How To Make A Bag

As promised yesterday, here's my tutorial of how to make a simple bag! I hope to be as clear as possible, but if there are any confusing spots, please ask and I'll be happy to clarify where I can.

First of all, you'll need some materials. For this demonstration, I'm using a thick, cotton duck cloth for the outside, and a standard cotton quilting fabric for the inside. You'll also want an iron on interfacing (I prefer a polyester that's thick, but soft, so that the bag still has firmness but isn't stiff as a board), some thread (I use 100% cotton), something for the handles (like a cotton webbing), a straight edge ruler, scissors, and straight pins. If you have access to a rotary cutter, it will also be a big time saver.

Cut It Out

The first thing you'll want to do, is to cut your pieces. I'm making a small bag in this demonstration, but you can chose any size you prefer. Typically, my bags are about 10 inches wide and about 12 inches tall. It's totally up to you though. You'll want to cut your outer fabric first, then iron on your interfacing, and then cut your two inside pieces. You can either use your ruler and a pencil or fabric marker to mark your fabric and then cut with scissors, or use your rotary blade at this point.

At this point, you'll want to add whatever you'd like to your bag for embellishment. If you're making the Circle in the Square bag from Bead Simple, follow those instructions.

Move, Audrey!

Then, tell your cat to move. She's always sitting where you want to be working....or maybe that's just me.

You'll want to cut the handles next. You can use the cotton webbing, or if you'd like, you can always make your own out of fabric.

Handles On

Setting the front panel of the back so that it's facing you right side up, pin the handles evenly onto the bag. You'll want to make sure to measure here. The ends of the handles will be flush with the top edge of the front panel. This is also a good time to check to make sure the handle isn't twisted.

Put It Together

Lay the lining fabric on top of the front panel and handles, facing down. Then pin everything together on the top side. I like to pin on either sides of the handles, so that I don't get lumps sewn in. Take your front half of your tote to the sewing machine and zip across the top, leaving at least a 1/4 inch seam allowance. I also like to backstitch over the handles for extra support.

Do It Again

Follow the last steps to put the back panel, straps, and lining fabric together. After each are done, pull out your pins and fold the pieces down so you can press the two parts with your iron to lay flat. Once that's done, open them up again, and get ready to pin them together.

Together Again

Pin the two sides together, right sides together. Line them up as close as possible.

Butt Up

So as to not overload your sewing machine's needle, you'll want to butt-up the top of the bag. Fold one of the front flaps to the right, and the other to the left. You'll be much less likely to break a needle this way.

Sew up both sides of the bag, as well as the bottom of the outside of the bag. Again, make sure you use at least 1/4 inch seam allowance at minimum. This leaves only the bottom of the lining to be sewn.

Squaring the Bottom

If you would like your bag to have a square bottom, you need to cut the edges. Using a ruler, mark on the interfacing a square, measuring from the seam line and not the fabric edge. For this smaller bag, I chose to measure in 3/4 inch. Do this on both sides and cut the squares out with scissors.

Squaring the Bottom

Using the same technique as in the last seam, butt the two edges up to each other, folding one to the right, and one to the left. Stitch the seam once, and then backstitch over the whole edge once more. Making sure that the seams are going the right way, do the same on the other square.

Other side

Now working on the lining fabric, stitch in on either side about 1 1/2 inches. Then, make the square on each side of the bottom, following the same directions for the outside fabric.

Flip Out

Flip the bag right side out through the bottom of the lining.

Stitch Closed

Pull the lining fabric out of the bag, and pin the bottom together, with edges facing inside. Using a blind stitch (this website has a good instruction of how to make a blind stitch) sew the small opening together, and finish with a small knot slipped into the fabric fold at the end. String the thread into the middle of the bag, and bring the needle out away from your work before clipping it.

Around the Top

Pin the top flat and sew around the edge of the bag, about 1/4 of an inch away from the top. Press the bag to get out any extra wrinkles.

