A simple step by step guide showing how to make a canvas tote bag from less than 50cm of fabric. Print your own fabric to make a beautiful personalised Mother’s Day gift, or just a lovely present for yourself.
You can use any sturdy fabric; I recommend our digitally printed Cotton Canvas. Print & Press have a number of designer prints you can choose from (for this I used the exclusive Swallow Goes 80s by Charlotte Donovan pattern), or you can print your own design, drawing or photo onto fabric with our custom digital fabric printing.
This tote bag is really simple to make, and although you need 50cm of fabric, there is enough fabric leftover (about 40cm x 55cm) to make a matching zippered clutch bag. The great thing about using our digitally printed Cotton Canvas fabric, is that you can use the material to make the handles as well. This means you can pick your handle colour, or even have patterned handles.We have created a downloadable Photoshop template to help you lay out your prints to make this bag.
You will need:
- Two 40cm x 45cm Cotton Canvas (for the bag)
- Two 7cm x 70cm Cotton Canvas strips (for the handles)
- Sewing machine
1. Lay out your fabric and pin the two 40cm x 45cm pieces together. You are going to french seam the sides and bottom together. There’s a guide showing how to french seam here (it makes everything look much tidier, and is very simple to do). If you would rather not french seam, you can also sew these two pieces right sides together and turn inside out.
2. Once your bag is sewn together on three sides, take one of your fabric strips, and press it in half length ways (wrong sides together). Press the two unfinished edges right sides together, so you end up with a strip with no raw edges (sorry I didn’t take enough photos at this stage!). Pin along the whole strip, and repeat for the second strip. Now sew a straight stitch line along both edges of both strips.
3. With the bag inside out, fold the fabric at the top (at the opening) over twice, pin, and press to make the hem.
4. Take four pins and use them to mark where you would like the handles to be positioned. We put ours 10cm from each side. Push the end of the handles under the hem fold, in the locations you have marked with a pin, and pin in place.
5. With your sewing machine, sew a square with a cross in the middle on each handle where it meets the bag fabric.
6. Straight stitch around the hem fold for the entire bag.
7. Turn the bag the right way round and press the seams so they lie flat. Ta-dah, your canvas tote bag is finished!
If you’d like to make your own fabric to make a tote bag, visit our Create Your Fabric page to upload your designs. You can also look in our designer pattern shop to buy this Swallows pattern or any of our other designs.