in gold (I think).

There are so many fabric choices out there, the possibilities are endless. Did you give this pattern a whirl? I’d love to see the tote bags you made!

Want to make your tote bag more personal? Try these easy applique monograms with free printable letters.

Tote bags remind me of things like baskets, and other containers that you store things in. Check out these great DIY Fabric Storage Containers. They bring function and decoration to any room.

I would love to keep you fully stocked with creative ideas, yummy recipes, fun crafts, and loads of free printables. Subscribe to Skip to my Lou to get new ideas delivered to your inbox. Follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram for all my latest updates.

About Cindy Hopper

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  1. I can’t remember if I’ve left a comment about this tutorial or not, so please forgive me if I have.

    I have seen and tried many, many ‘simple and easy’ tote bag tutorials in the short 7 years or so of sewing and this one is my ‘go-to’ for most of my tote bags, Trick or Treat bags, etc..It was the first tutorial I found online and I love it.
    As I am a ‘visual learner’, it did take me a while to figure out a couple of the steps, but once I did, it was a breeze!
    I’ve made bags in lots of different sizes and added pockets on the outside and inside and perfect as gifts. They are so easy to customize!! I think this is a good beginner project.

    Thank you for a great tutorial!
    I enjoy your website and your creativity!

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