You buy organic, ride public transit and recycle. It’s time to achieve the truly ultimate green lifestyle. Create your own reusable canvas shopping tote bag to replace your plastic and paper bags.

Eco-friendly and reusable, you can design a wide-range of fashionable organic totebags — numerous styles, sizes, and colours. These sustainable alternatives to your traditional shopping bags are often made using hemp, bamboo or, most popular of all, organic cotton.

Dimensions: approximately 18″ H x 20″ W x 4″ D  (46 cm H x 51 cm W x 10 cm D)

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  [137 cm] in contrasting colours.

What you will need:

  • Fabric A – 1/2 yd. [0.5 m] of 54″ [137 cm] width, natural fibers
  • Fabric B – 3/4 yd. [0.7 m] of 54″ [137 cm] width, natural fibers
  • Matching thread
  • Card or Bristol board – 4″ x 20″ [10 cm x 51 cm]

If you want to launder the tote, serge or zigzag the edges of the fabric, preshrink it in the washer and dryer, then cut the bag pieces to size. (note: allow extra yardage if preshrinking)

You should have a new sewing machine needle for this project and match the size to the weight of fabric being used.

All seam allowances are ½” [12 mm] unless stated otherwise. RST = right sides of fabric together. WST = wrong sides of fabric together


Step 1: No pattern is needed. From self fabric [A], cut two 25″ x 14″ panels. [63.5 cm x 35.5 cm]

From contrast fabric [B], cut one 25″ x 15″ [63.5 cm x 38 cm] rectangle for bottom section, two 19″ x 5″  [48 cm x 12.5 cm] rectangles for the base liner, and a strip 54″ x 5″  [137 cm x 12.5 cm] for the handle straps.

Step 2: Fold fabric B in half lengthwise. Cut out a 2.5″ [6.5 cm] square at the lower corners of each folded end.

Step 3: For bag straps, fold strip in half lengthwise with WST and press. Open strip and fold raw edges to centerfold. Refold strip on pressed fold. Edge-stitch along open edge, then edge-stitch along fold. Press. Cut in half for handles.

Step 4: Press under top edge of each panel section (fabric A) 1-1/4″ [30 mm] turn. Divide top edge into thirds and mark with a pin. Open folded edge of front panel and place face up. Align strap ends to each pin location and stitch ends in place along edge. Repeat on back panel.

Step 5: Stitch each panel section to bottom section along its width, with RST. Press seams to one side.

Step 6: Fold body of bag in half with RST, aligning side seam at seam of contrasting fabric and at top edge foldline. Stitch fabric pieces together on the sides and press open.

Step 7: Matching the side and bottom seams of the fabric at point X, stitch across corners. (see mitering)

Step 8: Turn under ¼” along bag top and turn under foldline to create a 1″ [25 mm] facing at the top opening. Drop straps inside bag. Stitch facing at top edge catching the handles on the front and the back.

Step 9: Then, flip strap handles up, out of bag. Stitch 1/4″ [6 mm] topstitching at top edge catching handles once more to reinforce.

Step 10: Make the bottom liner. Use the 2 rectangle pieces of fabric and press under seam allowance on one short end. With RST, match both pieces and stitch around edges leaving folded edge open. Grade corners. Turn right side out and slip in cardboard. Stitch open edge closed. Drop lined base into bottom of bag to reinforce.


Filed under Bag'n-telle, Design Ideas

18 responses to “ECO TOTES

  1. nice! simple and efficient! thanks! looking forward to reading abt more bag patterns from you, I’m in a baggy mood lately;)

  2. I love it !! I will probably post a short translation in my blog with your link.

  3. Don

    Merci Martine. Les gens peuvent trouver la traduction de Google sur ma barre latérale dans le coin supérieur du côté droit.

  4. Minni

    What a wonderful Blog! Love your old Blog “Weekend Desinger” too! Thank you for sharing your secrets with us 😀 Many greetings and warmest wishes for you!!!

  5. Pingback: Große Taschen, Einkaufstaschen, Schultaschen – Linkliste |

  6. lyndy

    hi, lovely, i made some out of coated curtain fabric, it give them a nice structued stiffness, Lyndy

  7. sara kini

    i love both your blogs….please do add some costumes and dresses also ….would really appreciate….thanks sara kini.

  8. electra

    me encanto muchisimas gracias

  9. Robin

    Any thought of doing an instruction video to go along with the plans?
    I am new to sewing and would love something to visually show me what to do. I am confused by things like-“Fold fabric B in half lengthwise. Cut out a 2.5″ [6.5 cm] square at the lower corners of each folded end.”
    The picture shows a cutout that appears to be half of a square.
    Actual dimensions would be nice. It looks like 2.5″ long and 1.25″ wide.


  10. Hi,if I want to buy it to you how much will it cost for 35 lafies

  11. Ciel

    Aloha how would you recommend lining this as far as the card board piece? I want to create a bag thats very sturdy so I know the card board is important but I also want it to have a nice contrasting lining. Thank you for your wonderful blog!

    • Don

      My suggestion would be to create an “sleeve” made from the same sturdy fabric as the tote bag. Slip the cardboard or better yet a plastic grid into the sleeve and sew the open end closed. Drop it into the cavity of the bag.

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