Sew an ‘Instamatic’ Tote Bag – free tutorial

I am slightly obsessed with bags and I love being able to design and make a bag that does just the job I want it to do.  This easy to sew Tote bag is the perfect size for a lunch box, water bottle, journal (or ipad) and an umbrella for those frequent rainy days! You can play around and make it with your favourite fabrics – I fell for the cute Instamatic cameras on this fabric, hence the name of the bag!

What you need:

  • 1m fabric for lining and side panels
  • 1 fat quarter fabric for main panels
  • 1m interfacing (if you want a stiffer bag use a thicker interfacing)
  • 140 cm coordinating bias binding

What to do:

Print out Tote Pattern 1 and Tote Pattern 2 (make sure the 1″ square is the right size when you print it out) and join the pattern pieces where the dots indicate.

Using the pattern cut the main panels as follows:

  • 2 x Interfacing
  • 2 x Main fabric
  • 2 x Lining fabric
Cutting the handles

Cutting the handles

To cut the side panels measure a rectangle 5″ x 32″ and cut 2  side panels from the lining fabric and 1 from interfacing.

To cut the handles measure a rectangle 24″ x 2″ and cut 2 from the lining fabric.

Next, iron interfacing to the reverse of both of the main (outer) fabric panel pieces and to one of the side panel pieces.

Pin the main panel to the lining panel along the top straight edge, with right sides together, and sew.  Repeat with other main panel and lining panel.

Turn both panel pieces round the right way and press the seam.  Then top stitch close to the edge so you get a neat finish.

Top-stitching the top of the main panels

Top-stitching the top of the main panels

To make the handles, press each strip in from the sides by 1/4″ along the length of the strip.

Then fold in half length-ways to enclose the raw edges and fold short ends over by 1/4″and press.

Image of bag handle

Bag handle in progress

Pin and stitch close to the edge, along each side as shown below.  Repeat to make the second handle.

Top-stitching the bag handle

Top-stitching the bag handle

Attaching the handles to the main bag panel

Attaching the handles to the main bag panel

To attach the handles, measure 2″ in from each side of the main panels and 1 1/2″ down and pin the end of the handles in place to the outer panel, making sure they are not twisted.  Sew each end of the handle in place using a ‘X’ shape surrounded by a box for added strength.

Next make the side panel.  To do this, pin the short edges of the lining pieces right sides together and sew each short end.  Turn right side out and press the seams.  Top-stitch along the seams.

To join the side panel to the first main panel, pin one raw long edge of the side panel to the main panel piece, right sides together with the binding strip over the top (right side of the binding facing down as shown below).

Pinning the panels together

Pinning the panels together

Sewing the bag panels together with the binding

Sewing the bag panels together with the binding

Sew around the main panel and binding.  Then fold the binding over to enclose all of the raw edges, pin and sew, tucking in the raw ends of the binding.  Repeat on the other side to attach the second main panel.

Detail of finished binding

Detail of finished binding

Then enjoy your new simple Tote bag!

My finished Tote bag

My finished Tote bag

My finished Tote bag

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