Monday, September 1, 2014

Tutorial - Foldable Tote Bag with Matching Sleeve

There has been a lot of "going green" happening at my house these days. One of the things we are doing is refusing to use plastic bags. I keep reusable totes in all our cars so they are ready when shopping. I also came up with this simple and super quick to make pattern for this tote bag. It folds up easily, and you can slip into the little matching 6 1/2 inch sleeve. When they fold up this small, you can stash them all over! Makes great gifts too. The tote bag measures 17 x 17 inches (not including handles) when open. 

5/8 yard of lightweight 100% cotton fabric (44/45")
     Novelty fabrics or quilters cottons are perfect weights
Thread to match fabric
Cutting and measuring tools
Marking pens
Pins, needles
Sewing machine

1.  Using the illustration for the fabric layout below, cut out the fabric as follows:
(1) 4x44" strips (then cut in half so you will have (2) 4x22" strips
(2) 18x18" pieces
(1) 5x17" piece

2.  Place the two 18 inch squares together with right sides together. If you are using directional fabric, be sure the design of the fabric is going in the proper direction. You'd hate for your design to be upside down or sideways on one or both sides. At the bottom corners, cut out a 2 inch square at each corner. This is so that you can box the corners later. Stitch down both sides and across the bottom edge using a 1/2" seam allowance. Just do the straight edges, leave the cut out corners un-stitched. Press the three seams open.

3.  Box your bottom corners by lining up the two raw edges (at the cut outs) and stitching them closed, using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. To make the edge a little stronger add another row of stitching next to this one. Just make sure the second row of stitching is on the side of the seam allowance.

4.  Turn the bag right side out. Turn the upper edge 1 1/4 inch toward the inside of the bag and press. Turn that raw edge 1/4 inch toward the inside and press. You are making a 1 inch hem at the upper edge. Stitch close to that folded edge, then top-stitch about 1/8 inch away from the upper edge of the bag.

5.  Take the two 4x22 inch strips and turn the short ends 1/4 inch to the wrong side and iron. Next fold them in half lengthwise and press. Take the long, raw edges and fold them toward the inside so that they meet at the center and press. These will be your 1 inch wide handles. Stitch close to the folded edges along the length on both sides beginning with the side where the two folded edges meet.

6.  Place your bag on the table and pin the handles 4 inches from each seam, keeping the ends of the handles on that folded hem. Stitch the handles to the bag, keeping your stitches on that hemmed area where the fabric will be stronger. I stitched a square with an "x" in the center to make it nice and secure. Once both of your handles are stitched to the bag, set it to the side and make your sleeve.

7.  Take the remaining 5x17 inch fabric and fold it in half with right sides together, meeting at the short edges. Stitch up each long edge 1/2 inch seam allowance. We are going to box the bottom corners a little differently than we did on the bag. Since this is a small piece, there is an easier way to do it. Just take the corners and pinch them so that the side seam meets up with the bottom fold. Mark a straight line at an angle about an inch long. Stitch on that line, then cut away the corners. Turn right side out.

8.  Turn the unfinished upper edge 3/4 inch to the inside, then another 3/4 inch. This will make the hem along the upper edge of your sleeve. Stitch close to the folded edge at the inside of the sleeve, then top-titch 1/8 inch from the upper edge of the sleeve.

Since I used directional fabric for my cat bag, I didn't want my cats to be upside down on the other side of the sleeve, so I cut the fabric in half and stitched at the bottom using a small 1/4 inch seam allowance. This small change in finished size made absolutely no difference for the bag fitting in the sleeve.

To fold the bag so that it fits nicely in the sleeve, first fold the bottom edge up so that the bag lays nice and flat. Fold the left side over so the fold is at the 1/3 point of the bag. Now fold the right side over so the outer edge meets the fold at the other side. Bring the handles down and flatten. Starting at the upper edge, fold the bag down so that it fits nicely in the sleeve you just made for it.

Three of the fabrics in the samples were purchased from these great Etsy shops:
Tea fabric and cat fabric from:
Cups fabric:

NOTE: If you prefer to keep a copy of this pattern on your computer, you can download it from my Crafsty shop for free where you'll find it in PDF format.

Do you like free embroidery designs and tutorials?

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  1. The teacups pattern rocks! I love reusing and recycling, lots of people throw things away without thinking about it.

  2. Great tutorial and all the fabrics are lovely. Definitely a good gift idea. Simple to make but always easier if someone shows you how. Thanks.

  3. I need some of these. I'm going to have to pull my sewing machine out. Thanks for the tutorial. I like the idea of having the sleeve to keep it in

  4. What a fun idea! You'll never have the same bags as anyone else. And I love that it fits in the little bag...will fit in the glove box, your purse, the console, etc.
    I wonder if you could create a small loop to snap the pouch to the bag when in use...that way you don't lose the little pouch.

  5. I have to make some of these as gifts for some people.

  6. Hi Sheryl
    Just stopped by to let you know that I featured this on my Round Tuit post this week!
    A Round Tuit 332
    Thanks again for linking up to A Round Tuit Hope you have a great week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success

  7. I love that you are going green and skipping plastic bags! That's what I'm all about! This post would be great for the Waste Less Wednesday Blog Hop. I love upcycles and green posts. It's live now:

  8. Thank you for sharing your pattern. Love it.

  9. Thanks for the pattern and clear instructions, my bag turned out great! I plan on making a few more!

  10. Hi Gail. Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoy the pattern and I'm sure you will find these bags as handy as I do.

    Merry Christmas!

  11. Thank you for this pattern and such precise instructions. It is the best and clearest one I have seen; I am now ready to make a couple of these for Christmas gifts!


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