I find myself bringing home the paper shopping bags we use at Purl and Purl Patchwork all the time, using and reusing them to bring my lunch, haul knitting projects, and store fabric.

Looking at one such beaten up bag I realized how easy it would be to make a similarly convenient tote out of fabric, especially using our new Olympus handbag handles. It is so much less wasteful and infinitely more attractive! –Molly 

PS: The background fabric is called “Kelly” from Liberty of London.

The Materials



One of the most wonderful parts of this bag is how little preparation is involved:

Cut Fabric

Cut two 16-inch squares out of each fabric and the interfacing.


Mark Fabric

Using chalk mark a line 3-inches from the bottom and both sides on the right side of each piece of fabric. Then mark 1-inch from the top on all the pieces, also on the right side. Make sure you have your fabric oriented in the way you want your bag to go. In this case I want the stripes to run up and down. These markings will be your guide to ironing the bag into it’s tidy shape after you’ve sewn.

In case it’s hard to see the chalk lines on the above fabric here’s a picture of the marked  Shot Cotton.



Pin Fabrics

  • Layer the interfacing on the wrong side of the Soleil fabric, lining up all sides. From now on treat the interfacing and the Soleil as if they are one piece of fabric.
  • Pin the two pieces of Soleil together (right sides together) along both sides and the bottom. Don’t pin the top together. Make sure the markings match up and your fabric is oriented correctly.
  • Pin the Shot Cotton squares together in the same way.


Sew Fabrics

  • Sew around all three sides using a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Make sure not to sew up the top!


Mark Fabrics Again

  • Once you’ve sewn around the three sides of both the Lining (the Shot Cotton) and the Outer Bag (the Soleil), mark lines all around as you did earlier but this time it will be on the wrong side of the fabrics: 3-inches from the sides and bottom and 1-inch from the top. These markings will be your guide for constructing the bottom of the bag.

Below is a picture of the Outer Bag and interfacing after being sewn and marked (I used a pencil to mark on the interfacing) :


Form the Base

Making the bottom of this bag is really easy, it’s just not the easiest thing to explain so bear with me… 



  • Turn the bottom of the Outer Bag upwards towards you and flatten it out. The markings you made in the last step will form a rectangle that is 10-inches x 5-inches.
  • Finger press the 5-inch side flat, which will form a triangle as in the photo above. 
  • The 5-inch marked line should line up exactly with the marked lines on the opposite side of the shape (in other words, if you flipped the above fabric over there would be another pencil line that matched up with the 5-inch line you can see here.) This line will be your seam line.
  • You are forming the bottom and sides of the bag here so make sure that everything lines up neatly and pin your 5-inch line and sew along it.  Repeat on opposite end of base. 
  • Trim triangles on each side of base to create a 1/4-inch seam allowance as shown in the photo below. 


Repeat all steps for the outer bag.

The Lining Meets the Outer Bag


You now basically have 2 rough edged pouches.

  • With the wrong side out iron the Lining along your chalk marks. Make sure to iron the top of the lining down, with the unfinished edge facing, along it’s 1-inch marking as shown above. It will still be pretty floppy but you should be able to see it’s boxy shape.


  • Iron along the top marked 1-inch of the Outer Bag and then turn it right side out as shown below. 


  • Iron the Outer Bag along the chalk marks. It will be able to stand up and hold it’s shape.


  • Cut a 5-inch x 10-inch piece of heavy-duty template plastic and place it snugly in the bottom of the bag. It should fit exactly.


  • Now slide the Lining inside the Outer Bag. Make sure all the seams line up neatly. The Lining and the Outer Bag should fit perfectly together because of the ironed sides.


  • Pin the Lining and the Outer Bag together at the top of the bag


  • Top stitch with a 1/4-inch seam allowance.


Tack the Corners


  • Using the darker thread tack the corners down, sewing through the Outer Bag and the Lining but not the template plastic. This will anchor the plastic and keep the lining in place.

Attach Handbag Handles


  • At the top of the bag make a chalk mark 2-inch in from the left on the left side of the bag as shown above. This is where you will place the handles.
  • Pin the handles to the right of the mark.


  • Using the embroidery thread, sew the handle on with a backstitch through the pre-punched holes.
  • Repeat this step by marking 2-inch from the right edge of the bag and attach the opposite end of the handle. 
  • Attach second handle to the other side of the bag in the same way.
  • Fill your bag with goodies and enjoy!