tutorial: basic rectangular tote

What? Another tutorial? Yes, another tutorial because I felt rather guilty about the previous one. It lacked the typical number of photos I include in my standard craft/sewing tutorials and simply didn’t look right. So here we are. This one is for a very easy DIY bag.

(Disclaimer: I am sure you’ve read and seen tutorials like this before. There is nothing new here, to be honest. But I took photos, had the pieces for the bag ready, and felt like making a bag tutorial. For a change.)

Rectangle shape + dots =


Dotted fabric for outer part of bag (top 12″ x bottom 14″ x sides 16″), lining in checkered pattern (top 12″ x bottom 14″ x sides 16″), short dotted strip for pockets (14″ x 6″), long dotted strip for straps (3″ x 18″)

Cut two of each piece, not including the short strip. Don’t forget allowances.

You will also need zipper that will fit the opening of your bag (i.e. a little over 12″).


1. Sew your straps. Turn inside out and top stitch.


2. Attach pocket strip to one of the lining pieces. Divide this strip according to the number and size of pockets you want.

3. Prepare the same lining, right side up. Layer the zipper on top, right side up as well. The zipper pull should be near the left corner of the lining. Pin the zipper in place.

4. Measuring from the center of the bag, pin one strap on top of the zipper. Place it like so:

5. Take one of the exterior pieces of the bag and lay on top, wrong side up.

6. Replace your regular foot with a zipper foot. Sew along the sewing line.

7. Separate the front piece of the bag from the lining+zipper+strap layer. Sew to keep the exterior of your bag nice and smooth.

8. Repeat steps 3 to 7 to the other lining, side of the zipper, strap, and exterior piece. Make sure that your straps are aligned. Now you have something with open sides and bottom but finished zipper and straps.

9. Open your zipper halfway. Arrange the whole thing in a way that the lining pieces are layered, right sides together. The exterior pieces should also be layered, right sides together.

10. Pin along the sewing lines. Sew all around but leave a 5-inch allowance along the bottom of your lining. Now it’s time to make a gusset. Measure 1 inch from the sides and bottoms near the corners of your bag (both exterior and lining parts). Mark the points.

11. Insert a hand through the allowance and lay all corners of your bag, making a triangle-like shape. Make sure that the 1-inch marks are along the sloping lines.

12. Sew from one 1-inch mark to the other. Do this to all four bottom corners of your bag. Cut off the excess or pointy ends.

13. Turn your bag inside out via the lining allowance.

14. Sew the allowance shut. And you’re done!

Yay for sewing tutorials that no one needs! 

5 thoughts on “tutorial: basic rectangular tote

  1. I needed it! I’m a beginner sewer and hadn’t yet found a simple tote with zip AND handles and believe me I’ve looked. Thank you so much, and if you’re ever doubting if you should post something that seems so simple to you, there’s always a beginner out there desperately searching for a clear tutorial with lots of pics. Thank you :-)

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