Stylish, Strong Tote Bag with Pockets Outside and a Lining Pocket!

  • 01 of 08

    Materials Needed and Cutting Instructions

    Pink and Black Bag and Bag in Blues made from this free pattern.
    Stylish, Durable Tote Bags Made with this Free Patterns. Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to About.com

    This bag is super strong and durable to carry books and large enough for an overnight get away. The outside of the bag features a colorful section that creates outside pockets all the way around the bag and the bag lining give you the opportunity for secure inside pockets that has a zipper closure. The embellished webbing straps dress the bag up and offer all kinds of possibilities while making the bag strong and durable.

    Materials Needed:

    • 1 1/3 yard of 45" wide fabric for the Body of the Bag...MORE - a canvas, denim or duck type of heavy duty fabric
    • 2/3 yard of Colorful Contrast Fabric - almost any weight fabric can be used for the outside pocket fabric - If the fabric is lightweight, consider backing the fabric with fusible interfacing.
    • 2/3 yard lining fabric - a cotton or medium weight durable fabric. The contrasting pocket fabric can also be used for the lining but this additional amount must be supplied. A silky lining type fabric may not be a durable option for a book bag but would work fine for a clothing tote bag.
    • 3 1/3 to 3 2/3 yard of 1 1/2" wide webbing - the length is your preference. I like the longer length to have ample amount of strap to carry the bag on my shoulder. A shorter person may want less strap. Webbing Sources | Webbing Information
    • Optional: 3 2/3 yard of ribbon that is narrower than the webbing to embellish the webbing straps. In the blue bag shown here, I layered 1" wide grosgrain ribbon and a homemade 1/2" wide bias tape made from the pocket fabric on top of the 1 1/2" webbing. The pink and black bag webbing is embellished with a single pink and black grosgrain ribbon.
    • One 9" all purpose zipper for a pocket in the lining. (You can use a longer zipper and shorten it to ​the desired length)
    • Thread (How to Choose the Correct Color Sewing Thread)
    • Optional - one 4" by 14 1/2" light weight board, vinyl, Plexiglas or similar lightweight but sturdy material for inside the base of the bag.

    Cutting Instructions:

    Rotary cutting tools are recommended to maintain true square and accurate measurements when cutting out the pattern pieces.

    Body of the Bag Fabric

    • Main part of the Bag - Cut one 40" by 20"
    • Outside Pocket Backing - Cut two 20" by 9"

    Contrast Fabric:

    • Cut two 20" by 9"

    Lining Fabric:

    • Cut one 36" by 20"
    • Cut one 10" by 6" for the inside pocket
    Continue to 2 of 8 below.
  • 02 of 08

    Outside Pockets

    A photo showing how the outside pockets are constructed
    Preparing the Outside Pockets. Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to About.com

    Note: During the construction of this bag, it is important to remain accurate with seam allowances and placement measurements so that the outside pocket sections will line up properly as the bag comes together. As long as you are accurate and consistent, the outside pockets will appear to be one continuous strip around the bag. ​

    • Using the 2 outside pocket backing and 2 contrasting fabric pieces (20" by 9" pieces), place an outside backing piece and a contrasting fabric right sides...MORE together.
    • Using a 1/4" seam allowance, sew the fabrics together along the 20" edges.
    • Repeat for the second set of 20" by 9" pieces.
    • Press the sections as they were sewn.
    • Turn the joined fabric sections right side out and press well, making sure that the stitching of the seams is at the very edges of the sections.
    • Double check that both pocket sections are identical in size by stacking them on each other. If they aren't start again or they will not line up properly on the bag seams.
    • Top-stitch along one seamed edge of each pocket section. This will be the top of the pocket.
    Continue to 3 of 8 below.
  • 03 of 08

    Place and Attach the Outside Pockets

    A photo showing how to place the pockets that will be sewn on the outside of the tote bag.
    Placing and Attaching the Outside Pockets. Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to About.com
    • Lay the main part of the bag (the 40" by 20" piece) flat. If there are any wrinkles press the piece before proceeding.
    • Measure and mark 5 1/2" from each 20" end of the strip of fabric.
    • Place the top-stitched edge of the pocket along the markings.
    • Smooth the pocket sections so they are flat on the main part of the bag.
    • Pin the pocket sections in place.
    • Double check your measurements to be sure they are accurate. Re-do if necessary.
    • Sewing as close to the edge near the center of the...MORE fabric strip (or bottom of the pocket section) as possible, stitch the bottom of the pocket section to the main part of the bag piece.
    • Baste the open edges of the pocket sections to long edges of the main part of the bag, sewing as close to the edge as possible.
    • Fold the main part of the bag piece in half with the wrong sides together, assuring that the pockets line up perfectly.
    • Gently press the center fold line to use the pressing line for strap placement but so that the pressing is not permanent. The pressed line will be used for lining up pieces but is not a part of the finished bag.
    Continue to 4 of 8 below.
  • 04 of 08

    The Straps and Handles

    a photo showing how toplace the webbing straps for this durable bag.
    Placing the Straps and Handles. Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to About.com

