how to sew a bag

How To Sew a Bag: A Beginner’s Guide To Creating Your Own Tote

Are you yearning to craft a fashionable and functional accessory that showcases your unique style? Look no further than the timeless tote bag! Sewing your own bag is an empowering and cost-effective way to express your creativity while enjoying a rewarding sense of accomplishment. This comprehensive guide will walk you through creating a chic and simple tote bag that is perfect for beginners in sewing.

Preparing Your Materials

Before you dive into the world of bag making, it’s crucial to gather the necessary materials. Not only will this ensure a smooth sewing experience, but it will also allow you to personalize your tote bag according to your preferences.

Fabric Selection

The main fabric, often referred to as the outer fabric, is the star of the show. Choose a durable yet stylish material that reflects your personality. Popular options include canvas, denim, faux leather, or a sturdy cotton blend. Consider patterns, colours, and textures that complement your wardrobe and lifestyle.

For the lining fabric, opt for a lightweight yet sturdy option that will protect the bag’s interior. Solid colours or subtle prints work well, allowing the outer fabric to shine.

Notions and Supplies

In addition to fabrics, you’ll need a few basic sewing supplies:

  • Sewing machine (or strong hand-sewing skills)
  • Coordinating threads for the outer fabric and lining
  • Sharp scissors or a rotary cutter for accurate fabric cutting
  • Pins or clips for securing fabric layers together
  • Measuring tape for accurate measurements
  • Iron and ironing board for pressing seams

Cutting the Fabric Pieces

Before you can start stitching, you’ll need to precisely cut the fabric pieces according to your desired bag dimensions. This step is essential to guarantee that your product attains a polished and professional final look.

Calculating Measurements

Determine the dimensions for the bag body, lining pieces, and handles or straps. Take into account factors like the desired dimensions, depth, and width of your tote bag. Remember to include seam allowances, which usually range from 0.25 inches to 0.5 inches, according to your preference and as directed by the pattern instructions.

Cutting Techniques

Cutting accuracy is key to ensuring your bag pieces align correctly during assembly. For clean, straight edges, utilize a rotary cutter and a self-healing mat, or use sharp fabric scissors as an alternative. Square off the fabric edges before cutting to follow the grain line, ensuring your bag hangs and drapes correctly.

Constructing the Outer Bag

Constructing the Outer Bag
Photo credit: pexels

Now that you have your fabric pieces cut, it’s time to start sewing the outer bag!

Sewing the Main Pieces

Begin by stitching the side seams of the bag body using a straight stitch on your sewing machine. If desired, you can create a boxed corner at the bottom of the bag for a flat base. Finish any raw edges with an overlock stitch or a zig-zag stitch to prevent fraying.

Attaching the Handles/Straps

Decide on the placement of your handles or straps, and securely stitch them to the outer bag body. Reinforce the handle attachments with additional stitching or a decorative bar tack for added durability.

Assembling the Lining

The lining not only adds a polished look to your tote bag but also protects the interior from wear and tear.

Sewing the Lining Pieces

Follow the same steps as the outer bag, stitching the lining pieces together. If desired, you can add convenient features like a zippered pocket or slip pockets for organization.

Inserting the Lining

Once both the outer bag and lining are constructed, it’s time to combine them. The “bagging” technique involves inserting the lining into the outer bag, aligning the top edges, and stitching them together.

Finishing Touches

Your tote bag is nearly complete! A few final touches will elevate its professional appearance.


Topstitching along the top opening of the bag creates a neat, finished edge. You can also add decorative topstitching along seams or design elements for an extra pop of style.

Pressing and Shaping

Using a clapper or seam roller, press all seams and corners to achieve crisp, defined lines. This step ensures your bag maintains its shape and looks polished.


What is the best fabric for sewing a tote bag?

Sturdy fabrics like canvas, denim, or faux leather are excellent choices for the outer bag, while lightweight cotton or polyester blends work well for the lining.

Do I need a sewing machine to make a bag?

While a sewing machine is recommended for efficiency and precise stitching, it is possible to hand-sew a bag with patience and the right tools.

How do I calculate the fabric needed for a bag?

Measure the desired dimensions, add seam allowances, and use a bag pattern or online calculator to determine the fabric requirements for the outer bag, lining, and handles/straps.

Can I add pockets or other features to my bag?

Absolutely! You can customize your bag by adding zippered or slip pockets, adjustable straps, or decorative embellishments to suit your needs and style preferences.

How do I finish the raw edges of my bag?

Raw edges can be finished with an overlock stitch, zig-zag stitch, or bias binding to prevent fraying and give a professional look.


Congratulations! You’ve successfully sewn your very own tote bag – a versatile accessory that seamlessly blends functionality and personal flair. Enjoy the fulfillment of crafting a one-of-a-kind piece with your own hands, and feel empowered to take on more complex bag patterns or sewing projects down the road.

Now, it’s your turn: What other bag styles would you like to learn how to sew? Share your thoughts and creations with us, and let’s inspire each other’s sewing journeys!


Main image: pexels

Priti Nandy
Priti Nandy
Articles: 249

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