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Eco gifts: ECO TOTES

Natural crafts, Sewing  |  August 2nd 2011  |  0 Comment

You buy organic, ride public transit and recycle. It’s time to achieve the truly ultimate green lifestyle. Create your own reusable canvas shopping tote bag to replace your plastic and paper bags.

Eco-friendly and reusable, you can design a wide-range of fashionable organic totebags — numerous styles, sizes, and colours. These sustainable alternatives to your traditional shopping bags are often made using hemp, bamboo or, most popular of all, organic cotton.

Dimensions: approximately 18″ H x 20″ W x 4″ D  (46 cm H x 51 cm W x 10 cm D)

Construction Method: Turned finish – this method may be recognized by noting the lack of machine-stitching that is visible at points of assembly on the exterior side of the bag.  This is possible by placing the material, or parts, face to face, machining and turning right-side out. It is the most commonly used assembly process.

Material Used: 100% cotton drill, 54″ wide  [137 cm] in contrasting colours.

What you will need:

  • Fabric A – 1/2 yd. [0.5 m] of 54″ [137 cm] width, natural fibers
  • Fabric B – 3/4 yd. [0.7 m] of 54″ [137 cm] width, natural fibers
  • Matching thread
  • Card or Bristol board – 4″ x 20″ [10 cm x 51 cm]

If you want to launder the tote, serge or zigzag the edges of the fabric, preshrink it in the washer and dryer, then cut the bag pieces to size. (note: allow extra yardage if preshrinking)

You should have a new sewing machine needle for this project and match the size to the weight of fabric being used.

All seam allowances are ½” [12 mm] unless stated otherwise. RST = right sides of fabric together. WST = wrong sides of fabric together


Step 1: No pattern is needed. From self fabric [A], cut two 25″ x 14″ panels. [63.5 cm x 35.5 cm]

From contrast fabric [B], cut one 25″ x 15″ [63.5 cm x 38 cm] rectangle for bottom section, two 19″ x 5″  [48 cm x 12.5 cm] rectangles for the base liner, and a strip 54″ x 5″  [137 cm x 12.5 cm] for the handle straps.

Step 2: Fold fabric B in half lengthwise. Cut out a 2.5″ [6.5 cm] square at the lower corners of each folded end.

Step 3: For bag straps, fold strip in half lengthwise with WST and press. Open strip and fold raw edges to centerfold. Refold strip on pressed fold. Edge-stitch along open edge, then edge-stitch along fold. Press. Cut in half for handles.

Step 4: Press under top edge of each panel section (fabric A) 1-1/4″ [30 mm] turn. Divide top edge into thirds and mark with a pin. Open folded edge of front panel and place face up. Align strap ends to each pin location and stitch ends in place along edge. Repeat on back panel.

Step 5: Stitch each panel section to bottom section along its width, with RST. Press seams to one side.

Step 6: Fold body of bag in half with RST, aligning side seam at seam of contrasting fabric and at top edge foldline. Stitch fabric pieces together on the sides and press open.

Step 7: Matching the side and bottom seams of the fabric at point X, stitch across corners. (see mitering)

Step 8: Turn under ¼” along bag top and turn under foldline to create a 1″ [25 mm] facing at the top opening. Drop straps inside bag. Stitch facing at top edge catching the handles on the front and the back.

Step 9: Then, flip strap handles up, out of bag. Stitch 1/4″ [6 mm] topstitchingat top edge catching handles once more to reinforce.

Step 10: Make the bottom liner. Use the 2 rectangle pieces of fabric and press under seam allowance on one short end. With RST, match both pieces and stitch around edges leaving folded edge open. Grade corners. Turn right side out and slip in cardboard. Stitch open edge closed. Drop lined base into bottom of bag to reinforce.


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