Monday, May 14, 2007

Tutorial: One-handle tote with loop closure

As promised, here's the tutorial to make a one-handle tote with a loop closure (pictured below).


Figure 1. Finished tote

  • Fat quarter* of medium to heavy weight fabric - or - light weight fabric and fusible interfacing

  • Fat quarter* of light weight fabric

  • Coordinating thread

*This tote does not use a lot of fabric. I used scraps of fabric leftover from other projects to make the tote. If I were to purchase new fabric for this project, I would buy a fat quarter (or a quarter yard would work, too) of each fabric.


Wash and dry the fabrics (assuming you are not using dry-clean only fabric)

  • Straight-stitch around the edge of your fat quarters (or quarter yard, or fabric scrap) so that the edges will not fray.

  • Wash and dry the fabrics.

I know this seems like a lot of work for a tiny tote bag, but if there is any possibility that your tote bag may ever get wet, rained on, stained and/or need to be laundered you need to wash and dry the fabric before you cut the pieces for the tote. This will prevent any dye bleeding and weird shrinkage problems that could occur when your finished tote bag gets wet or laundered.

Iron all of the fabric. This is a crucial step if you want a nice end product. If you are using a light weight fabric (instead of a medium or heavy weight fabric) for the outside of the tote, now would be the time to iron the interfacing to the wrong side of the light weight fabric.

Cutting the pieces:

  • Medium to heavy weight fabric - or - light weight fabric with interfacing fused to wrong side

    • Tote: 8 x 20 inches

    • Handle: 3 x 12 inches

    • Loop closure: 1 x 4 inches

  • Light weight fabric

    • Tote lining: 8 x 20 inches

Construct the handle and loop closure:

  • Both the handle and the loop closure are constructed just like a piece of double-fold bias tape**:

    • Fold the pieces in half the long way.

    • Iron.

    • Unfold the pieces.

    • Fold the long edges of the pieces in to the ironed crease you just made.

    • Iron.

    • Fold the pieces in half the long way, along the original ironed crease you made.

    • Iron.

  • Straight stitch as close as you can along both long edges of the handle and loop closure.

  • Clip threads.

**If you'd like to see pictures of this process please see my wristlet tutorial.

Construct the tote and lining:

Repeat these steps with both the lining and the outer fabric:

  • Fold the piece in half the short way with right sides together. The crease will be the bottom of the bag.

  • Straight stitch using 1/2 inch seam allowance from the top to the bottom (the raw edges to the crease) on both sides of the fabric.

  • Iron.

  • For each corner (see picture below):

    • Pinch one bottom corner of the bag so that the crease meets the side seam.

    • Adjust the seam allowance to one side. Put some thought into which side - you want the lining and outer fabric to have the seam allowance on different sides.

    • Pin.

    • Straight stitch about 1" in from the corner, perpendicular to the crease and seam.

    • Clip threads.


Figure 2. Sewing corners of tote lining

Sew all of the pieces together:

  • Tack the flappy corners of the tote and lining together.

    • Lay the tote and lining side by side. You want the seams for the lining and outer fabric to be going in different directions.

    • Pin the adjacent flappy corners together


Figure 3. Lining up the first flappy corner of the tote and lining

    • Tack corners together

    • Tack remaining two corners together in same manner. You'll have to twist the fabric a bit to get the corners to line up. When you're done you want the flappy corners to be between the bottoms of the lining and tote.


Figure 4. Lining up second flappy corner of the tote and lining.


Figure 5. Flappy corners tacked together, between bottoms of lining and tote

Attach handles and sew final seam:

  • Turn tote right side out. Leave lining right side in.

  • Fold in the raw edges of both the lining and tote:

    • Fold over the top of the lining by about 1/2 inch, wrong sides together, just as you would for a hem. Use a ruler!

    • Iron.

    • Fold over the tote fabric by about 1/2 inch, wrong sides together. Use a ruler!

    • Iron.

    • Make sure that the folded edges of the lining and tote line up - they should both be the same height.

  • Pin the handle in place. It should go from the middle of one side of the tote to the middle of the other side of the tote. The ends of the handle should be between the lining and outer fabric. Use a ruler!

    • EDIT: You could also place both ends of the handle on one side of the bag, this will make the handle easier to pull through the loop closure. See Sarah P Dot's cute tote as an example.

  • Pin the loop closure in place. The loop closure should be on top (outside) of the handle, not between the two halves of the handle (see picture of completed totes below and at beginning of post), with the ends of the loop closure about 1/2 inch on either side of the handle. Pull the handle through the loop closure to close the bag - do a couple test-closures to make sure that the loop is the right size/distance from the handle. This really varies depending on what weight fabric you're using.


Figure 6. Top of completed tote, note position of loop closure

  • Baste the handle and loop closure in place.***

  • Straight stitch around the entire top of the tote as close as you can to the edge.

  • If you basted the handle and loop closure in place, rip out the basted stitches

***This step is optional, but highly advised if you're using slippery fabric or have any doubts about your ability to successfully straight stitch around the entire top of the tote in one go.

You're done! As always, comments and suggestions are welcome. I'd love to see pictures of finished products!


  1. Thank you ever so much for posting this. I have been anxiously awaiting this tutorial ever since you sent me one of these great bags for a swap. This bag rocks! I can't wait to make some.

  2. This project went together so nicely! The first one I made is for a swap but now I want one for myself. :) The link to photos of my bag is:

  3. Thanks for the great tutorial! It was perfect for a beginner like me. Here's my first try.

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