Summer Sewing ~ Insulated Picnic Tote

on June 7 | in Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 151 Comments

Vanessa from Punkin Patterns is up today in our Summer Sewing series, here to help you keep your picnic foods cold or hot in any weather! Her Insulated Picnic Tote tutorial has some fun details and is easy to make. Check out Vanessa’s introduction and then come back to learn how to make the tote for summer picnics all season long…

I don’t know about you, but when I go grocery shopping in the summer, I feel like I have to race home like the wind so my ice cream doesn’t melt or my yogurt doesn’t get too warm. This is a great summer sewing project to help with just that. It’s an insulated (stylish) tote that you can take with you on a picnic to keep your foods hot/cold or just on a run to the store in that hot summer heat to help keep your pizzas frozen and your ice cream from melting!

It’s super simple, with some nice little details. It’s got a zipper closure on top and made with heavy decor weight fabrics (or canvas) and it’s fully lined. This would also be fabulous made from laminated fabrics so you could just wipe it clean. The bag has a double layer if Insul-Bright to keep hot things hot and cold things cold. The handles and details are made from recycled jeans.

It’s fairly large; it can easily hold 4 boxed pizzas or 3 gallons of milk. The final dimensions are: 26″ (top width)/18″ bottom width x 17″ high x 8″ deep (at the base).

So here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 28″ sport weight zipper
  • 2 pieces heavy duty / decor weight exterior fabric, 28″ w x 21″ h.
  • 2 pieces plain canvas or other heavy fabric for lining, 28″ x 21″
  • 1 2/3 yd. of 45″ wide Insul-Bright, cut into 4 28″ x 21″ pieces.
  • heavy duty sewing machine needle

For the handles and decorative stripes, you’ll need:

  • 4 pieces of 2″ x 28″ (stripes)
  • 2 pieces of 4″ x 28″ (handles)

I upcycled a pair of jeans for this part!

Note: All seam allowances are 1/2″, unless otherwise noted.

Grab your handle pieces and fold in half. Iron. Open them and fold the outer edges into the center. Iron again. Finally fold in half on the original fold line). Iron and pin.

Sew 1/4″ from each edge and again down the center. I like using a thread you can see so your beautiful stitching stands out. Set this aside.

Take the decorative stripe pieces and fold under the edges by 1/2″ on each side and iron flat, so you now have four pieces 1″ x 28″.

Grab the two exterior pieces of your bag and make a mark on the center at the top. Measure out 4″ from the center in each direction and make another mark.

Pin the stripe piece so that one end is at a bottom corner and the top lies on top of the mark you just made. Repeat for the other side of the bag.

Stitch this on using the same stitch pattern as for the handles. Repeat this for the opposite side of the exterior bag. Trim any excess.

Pin the handles onto the bag, matching the placement with the stripes. Baste on as close to the edge as possible. Set aside.

For the lining, lay down two pieces of Insul-Bright and the lining (facing up) on top. Quilt together with 2″ wide vertical lines. Repeat for the other two pieces of Insul-Bright and lining.

Now we’ll assemble the bag. Sandwich together one piece of exterior bag (face up, handles at the top), the zipper (face down), and then the quilted lining piece (wrong side up).

Pin in place and using a zipper foot, sew these three layers together aligning the outer edge of the fabric with the outside of the zipper foot.

Now you’ve got one side attached to the zipper.

Repeat for the other side.

Now grab the two exterior pieces and place them together (right sides touching) laying it out flat so that the lining pieces also touch each other (again, right sides together). Pin in place and sew around the exterior of the bag, leaving an opening in the bottom of the lining for turning. I’d recommend at least a 12″ opening. It’s a lot to sew up later, but it is a very thick tote.

Take the corners and pull them flat. Measure where the bag is 8″ across and mark a line. Sew along this line and repeat 1/4″ in from that (towards the point). Trim excess corner piece. Repeat for all four corners (2 lining and 2 exterior).

Turn right side out. Hand stitch up the opening at the bottom of the tote. And you’re done!

Happy (Summer) Sewing!

Comment on any post this week to win one of our Summer Sewing prizes! You could win a purse frame kit from American Purse Supplies, a $25 gift certificate to Sew,Mama,Sew! or a copy of Sew Serendipity: Fresh and Pretty Designs to Make and Wear by Kay Whitt.

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151 Responses to Summer Sewing ~ Insulated Picnic Tote

  1. Laura W. says:

    Love this! Thanks.