Around the Top

That's it! You've made a bag....hopefully!


I just know when I make this, my 3 cats will be doing the same way. i love this bag.

posted by stephanie | March 26, 2008 11:15 PM

Thanks for the handbag post. You make really great things. Can't wait to try the pattern.

posted by Lisa | March 28, 2008 5:06 AM

Amazing bag! Very helpful tutorial. :D

posted by mushroommeadows | April 1, 2008 7:28 PM

I'm absolutely in love with this bag! Too cute!!! Thank you SO much for sharing!

posted by Christie | April 2, 2008 3:47 PM

I have been sewing many years...since high school...MANY years...altho, my sewing machine has been on the fritz for a bit, I am motivated, after seeing your SUPER CUTE bag, to take it to the "dr" and have it overhauled!..Your instructions are super easy peasy to understand...THANKS for the TUTE & motivation to get back into sewing again!
Creative blessings, Debbie

posted by Debbie/StudioBeeCreations | April 3, 2008 6:25 AM

Thanks so much for this tutorial! My 5 year old daughter has been sewing buttons like a mad woman ever since she learned it at her pre-school. I showed her this project and she is soooo excited! She can do the buttons and I can put together the bag! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

posted by Heather | April 7, 2008 7:08 PM

Oh the kitties add such an element to sewing don't they!? One of Hariett's favorite places is on top of something newly pressed. She enjoys it even more when it has just been pinned up for cutting. I wonder if I have any sewing projects that haven't included kitty hair in them.

I think I might know now what I'm going to do with some of my random fabric yardage that I've collected in my craft room. I can always use another tote bag!

posted by Dawn | April 11, 2008 12:19 AM

I love your work,how can I view some of your works and patterns?

posted by Timmy | April 22, 2008 2:32 AM

I'm in a tote swap and this tutorial will come in handy! Love the bag.....the buttons are fab.
As for the kitty.....Leo does that too. He also likes to jump up on our wonky ironing board but then it tips over......

posted by val | June 27, 2008 9:16 AM

can i to make a homemade backpack that is sewed even without a sewing machine....i just want to make backpack that are identically alike for me and for my boyfriend pls help me.....^_^

posted by kristine | July 8, 2008 10:56 AM

I am currently making gift bags to sell and I like the way you are making the boxed corners.
I want to try it that way and see if it is easier.

posted by C | July 9, 2008 12:05 AM

Thanks so much for that tutorial. I really enjoyed it. Now, if I could sew, I'd be good to go! :)

posted by Kim @ Up North Mommy | July 11, 2008 9:50 PM

I would like to put an item in my blog about your wonderful bag tute. If this is not agreeable with you please let me know and I will remove it. I think everyone should visit your site and check out that tute. That bag is just tooo cute and you make it look so easy.


posted by Carol | July 17, 2008 1:32 AM

nice bag.loved it!

posted by fara | July 17, 2008 5:39 AM

Your steps look so easy, i can't wait to get to sewing again. I have been looking around trying to find some good instructions so i can make it for school usage. Thanks

posted by Christy | August 1, 2008 12:33 AM

Great tutorial, thanks! And your cat is soooo cute! Loved the bit "Then tell your cat to move" - mine always wants to come and sit on my work!!!

posted by luckybear | August 15, 2008 3:56 AM

my cats do the same thing, it's great and annoying at the same time.

oh well, the rule the roost.

posted by jayme lynn | August 15, 2008 12:43 PM

Great tutorial, thanks so much for sharing! Love the name of your blog, so glad I came over from Sew Mama Sew!

posted by Steph @ Problem Solvin Mom | August 15, 2008 12:57 PM

wow fun bag I just love the instructions and how lovely it looks! I will be giving this a try SOON!!sure happy to have found your blog!! I will be back!! thanks!! hugs Linda

posted by Linda | August 16, 2008 12:43 PM

my cat jumped up just while reading this ... =]

very cute bag.

