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 have had a go at this bag. And its confused me no end. I placed the straps between the outer and inner so they were enclosed on each side. Stitched all around and turned it inside out and the straps were trapped. Other tutorials say leave a hole in the inner to turn it inside out. Bit I cant are how that would work either. I’m not a sewing person so I’m pretty clueless
    Help please.

  2. I looked really carefully at this because I really didn’t want that to happen. The trick is to put the straps between the lining and outer fabric, WITH THE STRAPS ACTUALLY INSIDE THE BAG, kind of pointing downwards to the bottom of the bag, so you can’t see them. When you turn the fabrics the right way out -tadaaaaahhh! – the straps will be outside, where you want them. Hope that helps.
    I’m so pleased with the way my bag has turned out, which is just as well, since it’s for a gift! Thank you, Cindy.

  3. Mine did too. 🙁
    No clue what Happened, maybe the straps should be pin on before putting the lining inside?

  4. I can’t wait to pick out the fabric and make this tote. I need a tote to carry my sheet music to band practice. This will be perfect. Thanks for the pattern. It appears to be quite simple. Wish me luck. I will probably end up making several as gifts and for my own shopping needs. I used to be a professional seamstress but gave it up long ago for raising my family and other things. This looks like something fun to make.
    thanks again

  5. Jen, boxing the corners makes the bag a touch wider to fit thicker items. Typically you are only sewing in about 1 1/2. You could try adding that amount to your desired dimension. If your finished bag must be exactly those dimensions I would make a paper pattern to check my measurements. You can cut away the corners if you like, this is just one method. Do whichever works best for you. I prefer this way since I don’t have to worry about catching the edges in the seam.

  6. These ad-based websites totally lock up and crash my computer driving me bonkers, but anyway, I guess even if she reads these comments and questions, she doesn’t respond. That bag is too small for my needs. Would like to know how to account for how much the boxed corners takes away from the sides and top so I can figure out what size pieces to cut in order to make my final bag 15.75 H by 14.25 W. And couldn’t you just make this easier by cutting out squares or rectangles from the bottom of the pieces before you sew? Most people trim the triangle that is left after you sew across and it appears she just leaves it, maybe because her bag is so tiny? I hope she is not going to use my email address to start sending me junk email. I only want to know how to adjust my pattern pieces to make the bags the size I want.

  7. Thank you so much for the tote bag tutorial. I’m just getting back in to sewing after many years of work, care taking of parents, etc. So, now my husband and I are in a senior living facility. So, I finally have lots of time on my hands. I felt like the tote bag was going together nicely until I turned it all right side out and the straps ended up being “trapped” inside. What did I do wrong? 😢

  8. My understanding is that you will send this tutorial as an email to my computer. What do I need to do to make this happen? Maggie

  9. Hello, I would like to know if I can use dishcloths to make grocery bags. Love your site, lovely ideas. Thanking you Annesley,

  10. Dear Cindy,
    Thanks for the free pattern! It’s amazing how confused I can get with inside/ outside/ right side etc and where to place the straps. When I have mistakenly managed to put the straps between the lining and outside and had to unpick all the stitches – I run back to the screen – in another room – and review your instructions.
    I have made a slightly different version with the straps on one side for hanging kangaroo joeys from door handles etc.
    one side needs to hang open somewhat so they can hop out when needed. Pity I can’t send you a photo – I’m hoping the straps can cope with 7 Kgs?
    Thanks again -great instructions!

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