It’s very easy to make your own reusable shopping bag or tote. All you need is some sturdy fabric (such as heavy duty calico) and some cotton webbing or braid for the handles.
Suitable Fabrics and Notions
As noted above, you should choose a sturdy fabric such as heavy duty cotton or calico. To make one bag you’ll need half a yard of fabric (assuming the fabric width is 43″ or more). For metric sewers, you’ll need ½ metre of fabric if the fabric is at least 106cm wide.
It may also be worthwhile to invest in some quality thread, as you may be carrying some heavy items in your bag, and you cannot afford to have your bag break due to cheap quality thread!
For the handles, I recommend cotton webbing or braid about 1″ wide (2.5 cm). You’ll need 48″ of the webbing (or 122 cm).
To Make Your Pattern
There are only 5 pieces to cut out. 2 rectangles form the bag’s front and back, there is one long piece that joins the front and back (to give the bag depth), and then 2 pieces for your handles.
Lay your fabric face down, and then draw out your rectangles as follows:
Bag sides (you’ll need 2 of these) 13½” wide by 14½” tall (this gives a ½” seam allowance). In metric, this is 2 rectangles 34cm by 36cm (with a 1cm seam allowance).
Then you’ll need long rectangle measuring 42½” by 5½” (or 106cm by 12cm).
Lay them out as shown in this diagram and then cut out.
Take your webbing and cut 2 handles each 24″ long (or 61cm).
To Make Up
Basically, the long piece of fabric needs to be sewn along three sides of each rectangle (as shown in this diagram.
Place one rectangle along the side of the long piece (right sides together) and start sewing. Stitch slowly when turning the corners of the rectangle. I strongly recommend that you sew each seam twice for extra strength, especially at the corners.
Now attach your handles to the bag and sew on by sewing a rectangle, then sew a cross in the middle.
Again, it would be wise to double stitch these seams.
It doesn’t matter whether you attach the handles to the inside or the outside, it’s up to you. And that’s it. Very simple.
Diane Ellis has been sewing since she was very young and got her first sewing machine at 6 years old (albeit a miniature one!). She sews purely for friends and family, and enjoys making her own patterns, and using her skills to decorate her home. She is the co-author of the website Sewing4Dummies.com where, for a limited time, you can sign up for a free 6 part sewing course called Easy Fun Sewing Projects.