  2. Oh – this is such a great idea – I’m going to try using some laminated cotton

  3. wonderful writing, very . I like it a lot. I come acoss the site by MSN search engine. I could visit your site monthly and forward it to my schoolmates. Please keep it fresh. Keep on the good work. – A techie

  4. That’s a great idea for when I going shopping out of town. It will keep my frozen foods from melting so fast. That is also a beautiful bag. Thanks!

  5. Norma says:

    I’d like to try this technique to make a lunch bag – need to find some Insul-Bright. Great tutorial!

  6. Sara says:

    I love this tutorials! I can’t wait to make a tote to use at the lake this summer!

  7. What a great little tutorial for an awesome tote! Yay for the upcycled jeans and for making something cute and Super functional!

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. Thea says:

    Fantastic! I’ve been needing one of these for ages!

  9. sharon says:

    love this. i will have to find some of the insulation

  10. Helena Pope says:

    Brilliant, I love the recycled element to it aswell.

  11. hueisei says:

    I loves the tote tutorial..
    I already bookmarked it.. Will become my 2011 projects.. HEHE..

  12. Tina says:

    Fantastic idea! Just perfect for hot summer months (which I KNOW are just around the corner…..hopefully!) Great tutorials – thanks so very much for sharing with us here in the Land of Blog!

  13. Karen says:

    LOVE this! It’s so hot around here, this is a great idea to carry some supers snacks outside. Thanks for the tute!

  14. Gwen says:

    This just got moved to the front of my “must make” list. Thank you for the great tutorial!

  15. Sarah says:

    Holy cow! I made almost this same bag a couple of weeks ago for our Memorial Day weekend trip. The angled handle idea is really interesting – I’ll have to add that to my next bag. Lovely!

  16. Jessica says:

    I love this tote! Another project added to the todo list, I think I’ll place this one pretty high on the list so I can start using it ASAP!!!! Would make a good present for my mother too…always on the look out for a good crafty present, thanks!

  17. Melanie T says:

    It is amazing what people can do! Thanks for the inspiration.

  18. April says:

    Super cute. I’m just going to have to make myself one. Thanks for sharing!

  19. What an amazing idea!!!

  20. Crystal says:

    What a great bag! I know several people who would love one of these. Thanks for the great tutorial.

  21. Natalie says:

    Thanks for sharing this great bag. I never thought to use an insulated bag for grocery runs! You insoired me to try my hand at using a laminated fabric!

  22. I think that is the prettiest insulated picnic bag I have ever seen! One of the great benefits of being about to sew. πŸ™‚

  23. Ginger says:

    What a great idea. I have a bag like this that I purchased from Trader Joe’s many years ago. It has seen it’s better days, so sewing a new bag will be next on my “to sew” list.

  24. Marcia W. says:

    I would never have thought of making an insulated bag/tote for a picnic. Very unique.

  25. kadybug says:

    I love the idea of using recycled jeans for handles!

  26. Renae says:

    LOVE this! Now I MUST make one!

  27. bruinbr says:

    This is such a great tutorial! Perfect for all those summer treats!

  28. Joy says:

    What a great bag! Thanks for the tutorial.

  29. Maman A Droit says:

    That’s so cute! I need a pool bag to put a towel and sunscreen in-this might be the way to go!

  30. KT says:

    Great tutorial! The perfect project for summer sewing! Thanks for sharing!

  31. Jeanne says:

    What a great tutorial. It’s 93 degrees (feels like 101) right now and I think I will be sewing one of these maybe tonight. For those of you wondering where to buy insulbrite, I bought some a while back at Joanne’s to make pot holders and lunchboxes–with thoughts of branching into a larger tote for summer. Now armed with pictures & a heat wave, I am motivated anew.

  32. Consuelo says:

    Great tutorial. thanks so much for sharing.

  33. tara says:

    Perfect for a summer picnic!

  34. I can see so many possibilities with this bag/tote! I’m going to look for some pretty fabric today. I just finished a picnic quilt so this is perfect timing. Thanks

  35. Temima says:

    So pretty and useful!

  36. Liz says:

    Brilliant idea – thank you! The tutorial looks great it will be a good project for this weekend

  37. Paulina says:

    This tote looks really great!

  38. Kelly P says:

    That is awesome! I’m going to have to go try it right away!

  39. Rebecca says:

    Great idea ~ perfect for grocery shopping on warm days!

