DIY Guide: Sew a Tote Bag with Lining and Pockets Easily

Ever thought about creating your own tote bag? It’s not only a fun project, but it’s also a great way to showcase your creativity and sewing skills. In this guide, you’ll learn how to sew a tote bag with lining and pockets – a practical and stylish accessory for any occasion.

Whether you’re a seasoned seamstress or a beginner, this step-by-step guide will make the process a breeze. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to create a unique and personalized tote bag. So, grab your sewing kit, it’s time to dive into this DIY project that’s sure to impress.

Sewing your own Christmas stocking allows you to create a personalized holiday decoration that can be cherished for years. Choose festive fabrics and consider incorporating appliqués or embroidery for an extra special touch. For those new to this project, HGTV provides a helpful guide on making a simple but beautiful lined stocking. Additionally, Martha Stewart’s site offers creative ideas and patterns for crafting unique stockings. For detailed sewing instructions, the guide by Diary of a Quilter is perfect for beginners and includes tips on personalizing your stockings.

Choosing the Right Fabric and Supplies

Now that you’ve decided to embark on this creative adventure, it’s crucial to get your hands on the right materials. Crafting a well-made tote bag with lining and pockets needs careful selection of fabric and supplies.

Let’s first address the matter of fabric. Selecting the perfect cloth is fundamental for the success of your project. You want something sturdy, but also attractive. While it’s always important to choose a fabric that appeals to your personal aesthetic, there are certain fabrics that work particularly well for tote bags. Denim, canvas, and heavy-weight cotton are ideal choices for the main body, offering both resilience and style.

Don’t forget to consider the fabric for the lining and pockets. You’ll be looking for material that complements your main fabric. Here, you have a bit more freedom, as you can experiment with lighter materials, even draw in some color, patterns or fun prints. Quilting cotton or satin are popular picks.

Sure, you’ve got your fabric sorted. But what about your supplies?

For sewing a tote bag, you’ll need more than just fabric. Here’s a list of the essential supplies you’d need:

  • High quality thread: This is not the place to skimp. Opt for quality to ensure your bag’s longevity.
  • Sewing machine: While hand sewing is certainly possible, using a machine will provide cleaner seams and be more time efficient.
  • Pins and scissors: You’ll need pins for holding your fabric pieces together, and sharp fabric scissors for clean cuts.
  • Measuring tapes: Accuracy is key in this DIY project.

You’re getting closer to turning that dream tote bag into a reality! With your fabric and supplies ready, it’s time to move onto the pattern drafting or, in simpler terms, designing your bag. You’ll find out how to make that happen in the next section.

As a side note, it’s worthwhile to invest in good quality materials. The better your materials, the better your end result will be.

Taking Measurements and Cutting the Fabric

Stepping into the canvas of artisan creativity, taking accurate measurements and precisely cutting the fabric is of utmost importance. The size and form of your tote bag hinges largely on this step.

Start by deciding the dimensions for your tote bag. Standard tote bag sizes typically range from 13 inches wide to 15 inches high. You might want to add an inch on all sides for seams. But hey, it’s your design! Feel free to customize it to your needs.

Now you’re ready to cut your fabric. Based on your measurements, mark the fabric with a fabric marker or a chalk. Use a ruler or a yardstick for straight lines to ensure accuracy. Cut the fabric pieces for your bag, lining, and pockets. Remember, you’ll need two pieces of each for the front and back.

Once you’ve cut your main pieces, it’s time for the straps. Often, the length of the tote bag straps ranges from 20 to 22 inches. However, like the bag itself, the length of the straps totally depends on your personal preference.

Let’s illustrate the standard measurements in this concise table:

Bag PartStandard Size
Bag Width13 inches
Bag Height15 inches
Strap Length20-22 inches

Sewing the Lining

Once you’ve drafted your pattern and cut your fabric, it’s time to tackle one of the key components: the lining. Yes, it’s hidden inside but it plays an integral part in giving your tote bag that professional touch. It adds structure to your bag, keeps the interior neat, and helps your bag last longer.

First, cut out the lining using the same pattern as the main fabric. Always remember to iron the fabric before and after cutting to ensure accuracy and precision. Once you have your pieces, it’s important to mark the fabric with a washable marker or tailor’s chalk. Sew along these markings – be slow, steady, and focused.

When it comes to adding fittings and fixtures to your bag such as zip pockets or pouches, the lining is where you’ll sew these into. You’ll do this before sewing the lining onto the main fabric.

