Compact Tote Bag Tutorial

May 9th, 2010  |  Published in Crafts, Sewing, Tutorials  |  32 Comments

My coworker carries a great bag like this that you can fold up into the cute accent pocket. I knew it couldn’t be too hard to make one for myself, so I measured her bag and got to work. It’s the perfect size to fit into my bike basket and to pick up groceries from the farmers market or corner store.

And it can be stuffed into the pocket so I can carry extra with me for shopping. Cute, eh? I put together a tutorial so that you, too, can make foldable (er, stuffable) tote bags!

Step 1: Gather Materials

You will need:

  • 2 14″x16″ rectangles of main fabric
  • 2 2″x27″ strips of main fabric
  • 1 10.5″x10.5″ square of accent fabric, cut in half on diagonal to make 2 triangles
  • 32″ cord
  • Cord stop

Step 2: Make Straps

With right sides together, fold long strips in half hot-dog bun style. Sew 1/4″ from raw edges. Flip rightside out and iron.

Step 3: Attach Straps

Pin straps to top of main bag pieces 4″ in from each side. Baste 1/4″ from raw edges.

Step 4: Hem Top Edge

Iron down 1/4″ and then 1″. Sew close to bottom fold.

Step 5: Finish Top Edge

Fold straps up and sew all the way across, 1/4″ from top. Set main bag pieces aside.

Step 6: Prep Pocket

Iron one corner of one triangle 3″ up one side (wrong sides together), flush with the edge. Iron the other corner of one triangle 1.5″ up one side (wrong sides together), flush with the edge. Do the same thing with the other triangle, but on opposite corners. The triangles should be mirrors of each other.

Step 7: Hem Pocket

Iron down 1/4″ then 3/4″ of hypotenuse. Sew close to bottom fold.

Step 8: Add Cord

String the cord through both triangles, with pointy tips of triangles touching. Tails on either end should be about the same length.

Step 9: Sew Around Bag

Line up all pieces of your bag with right sides out. The triangles will fit on either side of the bag, like a tote bag sandwich. Sew around sides and bottom, 1/4″ from edge. Be sure not to sew over your cord tails.

Step 10: Finish Bag

Turn bag inside out and iron flat. Sew around sides and bottom, 1/2″ from edge. Be sure not to sew over your cord tails.

Step 11: Cord Stop

Turn bag right side out and pull out corners with a pin. String cord stop onto the tails. Tie the tails into a knot and trim ends.

You’re done!! Now you have a super cute bag that can be stuffed into the pocket so that you can go from this…

To this!

Look at that! I have an extra one tucked inside my bag. Check back next weekend for a chance to win that extra bag! (Hooray for Sew, Mama, Sew! Giveaway Day!)

32 Responses

  1. Jennifer P says:

    May 10th, 2010 at 5:42 am (#)

    Cute idea. I love the blue and white material.

  2. Suki says:

    May 11th, 2010 at 8:16 am (#)

    I have been looking for the perfect pattern/tutorial for a re-useable bag and I think I have finally found it! Thanks!

  3. stephanie says:

    May 11th, 2010 at 8:39 am (#)

    this is so cute! I can’t wait to make some and even give some away :) so so cute! thanks for the tutorial!

  4. Jennifer P says:

    May 11th, 2010 at 11:03 am (#)

    Yeah!!! You made it to oneprettything. I was looking around over there and saw your pic. That is cool.

  5. Kerri says:

    May 14th, 2010 at 10:32 am (#)

    Woohoo! A sewing project post! Thanks

  6. Cheryl says:

    May 15th, 2010 at 2:49 pm (#)

    Annie! This is the CUTEST bag eva!

    I’m going to purchase a sewing machine from good will.
    Making a bag like that is going to be my first project!
    Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I miss you!

  7. Giveaway Day! :: Annie Get Your Glue Gun says:

    May 16th, 2010 at 5:10 pm (#)

    [...] if you don’t win, no worries! You can see my post below with a full tutorial to make your [...]

  8. pbkknits says:

    May 20th, 2010 at 6:31 pm (#)

    I loved this bag when I saw it this morning. I actually made one today. Now to go buy more fabric to make more. Thank you for sharing you pattern.

  9. Sadie says:

    July 15th, 2010 at 6:35 pm (#)

    What a great Tutorial!!! This tutorial is so awesome for the most perfect straberry bag!!! Thank you so much Annie!!!

  10. Crafters Medley: 25 Neat-O Projects To Make (July 2010) : says:

    July 17th, 2010 at 6:10 am (#)

    [...] Compact Tote Bag Tutorial: Folds up into a cute accent pocket. [...]

  11. Lenetta says:

    July 17th, 2010 at 6:47 am (#)

    I think this is the first time I’ve read the word “hypotenuse” on the internet – I love it! :>) Great job on the tutorial!