  40. anne says:

    What a lovely idea and a gorgeous bag. THANKS!

  41. Tara Varnell says:

    You could Laminated fabric also. This is a great bag thanks for sharing.

  42. BA says:

    Great tutorial and great idea!! Thanks! Can’t wait to make one!

  43. Pam G says:

    This is so cute. I love it.

  44. Kate says:

    What a great idea! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  45. Two layers of insulbrite! Good grief – I was expecting some exotic something or another for the insulation! Hooray! Insulbrite is easy to find!

  46. Jen B says:

    Definitely going to have to make at least one of these! Thank you!

  47. Patty D says:

    i need to make one of those. Thanks!

  48. Retta says:

    This is fantastic! Definately will be making this. Lots of days spent at the studio this summer for baton and dance with my 12 year old . Will make taking snacks and drinks look so good!

    thanks for the tutorial,

  49. Ramona says:

    Just absolutely love this! I see one in my immediate future!

  50. Marla says:

    I love tutorials! What a great project! Thanks for sharing.


  51. Alex says:

    what a super idea!

  52. Deborah in Atlanta says:

    That’s an awesome insulated carrier. Wouldn’t I be a Fashion Diva carrying this with my frozen goods? Or going on a picnic showing off my beautiful insulated carrier? Or going to the church picnic with my pasta salad?

  53. Valerie says:

    Cool tute, I’ll be making one of these for sure!

  54. Wendy Hatton says:

    Its a great idea for a day out. Will have to try and find Insul- Bright!

  55. Mama Lusco says:

    Great bag! Thank you for the tutorial.

  56. Addy says:

    I love this! Thank you so much!

  57. Natalie says:

    I love this! I see it in Stars and Stripes…

  58. Melissa M says:

    So cute, what a great idea!

  59. Libby Hunt says:

    This is awesome — I love it! I need to go look at the other projects now!

  60. mamasewing says:

    What a great idea- I’ll have to make some to take to the grocery store this summer!

  61. Amy says:

    Love this cooler/heat Tote Tutorial!

  62. Very cute. Love picnics!

  63. Jo Sleeman says:

    This is a fab tutorial – def going to make myself one (or two of these). Thanks

  64. Kari E says:

    I’m thinking this bag would provide the perfect use for the super durable karate belts I got while thrifting this winter. They’re a little too durable for your average purse, but this just seems like the ticket. Thanks!

  65. joske says:

    I love it! i’m all out of insulation, but this makes me want to go and get more & sew up a bunch of these! thanks.

  66. krystina says:

    This is such a great tutorial! This is a must make, especially for beach weather!

  67. Sarah B says:

    What a great idea! Thanks for this one πŸ™‚

  68. Meredith says:

    What a great idea! Thank you!!

  69. Diane W says:

    What a great project! Thanks.

  70. Rebekah says:

    LOVE this! Especially like the way the handles look, and your fabric choice. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing!

  71. VickiT says:

    AWESOME tutorial Vanessa. I have a large bag like this now and we use it all the time. I would love to have another but they are so ugly in the stores so now I can make my own when I can find some time. Thank you so much.

  72. Angela Wilson says:

    I love this idea. I haul around our family’s seven water bottles when we travel, and the little cooler I have is too small (and not pretty). I am looking forward to making this!

  73. Sherry J says:

    This is so handy, much better than just a plain old tote. thanks.

  74. April says:

    Hi Vanessa, great tote! I love the fact that it’s insulated. Unfortunately, I’m pretty new to “fancy” sewing myself (I’ve made tiered & circle skirts most of my life, but am now trying to branch out), and was wondering if Insul-Bright is something that I can find at a regular fabric store, or do you have other resources on where to find this and/or a similar product? I would really appreciate it. And thank you so much for sharing!

  75. Charity says:

    Very cute! I didn’t realize you could buy insulating fabric! πŸ™‚

  76. katevet says:

    Such a great idea. I love it!

  77. Crystal H. says:

    Fantastic idea – I almost bought one the other day – but now I know what to do with some canvas I have hang around! Thanks so much!

  78. Samina says:

    That’s really neat – I didn’t realize that insulating material like that available.

  79. dorothy says:

    Wow. This is like my favorite Trader Joe’s bag, but way better. Thanks for the awesome tutorial.

  80. Anne Marie says:

    Thanks for the great tutorial.