    Prepare the webbing strap

    Optional Ribbon Embellishment on the Webbing

    • Place the ribbon centered on the length of the webbing strap. If you are not comfortable placing the ribbon as you sew, use a light coating of temporary spray adhesive on the back side of the ribbon to hold it in place.
    • Sewing as close to the edges of the ribbon as possible, sew both edges of the ribbon in place on the webbing. (Use needle position and a guide on the presser foot to keep your stitching straight)

    Placing the...MORE Strap and Handles

    • Fold the length of the webbing in half and mark the halfway point.
    • Lay the main part of the bag flat.
    • Measure 5" inches in from each 40" edge.
    • Starting at the center pressed line, lay the strap parallel to the 40" edge with the edge of the webbing at the 5" markings.
    • Stop 2 1/2" from the 20" edge of the main body section.
    • Keeping the strap straight or not twisting the strap, bring the halfway mark on the strap over to the fold line and mark on the other side of the bag.
    • Repeat to bring the opposite end of the strap to where the strap started being placed and butt the ends of the strap together.
    • Place the edges of the straps on the 5" markings from the 40" edge stopping 2 1/2" from the ends of the fabric, as you did when you started placing the straps.
    • This would be the time to test the length of the strap if you might want a shorter strap.
    • Sew along the edge of the straps, stopping and pivoting at the 2 1/2" markings, sewing across the ends, sewing the edges, pivoting again at the top edge and returning to where you started.
    • Repeat for both straps.
    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Side Seams and Squaring the Bottom of the Bag

    Sewing the Side seams and squaring the bottom og the bag
    Side Seams and Squaring the Bottom. Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to About.com
    • Fold the right sides of the bag together matching the pockets at the side edges.
    • Pin in place keeping the pockets matched.
    • Sew the side seams using a 1/2" seam allowance.
    • Press the seams as they were sewn.
    • Apply a seam finish to the edge of the seam allowance.
    • Use your iron inside the bag to press the seam to one side or the other.
    • Fold the bag so the side seam is directly over the bottom fold line on the bottom of the bag.
    • Measure 2" up from the point that was formed up.
    • Stitch a perpendicular...MORE line across the side seam at the 2" mark, being sure to back-stitch at both ends of the seam.
    • Trim off the triangle, leaving a 1/2" seam allowance.
    • Apply a seam finish to the edge of the new seam allowance.
    Continue to 6 of 8 below.
  • 06 of 08

    The Lining Pocket

    A photo showing the steps involved to install a zipper for the secure lining pocket
    The Zipper for the Lining Pocket. Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to About.com

    On the Lining

    1. Measure 3 1/2" down and centered on one side of the lining, down from the top edge.
    2. Draw a 9" line placing 4 1/2" of the line on each side of the center marking.
    3. Draw a line 1/4" inch from the first line on both sides of the original line and end lines at the end of ​the original line, to form a rectangle around the first line that you drew.
    4. Using short sewing machine stitches (without puckering the fabric) sew along the rectangle lines, pivoting at the corners to keep...MORE the stitching continuous.
    5. Cut the center line, cutting triangles at both ends of the rectangle, just to the corner stitching.
    6. Press the slit sections, to the wrong side of the fabric, along the stitching lines.
    7. Center the zipper in the opening on the wrong side of the fabric. Stitch the zipper in place, sewing as close as possible to the pressed edges of the rectangle.
    8. Finish the edges on the 10" by 6" lining fabric piece that was cut for the inside pocket.
    9. Place the 10" by 6" piece on the wrong side of the lining behind the zipper, placing the top edge of the pocket piece just above the top zipper tape and even from the top edge of the lining.
    10. Pin in place and stitch the edges of the pocket piece in place. Sew a second row of stitching, just inside the first row of stitching for extra strength if desired.

    Note: This same type of pocket can be created by following the step by step pocket instructions shown in detail for the Free Sew Your Own Every Day Style Handbag Pattern.

    Continue to 7 of 8 below.
  • 07 of 08

    Sew the Lining

    A phot showing the sewn lining for this strong, durable tote bag.
    Sew the Lining. Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to About.com
    • Fold the 36" edges in half, bringing the right sides of the lining together.
    • Align the edges and pin the two sides.
    • Sew the side seams using a 1/2" seam allowance.
    • Apply a seam finish to the seam allowance.
    • Sew the squared bottom corners the same way you did for the body of the bag in step 5
    • Zigzag or serge the top edge of the lining.
    • Press well.
    Continue to 8 of 8 below.
  • 08 of 08

    Joining the Bag and Lining

    A photo showing how the lining and the body of the bag are joined together.
    Joining the Lining and The Body of the Bag. Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to About.com
    • With the main bag right sides turned out and the lining inside out, insert the main bag inside the right side of the lining. (The main bag is longer than the lining.)
    • Match the side seams and the edges of the lining to the edges of the bag.
    • Sew the lining and bag together, leaving an opening to turn the bag right side out.
    • Turn the bag right side out, pushing the lining into the inside of the bag.
    • Press the top edge of the bag, pressing the seam allowance in one direction.
    • Optional - Place a firm...MORE bottom inside the bag if desired.
    • Hand sew the opening in the bag and lining seam.
    • Press again.
    • Optional: Top-stitch the top of the bag along the joining seam using the seam as a guide.