In our stores, we see more and more people carrying re-useable cloth bags to take home their shopping. This is a great way to keep plastics out of the landfill. With this in mind, we thought we would offer this fun D.I.Y. tutorial to make your own custom shopping tote. The method is fairly simple and makes a roomy, durable bag. We have also included instructions for creating an optional pocket made from plastic packaging that you may already have at home. The pocket is a great place to store coupons or your shopping list!
Here’s what you will need:
0.6 metres (2/3 yards) of a lightweight canvas (ours is a bright red solid)
0. 6metres (2/3 yards) of a cotton print (we picked fun piggy print – perfect for “market” day)
0.9 metres (1yard) webbing
1 spool of thread to match your fabrics
Optional: Durable plastic packaging
Sewing machine with a straight stitch and zig-zag stitch
Ruler and fabric marker
Fabrics scissor and craft scissors (or rotary cutter)
From your lightweight canvas, cut a rectangle 50cm (20”) wide by 97cm (38”) long
From your cotton print, cut a rectangle 50cm (20”) wide by 107cm (42”) long
From your webbing, cut two pieces 40cm (16”) long each
From your plastic packaging cut two pieces for pockets (our pieces are 5” x 5.5” or 13cm x 14cm)
On the lightweight canvas, use your fabric marker to make a mark at the centre of the long edge (i.e. 48.5cm or 19” from end). Make a mark 9cm or 3.5” to the left of the centre mark. Make a mark 9cm or 3.5” to the right of the centre mark. Fold your rectangle in half matching up the long edges. Make small notches through both layers at each of the three marks you have made.
On the cotton print, use your fabric marker to make a mark at the centre of the long edge (i.e. 53.5cm or 21” from end). Make a mark 9cm or 3.5” to the left of the centre mark. Make a mark 9cm or 3.5” to the right of the centre mark. Fold your rectangle in half matching up the long edges. Make small notches through both layers at each of the three marks you have made.
Marking and pinning handles:
Along the short edge of the canvas, mark the centre point on the right side or your fabric. Make two marks 5cm or 2” on either side of the centre. Pin the webbing in place with the inside edge of the webbing lined up with your marks (i.e. you will have a 10cm or 4” gap). Make sure that you have not twisted the webbing. Repeat this process on the opposite end.
Attaching lining (print):
With right sides facing, pin the lining (print) to the canvas along the short end. Repeat at the opposite end. The print will not lay flat as the printed piece is longer than the canvas. Sew through all layers along the short end, removing the pins as you go and starting and ending with a secure backstitch. Don’t forget about the pins that are holding the handles in place!
Turning lining, basting, and securing handles:
Turn the piece right sides out. Match up the notches along the long edge and pin. Smooth out the lining. The lining should extend 2.5cm or 1” past the canvas. At this point, you may want to press the edge of the print. Be careful to avoid the handles as they may melt from the hot iron. Stitch 6mm or ¼” from edge along one long edge through both layers. When you get to the seam where the canvas and the print meet, leave your needle in the downward position and pivot your work 90 degrees counter-clockwise. Edgestitch approximately 1/8” to the left of the seam though all layers. Go back and forth over the handles for additional durability. Continue sewing the perimeter of the bag and repeat this procedure for other long and short edges.
Using your fabric marker and ruler, mark the placement of your pocket. We placed our pocket on the inside of the bag, but stitched though both the lining and the outer fabric to make it more secure. Do not pin your pocket in place – we don’t want pinholes in our pocket! Hold the pocket in place, and use a medium-length zigzag to stitch along the sides and bottom of the pocket. If your zigzag stitch is to short, it will perforate the plastic allowing it to easily tear.
Sewing side seams and finishing seams:
Fold your bag in half with the canvas facing in and matching the top edges of the bag. Using your notches as a guide, make a pleat at the bottom of the bag as shown (it’s kind of like a squished ‘w’). Stitch the side seam from the top edge of the bag using a 1.5cm or 5/8” seam allowance and making sure to back-stitch at the beginning and end of the seam. Use a nice wide zigzag to finish the raw edge of the seam allowance. If you have a serger, you can finish the raw edge with your serger.
Turn the bag right-side-out and press side seams to one side. Press creases for a neatly folded and portable shopping tote. Now go shopping to show off your new tote and don’t forget your coupons and your shopping list!