It’s really useful to look at existing bags, study their construction, and note how the linings are fitted. After all, it doesn’t need to be identical to the outer bag. It’s a chance to add compartments or extra features for practicality.

Once it’s sewn onto your main fabric, you’ll see how the lining lifts the look of your tote bag. Just remember to keep these key points in mind:

  • Iron pieces before and after cutting,
  • Slow and precise sewing is critical, and
  • The lining provides room for customization and functionality.

The next part to master is sewing the bag straps and attaching them securely to your tote bag. With patience and practice, you’ll be fashioning stunning tote bags in no time.

Adding Pockets to the Lining

Having a pocket or two in your tote bag not only offers extra storage but also keeps your essentials easily accessible. So, how do you go about adding pockets to your lining? Let’s delve into the process.

Firstly, decide the type and size of pockets you want. For beginners, a simple flat pocket which we’ll discuss here, is a good starting point. If you’re more experienced, you might opt for a zippered pocket. Your pocket’s size should be guided by what you plan to store there. Will it hold your phone, keys, or a small notebook perhaps? Consider your needs before cutting your fabric.

Once you’ve made a choice, cut out a rectangle from your fabric – the size will depend on your desired pocket. If you’re unsure, a rectangle approximately 6 inches by 8 inches should suffice for most items.

Fold the rectangle in half, with the wrong sides of the fabric facing each other. This means that the shorter ends meet up. Then, begin sewing around the folded fabric, leaving a small opening, so that you can turn the pocket inside out. You’re effectively sewing a pouch!

With your lining fabric laid out and ironed smooth, place your newly sewn pocket onto the lining where you want it to be. The lining’s top edge should be at least 2 inches away from the pocket’s top edge to allow room for sewing the lining into the tote bag.

Pin the pocket to the lining, making sure it’s straight, and sew along the sides and bottom of the pocket. And voila! You’ve added a pocket to your tote bag lining!

Sewing the Bag Exterior

Moving on from adding pockets to your bag’s lining, you’ll now venture into sewing the bag’s exterior. This stage is a crucial part of the process where you aim to turn your fabric into a functional bag. Let’s walk through the steps together.

Start with your fabric piece that measures 16″ x 14″. Ensure you’ve two pieces of the same dimension. This is gonna be the body of your tote. Remember to use sturdy material like canvas or upholstery fabric to withstand heavy usage.

Next, those pieces of fabric should be placed together, with the right sides facing each other. Stitch them along three sides, leaving one short side unstitched. This will form a simple bag-like shape. You’ll be using a 1/2″ seam allowance for this step.

Subsequently, let’s create a base for your tote’s stand, a feature often overlooked yet highly functional. Cut out square notches of 2″ x 2″ from each corner of the sewn-up fabric to create this base. Fold the corners and align the raw edges, forming a diamond shape at the corner. Stitch straight over this diamond shape with a 1/2″ seam allowance.

To make your tote more durable, add some depth with a french seam. A french seam not only makes your bag look more professional but also eliminates raw edges. Turn your bag inside out and sew another seam around the three stitched sides, locking the initial stitch.

This was all about preparing your bag’s exterior – your bag’s shell is now ready. Just remember, quality is crucial here – better the stitch, more durable your tote is. You’re now one step closer to owning a tote bag sewn all by yourself. Brace up, as further processes lie ahead. Following this, you’ll jump into the process of preparing your bag handles and attaching them to this bag exterior.

Attaching the Lining to the Bag Exterior

It’s time to bring your tote bag even closer to completion by Attaching the Lining to the Bag Exterior. You’ve created a beautiful structure for your bag and now, let’s add the inner layer.

Begin by placing the lining inside the bag. The right side (or pretty side) of the lining should be facing the right side of the bag exterior.

Next, align the top seams of both the lining and bag exterior. The importance of precise alignment in this step can’t be stressed enough, as it ensures a professional look for your finished piece. As you align the seams, be sure to pin them together. This prevents any shifting during the sewing process and assures great results.

Once you’ve got everything pinned and aligned, it’s time to sew! For this step, use a half-inch seam allowance. Start by setting up your sewing machine and selecting a straight stitch. Remember, slow and steady does it. A rushed sewing job isn’t just frustrating — it can be error-prone too.

As you move around the rim of your bag, keep your seams even and smooth. You’re aiming for a near tactile seam that feels as good as it looks.