posted by Michelle | September 21, 2008 5:01 PM

Hi thx for this info! I am using these steps to make bags for my project!
Plus its so cute!!!

posted by Paula | September 22, 2008 6:19 PM

I wish I had found this website when I was trying to figure out how to make a bag last week. Rebecca

posted by Rebecca | October 10, 2008 1:06 AM

Thanks for the tutorial! I made a knitting bag tonight! :)

posted by Kristen | October 19, 2008 11:54 PM

This is adorable and i want to make it. The instructions look great, but.... Sorry, this a total "I'm-obviously-not-a-very-experienced-sewer" question, but what is interfacing? And could I make this adorable bag without it?

posted by Alice | November 1, 2008 2:36 PM

That is so cute. I love it. I want one.

posted by Clothdiapermama | November 8, 2008 12:54 PM

this is totally cool!

posted by rachel | November 11, 2008 5:54 AM

I loooove stumble! I "stumbled" onto this site, and this is exactly what I have planned for my homemade Christmas gifts! So nice to have a tutorial now:) Thanks!

posted by Sara(MamaGoesGreen) | November 12, 2008 7:54 PM

Stumble rocks! I am going to stumble this site to my wife, she'll love it! Thanks! Definitely getting a "thumb's up" from me!


posted by Seth | December 1, 2008 10:26 PM

Excellent instructions. i'm a Textiles teacher in Gibraltar and i do similar bags daily with 13 yr olds. clear, informative photos. I might begin to encourage lined tote bags from now on. ta! Viv!

posted by Vivienne Pizarro | January 3, 2009 2:47 PM

hey ..what a nice way of teaching how to make a bag .. am gonna make it now .. thanks to you!

posted by Othersideblue | March 2, 2009 6:36 AM

WOW i love that u are such a generous person to post this! i'm learning how to sew and this is very helpfull thanks!

posted by estefania | March 14, 2009 5:23 PM

Thanks for the simple tutorial! Nicely explained :-)

Pepperberry & Co.

posted by Sandra | March 29, 2009 11:29 PM

Just wanted to let you know that I have always wanted to make a lined tote bag but could never wrap my mind around how to do it correctly. I appreciate your detailed and easy to follow instructions and pictures - I made one this weekend and I am so pleased with myself! Now I'd like to try a few more! Love your site - thanks! :)

posted by Laurie Star | June 22, 2009 9:45 AM

It's exactly what I needed!! Thanks

posted by Dina | June 23, 2009 6:36 AM

I have listed ur tutorial in
Hope u dont mind :)

posted by DIY Bag Lover | June 23, 2009 11:42 PM

that is so cool i love to sew but well i am not that good

posted by maddie thomas | July 29, 2009 6:12 PM

Thanks so much! I'm about to start making a bag of my own and I'm super exited. :)

posted by lynnie lou | August 3, 2009 5:43 PM

This bag is great and your instructions appear to very clear ... Thanks

posted by Darlene | September 9, 2009 9:22 AM

I'm making one for my grandchild for halloween. Your tutorial is very helpful I'm getting started today. Wish me luck.

posted by Mary E. Miranda | October 9, 2009 11:25 AM

Thank you!! Great directions for my first sewing turned out great!!

posted by Jill | July 14, 2010 6:49 PM

Thanks for a nice memory! I recently lost a much-loved Kitty who loved to help me with my sewing,too.

posted by Carole | July 25, 2010 1:07 AM

like it very much! I will try to make a bag. I have just bought a portable sewing machine

posted by linda aguillon | August 13, 2010 7:31 AM

cool i love this

posted by abigail | December 23, 2010 2:52 AM

Thanks for the detailed photos that show how to make the bag. I wish more patterns in quilting magazines would show the stages of construction. I just cannot make an oval base fit the bottom of my latest quilted bag. I might forget it and make this pattern instead!

posted by Jan | November 25, 2013 7:36 PM
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