Learn to make a gorgeous tote bag using our free tote bag pattern! In this blog post we’ll walk you through the step-by-step construction of the Core Tote from start to finish. If you learn better from video, at the bottom of this post we also have a full sewalong video to follow along with.
Designed for the sturdy bottom weight fabrics in our collection, the Core tote comes in two sizes. The medium tote is the perfect size for a casual everyday bag, or as a super functional market, beach, or diaper bag. The large tote is drafted in a fun oversized scale, and is great for all of the above, in addition to making an easy weekend bag. This beautifully drafted tote includes two exterior pockets, and the straps can be made fabric or strap webbing.
Download the Pattern
This tote can be made from any stable mid to heavyweight woven fabric. For a lighter and more casual bag, choose linen or cotton. For a stronger and more durable bag, choose bottom weight fabrics like denim, twill and canvas.
You Will Need:
- PDF pattern printed in your chosen size
- Fabric - see yardage below
- Midweight fusible interfacing, 1/2 yd (0.5 m) for 58” wide interfacing
- Machine Needles
- Thread in a matching colour
- Marking tool
- Optional: 1” wide Cotton webbing for straps (can be replaced with fabric straps)
- Optional: Topstitching thread
- Optional: Edgestitch foot
- Optional: Hump jumper
View A - Medium bag
|45"/1.14 M fabric||1.25 yd (1.25 m)|
|58"/1.5 M fabric||1 yd (1 m)|
View B - Large bag
45"/1.14 M fabric (straps must be cut perpendicular to grain for 45" fabric)
2 yd (2 m)
58"/1.5 M fabric
|1.5 yd (1.5 m)|
Please note: Fabric cutting layouts are included on the pattern itself for both Letter/A4 and copyshop formats.
Heavy Duty Sewing Tips
Tote bags made from heavier fabrics require a few special considerations in order to stand up to rugged everyday use. Here are a few heavy-duty sewing tips to make a tote bag that will stand the test of time:
- Use high quality polyster thread. You can use it for both construction seams and topstitching, but we suggest a heavier topstitching thread for visible stitch lines as they add strength and have a more defined profile and appearance.
- When using topstitching thread, use regular sewing thread in the bobbin to avoid tension issues.
- Alternatively, use two spools of regular thread threaded onto one needle for a thicker topstitched look, or use a triple straight stitch if your machine has this function.
- Remember the fabric, thread, and needle trifecta. Adjust the size width of your needle accordingly, depending on the fabric and thread used. Heavier fabrics should be sewn with size 14-18 needles, depending on the weight.
- Balanced thread tension is crucial for achieving neat, durable stitches. Heavier thread often requires higher needle tension.
- Try a longer stitch length when topstitching (3-4mm). A longer stitch length is more visually attractive and will sew more evenly.
- An edge stitching foot helps with topstitchng. The metal guide aligns with the edge of the fabric to keep stitches straight and even.
- Take it slow, especially when sewing multiple layers, and manually turn the hand wheel for additional control over thicker areas.
- Use a hump jumper or piece of folded card to level the presser foot as you climb or descend a seam.
How To Sew the Tote Bag
If you prefer following along by video, we also filmed the entire process! Otherwise follow along with our step-by-step instructions below.
First, note that all seam allowances are 5/8” (16mm).
Start by cutting your fabric using the supplied pattern pieces, and transfer all construction marks and notches to the fabric.
If you are sewing the straps from fabric, interfacing them is optional but will provide stability.
Press the long edges in on each side by 5/8” (16mm). Press strap in half with folded edges meeting. Repeat for the other strap.
Press the raw edge of the bag hem under by 1/2”, and then press again at the notches.
Press the pocket hem under by 1/2”, and then press again at the notches.
Topstitch the hem in place from the right side. Ensure you are catching the folded seam in your stitch line.
Align pocket to bag body, matching large circles at top, and small circles and notch along bottom.
Using the small circles as a guide, align the strap on the bag body on an angle. The strap should cover the pocket seam allowance, with the raw edge of strap starting at the bottom of the bag. If using a fabric strap, the single fold edge should face the pocket. Pin in place.
Ensuring the strap is not twisted, align the other side of the strap to the other side of the bag. Pin in place. If you want to place a label on the side of your strap, now is the time to pin it into place (we used this one for our sample!)
Tip: If your pieces are shifting, use a glue stick to temporarily secure them.
Topstitch strap in place by sewing 1/8" (3 mm) along each edge. If sewing a fabric strap, continue along the entire length of the strap and back down the other side. If sewing a webbing strap, stop sewing at the bag hem. In either case, ensure the bag opening hem is folded in place as you topstitch over the hem. Repeat for the other edge of the strap.
To securely anchor the strap in place, sew a straight line of stitches at the top of the strap through the hem, backstitching at the beginning and end.
Repeat for the other strap.
Sew Body to Base
Right sides together, align the long raw edges of body and base and sew at 5/8”. Finish with a flat fell seam, serged and topstitched seam, or bias binding.
Right sides together, fold the bag in half along the base. Align the side seams and sew at 5/8”.
Trim the bottom corner on a diagonal starting at end of seam line.
Finish the side seams with your preferred method.
Turn the bag right side out, and push the bottom corners out using a point turner or chopstick.
Using the lines on your pattern pieces as a guide, fold the corner of the bag into a triangle. The side seam will be centred at the point of the triangle.
Fold and pin the triangle up along the bottom seam of the bag and topstitch around the perimeter to secure.
Topstitch the perimeter of the bag opening approximately 1 1/2" (37mm 3.2 cm) from the folded edge. Ensure you are catching the folded seam in your stitch line. Before sewing, you can add another label on the inside! We used this one.
To finish, sew an X box to secure and reinforce the strap to the bag, as this area is usually subject to high strain.
Ta da! Your bag is now complete!
Please share your makes using the hashtag #CoreToteBag!