November 5 ~ Tote Bags

on November 5 | in Handmade Holidays | by | with 85 Comments

Totes are the ultimate crafty gift. You can personalize these in so many different ways, through your fabric, style and embellishment choices. You can also go one step further and get creative with what you add to the tote! A few favorite books and a small stuffed friend are perfect for kids on your list. Your favorite couple could get a matching picnic blanket in their tote. The possibilities are endless!

What would you add for a really great gift? Remember, every week throughout November we’ll offer two $25 gift certificates to Sew,Mama,Sew! Winners will be randomly selected from all comments posted on the blog in the previous week (and we want to hear your great ideas!).

Curved Bag
(a.k.a. Reusable Groceries Bag with Comfy Bag Handles)

Lisa from U-Handbag created this Curved Bag Gusset Tutorial to meet the need for a “pretty, reusable, strong, and roomy groceries bag” (it’s also available as a PDF via the post). Lisa has an additional “tried and tested” blog post about the bag with pictures showing how much it can carry.
Dishtowel Tote
There are occasionally moments when my various worlds come together! Here’s my easy Dishtowel Tote Tutorial via my personal blog, Write, Mama. Write..
Bias Tape Tote
Nancy provides unique shaping and bias tape trim in her Bias Tape Tote Tutorial via her blog, belle epoque. Nancy is also the author of a craft book called Jeaneology: Crafty Ways to Reinvent Your Old Blues, so you know she’s full of great ideas!

Pattern Recommendation

If you’d like to try a pattern, we suggest this one:

Betty Shopper

Fabric Recommendations

Here are just a handful of fabrics we love for these projects:

Beth’s choice Kristin’s choice Lauren’s choice
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Click the pattern or fabric images above to visit the Sew, Mama, Sew! store.

More Handmade Holiday ideas:
4 ~ Lunch Bags
3 ~ For the House
2 ~ Pincushions & Pins
1 ~ Aprons

Show us how you create Handmade Holidays! Join our Handmade Holidays photo pool!

We respect the copyright of all crafters.
All links and photos from blogs on our Handmade Holidays posts are used with permission.

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85 Responses to November 5 ~ Tote Bags

  1. Dorte says:

    Hurrah for the totes – my sister in law just asked for tuts on how to make them – I feel another sew,mama,sew-addict coming on….

  2. MaryLou says:

    WOW! Just love all the great ideas for totes. These will be lots of fun to stitch up for last minute gifts. Thanks for all the wonderful ideas for crafty goodies..

  3. kalurah says:

    I LOVE that tote bag tutorial! I’ll have to give that one a try with the vintage tapestry fabric I just received from my aunte. 🙂

  4. Libby says:

    I love the totes. I’ve been wanting to make a few for various reasons. I would never have thought of using a dishtowel. Love the idea. Also love Kristin’s fabric choice.

  5. Nika says:

    Great idea the dishtowell tote!! Completly unexpected!! About tote uses, I used small ones as a souvenir for my doghters´s birthday. Kid´s filled them with all kinds of sweets and stuff they collected from the birthday piñata.
    Loved all the tutorials and of course the blog!! I´ll visit you often!!

  6. Kim says:

    This is the ONE thing I really want to learn to make WELL- super interfaced and neat as a pin. And ohhhhh Im L-O-V-I-N-G that damask!


  7. Shelley D. says:

    I don’t know how I came across your blog, but I’m really enjoying it! I made the dishtowel tote on Saturday night and my husband and mom were really impressed! It came out great and I’ll be giving it to one of my sisters for Christmas! 🙂 Thank you for posting all of these neat ideas & instructions.

  8. anya says:

    that’s soooo cool! I think i will make the curved tote for my mom for christmas))

  9. Jodi Leo says:

    Ohhhh how I love purses! These are great! I am now into march for projects! LOL! Beautiful! Jodi

  10. Andrea says:

    I just received some Anna Maria Horner fabrics for my birthday and I think I will make the curved tote for our trips to the grocery store. Thanks for all the great posts this month!

