The most functional yet basic of bag designs. A book bag, a market carry-all, the perfect everyday tote. Carry in your hand, on your shoulder or across your chest. Brings home everything from a laptop to groceries.

Dimensions: 18″ high / 12″ wide / 6″ deep with a 42″ [1.1 m] adjustable shoulder strap and interior pocket. [45.75 cm x 30.5 cm x 15 cm]

Construction Method: Turned finish – this method may be recognized by noting the lack of machine-stitching that is visible at points of assembly on the exterior side of the bag.  This is possible by placing the material, or parts, face to face, machining and turning right-side out. It is the most commonly used assembly process.

Material Used: 100% cotton drill, 54″ wide

You will need:

  • 1 yd. [1 m] of durable fabric, 54” width [137 cm] *
  • 1 spool of heavy-duty thread
  • 1 slider buckle, inner dia. 1.5 inches [40 mm]
  • 1 bracket ring, inner dia. 1.5 inches [40 mm]
  • 1 nylon closed zipper, 6” long [15 cm]
  • 2 ½ yds. [2.3 m] of single-fold bias tape, ½-inch wide [12 mm]
  • 1 roll of kraft paper


Scale = X = >4.5 inches [ >11.5 cm]; the prototype is 6″ deep [15 cm]

The draft and formation of this utility totebag is based upon a simple flat grid, which fits into a square or rectangle, of which the size depends on the  desired depth of the style (4 1/2″ or greater).

** Add seam allowances to all pattern pieces.


* cut totebag on the cross-grain for railroaded fabric. (for a directional pattern on straight-grain you will need to purchase additional yardage.)

Body – cut 1X

Strapping – cut 2X

Facing – cut 2X

Pocket – cut 1 X

Ring Loops – cut 2 strips 4” x 4” [10 cm x 10 cm]


  1. Make up straps pieces and ring loops. Topstitch if desired. Set aside.
  2. Make interior pocket. Center and attach one side of zipper to short edge of pocket piece. Turn in the seam allowances of the pocket sides and press flat. Fold pocket piece in half, aligning short end with tape edge of zipper. Sew the sides of the pocket by topstitching around perimeter of pocket. Set aside.
  3. Do a Hong Kong finish to neaten all vertical seams of the totebag.
  4. With FACE sides together, sew the vertical seams and press open. Then, align and match the side of the bag to its bottom. Sew from corner to corner to miter the seam. Bind the raw edge of this seam with bias tape and complete a Hong Kong seam finish. Turn body of the bag right-side out. Set aside.
  5. Cut one of the strap pieces in two. These will be the bag handles.  Measure each handle strap to 18″ [45 cm] long. Center a handle on both front and back panels and pin into position. (spread of handles should be equal to “X”.)
  6. Place the bracket ring onto the ring loop and fold in half. Pin loop to one side seam. On opposite side seam, pin the long strap piece.
  7. With FACE sides together, sew the short ends of the facing pieces to create a loop of fabric. Pin the facing to the top edge of the bag, encasing the straps and loops between the layers. Sew around opening of the bag. Sew an “X-stitch” through each strap end and the facing. Turn under the seam allowance on the raw edge of the facing and press flat.
  8. Turn facing into the body of the totebag and align the side seams. Position the interior pocket between one set of strap handles so that the bottom edge of the facing covers the exposed tape of the zipper. Topstitch the upper and lower edges of the facing to the body to complete the opening, ensure the stitching catches the top edge of the pocket.
  9. Slip the slider buckle onto the long strap, and then draw the strap through the bracket loop. Return the end of the strapping back through the slider and secure in place.



Filed under Design Ideas

40 responses to “UTILITY TOTE

  1. Thanks for coming back and for this first project. Love both of your blogs, and have learnt a great deal from your tutorials.

  2. Very nice! I’m especially feeling that gorgeous blue color right now. I think I’ll whip up some totes in summer brights to chase away the winter blahs.:)

  3. Cindy

    I didn’t find your blog until you decided to stop it. I have read every entry and loved it!! I am so glad you are continuing and I will be making the tote! Thank you so much! It is so nice to have something other than quilts for us dressmaking designers!!

  4. Kim

    You rock, Sir. The level of detail in your tutorials and general advice is wonderful and very much appreciated. I only recently discovered this and your previous blog, and as a rank novice at pretty much every sewing thing, (but obsessive about designing the perfect bag for the perfect need/use) am a big fan. Thank you very much for for sharing your experience and knowledge. You will go to Heaven.

  5. ali

    thank you so much for this tutorial. have been wanting to make this kind of base for a bag for a while – i just couldn’t visualise the flat pattern. now i won’t suffer from hair loss! Ü

  6. Sakshi

    This is an amazing blog! I didn’t find you only until you decided to stop your older blog weekend designer. Please allow me to peruse all your pages. I just love how you’ve put your patterns up. This way we don’t have to reply on printing them out and can just draw to suit any zsize and directly on the drafting paper. That gives you a feeling of being so a designer like :D. Just love your blog and your methods as well your concept! Thanks for sharing all these patterns with us.

  7. Amazing! Thank you so much – how generous of you 🙂 Loving your work!

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  10. This is a very smart looking bag, and I’ll admit that I’m such a geek, I love the algebra on the pattern. :>) I linked to this on my weekly roundup – thanks for sharing!

  11. Elizabethdx

    Hi Don,

    Thank you so much for this superb tutorial. I’ve just finished a bag and loved your instructions. In case you are curious, there’s a picture of it at my flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/elizabethd/5800410972/in/photostream You are really wonderful to share your expertise so generously.

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  13. You’ve made some decent points there. I checked on the web to learn more about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this web site.

  14. very very nice and the wonderful tutorial website in the world .

    thx sir .

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  16. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with all of us
    I follow you

  17. shan

    I started out looking for a simple design on how to make a beach hat and found this awsome blog and im feel amazed right now THANK YOU FOR SHARING THE KNOWLEDGE

  18. Francybeth

    Mis respetos Don Morin, me alegra mucho saber que existen personas que entregan conocimiento tan valioso y de gran ayuda. Quiero aprender de Tí todo lo relacionado con el cuero. De antemano muchas muchas gracias.

    My respects Don Morin, I am glad to know that there are people who deliver valuable knowledge and help. I learn from you everything about leather. Many thank you very much in advance.

    Best regards,


  19. Reblogged this on conlemanieconilcuore and commented:
    I found these tutorials and I want to share, they are so clear!

  20. Gail

    I am haBing a hard time trying to find the instructions for the 31 utility tote. Thanks

  21. Very nice descriptive tutorials! =)

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  23. Malcolm Williamson

    Hi, I’m very new to sewing. Really appreciate these fully instructional tutorials. Thank you.

    Please could you explain the term “Hong Kong Finish”. I couldn’t find it or don’t understand it.


    • Don

      The Hong Kong finish is a sewing technique that one often finds on unlined jackets and coats. Specifically it is a way to finish raw seams neatly. Bias strips of fabric (often thin lining fabric) are used to bind to raw cut of the fabric fabric to prevent fraying of seams and to neaten the appearance of exposed seams. It is usually found on better quality garments. The mass-production way to do this is by serging the raw edges using an overlock machine.

  24. Malcolm

    I thoroughly appreciatr and still enjoy this tutorial.

    I tried to put a recessed zip into my tote. My machine big as it is, couldn’t “climb” over the seams. Finally I decided to skive the edges before assembly. The machine now comes with the end seams easily.
    Thank you for the great tutorials.

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