I’ve been eyeing the duck canvas at our local craft store for a few months now. When practically the entire store went on a 50% off sale, I seized the opportunity to get all the supplies I needed to whip up three huge totes for my girls and me. They really end up taking less than an hour start to finish and couldn’t be easier to stitch up.
I’m a total novice sewer when it comes to anything other than quilting so this is pretty much trial and error and a little bit of luck 😉 Play with the measurements to get a bag size that works for you. I intend to use these bags as carry-alls for myself and the girls on all of your many cross state drives to and from my parents. They won’t be getting checked on an airplane or loaded onto a bus or anything so they have no fancy closures/zippers/liners or much of anything fancy at all! Hope you make one up- they’d be an awesome library tote, pool or beach bag, photographers prop bag, teachers bag or anything else you could possible use a giant tote for!
The blue tote pictured is the full size tote that started with one yard of canvas. The pink tote started with 3/4 of a yard, and the orange tote started with a 1/2 yard and had top and sides trimmed a bit as it’s for my two year old… she’s the size of a one year old so all bags are pretty much too big for her! Ha! But it will still be plenty big for all of her clothes when we pack to travel.
P.S. WHY did my Gracie pick orange of all colors?! Blehk!
**Leave me a comment if there is anything confusing about my instructions… I’ve not yet perfected the art of photographing tutorials- I’m so impatient! But I’m happy to help if you get stuck 🙂
Here are the materials you need:
1. Duck Canvas (1 yard for largest size, but 1/2-3/4 yards would work for a bag for kids that’s still really large for them)
2. Curtain grommets- these were such an awesome find for me! I’m not into paying big bucks for extra equipment and the “real” metal grommets didn’t come big enough anyway. These will come in a pack (pictured below) and come in 3 different color options. I used the larger size for my blue bag and the smaller size for the kids.
3. Heavy duty thread (white, or you can match the duck canvas color if you prefer your stitching not to show)
4. Denim/heavy duty needle- these aren’t too expensive and come in a universal 4 pack in the notions department.
5. 2 1/2 yards handle straps- you can buy this by the yard in any color but my favorite was the extra thick natural color I used for the blue bag. It has a better feel and fits in the large grommets perfectly.
6. Swivel hook and pack of D rings
7. Clear grid/rulers
8. Rotary cutter and cutting mat
9. Wood burner tool and wood tags- I got the cheapest wood burner they sell. It was about $7 at 50% off and came with three different tips. I don’t anticipate huge wood burning needs so that was perfect for this project and still leaves me with a fun new tool at the end of it all.
10. Embroidery thread
11. Iron and ironing board
12. Clear coat for wood plaques
13. Sewing machine (a given right?!)
1. Leave your duck canvas folded how it comes off the bolt. Selvedge edges will match at the top- if they don’t, match up the edges better and iron flat. Iron your canvas so any wrinkles are as smoothed out as possible. Steam is your friend!
2. Trim the edges of the canvas so you have a perfect rectangle.
3. With denim or heavy duty needle attached to your machine (I’m using a walking foot in the pictures but it isn’t essential) stitch your rectangle on either side. Back stitch a few stitches at the top and bottom just to keep things secure while you continue.
Folded edge is closest to you.
5. Now you are going to cut out squares in the bottom corners of your rectangle that will create the boxed shape of the bag in the bottom of your tote. Do this by measure and tracing a 6″x6″ square in each corner and tracing with a pencil. **Be careful to measure the square from THE STITCHING SEAM not from the edge of the fabric.**
Pencil is pointing to the seam where you begin measuring.
Using sharp fabric scissors, cut out each square.
6. Iron each side seam open. Don’t pull too hard on the seam or the stitches will show.
7. Hem the top of your bag. To do this easily, just fold over the top and eyeball it on either edge to make sure it matches up. If you are an extreme measurer (re: much more careful than I), you could measure it all the way around to make sure it’s even. Not really necessary for me.
I used a few pins to keep the side seams flat while sewing but use more if you feel you need it!
8. If you are adding the swivel hooks- now is the time to do so. Each little unit will slip underneath where the yellow pins are in the picture above (thus being able to pull each side seam in toward each other to clasp). All I did for these was cut a piece of handle strap, feed through the ring and stitch/backstitch a few times to keep it secure.
Then slide the units under the side seams before hemming:
So in the picture below, if you were adding the swivel hooks, they’d already be inserted and pinned under where the yellow pins are.
9. Starting right before your first side seam, start stitching across the entire seam. Back stitch that entire length and restitch it for security. This is where the bag will show a lot of strain if it’s packed and used often so you want it to be strong.
Run your first line of hem stitching following the bottom edge of the folded canvas. Stitch and backstitch the other side seam in the same way when you get to it. Repeat process with a second seam following the top edge of the bag. It should like the picture below when you are done (with swivel hooks already attached if you are adding them!).
10. Next up is stitching closed the bottom of your bag. Do this by pinching shut the square you created so you are left with one flat seam, both sides of the canvas lined up as perfectly as possible. Your side seams should match up perfectly with the fold in the bottom of your bag.