  11. stacey says:

    Gorgeous tote ideas! Amy Butler is always a winner! I love the fabric Kristin picked:)

  12. Hashi says:

    I made Lisa’s resusable grocery bag (pictured on my blog), and my 10-yr old immediately wanted it as a school bag. So I added in internal zip pocket and a button loop closure, and she’s proudly taking it today. So cool!

  13. Alissa says:

    These totes would make great diaper bags for older children who just need an extra change of clothes and some snacks packed for errands. I think I’ll make one that my daughter would want to carry herself!

  14. Laurel says:

    I love the towel bag! I just love Martha sometimes!

    I want to make bags for everyone for christmas and stuff them full of goodies. This is a great start!

    Thanks so much!

  15. Stacey says:

    I’ve had it in my head to sew a couple of reusable grocery bags for a good friend for Christmas. I’m so glad I chanced upon this site. I’m going to put healthy treats in one bag and not-so- healthy treats in the other bag. For healthy treats I’m thinking a yoga magazine, a box of kashi granola bars, and some nice tea. For the not-so-healthy goodies I’m going with some really good chocolate, a box of candy canes, and a craft magazine to feed her crafting obsession.

  16. Linda says:

    I love the tote ideas. A gift I love to make are the small zippered bags from the “Purse-Nickities” pattern from Lazy Girl Designs. They are really quick to make and Joan has a really easy way to sew in the zipper. The squared off bag makes a great sock knitting bag!

  17. I want to make a dishcloth tote!

    and I am ga ga about that red print! I can see an apron in that fabric, that is a WOW fabric!

  18. andrea says:

    Not the right time of year but sunscreen, a book and a towel would be a welcome addition to a beach goer’s tote bag!

  19. emilee says:

    So great! I want to give reusable grocery bags a try, both for us and for gifts. These look like a great place to start.

  20. mama k says:

    Ooh bias tape! My latest obession.

  21. Mary Jane says:

    I enjoy making tote bags. I made simple tote bags with french seams for my kids to use trick or treating last year. This year I made my daughter a HUGE tote bag for preschool. I’m thinking of making them for gifts and just thought that I could make the grocery bags in pretty fabrics and actually use them as the “wrapping” for Christmas and other occasions. I’m enjoying the Handmade Holidays and looking forward to the rest of the month.

  22. Tina McNamara says:

    This tote would also be great for a baby shower gift. A handmade diaper bag filled with all kinds of goodies. Hey you could also throw in a matching baby blanket or stroller blanket.

  23. Nichole D. says:

    I’m really enjoying all the cute ideas here- thanks!

  24. Tina says:

    Thank you for these! I’m trying to have a homemade Christmas and all your ideas are WONDERFUL! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  25. robin says:

    I love Lauren’s fabric choice. It seems perfect for a holiday tote bag!

  26. Meloney Funk says:

    I love your ideas. I am in a bag group and love the 3 bags you have here.
    I’m working on a glitzy bag now and need to add more glitz to it. 🙂
    Thank you for all your ideas and tutorials.

  27. Heather says:

    Thanks for the great bag tutorials. I’m making a dishtowel tote for my neighbor.

    Once again, this was a fantastic idea. You have helped me come up with lots of ideas for presents this year!

  28. Anna says:

    A woman can never have enough bags. Thank you.

  29. katie says:

    can I point you at this site
    where people can make grocery bags and GIVE THEM AWAY to help the plastic bag problem – our knitting group has made over 100 so far!

  30. luckybeans says:

    These look great! My favourite basic tote tutorial (so easy to follow, and a good introduction and starting place) is Colorfool’s tote tutorial. You can find it at

    (Hope it’s okay to post that here– just trying to share resources!).

