Simple Tote Bag

Who doesn't need a tote? Totes are very easy to make and there are many different ways to make them. The possibilities are endless!

Finished Dimensions: 13"W x 10"H x 4"D


Outer (1): 15" x 25"

Lining (1): 15" x 25"

Bottom (1): 15" x 13"

Inside Pocket (1): 10" x 15"

Handles (2): 5" x 34"

Zipper (1): 9"

4" of nylon webbing or make your own out of fabric for a key holder

Create Inside Pocket

Place your lining piece right side up. Measure 2" from the top and mark the center.

Take the inside pocket piece and mark the center (at 5") right at the top of the raw edge on the wrong side of the fabric.

Place the pocket piece right side down on top of the lining piece and ensure the center marks are matching. Smooth out the lining piece to make sure it's straight and centered and pin in place.

Measure 1" down from the raw edge of the inside pocket piece and mark a line. This will be the top of the zip opening. Measure 1/2" down from the first line and draw a line, creating a long rectangle.

Sew around the rectangle box you've drawn to attach the two pieces together.

Draw a line down the center of the box and cut along this line through both layers. At the corners, stop short on your center cutting and cut on the diagonal into the corners (but don't clip the stitches).

Stuff the pocket piece through the hole and press the fabric open. With the right side of the lining facing down, place your zipper (teeth down, so they are showing through the hole) and center it. Check to make sure the zipper pull is within the hole and that any metal pieces (like the zipper stops) won't be in the way of where you're going to sew.

Scotch tape helps to hold the zipper in place. You can sew right through it and rip it off when you're done.

Take the assembly to the sewing machine. With right side up, start at one corner of the zipper and sew close to the edge all the way around the box to secure the zipper to the lining assembly.

Next, fold the pocket up and pin around the edges. Sew around the three open sides, starting at one of the bottom corners. Make sure you keep the lining piece out of the way as you sew!

Close the Lining

Take the lining piece and fold in half (the 15" edges are the top, so you're putting those together) with right sides together. If you're including a little key tab, take your nylon webbing or fabric piece and insert it "loop" first between the lining on one side seam.

Stitch up one side seam from the bottom to the top, backstitching at the top.

On the other side seam, stitch up about 4" from the bottom, backstitch and stop to create gap for turning. Ensure the gap is wide enough to get your hand through. Start stitching again (backstitching at both ends) to the top. Set the lining aside.

Create Outer Assembly

If you're going to use interfacing to give the bag structure or make it "stand up" on its own, now is the time to fuse that interfacing to the wrong side of the outer piece. I suggest cutting the interfacing 1" shorter than the total piece so that the interfacing stays out of the seams (1/2").

Take your outer piece and place it right side up on your work surface. Take the bottom piece and create a double-fold hem (1" total) along each 15" side. If using fabric that can be pressed, press it to hold the hem in place. I used a faux suede so I used clips to hold the hems in place.

Center the bottom piece on the outer piece. I folded both my outer and bottom pieces in half to create a crease and lined up the creases.

Sew the bottom piece to the outer, topstitching close to the hem (I used about 1/8").

Fold the outer assembly in half, right sides together, and sew up both sides from bottom to top.

Box the Corners

Take both the lining and outer pieces and measure 2" from the bottom and side seam (this will create a bag bottom that is 4"). Because we didn't sew the bottom, there isn't a seam there, so just line up 2" from the bottom crease and 2" from the side seam stitches.

Cut out the corners on both the lining and outer pieces.

On each corner, pinch the fabric right sides together at the cut corners and pull them out so you have a nice straight seam. Sorry I forgot to take pictures of this step! Sew the corners together and you should have a nice, neat bottom gusset.

Create Handles

Take your handle pieces and fold them wrong side together in half to create a crease. Open it up, then fold each edge in to the crease in the middle, then fold the whole thing in half again. Topstitch on each side to hold it together. Clear as mud? Check out this tutorial at Sewplicity on creating bag straps, I use this all the time!

Put the Bag Together

Take your outer assembly which should be wrong side out. Get the liner assembly and turn it right side out and insert it into the outer assembly. Measure to the center on both sides of the outer (should be 7") and make a small mark. Measure 3" on either side of that center mark - this is where the edge of your handles should go.

Find the handles and we're going to insert them "loop down" between the outer and the lining. Make sure the straps are straight and not twisted up (yep I biffed on one, had to turn it out and unpick the stitches and redo it!). If there is a "right side" of your handles, you'll want them to be placed right sides together with the outer fabric.

Line up the side seams and top raw edges and pin or clip everything in place.

Sew at 1/2" around the entire top of the bag. We left a gap in the lining for turning, so we can close this seam entirely.

After it's closed, feel free to cut away any extra handle fabric if needed.

Turn it Out

Pull the bag through the gap in the lining. Make sure the handles are straight and not twisted! Once you're satisfied it's good to go, sew the gap in the lining closed. I fold in the raw edges of the gap and just edgestitch it closed.

Finish the Top Hem

On this bag, I decided I wanted the lining to "peek out" a little over the hem edge, so I pulled up the lining just a smidge above the outer fabric, pinned in place and then topstitched around the entire bag.

And there you have it - a simple tote with an inside zipper pocket!