How To Make a Canvas Tote Bag

A canvas tote bag is fun to make, and you can decorate it in so many artistic ways.  The canvas bag can be used to serve many purposes.  They make fun book bags for children, or knitting bags, a bag for the athlete's gym clothes, or for the work-out enthusiast, or even the hunter.  A heavy canvas bag can be used for hunting or camping purposes. (You would need a heavy duty sewing machine for this type of canvas.)

Directions for a canvas laundry tote:


  • Cut a circle any size you want it to be, width can be anywhere from 12” across to 18” across.


  • Measure your circle circumference and add ½“ for seam allowance.  This will be the width.
  • Next, measure how long you want the top to be.  This can be anywhere from 24” to 36”.
  • Cut a piece of canvas to match your width + length plus ½” seam allowance.
  • Sew side seam of top and finish edge with zigzag stitch or pinking shears.
  • Turn the top in-side out and pin the bottom to one end of the top.  Sew ½” seam allowance all the way around.  Finish edge with pinking shears or zigzag stitch.

Turn top down ¼“ and straight stitch all round. Place two horizontal button holes on opposite sides of each other, then turn the top down 1 ½“ on inside of bag to form a casing, top-stitch around bag top ending with a back stitch.  Slit button holes and run a heavy duty shoe lace through opposite button holes.  These will become the drawstrings used to close the bag.

Directions for an all purpose canvas tote bag:

For your bag, you will need to measure the length and width desired plus ½” for seam allowance, then make a paper pattern or transfer these measurements to a canvas cloth.  With wrong sides together sew 1/4” seam on each side and finish off edges with zigzag or pinking shears.

Across the bottom of the bag at the corners mark off a diagonal section and sew across corner edge about 1 1/2”.  It will resemble a triangle with the corner being the point.  This makes the bottom of the tote bag.   You can cut the corner excess and finish the edge with a zigzag or straight stitch. To complete the top of the bag, sew a 1” seam, turning the raw edge under as you sew. Turn it right side out.  Attach handles on each side of bag at the top edge. Using the center of sides and the center of the handle as staring points, place folded ironed ends of the handle 3” on each side of center point and stitch an X. Be sure to secure the handle with back stitching across the top and bottom where the handle is attached to the bag.  Complete the other side of the bag the same way.

Handles: Cut two handles about 2” wide x 16” long.  Fold each handle in half lengthwise and sew ¼” seam.  Finish the seam off with a zigzag stitch. Turn the handles right side out and zigzag each end of both handles. Fold each end over 1” and iron.


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