I try to do my part to live a greener lifestyle. I try not to be wasteful or buy unneeded disposable things. In recent years a big trend in going green has been reusable tote or grocery bags. The only problem with that is that they are often pretty unattractive and splattered with business logos and store advertisements. So I set out to make my own tote bag with a little more style, diva-fied if you will. I wanted it to be sturdy enough to tote around a gallon of milk, or a stack of books, or anything else I needed to tote from one place to another. So with a little fabric and a lot of duct tape I came up with this cute tote bag idea.
I sewed mine together because I also wanted a cute inner lining. But for people who are not inclined to tackle the mysteries that are sewing machines this tote could also be made in a no-sew version. Below I go through the steps I took to create this tote and I will list the no-sew variations in italics as I go along. Keep in mind I am a novice when it comes to sewing. I know enough about the sewing machine to tackle a straight line but the fancier things are far beyond my skill level. So while I am sure there are a million ways to carry out this project, many of which are probably better than mine, this is what worked for me. And if you want to give it a try maybe it will work for you too?
For this project I used 4 pieces of fabric 22” by 18”. I just purchases flat quarters from the local craft store but if you can not find any remnants or flat quarters in a pattern you like you can just buy your fabric off the bolt, most fabric stores will allow you to buy as little as a ¼ of a yard so depending on how large or small you wish to make your tote bag just get the amount of fabric that is right for you and your project. I also used plain silver duct tape (for the no-sew version the duct tape will be visible on the inside of the tote, so it might be better to buy something in a fun color or even a zebra print. They have all sorts of fun colors and patterns now. Keep in mind that the colored duct tape comes in much smaller rolls than the original, so several roles may be required). Lastly, I needed something for the straps/handles. I found this “webbing” material that is used for belts on life jackets for free, but I know they sell it or something similar in craft stores.
First I applied duct tape to the back of 2 pieces of my fabric, the ones that I wanted to be the outside (the other 2 pieces will be for the lining and I will use those later). I just made sure to overlap the duct tape slightly and ensured that the entire surface of the fabric got covered.
Then I folded down the top of the fabric about ½ an inch and measured 5 inches in from either side to where the locations of my straps would be. This felt like a good place to me and a nice even number so I went with it. Then I used a small piece of duct tape to attach each end of the strap and placed another long strip of tape over the whole fold edge to hold down the fold I had made and further reinforce the straps.
Then I trimmed off all the excess tape and repeated this same process on my other piece of fabric. Once both pieces of fabric were covered with tape I placed one on top of the other fabric side in, making sure that the straps lined up. I places a few straight pins along the top to hold it all together and sewed the 3 sides together. If you are doing the no-sew version you would take a piece of duct tape and place it on the edge of your fabric and fold it over to the other side to attach your two sides together. Then fold down your seam and tape it flat. Repeat this method on the 2 remaining sides.
I wanted a nice bottom on my bag, this part is a little harder to explain… but I’ll try. I pulled open the corner and lined up the side and bottom seams the laid my bag flat that way. Then I measured in four inches up from the corner point on either side and placed a straight pin, using my ruler to make sure the pins were straight. This just looked like a good width to use for the bottom of the bag, no other explanation except I eye-balled it. Then I ran that section through the sewing machine (diagonally) to make I nice edge for the bottom.
Then folding down the little triangles I had just sewed I secured them each with a small piece of duct tape. In the no-sew version you would just skip the sewing part fold down your corners (make sure they are even on each side) and secure with a small piece of duct tape. Now it was time to turn my bag right side out. Looking pretty good so far… for a novice! Then I put 4 long pieces of duct tape inside the bottom to secure the little flaps I had just taped down and give the bottom more stability. You do this same thing in the no-sew version. And guess what if you are following the no-sew option your bag is done! I could have stopped here, but I wanted a cute lining inside my bag.
So with the 2 pieces of fabric that I has set aside for the lining I simply sewed 3 of the sides together and followed the same steps above to make the bottom/corners of the bag, I could have added duct tape to these as well I guess, but I didn’t and it might have been harder to work with and secure into the bag if I had. Once the lining was sewed I just put the liner inside my bag and pinned it all the way around the top starting at one seam.
Then I sewed all the way around the top edge of my bag to secure the lining to the outer shell.
Then I stared at it for a long time and said to myself… “I just really made a super cute tote bag!”
A few things to note: I am pretty sure that I can not wash or dry this bag in the washing machine or dryer seeing as how the inside is lined in duct tape, so spot cleaning only. Maybe I should have chosen darker colored fabric? Also, sewing through duct tape is totally possible, I had my doubts, but it does gum up the needle a little. So after each section I would un-thread my needle and clean it with a little rubbing alcohol to remove any stickiness. My sewing machine is OLD, it was my mothers and she had it before I was born so it is sturdy and made of metal and strong… and really heavy to lug around too! But it went through all the layers and tape without any problems. But if you have a newer sewing machine that is not as heavy-duty as this one it may not work for this project?
Like I said, I really am a novice when it comes to sewing, but I did it, and it turned out super cute. Are you planning on testing your sewing skills on any projects or have you recently surprised yourself by sewing something that turned out cuter then you envisioned?
Update: I shared this post!! There are some pretty awesome bloggers out there that host link-up parties and I took full advantage by sharing my post; here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. If you found us though one of these link parties, well welcome to our blog, and leave us a comment telling us who sent you so we know who to thank! Also, go check out some (or all) of these blogs they are all pretty great!