DIY Shopping Bag (Tote)

A shopping bag is a great project if you’re a sewing beginner and want to try something just a little ambitious. This tote bag is shaped thanks to the darts and also it has a fusible fleece interfacing.

shopping bag

The moment when you realize that you’ve just made your first handbag…and you see the infinite possibilities, your closet full of new bags, handbags and purses! This might be a simple tote bag without closing but it will teach you the basics of bag-making. You will learn to shape a bag with darts (so that your bag isn’t just thin and long) and to iron on some fusible interfacing to reinforce the bag. Does it sound like something difficult? Well, it’s not and you can do it even if you are a beginner.

shopping bag

This is not only a shopping bag, it’s great also for your gym gear or as a picnic bag.

And I have to admit one thing. I haven’t made this tote bag, my daughter did. Following my instructions and under my supervision but she did almost all the work. I am so proud of her, she has just mastered a skill that I did in my adulthood. And she has many more projects in mind. It looks like I won’t be using my sewing machine much:D

Let’s get down to work:


  • two canvas rectangles of 84 x 62 cm/33 x 24,4 in (one for the outside of the bag and one for the lining)
  • two canvas stripes of 64 x 9 cm/25,2 x 3,5 in (for the handles)
  • fusible fleece interfacing – rectangle of 83 x 61 cm/32,6 x 24 in
  • thread
  • pins
  • sewing machine
  • ruler
  • pencil

Shopping Bag – Tutorial


Let’s make the handles first, for that we’ll use the canvas stripes folded in quarters. Fold each stripe lengthwise in half and open. Now you should see a center line. Fold the long edges towards it and press. Then fold the stripe lengthwise in half and press again. Topstitch along both long sides.

If you need a photo tutorial on how to make handles, its right here in this tutorial.

Body of the Bag – iron on fleece

shopping bag

So we have two canvas rectangles, one is for the outside and one for the lining.

nákupní taška

We need to attach the fusible fleece to the lining. If you have already cut your fleece rectangle, iron it on the wrong side of the lining leaving 0,5 cm/0,2 in on each side (that’s why the fleece is 1 cm/0,4 in shorter and narrower).

Or you can do it my way which is a bit the lazy way – take a larger piece of fusible fleece and iron on the lining fabric. You just have to watch to not iron on the last 0,5 cm/0,2 in on each side but even if you do it’s not a big problem.

Stitch together and make darts

nákupní taška

Fold both rectangles to get a 42 x 62 cm/16,5 x 24,4 in rectangle and stitch the two long edges.

Leave 10 cm/3,9 in unstitched opening on the lining.

nákupní taška

Let’s make the darts now. We have to make them on both the outside fabric and the lining with the fleece. Read How to sew darts on a handbag to learn how to make them. For this shopping bag we measured 5 cm/2 in from each corner.

Attach the handles

Place the lining on the table and measure the placement of the handles from the side seams. Make sure the handles on both sides align. I measured 7 cm/2,8 in from the side seams. Pin the ends of the handles on the marks, the handles have to face down. Stitch the ends about 0,5 cm/0,2 in from the edge.

So now we have the lining with handles attached to it.

Attach both parts and finish

shopping bag

Turn the lining wrong side out and the outside fabric right side out. Place the outside fabric part inside the lining and align the darts (pin in place) and the edges.

Stitch all around the upper side about 1 cm/0,4 in from the edge to attach the lining to the outer fabric. Make sure the handles are still facing down, you don’t want to stitch through them.

The red line shows where we’ve left the opening in the lining.

Now turn the whole bag right side out through the opening in the lining. It might take some time, just do it carefully.

shopping bag

This is what you should get. Now stitch the opening in the lining. You can use the sewing machine or the hidden stitch which will give a neater result. Here’s my Hidden Stitch tutorial.

shopping bag

Turn the lining part inside the outer part. Make sure the edges are neat and no lining is sticking out. Press iron.

shopping bag

Topstitch the edge about 0,5 cm/0,2 in from the edge. You can also hand stitch the darts and this way the lining will be attached to the outside fabric.

shopping bag shopping bag

Press iron again if needed and enjoy your new shopping tote bag!

I have a bunch of handbag tutorials, how about checking them out?


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