Soon you’ll notice that your hard work is paying off — the bag is taking a much more recognizable form now.

Lastly, take out the pins and give your handiwork a brief once-over. If you see any uneven spots or stray threads, now’s a perfect time to touch them up.

Creating the Straps

Moving forward, Creating the Straps is the next crucial step in constructing your tote bag. Smooth-sewing straps mean better handling and comfort, giving your bag a professional touch.

To make the straps hefty and durable, we’re going to double up the fabric. Start by cutting two pieces of the tote bag’s fabric, both should measure 4 inches wide and 28 inches long.

Let’s dive right into giving those straps form.

Here’s an easy-to-follow procedure:

  • Lay each fabric strip right side down.
  • Fold in 1 inch on both long sides and iron flat.
  • Fold the fabric strip in half lengthwise and iron again.
  • Open the fold and insert a strip of interfacing inside, iron yet again to adhere.
  • Lastly, sew along the edge of each strap.

Keep in mind: your stitch quality can make or break the finished look of your tote bag. So take your time. Remember, a high-quality sewing machine can help you create robust, clean lines.

To attach the straps to your tote bag, you need to measure and mark where they’ll go. Place your ruler about 3 inches away from the edge of your tote bag and mark a line indicating where the strap ends will match up.

Once you’ve got your marks, line up the end of the strap with the mark and pin it in place. Do this for all four ends of the two straps, ensuring the straps aren’t twisted before securing them.

After everything is pinned, stitch the ends of the straps to the tote bag using a square or cross format for additional strength.

Finishing Touches and Final Assembly

Now that your straps are secure, it’s time to add the finishing touches and complete the assembly of your newly sewn tote bag. This isn’t rocket science. You’re easily capable and on track to be the proud creator of this homemade textile gem.

Start by creating pockets. Cut your desired pocket shape from your fabric. You’ll then fold the edges, press them with an iron, and sew along the edge for a clean finish. Make sure to pick a place on your tote bag and carefully stitch the pocket in place. You’ll want these pockets to be sturdy and functional, yet aesthetic.

Moving on to the bag lining, it’s created similarly to the bag exterior. First, cut two identical pieces of whichever fabric you’re using for your lining. Sew them together—the same way you did with your main material. Remember to leave a gap at the bottom for turning the bag right-side out later on!

Next, assemble the bag. Gently turn your bag exterior right side out, while keeping your lining inside out. Slip the exterior inside the lining, shouldering the fabric nicely, and pin them together. You’re ready to sew around the top edge of your bag. Make sure those pins are secure to keep the fabric from slipping!

Once sewn, pull the exterior through the gap in your lining, effectively turning the bag right side out. A little ironing is needed here for shape and to press out any wrinkles. Once your bag is looking crisp and professional, close the gap in the lining with a quick stitch.

You’re nearing the end now and your efforts are about to pay off. Spot any loose threads around the sewing lines? Carefully cut them off for a neater appearance. The final step that’s left, is adding a topstitch for added strength and a neat finish.

It’s not an easy process, but your filled with determination. You’re proving that with some patience, and attention to detail, you can make a tangible and useful bag out of some fabric and thread.


You’ve now mastered the art of sewing a tote bag with lining and pockets. You’ve learned to create pockets with a clean finish, to construct a lining, and to assemble a bag that’s both stylish and functional. You’ve also picked up some essential sewing tips along the way, like the importance of trimming loose threads and the value of adding a topstitch. Remember, patience and attention to detail make all the difference in crafting a bag that’s not only useful but also a pleasure to use. So grab your fabric and sewing kit, and let your creativity shine. Happy sewing!

How are pockets created for the tote bag?

Pockets are fashioned by first cutting the anticipated shape from fabric. These are then neatly finished by folding and sewing the borders, and firmly stitching the pockets onto the tote, at desired locations.

What is the process for creating bag lining?

Bag lining is crafted by cutting two similar pieces of fabric and sewing them together. Ensure a gap is left at the bottom, this is crucial for the next steps.

What is the final procedure of assembling the tote bag?

The tote bag is assembled by turning the exterior right side out and sliding it inside the lining. These are then pinned together, sewn around the top edge, and finally the exterior is pulled out via the gap in the lining.

How can a neat finish and additional strength be given to the tote bag?

A neat finish along with added strength can be imparted by cutting off any loose threads and applying topstitch. Attention to detail and patience are important for a strong and stylish tote.