Sewing Tote Courtesy of Angela Wolf

by Cathy Ellsaesser, posted on

A couple of months ago at the Brother All Star event, we had the great pleasure of a class and trunk show by Angela Wolf. What a delight! In the class, we made a cute sewing tote, and Angela has graciously allowed me to share the directions for the tote on this blog.

In the class, we used the Brother Double-sided Coverlock machine to provide decorative stitches on the outside of the bag. Of course you can use decorative stitches, embroidery, quilting or whatever suits you for your bag. I’m going to use some sewing embroidery designs.

Sewing Tote Directions


  • One piece of 13″ x 19″ fabric. This will be the outside of the bag. You can use whatever you want from quilting cotton, decorating fabric, duck to canvas. We used canvas in class, and I’m using decorating fabric for this blog.
  • One piece of 13″ x 19″ cotton fabric for the lining.
  • Two pieces 13″ x 11″ cotton fabric for the interior pockets.
  • Two pieces 1½” wide grosgrain ribbon, each 18″ long, for handles. Of course, you can also make fabric handles or use webbing if desired.
  • One piece 1½” wide grosgrain ribbon, 26″ long, for the trim on the top of the bag. Of course, you can always use cotton binding if desired.

If using directional fabric see diagram below for cutting orientation.

Cutting diagram for fabric for sewing tote

Sewing Supplies

Be sure to stop in at one of our locations if you need to purchase any of these supplies:

  • Pins or fabric clips
  • Fabric marking pen or tailor’s chalk
  • Quilters ruler
  • Stabilizer if embroidering
  • Thread

Decorate Bag Fabric

If adding embroidery to the bag, mark the center of the top half of the bag fabric to indicate center for embroidery. (6½” from the side, 4¾ ” from the top)

Keep in mind that the bag will be folded on the vertical middle as indicated by the dashed line below. Thus if you want to embroider both sides, mark accordingly, and be sure to orient your embroidery design so that it will right side up when the bag is folded in half.

Diagram for embroidery placement on sewing tote

If you are simply decorating the outside of the bag with decorative stitches, add these to the outside fabric before adding the lining.

Add Bag Handles

I’m using webbing for the bag handles, but the process of adding handles is the same no matter what material is used.

Make a mark 2½” from each side of the bag on both 13″ lengths.

Align the raw edge of the handle material with the raw edge of the bag and place the outside edge of the handle on the marks you made. Stitch in place.

Mark Sewing Tote Lining

On the right side of the lining fabric, mark a placement line 2″ on both sides of the center of the lining fabric (short dashed lines below). Long dashed line below indicates center of fabric.

Diagram showing where to mark top of pockets on lining of sewing tote

Prepare Sewing Tote Pockets

Fold each of the pockets in half, wrong sides together, along the 11″ width. The top of the pocket will be the fold in the fabric.

Diagram showing how to fold pocket material for sewing tote

Place Pockets

Align the raw edge of each pocket with the chalked lines previously drawn on the lining fabric. (2″ on both sides of the center). Orient the top of the pocket as illustrated below. Stitch ½” from raw edge on each pocket.

Diagram of placement of pockets on lining of sewing tote
Diagram of placement of pockets on lining of sewing tote

Fold pockets along the stitched lines to bring the fold of the pocket toward the top of the bag. Top stitch along bottom of pocket.

Baste along the sides of the pockets to hold in place.

Diagram of final pocket placement on lining
Photo of lining fabric with pockets sewn in.

Sub-divide Pockets

Determine how you’d like your pockets subdivided and chalk lines as desired. Sew from bottom to top of pocket along chalked lines. Back stitch at top of each pocket to secure top of pocket to lining.

Diagram of example of divided pockets in lining

Sew Lining and Bag Together

Fold lining with right sides together, aligning top raw edges.

Fold bag with right sides together, aligning top raw edges. Be sure that the handles are inside the folded bag and not in any seam allowance.

Place the folded lining on top of the folded bag. Align the bottoms of the bag and lining.

Photograph of bag lining and bag body stacked on top of one another with diagrams for sewing side seams

Sew along the sides using a ½” seam, joining the bag and lining together. Do not sew the top!

Box Corners of Bag

Turn the bag right side out through the top of the bag.

Straighten bag and turn out corners.

Make a triangle at the bottom of the bag, aligning the side seam to the middle of the bag bottom as shown below . Stitch across the triangle approximately 1½” from the point of the triangle. (The further from the point of the triangle you sew the seam, the wider the sides and bottom of the bag will be.)

Photo of bottom of sewing tote showing corners sewn together in triangle shape to box corner
Photo of closeup of triangle shape to box corner

If desired fold corner to the side (or bottom) of bag and stitch in place.

Photo of corner of bag folded up to side seam and stitched in place

Bind the Top of the Bag

If necessary, even the top edge of bag so that lining and bag align. Baste the lining to the top of the bag about ¼ ” from the raw edge.

Use grosgrain ribbon or binding to encase the raw edges of the top of the bag.

If using ribbon, fold the starting end of the ribbon into a triangle. It’s best to place the ends of the binding behind one of the straps, so that they’ll be hidden behind the strap when it is folded up over the binding (see below).

Pin the edge of the ribbon all the way around the top of the bag, overlapping the beginning by an inch or so.

Stitch in place.

Fold ribbon over the edge of the bag and sew the back of the ribbon in place by stitching in the ditch along the seam from the front of the bag.

Turn the handles up over the binding and stitch in place.

Close up of bag handle illustrating how to sew box to reinforce handle

You’re finished! What a cute sewing tote!

Bonus Pattern

Check out Angela Wolf’s website for some beautiful patterns, vlogs, and other great information. There, you can also find a free pattern for a
Butterfly Tote Bag that is a little larger and has a zippered pocket on the inside.

Thanks, Angela, for the pattern to make this quick and easy sewing tote!