  31. Samantha says:

    I’m a tote-a-holic. I love them! I’m into quilted totes at the moment. But I really want to get some MS dish towels to try your tote idea. Wouldn’t some cute Christmas dish towels be fun? I want to fill one with art supplies for my dd, with a magazine and scrapbook supplies for a friend, with a cookbook and some wine and bread for another friend who loves to cook, and the list goes on…
    Actually, today I think it would be nice to have one with some Kleenex, chicken soup, and a new coloring book for my dd who seems to be coming down with a cold. Poor baby!

  32. Nysa says:

    I need to learn how to sew! These projects are all so inspiring. Thank you!

  33. Amanda says:

    I just LOVE all of these ideas!! I was going to get started sewing this past weekend and stopped myself after thinking, “What if Sewmamasew has a cuter idea than what i’m going to make for my friends and then i’ve used the really cute fabric!?” So…I didn’t sew anything except a couple of cute scarves for my own self :-). Boy, am I glad that I waited! I can’t wait to make some of those totes, and lunchbags, and pincushions (already started that) and a few other things I’ve seen since the 30 days of gifts started. Is it only the 5th!? Every day I can hardly wait to see what the new things are to sew!!
    YEA SEWMAMASEW TEAM for putting this all together for all of us!

  34. Heather says:

    Love the dishtowel bag tutorial! I have a stack of Martha Stewart dishtowels and plan to make bags for all my fellow mommy girlfriends. I’m thinking I’ll fill them up with a magazine subscription, tea from TeaForte and a homeade sweet treat!
    Don’t you just love the holidays!!

  35. Addie says:

    I love that dish towel tote idea… I’ve made several bags using that tutorial!

  36. adrienne says:

    Love the dishtowel tote…I can totally relate to the best teacher gifts being hand made. I still have the handmade Christmas and Valentine’s Day cards from Tierney. I really like Amy Butler’s Betty Shopper pattern and Kristen’s fabric choice. =]

  37. Rose L says:

    I’m going to make a tote “toy bag” for my son… I am having fun reading your ideas this month. Great stuff so far! I think by the end I will have something picked out for everyone.

    @ Heather:
    Speaking as a teacher… I would love the dishtowel tote as a gift! (Between my husband – also a teacher – and I we end up with far too many sweets from our students.)

  38. Lynn says:

    These are too cute, I forgot about Lisa’s bag. Thanks for the reminder! I am in the process of making a tote bag from Last Minute Patchwork gifts, but these all look great too!

  39. Ekioart says:

    My goodness, my to do craft list has just jumped! So many fun crafts and ideas in my head now. So glad I found this site.

  40. Dian Schwanz says:

    Hi, Love all the totes that were posted. I wanted to print out the one using the MS dishtowel, but can’t figure out how to do it. I see the little boxes at the left and know that I can click on one at a time and print it out, but would really like to print the whole thing at once.
    Thanks for any help.

  41. Deb says:

    Great tote tute’s!!!! Love Kristin’s fabric choice too = } Deb

  42. Carol says:

    I’ve seen some vintage tablecloths recycled into grocery bags and this has sparked my interest as they can be found at thrift shops for next to nothing. Totes are great for everything – laptops, sewing projects, knitting. My grandma went nuts one year and made thirteen totes – some used them as purses, but I’m using mine as my knitting bag. My next project is going to be a long skinny tote for my tripod. I suppose I could take it a step further and make a coordinating tote for my camera too.

  43. Mama Urchin says:

    I love Kristin’s choice of fabric!

  44. Lori Seaborg says:

    I really love vintage children’s books, so would put those in a tote (to a VERY good friend, who I know would appreciate the books!). I love the 60s and 70s children’s books. They have simple drawings that make me want to embroider them.

  45. Anna W. says:

    Great ideas all! I, too, have taken the challenge of 30 Gifts in 30 Days! And, when in search of unique ideas on the net earlier today, I discovered this site which has a free download for creating hats, scarfes/shawls, and bags:

  46. gillian says:

    Love the bias tape tutorial, and I will be needing to give that one a try! Thanks for all of the fabulous ideas!

