Your Essential Tote Bag {Countdown to Christmas}

Christmas Shopper

We may still be in November but it’s never too early to make yourself a beautiful homemade Christmas inspired tote bag to use as the big day gets nearer…whether you’re needing an emergency bag to roll up in your handbag for when you’re Christmas shopping, or picking up a few groceries, this bag will only take you an hour to make and will see you through to the New Year.

The tutorial itself is the same as I have used for my Handmade Fabric Tote Bag and can be found here in its dotty incarnation; the fabric is from The Corner Patch. If you would like to make your own and join in, here’s how to do it:

You will need:

  • One metre of your chosen Christmas related fabric
  • Matching or contrasting thread
  • Tape measure
  • Tailors Chalk (or pencil)
  • Set Square, T Square, or Perspex Patchwork Ruler to get the perfect right angle
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Sewing machine


  1. Measure out your bag pattern onto your fabric, using your set square, tape measure and chalk. You’ll need a rectangle measuring 73cm x 49cm for the body of the bag and two rectangles measuring 12cm x 68cm for the handles
  2. Carefully cut our your three rectangles
  3. Fold the bag rectangle in half (with the right side of the fabric facing outwards) so that it measures 36.5cm x 49cm and press the fold with a hot iron
  4. For each of your handle rectangles, fold them in half lengthways (with the right side facing outwards) and press the fold. Open this back up and fold both edges into the centre fold and press (if you were to open it back out, it should look like you have three folds, splitting your rectangle into quarters lengthways). Fold the handle in half lengthways on your original fold so the raw edges are contained within the folds and press again to keep your folds in place

Assembling your bag:

  1. Using a straight stitch and a quarter inch (or 0.5cm) seam allowance, sew the bottom and side seam of your bag rectangle…don’t panic, you’re supposed to do this with the right side of the fabric facing outwards.
  2. Turn your bag inside out and press along the bottom and side seams to make the next step easy
  3. Leaving your bag turned inside out, sew the bottom and side seams, this time leaving a half inch (or 1cm) seam allowance – this is called a French seam and is really neat – it’s one of my favourites.
  4. Turn your bag so the right side of the fabric is facing outwards again and press again
  5. Put your bag to one side as we’ll need to sew the handles next
  6. Using a quarter inch (or 0.5cm) seam allowance, sew a straight line of stitches on both long edges of each handle – this will keep the folds in place and give you a professional finish – I would recommend sewing the side with two folds first, and the side with one fold second.
  7. Press under 3.5cm and then another 3.5cm around the top of the bag
  8. Slip the ends of the handles into the fold and position your handles and pin in place (Top Tip: measure in from the side of the bag on both sides to make sure your handles are identically placed and balanced – I would suggest a 13cm gap in the middle of the two strap ends so you should have about 8cm from the edge of the bag to the handle on each side) – you’ll find your handle is 7cm shorter at each end where it follows where you have turned your bag top under
  9. Using a quarter inch (or 0.5cm) seam allowance, sew a straight line of stitches around the top and bottom of the bag top (this will secure your handles and hold the folded under section in place – again, this gives a really professional finish

Why not have a contrasting band like on the Christmas Tote Bag pictured? If you want to do this, rather than cutting one piece of fabric 73cm x 49cm, Cut your main fabric 73cm  x 41cm and your contrasting band 73cm x  12cm, then sew them together before you begin assembling your bag (again using a French seam for neatness!)

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