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Flower Applique Large Tote Bag Tutorial

Learn how to sew a tote bag that's perfect for beginners. With pretty applique flowers and a deep base, it's a must-make bag!

Updated September 28, 2020
Flower Applique Large Tote Bag Tutorial

Tote bags are always useful! Whether for shopping, library books, a knitting project, or a trip out, it’s handy to have a few for when you might need one.

This Flower Applique Large Tote Bag is large enough for shopping, or for taking things to the beach or the lake.

For the bag itself, I used a medium weight cotton-linen blend. Canvas or duck cotton would also work well. The boxed corners make it very easy to make.

If you haven’t made bags like this before, you might find yourself making lots once you've read through this step-by-step tutorial.

Although I’ve said you’ll need 1.5 m of fabric, if you have a meter already, you could cut this in half and join at the short edges to get a piece that’s long enough.

The flower is made from scraps of cotton fabric, so just use what you have! Who doesn't love a good scrapbuster?

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Image shows the Flower Applique Large Tote Bag sitting on a table outside.

DIY Tote Bag Materials Needed:

  - 1.5 m medium weight cotton or similar
  - Scraps of cotton fabric
  - Fusible interfacing (optional)
  - Usual sewing supplies
  - Flower templates >> Click Here to Download the Flower Templates

Before You Start

If your cotton scraps look like they might fray quite a lot, you might like to use some fusible interfacing. Iron this to the wrong side of the scraps before cutting out.

Cutting Out the Bag Pieces

  1. A 2 cm (3/4-inch) seam allowance is included.
     
  2. For the main bag piece, cut a rectangle 52 cm x 120 cm (20-1/2 inches x 47 inches).
     
  3. For the handles, cut 2 pieces 45 cm x 10 cm (17-3/4 inches x 4 inches).
     
  4. Using the flower templates, cut one each of the circles and the stem, and 6 flowers. I used 2 different prints for the leaves, and different fabric again for each of the circles and the stem.

Image shows fabric flower pieces sitting on a wood table.

Flower Applique Tutorial

Decide how you would like the circles arranged. I left a small gap at the bottom between the larger circle and the middle-sized one, and lined up the bottom edges of the middle-sized circle and the smallest.

  1. Starting with the larger and middle-sized circles, applique the circles together. Then add the smaller one. I used a straight stitch; you could use a zigzag if you prefer.

Image shows circle fabric flower pieces sewn together and sitting on a wood table.

  1. Take your main bag piece and pin the flower 10 cm (4 inches) down from one of the short edges and in the center. Applique the flower to the bag.

Image shows circle fabric flower piece sewn on the main bag piece, sitting on a wood table.

  1. Now arrange the stem and the leaves under the flower. When you are happy with their arrangement, pin them in place, then applique them to the bag.

Image shows circle fabric flower and stem pieces sewn on the main bag piece, sitting on a wood table.

Image shows circle fabric flower, stem, and leaf pieces sewn on the main bag piece, sitting on a wood table.

Large Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial

  1. Fold the bag section in half with the wrong sides together. Sew the side seams. Trim and press.
     
  2. To make the corners, press the bottom edge of the bag firmly with your finger.
     
  3. Take one of the corners and squash it so that the side seam is lined up with the bottom edge.
     
  4. Measure up 6 cm from the corner and pin at right angles to the seam.

Image shows a corner of the bag pinned and sitting on a wood table.

  1. Sew across the corner and cut it off.

Image shows a corner of the bag cut off and sitting on a wood table.

  1. Do the same with the other corner.
     
  2. To hem the top edge, fold it over 1.5 cm (1/2-inch), then fold it over again. Pin, then topstitch the hem, keeping close to the lower edge.

Image shows a close-up of a sewing machine sewing the hem for the top edge of the bag.

Bag Handles Sewing Tutorial

  1. Take one of the handle pieces. Fold it in half lengthways and press the fold with your finger.

Image shows an unfinished handle of the bag sitting on a wood table.

  1. Open it out, then fold the long edges into the center.

Image shows an unfinished handle of the bag sitting on a wood table.

  1. Fold the handle in half again so that the raw edges are contained inside. Pin, then sew, keeping close to the edge.
     
  2. I like to sew along the other side as well to keep things symmetrical.

Image shows an unfinished handle of the bag folded and pinned, sitting on a wood table.
Image shows the two finished handles of the bag sitting on a wood table.

  1. To sew the handles to the bag, find the center point of the top edge of the front of the bag. Pin the ends of the handles 8 cm (3 inches) either side of the center, on the inside.

Image shows a close-up of the bag with finished handles sewn on the bag, sitting on a wood table.

  1. Sew the ends of the handles to the hem of the bag. I sewed them at the top and bottom edges of the hem. Backstitching over the stitches will reinforce the handle.

Image shows a close-up of the bag showing the reinforced stitching on the handle base, sitting on a wood table.

  1. Trim away any stray threads and your bag is ready!

Image shows the Flower Applique Large Tote Bag sitting on a table outside.
Image shows the Flower Applique Large Tote Bag sitting on a table outside.

About the Author

Anna Wilson

Anna learnt to use a sewing machine at the age of 10 and hasn't looked back! She lives in rural Norfolk in the UK and can be found online at Tea and a Sewing Machine, where she shares her love of making things.

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