  81. Jessica says:

    Oh man do I need to make one of theese. Thanks for the tutorial!

  82. Melanie says:

    Great project idea! I’m going to make one for my groceries! Thanks!

  83. Martina says:

    Lovely! Thanks so much!

  84. Robyn G says:

    Great idea!

  85. Autumn Ogletree says:

    Love it! I am going to have to make one for summer outings!

  86. Sarah AJ says:

    Oh, I love this! I’ve been trying to decide what to sew for a friend’s birthday, and this is perfect.

  87. Christina G. says:

    Love this bag!

  88. Mary says:

    This looks amazing! I have that same fear of the milk getting warm or the pizza thawing… and packing an ice chest is just a pain. A tote is genius!

  89. Sara says:

    Super idea, I love the look of the slanted handles. Thanks so much for sharing!

  90. L says:

    Love the fabric you chose!

  91. Tanya says:

    Hey, there! This is so super cute. I despise the ugly grocery bags tht are offered in the store nowadays! They also probably do not insulate as well as this bag.

    Way to go Vanessa and as soon as I am done with my kids’ bean bag chair, (HUGE PROJECT,) I may be tackling this bag next!

    I am a super new sewer, self-taught, and learning new things every day. THIS, I could use! Thanks!

    Happy sewing all!

  92. Rebecca says:

    great bag and wonderful tutorial! Can’t wait to try this for myself!

  93. Kristin H says:

    What a great project idea! I have added it to my “to sew” list and may have to look at getting some oilcloth for lining so it can be wiped out.

  94. Tara says:

    Pitter-Pat goes my heart! I love this! πŸ™‚

  95. Pauline says:

    I luv this project. Every August since 2006 my sister, 2 nieces and a friend come from Canada to Michigan for a mini quilt retreat for 4 days….sewing, shopping, eating and laughing…..add a little sleep and we have a fun time. In 2006 they were beginner quilters and today they are stitching up some awesome quilts and quilty projects. I always have a small project to share with them, usually showing them a new quilting technique. This is the project I am going to share with them this year…..I know they are going to luv it. Thank you Vanessa and Sew Mama Sew…..have a wonderful week….:)

  96. Cindy Patterson says:

    Thanks nice tutorial. I think I need to make one of these bags for the summer.

  97. michelle says:

    Thanks for posting this. This will be perfect for the days I needed to get some groceries on my way home from work on a warm/hot summer day and there is traffic, OR picking up take out and want it to stay as warm/hot as possible. I definitely like the idea of making it from the oilcloth type fabrics that can be wiped off, as there is ALWAYS some dampness or crumbs left in my shopping bags πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for the great idea and tutorial.

    And thanks for the chance to enter in the contest.

  98. Cinnamon says:

    I seem to always have the problem of letting my yogurt get to warm. This is such a great idea. Thank you for the tutorial!

  99. duff says:

    love it! I am wondering if you think this is washable? I’m not familiar with insulbright. Hey, I wonder if a thin vinyl would work for the inside (in case items form condensation)that wouldn’t impede the insulation qualities, would it?

  100. Laura says:

    So cute..and perfect. I totally agree with the “race home from the store” feeling!

  101. Michelle says:

    This would be great for our trips to the museums and zoos around chicago!

  102. N. Perez says:

    Very cool project. This would keep you from speeding on your way home from the grocery store.

  103. I am putting one of these picnic totes on my “to do” list. I think it could be perfect for summer grocery shopping as well! Thank you!

  104. Jocelyn says:

    I love recycling jeans. Great tote.

  105. Suzanne says:

    Great project!

  106. Margie Bennett says:

    This is perfect! I love how easy it looks & so pretty too!

  107. What a clever idea. I would never have known that was insulated if you hadn’t told me. Usually the insulated bags are so ugly!

  108. Rachel says:

    Great timing of this post! I have been thinking about making something similar but wasn’t sure what to use for insulation. Thanks!

  109. Jodie says:

    I LOVE this and it’s going to (almost) the top of my summer to sew list!

  110. KarenH says:

    Wow that is a gorgeous and very USEFUL bag! πŸ™‚

  111. Pat K says:

    I love the insulated picnic tote tutorial. That will be great to carry water/gatorade to my grandson’s ballgames or snacks when we travel. Definitely will be on my “to do” list. Thanks for all your tutorials. I

  112. susan says:

    What a great idea! Thanks for the tutorial. I’m making one for myself and bookmarking it for a gift idea for my mom and mother-in-law.

