Embroidered Tote Bag - How-To


We're getting crafty today! Today I'm walking you through an easy tutorial to turn a finished embroidery into an embellished tote bag.

For this project, you'll need:

  • Finished, 8" embroidery
  • 4 panels - 16" x 13 1/2" (I used a nice linen fabric by Robert Kaufman for both the panels and the straps. You'll need roughly 1 yard for this project.)
  • 4 straps - 34" x 1 3/4"

Stitching on the embroidery.

The very first step to making your own embroidered tote bag is probably the hardest because it involves cutting up your embroidery. I know, it's scary, but it'll be scary good when it's done.

Step 1 - Cut around your finished embroidery, leaving about 1/4" of blank fabric. Be sure not to be like me and accidentally shave off part of a knot.

Step 2 - Pin your embroidery to the center of your front panel. As all four panels of fabric are the same, pick whichever one you like best.

Step 3 - Set your sewing machine to a zigzag stitch and sew your embroidery to the fabric. Make sure your stitches extend over the edge of the embroidery fabric by lining it up with your needle. This will center the stitch. I went around mine twice just to be sure. Once you've finished going round, you're done! Your embroidery is now attached to the front of your tote bag. Woohoo! (If you're new to crafting, this is a good place to take a chocolate break.)

Now it's time to make the straps.

Step 1 - With right sides facing, pin two of the strap pieces together and sew along one long side with a 1/4" seam allowance. 

Step 2 - Fold the fabric over so both sides show the right side. Fold over and press inside 1/4" of fabric along the long side of both pieces. With this pinned in place, top stitch the edge. You'll want to be sure you sew close enough to the edge to stitch through the fabric you pressed inside.

Step 3 - Top stitch the other side as well so that they match. (I tried to skip this step, as I'm not one for caring if things match, but it's actually really nice to top stitch both sides because then the strap lays flat.)

Step 4 - Repeat this for the second strap.

Woohoo! You now have a pretty front and two straps. You are going places! (Just nowhere where you need to carry stuff because you don't have a tote bag yet.)

Attaching the straps and the lining.

Big disclaimer: I made a BIG mistake the first time I did this (the time I took photos). I had to rip my bag open and fix my straps, a feat which took an extra hour. I'm going to give you the directions to make sure you don't have to do this. However, the photos will be slightly off in terms of the strap placement. Just imagine them much further away from the sides of the bag. Pretty please!

Step 1 - Mark the top of the outer back piece 3" in from each side. (Here's where I screwed up as I only did it 1" in. Don't do that. Your bag will look ridiculous. Please mark your fabric at 3" and make a beautiful tote bag the first time round.) Again, since all panels are the same size, you can pick whichever one most looks like the back of a tote bag to you.

Step 2 - Pin one handle to the back piece, right sides together. Align the raw edges at the top and the outer edge of the handles at the 3" mark.

Step 3 - Sew your handle onto your fabric by stitching a box with an 'x' in it at the top of each strap. The bottom of the box will be 3/4" down from the top edge of the fabric. I drew my box in pencil first because I couldn't see my white thread on the fabric.

Step 4 - Pin the back lining piece to the back outer piece with right sides together and the handles sandwiched between them.

Step 5 - Using a 1" seam allowance, sew the outer panel and the lining piece together along the top edge.

Step 6 - Repeat this for the front.

You now have two very odd bags. All we have to do is put them together.

Putting it all together.

Step 1 - Open up the two halves of the bag and pin them together, right sides facing. The linings should sit one on top of the other and the front and back on top of one another. The handles will be sandwiched in between. (In the picture below, I haven't fully pinned it yet so that I could show you how things line up. My lining pieces are in the back of the picture and my front and back are nearest me. You can press the 1" seams open but I simply folded mine in the same direction and stitched over them.)

Step 2 - Mark off a 4" opening in the bottom of the lining pieces. This is the opening you'll use to flip the bag. I marked mine with red pins so I would know where to stop.

Step 3 - Sew along the outer edge of the piece with a 1/4" seam allowance, making sure you leave the 4" opening at the bottom of the lining pieces.

Step 4 - Trim the corners a bit, making sure you don't cut your stitches.

Step 5 - Here comes the fun step! Flip your bag inside out through the opening you left in the lining.

Give yourself a big high five because you are so close to being done. Take a small break because you deserve it.

Finishing your tote bag.

There are just a few things we need to address to make this bag perfect, like getting rid of the hole in the bottom of your lining.

Step 1 - Press in 1/4" of your lining fabric where you left the opening and pin it in place.

Step 2 - Hand stitch the opening closed. I used a nice ladder stitch here as it's invisible. You can also top stitch this with your sewing machine.

Step 3 - Top stitch around the opening of your tote bag. (Again, I tried to be lazy here and skip this step but it actually really helps the bag lay flat. It only takes a minute to run over the opening anyway. You can do it!)

That's it! All you need to do is trim your stray threads and maybe give the bag a quick press. Fill your new bag with some craft supplies and head to your local coffee shop. Make sure everyone sees it when you walk in and set it on the counter so the barista can't miss it. (You can also pretend to lose your wallet in your tote bag and swing it around for everyone to see while you 'hunt' for it.)

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