  47. Rachelle says:

    I love the Bias Tape one. I think bias tape is definitely heaven sent!

  48. Jean says:

    These tote bags are beautiful- I love the bias tape tote- I just made belle epoque’s bias tape tank (with my yard from free fabric friday- yay!) and her instructions are so clear and photography beautiful!

  49. laurie says:

    I’m off to Tuesday morning to find a cool dishtowel.

  50. Jenny says:

    You are the cute bag lady!

  51. Vickie says:

    Thanks for this great idea! My favorite is the towel tote! I love to find the ones with matching potholders for the front pocket! I have made a ton of them for gifts!

  52. Missy says:

    I love to make totes and they are great gifts! AND- I had no idea you had a writemamawrite blog, MORE inspiration!!!! YAY!

  53. Javede says:

    I saw that bias tape tote before, thanks for the reminder, I definately have to try it!

  54. Lisa says:

    Love this blog! I love easy, cute, little totes! I would add an appliqued pocket, or a pocket with an initial made of buttons and give as a baby shower gift. Another idea..change the dimensions of the fold-over lunch bag to create a cover for those ugly plastic baby wipe holders, coordinate it to your simple tote and voila…a little diaper bag!

  55. Beth says:

    Love love love all the ideas … I’m with some of the other posters, when will I have time?

  56. Joanna says:

    Ack! I take that back! I just looked on their website and there’s one pretty close to me! I’m leaving to get me some dishtowels…

  57. Angela S says:

    How fabulous and timely… I started making my Holiday Gifts this weekend, and it is all about reduce, recycle, reuse and remake.

    I have such a wide range of friends—
    so here is what i am adding to each of my totes:
    Yoga-licous- has snap(quieter than velcro) straps on the bottom for yoga mat. Inside it will have a pocket for a lavender eye pillow and eye pillow, straps, and a light weight wool shawl. plus a gift certificate to a really fab little vegan restaurant next to her yoga studio. The outside fabric is a rough bamboo in a pale green. Inside is a organic cotton with silk screened leaves(thanks sis!)
    Mama-extrodanaire!- larger than usual because of all that she needs to pack aroung with two amazing little girls. Inside has a place for water bottle and a big pocket for snacks. It has an additional insert that holds her wallet and cell phone and I found this great little antique circle- i think it went to something electrical that will hold her keys. Inside, is gift certificates to: mommy and me pedicures, Coffee Garden, and a “date” with younger sister as older sister kid-sits. The outside is a quilted (random circles in red) ultrasuede(orange) with an ultrasuede lining(bright pink).
    Craft-amazing- This one is a little bit more difficult. She is such a crazy gal. She carries with her at all times a black book, a knitting project, her digital camera, colored markers, a glue stick, plus variable other little things… So they way that I have this organized is with buttoned dividers. She has a crayon roll for her markers, a closable pocket for her digital, a crayon roll for her knitting needles that buttons on to the pocket with her yarn. Glue stick, colored pencils, and these great plastic sleeves for holding ephemera are all encased in another little buttoned holder. There is a place for her beloved larabars(the best snack ever) and a water bottle. The best thing about this, is that the button off bags can also be toted seperately. It is done in

  58. Joanna says:

    I am nowhere near a K-Mart!! I would love, as Beth suggested in her tutorial, to swap with someone who lives near one. Anyone out there want to send me some dishtowels in exchange for…??? I live near Berkeley, CA. Thanks!

  59. Celeste says:

    I’ve been looking for the perfect tote tutorial–I think I’m going to have to try some of these. I love a roomy handbag…

  60. Patches says:

    Thanks for posting these – I’ve got to try that bias tape tote!

  61. Holly says:

    I love tote bags, can’t wait to try some of these!

  62. Megan says:

    I love the idea of making your own reusable grocery bag. I’m going to have to try that.

  63. Kristin says:

    I really love the dishcloth tote. Great idea!

