Easy DIY Market Tote

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The other day I looked at my box of grocery totes in my coat closet and let me tell you it was a sad sight. I have tons of those reusable shopping bags that you can buy at the grocery store, but those things do not stay nice for too long. It occurred to me: I make most of my own clothes, why not my shopping bags too? I love a good canvas tote, so it was time to sew one.

Here’s how you can draft and sew a market tote in just a couple of hours!

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Alright so drafting this tote is the easiest part: it’s two rectangles.

  • The main bag piece is 22½” X 19¼” (57cm X 49cm)
  • The strap piece is 28″ X 3¼” (71cm X 8cm)
  • Seam allowance is included in these measurements. It’s ⅝” (1.5cm) everywhere except the top of the bag and the ends of the straps (they have 2″/ 5cm allowance).
  • Cut two of each piece!

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It took me only ¾ meter (or yard) of 55″ (140cm) wide fabric for one bag. I used some linen fabrics from my stash for these bags. I would call them medium weight, and they work great. If you’re looking for something with more structure, go with a heavy weight linen or cotton canvas.

Pro tip: cut a few of these at once! You will be glad you did.

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Start by sewing the straps. Fold each strap piece lengthwise with right sides together. Sew at a ⅝” (1.5cm) seam allowance, then turn the strap right side out. Press, and topstitch at ⅛” (3mm) from each edge.

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Next we’re sewing the main portion of the bag. Pin your bag pieces with right sides together, sew along one long edge, pivot and sew across the bottom, and then sew up the other long edge.

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Clip the corners and then finish your raw edges together with a serger or zig zag stitch on your regular machine.

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Press the top edge of your bag down by 1″ (2.5cm). Next we’re going to pin our straps: we want them 6″ (15cm) apart. Start by marking your center and then measure 3″ (7.5cm) over on each side. Pin your straps in place just outside those markings.

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Now turn your top edge down again by 1″ (2.5cm) – this will enclose the straps within the top hem as shown above.

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Topstitch the “hem” of your bag in place.

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Press your straps upwards and pin in place.

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Topstitch your straps in place. I like to sew a square and then an “X” for added strength.

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Now we need to sew across our bottom corner to form a gusset. Turn your bag wrong side out and fold your corner as shown above. I like to finger press the seam allowances in different directions to avoid bulk. Mark 3″ (7.5cm) in from the corner.

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Here’s another view of that corner. Pin and mark your sewing line – it should measure about 6″ (15cm) across. Sew across and repeat on the other side.

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The last step is to topstitch each gusset flap in a “V” shape to secure it in place. Pin each corner down as shown above and topstitch close to the edge.

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Here’s what that looks like from the right side of the bag.

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Give it a final press and you are done!

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I made three bags in one afternoon and now I’m set for a while.

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They even fold up really nicely for easy storage. These bags are the perfect thing to bring to the summer farmer’s markets in Vancouver. I’ll be keeping one in my purse at all times, just in case. Goodbye ugly grocery bags, hello handmade market totes!

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18 Responses to Easy DIY Market Tote

  1. Lauren McGill March 10, 2016 at 9:13 am #

    Great project! I love how the bottom is sewn together… very nifty! Thanks for the great tutorial.

  2. Ana Sullivan March 10, 2016 at 10:18 am #

    I absolutely love the simplicity of this bag. I also love how you showed how to make your own pattern for those that don’t use the rotary cutter. Great for kids to make! I have added it to my DIY Grocery Bags Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/thelostapron/diy-grocery-bags/

  3. Anya March 10, 2016 at 10:28 am #

    These are beautiful!! Great idea and tutorial :) Thank you

  4. PsychicKathleen March 10, 2016 at 11:10 am #

    Thank you Caroline! It’s so helpful to have the measurement all figured out AND how to do the straps and bottom. Love the bottom too :) I’ve often thought the same thing about making my own bags – I always carry one in my purse so it needs to be light weight but strong too. Great way to use up left over pieces…I was even thinking about some of my left over silk dupioni for the project. It’s very light weight but strong and wow how impressive to pull a silk market bag out of your purse! :)

  5. Jordan Wester March 10, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    This is really nice of you to post for free. Thank you :D
    I’ve made my own totes and love them.

  6. Lyn March 10, 2016 at 11:47 am #

    Lovely! Any chance for a strap tutorial for a backpack style of tote?

  7. Nia March 10, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

    Thanks very much for this.

  8. Sonia March 11, 2016 at 6:16 am #

    Thank you Caroline Amanda, love the strap and gusset construction, definitely on my sewing list.

  9. Kathy March 11, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    very cool. Great colours and fab strong stitching. Stylish too.

  10. Keren March 12, 2016 at 3:08 am #

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m absolutely going to have a go…. these are useful AND beautiful.

  11. Kevin March 12, 2016 at 3:58 am #

    I’ve made a ton of these bags. One suggestion I will add for those of you who decide to serge your seam allowances.

    Due to the stress and abuse these bags will have to endure I had several serged seams snap on my bags. On my most recent bags I made I did two rolls of straight stitches over the overlocked edges about 1/8 inches apart. This fixed the problem.

  12. Amelia March 12, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

    My Aunt makes bags like these, one thing she does to make the bags stronger is she attaches the handles so they go all the way around the bottom of the bag and back up. This alleviates the problem of the handles sometimes ripping out of the top of the bag. It takes more fabric, though.

    Flat felled seams are also a good option for strengthening the seams so they don’t rip.

    Happy sewing folks.

  13. Hillary Koodirile March 14, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

    I like the bag thats great

  14. Annie March 16, 2016 at 8:01 pm #

    Thank you, Caroline. I really like thiis idea and want to try. One question — is there a special advantage to using linen? How would medium or heavy weight cotton be (short of canvas)?

    • Caroline Amanda March 17, 2016 at 10:47 am #

      Hi Annie! I personally just love the look of linen, and it’s one of the strongest fibers out there. Washes super well and softens with washing. Cotton would work great too; a heavy cotton twill or canvas would be ideal. Even a nice heavy cotton denim would be cool!

      • Annie March 17, 2016 at 7:54 pm #

        Thanks very much, Caroline, for your informative reply! I feel better equipped now. Always appreciate your thoughtful and fun posts.

  15. Heather March 19, 2016 at 11:15 am #

    The bottom is the best part!! I really need to make some of these!

  16. Janice March 30, 2016 at 3:20 am #

    Thanks for this handy tutorial. Your suggestion to use denim gives me the idea of refashioning a large denim shirt. I think there would be enough usable fabric. Maybe incorporating the button placket and chest pocket on the front of the bag would be a cute design…might have to try this!

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