Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reversible Reusable Tote Bags

So I really want to stop using plastic and paper bags when I'm shopping, thus I've been looking to make some reusable bags. I've looked through TONS of blogs and I finally came across a tutorial that I like from Green and Unabashed.

I really liked the test bags but I made quite a few changes to the construction. So here's how I make reversible, reusable tote bags:

Items Needed
1 yard printed cotton or home decor fabric
1 yard solid or coordinating printed cotton or home decor fabric
rotary cutter (optional but recommended)
serger (optional but recommended)
self - healing mat

**Warning: DO NOT CUT OFF THE SELVAGE! You're going to need every bit of these 2 yards of fabric. I promise the selvage will be hidden. Just trust me.**

The first step is to press your fabric then fold lengthwise and press fold flat. I suggest that when folding your fabric that you have the right side of the fabric on the inside, it makes things easier later.

Measure 6 inches from the top of the fabric and cut. Set this piece aside, we'll get back to it later.

Fold your fabric in half widthwise and measure. Hopefully you're using fabric that is 44 or 45 inches wide, which means that your halfway point should be 19 to 19.5 inches from the top, cut at your midpoint. At this point you should have two pieces of fabric that folded is 18 inches wide and 19 inches long.

Cut 3 by 3 squares from the bottom of the fabric.

Remember that 6 inch strip of fabric from earlier? It's come back into play now. So first you need to iron out the fold crease. Next make cuts every 8 inches, this will give you four 8" x 6" boxes and an extra piece.

You need a 5" x 3" template. I cut a 8" x 6" box out of a cereal box and then cut a 5" x 3" whole in the middle. You don't have to do that, honestly you could cutout a 5" x 3" box out of a piece of paper, as long as you center it. Regardless of how you make your template trace the 5" x 3" and draw something that resembles  an envelope. IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT!
Open the large piece of fabric and pin the box to the top, right sides together. The box should be centered on the large piece, which basically means there should be 5 inches on either side of the box. (See I told you the envelope didn't need to be perfect) 

Sew along the OUTSIDE of the box your just traced.

Cut along the inside "envelope" lines, cut as closely to the corner stitches as you can but DO NOT cut through  them.

Pull everything through the hole you just made and press the opening down.

Serge down the side and across the bottom.

Now open the holes at the bottom of the bag, lay the top of the opening on the bottom of the opening and sew closed. Repeat on the other side.

Repeat all the above instructions with the second yard of fabric. 

Once you have two bags constructed, put one inside of the other, right sides together and serge the two bags together along the top. Leave an opening so you can flip the bags to the right-side-out.
Press the seams down and top stitch.

I also top stitch along the bottom of the handle opening but that's optional.

There are a lot of steps involved but overall it's a quick process and the end result is fabulous.

Give it a try and let me know how your bags came out.

If you read this tutorial and think, "That's really cool but I'm not/can't/don't have the time to do all that" I sell these totes.

Until next time,


  1. Your method for the handles is great! Much simpler than I have seen done in the past.

  2. thanks so much for sharing and linking to the other post. i looked at both and it took both for me to do it lol. i have crafters A.D.D. and cant concentrate. but with both of your directions i got it done! i went ahead and stitched all the way around the whole handle. (around the open rectangle) other than that and i added a pocket and appliques i followed to the T. thanks again! here is a link to a picture of mine. here is one side (rain and clouds w/ pocket) on my flikr

  3. I just saw your bag and they are adorable. I might have to steal your pocket idea for some of my Christmas bags.

  4. Very cute bags! I'll have to give this a try soon. I love the handles instead of straps!

  5. Just darling! Thanks for sharing.

  6. These bags look great! I am new to sewing bags, and I have one question. Do these instructions make 2 bags? Or do you keep the fabric doubled up when you sew the two sides together? It says after cutting the fabric that there are 2 pieces that measure 18x19 folded. Does that mean unfolded they measure 36x19? What are the dimensions of the finished bag? The way I understand the directions, I will get two reversible bags that both measure about 12w x 15h x 6d?? Help, please, as I think these would make great Christmas gifts!

  7. Hi Carrie,

    Yes, the instructions make 2 bags. Unfolded each piece should measure 36 x 19. The finished bag is about 17w x 15h x 6d depending on your seam allowances. I hope this helps, if you need more help just post another comment or email me at kaclopton at gmail dot com.

  8. Thanks so much! I think I understand. I'm sure it will be easier when I sit down to put it all together. Thanks again - this looks like a great bag!

  9. I appreciate your post, I have book marked this internet site so ideally I’ll see much more on this subject in the foreseeable future!

  10. I know I'm a little late in finding your tutorial, but still wanted to say thanks for posting this! I'm a fan of your blog, and will be following you from now on! I think I've found a "kindred spirit"!

  11. They look great! I am looking for some good grocery bag ideas, and I think this is it! They'll look great filled up with shopping in a trolley!

  12. Thanks for the guide and this blog is really awesome,honestly i am studying how to make a tote bag and i found it here reusable.