  64. Sarah says:

    I love this idea. My husband tells me that I’m now known as the “aunt who makes things.” I suppose the nieces & nephews are too excited by my homemade gifts, but maybe someday they will appreciate them. I think the oldest niece will get a tote bag for Christmas this year.

  65. Anne says:

    Must sew totes…..

  66. Ika says:

    I would add something that goes with the projected use of the bag – and with the user. I could think of filling a shopping bag with ecologically produced groceries (in that way you can encourage the receiver both to buy environmental friendly groceries, maybe he/she finds a new favourite, and to pack future groceries in a reusable bag), a library bag with books and magazines, a knitting bag with yarn…

  67. Lil' d says:

    Ok, I’m starting to feel like I have too many things that I plan to make and too little time here…

  68. Ashley says:

    I am working on setting up my blog where I will be making bags, and hopefully clothes. Love the ideas!!

  69. danica says:

    I am relatively new to the craft blog community (but am already quite the junkie!) and am loving all of these ideas AND all of the links you’re providing! Every day I’m being introduced to more corners of creativity on the web. So cool!

  70. I love the fabric choices!

  71. emily says:

    i think they all look so great . . . i definitely will be doing more than one tote! so many great tutorials!! thank you so much . . . such a wonderful idea!

  72. Penny says:

    These are great! I especially love the curved gusset bag and dishtowel bag!

  73. Chris Worthy says:

    It will take me a year (not a month) to get through all these wonderful tutorials but I love this wonderful resource. Thank you!!!

  74. Angel Funk says:

    Wow, I am LOVING this blog! Great ideas, all of them. I am making shopping bags for family and friends this year and this post couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks for all your hard work gathering these ideas, I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

  75. Helen says:

    These tutorials look great! I know lots of people wanting reusable bags as everyone here in the UK seems to be joining in with the drive to stop using plastic. So much inspiration for sewing Christmas gifts -thanks!

  76. Donna says:

    I love the dishtowel tote and will probably try that! I enjoyed the aprons, too, and cut out several different kinds to stitch together for family – big and small! I enjoy knitting (although I’d hardly call myself very good at it!) and I’m knitting some journal covers, too!

    I’m really enjoying your month of handmade gifties!

  77. nang says:

    the dishtowel tote is a great idea! whoever thought you could do so much with a dishtowel?

  78. Stephanie says:

    I am on my way to get some Martha Stewarts Dishtowels right now!!!!

  79. Nicole says:

    wow! these are going on my never ending list of projects. i especially love the dish towel tote. there are so many cute dish towels out there, and now i know exactly what to do with them (other than get them dirty).

  80. Georgia says:

    I’m making several grocery bags for Christmas–I love that tutorial!

  81. Lisa NYC says:

    Love the Dish Towel Tote…how clever! Can’t believe I’ve NEVER made a tote…but I’m definitely going to try this one as it seems to go together QUICKLY! And with your list of handmade gifts to make, QUICK is key…LOL!

    Added additional tote tutorials on my blog. Happy Sewing!

    With friendship,

  82. Alison says:

    Great bag tutorials! I’m making beach bags for my kids and nephew and niece, so I’ll be adding a beach towel (and a new bathing suit for my niece) and a few toys for the beach.

  83. Kacy says:

    Wow, ladies. Those fabric choices are amazing!! Yesterday, instead of a “lunchbag” I made a Learning Bag (at least that’s what I’m calling it). It’s similar to the foldover lunch bag you posted yesterday (the one that wasn’t really a tutorial, but more of an idea) and it’s for my daughter’s coloring books, crayons, etc. when we travel places. I’m also going to make a crayon roll to go with it! YAY!

  84. Heather says:

    Love the dishtowel tote. I think one of those will be a must for the teacher (and maybe one for me too!).

  85. Lili Coquine says:

    Awhhh…. the Bias Tape Tote is so cute… another project to add to my to-do list !!!!
    Thanks to Sew, Mama, Sew for this crafty november !!!!

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