Use pins to keep these pieces in place while sewing. Sew the first side back stitching at either end (again, you want to add strength here) and repeat on the other side.
When those seams are boxed your bag will look like the picture above. Turn it right side out and the base should look like this:
11. The final step of bag construction is to attach the handles (this really couldn’t be easier!). Since I was attaching the swivel hooks later, I roughly folded in each side of my bag to see how it would look with the rings clasped. The handle holes needed to fall inside of where the “front” and back are when the bag is clasped like this or it wouldn’t lay right.
For the full yard size bag, measure about 10-12 inches in from each edge and make a little pencil mark. For a smaller bag, use your folds as a guide but you’ll measure more like 8 inches in from the edge. Open your grommet kit and find the little template it comes with. This is how you will mark the circles to cut for the grommets. Place the center “+” on your pencil mark and trace. Do this on the other side of the front (measure, mark, trace).
Cut out each traced hole by snipping a little hole in the middle and carefully cutting around the circle. When two circles are cut on the front, lay your bag out so it matches up nicely and trace those same holes onto the inside of the BACK of your bag. This is how you will ensure the handles fall in the same exact place front and back.
12. Each grommet will have a front and a back. One has little grooves, the other has “teeth”. Match them up (one on the outside, one on the inside) and press them together until they snap into place. You may need to place them on a hard surface and use the heel of your hand to really muscle them together. They MUST snap.
13. After all the grommets are attached, you just need to thread your handle strap through and stitch it together- that’s IT! If you didn’t want these straps to be one continuous piece I recommend buying at least 3 yards of it so you have enough to stitch separate handles together.
14. The final step is the little wood burned tag if you want it! It was really easy to make- drew initials in pencil first, heated up the gun for 5 minutes or so, and traced my pencil lines with the hot metal. It took a few seconds to get used to but really was easy. Give it a clear coat of something (modge podge, varnish, clear acrylic- whatever you have) and let it dry. Then use the embroidery floss to sew it onto your bag.
Also, I’m kind of obsessing over these Better Box Bag zip pouches (tutorial from the lovely CoconutRobot.com). The possibilities with these are endless and I kiiiind of can’t stop making them. More zippers please! Like, um… from here! Love.
Duck canvas works perfectly for these!
That’s all for today- phew. Off to make something else 😉
AHHHHH!! i love it!! I’m so happy I’m helping you get over your fear of zippers and new things 🙂 hahahha, you’d get over the fear on your own, i’m sure of it 🙂 you’re so freaking talented!!
I love love the vibrant colors!! The wooden name tags are just awesome!!
Kathryn Rawlins says
What a great idea for wonderful gift bags. Family and friends would LOVE getting a bag of homemade goodies in a beautiful bag like this. A fabulous way to “reduce, resuse and recycle”. And it’s “made in America” by you!!!!!
Wow ! I love your tutorial. It is very clear and the pictures are really helpful. I was wondering if there is a name for your special tool, like a ruler but bigger : it says Omnigrid on it ! (oh well maybe that’s the name !!!) Can you tell me where I can get one?
JoAnne Fabrics is where I get all my supplies! With coupons 😉
Nita Reymann says
Can’t wait to make several of these. Thanks!
Hi, I’m a relative newbie, but I think I can make this. I’m trying to source everything and I’m not sure what product your straps are. I see you buy everything at Joann’s but I don’t have one close and I’m trying to find it on their website. Is there a brand name or something that I can search for? I’m having the hardest time. Any help is appreciated. Thanks
Hi Tracie. If you search “belting” on Joann’s website you’ll see many options depending on the width you need. There are cotton and polyester options as well as various color choices. Hope that helps!
WOW! These are really great! On my way to the store right now! Thanks for sharing.
Susan Lee says
We use totes for just about everything in our house. I found this because we are running low on them! I ordered a bunch of canvas from Canvas, Etc. https://www.canvasetc.com/product-category/cotton-duck-canvas-fabric/ and made a handful of these. Thank you for sharing!
Oh My Gosh!! Love it, Thank you for sharing!! I am totally going to try this out next weekend!
Carol Wolters says
For simplicity & strength, you can skip cutting out the bottom corners & then stitching closed. When sides are sewn & finished, layer stitched side seam of one corner onto the bottom fold. You will have a triangle shape. How deep / wide across do you want the bag? Keep that corner at the top of this triangle, then move straight down the stitched side seam until you get the width across that you want. No cutting, sturdier corner. Repeat with other side. You did the same stitched corner, but you cut it out first. Don’t cut it out. Makes easier sewing. Your pictures will show what I cannot draw.
stitched side seam – had to draw this sideways
< ——————————-I 6" across bag? then stitch when ruler shows 6" across = 3" from each side of triangle to center stitched (side) seam.
By the way, loved your bags! Orange icky I agree!
Would you believe, today I was cleaning out my basement/sewing area and came across a wrapped bolt of fabric. The movers had wrapped it a heavy brown paper and labeled it Fabric. I was going to quit for the day but I had no idea what it was and had to peak. Would you believe it was pink, blue and orange canvas fabric. I have no idea what my original plan was, how about a bag. Thanks for your cute simple bag and tutorial.