  12. CJ says:

    July 19th, 2010 at 4:31 pm (#)

    The tote rocks… but I LOVE LOVE LOVE your bike!

  13. margaret says:

    November 21st, 2010 at 3:29 pm (#)

    very cute, simp;e to make and useful. many thanks for all your tips

  14. ira demita says:

    December 3rd, 2010 at 11:20 am (#)

    WOW!!! what a great tutorial.. i wanna make one soon.

  15. Marge says:

    February 20th, 2011 at 7:11 pm (#)

    Thank you for the great tutorial. It would be wonderful to have a printer-friendly version.

  16. Shirley Fredette says:

    February 23rd, 2011 at 12:19 pm (#)

    I Love this idea.
    I make tote bags (ditty bags) for wounded soldiers that attend the Eagle Summit Ranch in Westcliff Colorado. Check out thier web site it will bless your heart.The next session will be the wives of some of our soldiers and I am thinking they would really like this tote. ThaNK YOU AGAIN FOR SHARING
    Shirley Fredette

  17. Jean says:

    May 27th, 2011 at 9:20 pm (#)

    I thank you for sharing your tutorial,it is very creative and because you share, you will receive many more inspirations. Thanks again


  18. sandra says:

    June 16th, 2011 at 6:10 pm (#)

    It’s soo cute and lovely! easy for beginners like me :D

  19. Flo says:

    June 27th, 2011 at 12:02 pm (#)

    This is such a sweet bag!!! I can’t resist making one….so I ask you:

    I am part of an EXTREMELY small scale business that does local craft fairs/school fairs ect and I wondered if you minded me using this pattern to sell some bags on one of our upcoming stalls??? Please reply soon – I want to make it!! :)

  20. Practical, compact and fashionable! | Green for A Week says:

    July 6th, 2011 at 1:28 am (#)

    [...] try making your own through this helpful tutorial, which I found while browsing I’m not generally the type to pick up a [...]

  21. Terese says:

    September 24th, 2011 at 8:18 pm (#)

    Great tote bag recipe! Oops Pattern. I have been obsessing with sewing after being away from it for several years. Tot bags have been my item of choice. This pattern is very easy and FUN to make! Guess hwat everyone I know is getting for Christmas !??? Last year it was fleece sox 2 years ago flannel pants. Hey everyone needs a tote bag! Can’t wait to make a bunch of them and display them in basket at the Farmer’s Market too! Thanks!

  22. Diane Stuedle says:

    October 2nd, 2011 at 1:18 pm (#)

    Bag is cute! However, why not make a “Quillow” bag with pocket one third size of bag directly on one side at bottom of the bag putting cord on the center of the quillow bag with buttonholes centered on square patch. then it can be folded and put into patch ‘pocket’?

  23. Laura says:

    October 5th, 2012 at 1:48 pm (#)

    Love this and am planning on making a couple this weekend. One question: when you fold and “iron down 1/4″ and then 1″”, is that a total of 1″ or is it a total fold of 1-1/4″?

  24. Lisa Sanders says:

    May 24th, 2013 at 1:01 pm (#)

    I’m trying to use the Compact Tote Bag Tutorial but I can’t get the pictures to show. Any ideas or can you email it to me?

    Thanks, Lisa

  25. Lynda LeBrun says:

    January 25th, 2014 at 3:08 pm (#)

    I would Love to make some of these but not sure what kind of fabrics to use. Can you help me?



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  27. Les trouvailles de la semaine #259 - Le blog thread&needles says:

    May 9th, 2015 at 10:02 pm (#)

    […] | 3- sac en ficelle par AlisaBurke | 4- trousse de toilette par LMlesCroix (photo prise ici) | 5- sac à course compactable par GlueGunAnnie | 6- pots en terre décorés par ChristineChitnis | cerf-volant redécoré par […]

  28. Hana says:

    August 12th, 2015 at 11:25 pm (#)

    I have made one already. It is going to be a present for my sister. I think, she will love it :-)

  29. Zelia says:

    September 11th, 2015 at 1:34 am (#)

    Hello Annie,
    Thank you for the tutorial, i was inspired to make one and i did!

  30. Aline Taylor says:

    October 8th, 2015 at 11:37 am (#)

    I am grateful for people like you who enjoy sharing their wonderful crafts. THANK YOU!

  31. Lee says:

    November 1st, 2015 at 5:40 pm (#)

    Whoo Hoo I know what I will be doing for Christmas presents this year for my valued friends and family. Thank you for the privilege of viewing your great craft ideas.


    January 11th, 2016 at 7:50 am (#)

    Hi Annie,

    We share a passion for ECO and for bags, moreover, I just love you inspirational e-mail address!!

    So I just wanted to drop you a line all the way from Malta to encourage you in your sewing.

    Good luck and May God Bless you.


    Pauline Harkins

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