Once your fabric is nicely pressed, cut it into five separate pieces. You'll need:
two identical pieces for the sides (No.1 and 2) measuring 42cm x 15cm (16.5in x 5.9in) each;
one large piece for the main body (No.3) measuring 95cm x 46cm ( 37.4in x 18.1in);
two identical long rectangular pieces for the straps (No. 4 and 5) measuring 75cm x 12cm (29.5in x 4.7in) each.
If you started out with an original piece of fabric measuring 150cm x 60cm (59.1in x 23.6in), you will have a small extra piece of scrap fabric (it's the piece with the pair of scissors on it in the photo below). I won't use it in this tutorial, but you could make a small matching pouch or a pocket in your tote bag with it.
The dimensions mentioned above are for a fairly large tote bag. If you wish to make a smaller one, you just need to play around with the dimensions of pieces 1, 2 and 3. The straps should remain the same.
Piece number 3 forms the main body of your bag, so it incorporates the front, bottom and back sides in one strip. Pieces 1 and 2 from the sides of your bag, adding extra space. You can easily adjust the width of your bag by changing the width of piece No. 3 without changing anything else. If you want to make it less wide, just adjust the width of pieces 1 and 2, and the length of piece No. 3 accordingly.
If you want to make it shorter, adjust the length of pieces 1 and 2 and add twice as much to the length of piece 3. In general, the magic code, where "L" equals length and "W" equals width, is: L3 = 2 L1 + W1 - 4.
If this sounds too confusing, just try making the first bag with the original dimensions and you'll figure out how to make a smaller one next time.
Use a measuring tape to divide your fabric into the five separate pieces.
Tip: In order to measure your fabric into straight pieces, especially if you need a long strip like the one for the straps, you can fold the fabric several times, holding it straight and checking on the side that the width remains the same.
Of course, you can also place your fabric on a working surface and measure it precisely with a ruler.
Double check that piece number 3 ( which is the main body of your bag and therefore super important) is straight by using the selvage of the fabric as your guide. Align the selvage with the opposite edge of your rectangular piece. The fabric should fold nicely without any wrinkles on the fold. Then if the sides do not match trim for a straight edge.
2. Sew the Main Body
First, align the width of piece 1 with the width of piece 3. Pin them together along the length.
Fold piece 3 and bring the lower edge up and align it with the top edge of piece 1. Pin the two pieces together along the other edge as well.
So now you've joined the side piece of the bag to the main body. Check that the bottom sides (which is the bottom edge of piece 1 and the fold of piece 3) are aligned.
Carefully stitch the two layers of fabric together, using your sewing machine and a similar color of thread. Don't forget to carefully remove the pins as you go along.
This is the way the two pieces should look when sewn together:
This is how the seam should look:
Pin together the bottom edge of piece 1 with piece 3. If the two edges don't match exactly, feel free to trim one piece to match the other piece.
Stitch the two layers of fabric together. Don't forget to always knot at the end of your stitching to secure the seams.
This is how the bottom edge of your bag should look like from the outside. If you're happy with the results, you can move on and repeat the same process on the other side of your bag adding piece 2.
When both side pieces are sewn on the main body, you need to prevent the fabric from fraying. Set your sewing machine to the medium width short zigzag stitch and stitch down as close to the raw edge as possible.
3. Create a Hem
Now you need to create a hem for the top edge of your bag. First fold the fabric inwards once.
Fold once more.
Pin the hem in place.
Stitch it securely and remove the pins one by one as you go along.
4. Prepare and Place the Straps
Place piece 4 on your working surface, keeping the short edge of the piece horizontally in front of you. Fold the two edges of the strap inwards.
Fold the strap in half, keeping the two edges folded inside. This folding will make the strap extra strong as it is created with four layers of fabric. Pin all along the length of the strap.
Stitch the strap along the open edge.
Now, stitch the strap along the folded edge. Repeat the same process with the second strap (piece 5). When you stitch them along the edges, turn the open edges inwards with the help of a pair of scissors. Then stitch along that edge to secure the strap from fraying.
Once both straps are ready, place them on the top edge of your bag. Just to make sure they are perfectly aligned, fold the bag in half and place the two edges of the strap 8.5cm (3.3in) away from the center.
Place one strap on the one side of the bag and the other on the other side. Pin them in place and stitch with a horizontal stitch over the hem. For much stronger straps and a more resistant bag, stitch a rectangular border and two diagonal stitches.
To do this, you need to leave the needle of the sewing machine in and turn the fabric around to change the direction of stitching.
5. Add a Side Seam
Make your bag extra-secure with a finishing touch. Make a vertical seam on the side and stitch together both layers of the bag. Make this seam slightly outside the side seams and not too long, about 6cm (2.5in).
This is how the seam should look when you turn your bag inside out:
Turn the bag inside out and iron it. You're ready to go!
Take Your Tote Bag Out
In this tutorial you learned how to make a large tote bag using a piece of dyed shibori fabric. This look is bang-on-trend this season, so it's a simple and inexpensive accessory to add to your wardrobe and bring it up to date.
Do you love tote bags? Do you have any ideas for future tote bag projects?