  113. Norma says:

    this is very cute! I bet it would be great for bringing cold groceries home from the store too.

  114. Tammy says:

    Great pattern!

  115. Jen says:

    So cute. This needs to go on my summer to-do list now!

  116. Steph says:

    Very cute–love the floral fabric you used!

  117. Kacey P. says:

    This looks so simple and straight forward! I might have to give it a try πŸ™‚

  118. oh so pretty, and soooo much more fashionable than the hot/cold bags you can buy at the grocery store!

  119. Wow, I didn’t know you could buy that insulating material to make your own bags. Cool! (haha, no pun intended)

  120. Laura says:

    what a useful project! Where can you buy the Insul-bright?

  121. Megan says:

    Okay so I guess I should have read more instead of just looking at the pictures.

    “I donÒ€ℒt know about you, but when I go grocery shopping in the summer, I feel like I have to race home like the wind so my ice cream doesnÒ€ℒt melt or my yogurt doesnÒ€ℒt get too warm”

  122. Megan says:

    Love this. This would be great for grocery shopping as well, to keep frozen things frozen.

  123. Rachel says:

    Great tutorial! I’ll be making one for sure!

  124. Jacque says:

    This is great – I was looking for a pattern or tutorial to make one of these for gifties! Thanks for sharing!

  125. Wahoo! I needed this tute. I was about to drop $40 on a new one that isn’t all that pretty.

  126. What a super bag. I have some laminate that’s been waiting to be used. Bingo! Thanks for the tutorial.

  127. Dorian says:

    What a great idea Vanessa! Thanks so much for sharing.

  128. Sonja says:

    This tutorial is so timely for me. My second daughter is Lifeguarding this summer and we decided she needs an insulated lunch bag. I think, if I make this one a little smaller it will be perfect for taking lunches to the pool on hot days.


  129. Amy says:

    This is great. I need to make this straight away. So tired of mushy frizzle by the time I’m home from the market.

  130. Amy says:

    This is gre

  131. Katie says:

    What great ideas for summer! Can’t wait to start them!

  132. Erin says:

    This will be a great addition to summer picnics, and so straightforward! Thanks for the inspiration.

  133. Maya says:

    Great tutorial and great idea.

  134. sequinK says:

    Love!! It’s in the sewing queue for sure,…

  135. Lisa Wiehle says:

    LOVE IT! Just saw something similar in a store this weekend, and I said “I could make this!”

  136. brenda says:

    Can’t wait to try this cute bag. I love it.

  137. Andi says:

    This would be great for visiting the farmer’s market, too! I’m always worried about wandering around with meat and eggs and cheese in my bag in the heat. Thanks for the great tutorial!

  138. Asta says:

    Wow! It could also work as a shopping tote for those freezer products that melt way too quickly. Love the tute, so simple.

  139. tartankiwi says:

    I Love this! Such a great idea… I’ll have to give it a go. Thanks for the tutorial

  140. Eleonora says:

    Hi!I’m an italian girl and I learned to sew only few months ago…so, I’m not good at sewing but I like it and I found in this site a lot of beautiful ideas,like this useful tote!thanks you to all!!!

  141. Sarah McGrath says:

    Oh, my insulated bag is falling apart so this project is perfect!

  142. Anna says:

    So sweet! and useful! can’t wait to make one and take for a picnic!

  143. Jenelle says:

    Great tutorial! I was just at the grocery store thinking the same thing. I’ll have to track down some Insul-Bright and try it out. πŸ™‚

  144. angelina says:

    how lovely. thank yOU!

  145. Carrie says:

    This is a super wonderful idea! So handy and practical!

  146. kerrie says:

    Just what I was looking for! Thanks!

  147. Rohaise says:

    This is great! I’ve been looking for a pattern for an insulated bag for ages! Thank you.

  148. Vanessa says:

    That is so cool! Last week I was at the beach telling to my husband that we need an insulated tote to keep drinks cold!
    I will definetely use this tutorial!

  149. linda says:

    Fab idea – perfect for summer picnics πŸ™‚

  150. Serena says:

    Well, that’s the cutest insulated tote I’ve ever seen!

  151. Katrina H says:

    First, I love the idea of using the recycled jeans for the handles, I love how you placed them at an angle too! Secondly, what a great summer project! I love insulated bags and never thought I could make one. Thank you for the great ideas!

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