Stitching Together My Grocery Tote Bag: Step by Step Sewing Project

Lately I’ve been finding myself filling up used plastic grocery bags to carry this and that around. Not exactly the most practical way to transport items, especially heavy ones (yes, experience has told me that one… oops). So to the sewing machine I went and in not much time at all I made an easy-to-carry tote bag, strong and durable, and even washable!


Pattern piecesMeasure out a 10″ x 18-3/8″ rectangle. Cut it out from pattern or recycled paper. Do the same for an 8″ x 8″ square.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESFold your material as shown. Fold it in half and then fold it across just enough to fit the larger pattern piece.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESPin your pattern to the fabric as shown. Make sure that one short edge and one long edge of your pattern is flush with the folded edges of the fabric. Cut out.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWith the other pattern piece, cut out two 8″x8″ pieces of fabric for the pockets.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESZig-zag around the edges of the pocket pieces. Press under 1/4″ along the top of the pocket. Then, turn this edge down 1″ and press as shown below. Stitch this edge down.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESPress under 5/8″ on the bottom edge.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDo the zig-zag stitch all the way around the tote bag.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESFold tote bag to make marks for pockets. The creases left by folding the fabric will mark where you need to place the pockets. To do this fold fabric in half lengthwise (i.e. make both short ends meet), then fold across, and then fold down again. Press the fold lines firmly with your hand and then unfold.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES  I circled where the creases meet. This is where you need to put a pocket. The middle of the pocket needs to be placed right on top of where the two creases meet. To find the middle of the pocket just fold the pocket square in half and then half again. Where the two creases meet on the pocket is the center of the pocket.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESPin pockets in place and stitch twice along the bottom edge. One right along the edge, and then stitch about a presser foot width in from the edge.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESPin your strap in place making sure it overlaps both sides of the pockets and the ends meet on the bottom fold line. (I made my own strap with the same material as the pockets. I show you how I did this later on in this project.)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESStitch down both sides of the strap to within 5 inches of the top edges.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES Stitch an X at the top of stitching for reinforcement.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESFold the fabric in half lengthwise, right sides together.  Pin both side seams and then stitch 5/8″ from the edge.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESPress side seams open.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESTo finish the top edge, roll the edge over 1/4″ and press. Then…

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESroll over the edge again 1-1/2″  and press.  Pin in place.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESStitch 1/8″ from the top folded edge, and 1/8″ from the bottom folded edge.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWith bag still inside out, fold it as shown.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDraw a line 3-1/2″ from where the fabric comes to a point. Do this for both sides.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThen stitch along each line.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESTurn the bag right side out and you’re done! If you want, place a piece of cardboard in the bottom of the bag for reinforcement.






To make the strap I had to piece together material because I didn’t have a long enough piece. I cut several 5″ wide strips of fabric that if pieced together would be 99″ long.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESTo put the strips of fabric together I sewed them at an angle. First, I placed one piece of fabric over the other.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESPinned in place and cut at a diagonal as shown.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI pressed a 1/4″ or so of fabric…

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESthen pinned it to the other piece as shown. I stitched the two pieces together as close to the folded edge as possible. And that’s it!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThen to make the strap fold over each edge toward the middle as shown and press.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMake sure the strip is 2-1/5″ wide as you fold over and press.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESFold over one side of the strip just shy of the opposite edge. Stitch right along this edge and, voila, you made yourself a matching strap!