I’ve had this beautiful fabric for some time, remnants from a glider we had re-upholstered. I toyed with the idea of making pillows for the couch, etc., but I really wanted a pretty tote bag to carry to church. The one I was using was a sling backpack I sewed from the same fabric, but with all the books I carry, it wasn’t working very well anymore. So, I set about making a tote bag using this remnant material and leftover denim.

sewing a new tote bag


The bag is a bit larger than I wanted, but that’s OK. It works great! I’ll give a step-by-step guide to how I made the bag, although I completely forgot to take pictures while I was in the process. Sorry about that!

Step #1: I folded the fabric in half and cut out the basic shape of the bag I wanted. I was going to use a 1/4″ seam so I knew that would be just a bit smaller when finished. By folding it in half, I had two pieces the exact same size for the outside portion of the bag.

Step #2: I had already sewn several denim strips together from some of our old jeans, so I simply folded the denim material in half, laid the paisley squares on top and cut out the denim to the same size as the paisley material. These would form the inside of the bag.

Step #3: I laid out the paisley material with the good sides facing each other (so that the inside of the material was on the outside). I sewed three sides together and left the fourth side untouched (since this would be my opening).

Step #4: I repeated steps 3 with the denim material. The goal is to have two bags that look identical.

Step #5: Using ribbon I had (and that matched), I cut two pieces that were each 18″ in length. These would be my handles.

Here comes the tricky part. Putting this all together to make the bag itself.

See how the three pieces are to look when finished?

Step #6: Turn the bags inside out. Place the paisley bag inside the denim bag (so that the pretty sides of each bag are facing each other. It’s like the whole bag is inside out. Now, take your ribbon and pin it BETWEEN the two pretty sides of the denim and paisley material. All you want to see of the ribbon are the ends sticking out. Basically, we’re sewing everything together so that when you flip the bags right side out, the ribbon will be where it’s supposed to be – on the outside of the bag.

Step #7: With a 1/4″ seam, sew around the edges of both bags and the straps. For extra durability, go back and forth over the straps. Do NOT sew all the around the rim. Leave about 5″ open. Once you get to this point, stop sewing, remove it from the sewing machine.

Step #8: Push the bag through the opening a little bit at a time. Basically, you’re turning the bag outside in. 🙂 When you’re finished, you should have two bags and straps hanging out. When everything is turned right side out, push the denim back inside the paisley bag so that it lines the inside of your bag. The straps should be at the top like normal. Now, go back and with a blind stitch, close the 5″ opening. You are finished!

Step #9: When it’s all said and done, I glued (with fabric glue) denim pockets on the inside of the bag so that I can actually have pockets! So exciting!

sewing a new tote bag

Let me know if any of this doesn’t make sense. I’ve tried to make sense of each step, but I may have missed crucial steps. Email me if you see anything that doesn’t work.