Learn how to plan, make & customize the best totes bags ever!
If 2018 is the year you’ve resolved to really punch up your sewing projects, we’ve got some great bags to inspire you! We’ve got a beginner sewing tutorial that you can use to brush up on tote making basics. And here we’ll show you our 20 best tote bags, with tips for mixing and matching all kinds of Dritz® hardware. The Art Gallery Fabrics canvas we used for all of our bags proved to be just perfect. A printable planning sheet will keep you organized as you brainstorm. Ready?
First, review our beginner sewing tote bag tutorial.
The size and construction method for all of the bags below follows our original tutorial – what’s exciting is all of the different hardware options you have to customize your bags. We’ve noted supplies and design details/tips below – be inspired to add personality to your bags with clever combinations of hardware and materials.
Let’s talk about the fabric! We used Art Gallery Fabrics 100% cotton canvas for all of the bags we made. The hand/weight of this canvas is perfect for totes – not too flimsy, not too heavy. If our design option warranted more structure, we added boning or foam (noted in below). And the colors/designs, well, they’re simply fantastic!
Use this planning template to organize your thoughts:
- Sketch out your bag. Include handle placement, pockets, etc.
- Attach fabric and handle swatches.
- Attach hardware samples.
We used this template & planning process for each of the 20 bags below. Get creative and plan some truly one-of-a-kind bags!
Bag 1 – Fabric: Moment in Time Dim (Maureen Cracknell)
Tip: Pick a contrasting yarn color for the pompom.
Details: Take a look at the sew-on magnetic snap that’s on the inside of this bag. We used a contrasting thread to sew on both snap and leather label that’s on the front of this bag.
Bag 2 – Fabric: Collar Ends (Pat Bravo)
Tip: Add a pocket to the front panel of your bag for interest; we used a contrasting corduroy fabric.
Details: Check out the magnetic snap that’s used on the inside of this bag. They’re easy to apply and add a secure closure to your tote.
Bag 3 – Fabric: Sand Bar (Sharon Holland)
Details/tips: Extend the strap belting the full length of the bag; give your tote an asymmetrical look by using D-rings on only one side.
Bag 4 – Fabric: Arid Horizon Sun (April Rhodes)
Details/tips: Use rivets & rings to attach the straps; place rivets creatively on the body of the bag to complement the pattern in the fabric. We shortened the length of this bag, giving it a square shape.
Bag 5 – Fabric: Cheshire Feathers (Katarina Roccella)
Details/tips: Extend the leather straps down both sides of the bag (instead of the front panels) and add D-rings; use hidden boning at the top hem to add structure to this tote.
Bag 6 – Fabric: Soda Straws (Dana Willard)
Tip: Use rivets to attach the straps and to add a functional pocket – it’s the perfect place for a cell phone.
Details: Make a key fob using the same material as the pocket, and hang it from the interior D-ring that’s hidden inside this bag. (It can also be attached to the holes in the rectangle rings on the front of the bag.)
Bag 7 – Fabric: Ananas Cream (Amy Sinibaldi)
Details/tips: Mix up materials! We used real navy colored leather for the straps, combined with light colored cotton belting for the tabs. The denim accent at the bottom provides a great space for the leather label. We also boxed the corners on this tote.
Bag 8 – Fabric: Wind Observer Slate (Bonnie Christine)
Details/tips: Attach real leather straps with rivet; use 2-part eyelets to create interesting accents, and to create the opening to hang a tassel fob. Hidden boning adds structure at the top hem of this bag.
Accessory alert: make a card wallet to match your tote! Add a tassel fob for a super pro finish. For the fob shown you need a swivel hook and double-cap rivet; we made it using the same leather as the handles. Sweet!
Bag 9 – Fabric: Magnolia Study Fresh (Bari J)
Details/tips: Take advantage of the openings provided by the heavy duty grommets – we added a leather strap to match the tote’s handles. (See more about applying the heavy duty grommets.)
Bag 10 – Fabric: A Path (Pat Bravo)
Details/tips: This is an easy bag to make! We didn’t stray far from the basic instructions – we just added cool details with the heavy duty grommets and rivets.
Bag 11 – Fabric: Aquarelle Study Wash (Bonnie Christine)
Details/tips: Extend the straps the full length of the bag; the triangle rings are the perfect place to add a fob or two. We made one fob out of the strap vinyl, and another with feathers.
Bag 12 – Fabric: Block Stencils Pop (Sew Caroline)
Details/tips: Find interesting materials and incorporate them into the details of your tote, like we did with the mesh. The fold-over elastic finishes the edge of the pocket, while the mitten clips are a clever handle fastener.
Bag 13 – Fabric: Candied Lollies (Jeni Baker)
Details/tips: Mix & match hardware finishes – we paired white grommets with nickel rivets & carabiners and we think it looks divine. The pocket really adds punch to this bag.
Bag 14 – Fabric: To Live By (Sew Caroline)
Details/tips: It’s the fold of this bag that really does the trick – to accomplish, place tabs for handles on sides of bag mid-way down (where you want it to fold over).
Bag 15 – Fabric: Yuma Lemons Mist (Bari J)
Details/tips: An easy twist on the basic bag – extend the handles about halfway down the front of the bag and add rivets. Simple details say a lot!
Bag 16 – Fabric: Woodblock Spirit Warm (Pat Bravo)
Details/tips: We added rivets down the sides of this tote. This tote also has boxed corners.
Bag 17 – Fabric: Hus Hoo Gul (Pat Bravo)
Details/tips: The removable, adjustable strap is the jam here! We also extended the handles down the full front of the bag – we love the impact the navy belting makes against the yellow pattern of the fabric.
Bag 18 – Fabric: Reminder Bold (Art Gallery Fabrics studio)
Details/tips: Let the colors in your fabric guide your hardware choices. Here the black grommets & buckle are a no-brainer.
Bag 19 – Fabric: Arborescent Seasons (Sharon Holland)
Details/tips: Use non-functional straps & buckles to give your totes a really upscale look.
Bag 20 – Fabric: Buoyancy Opposed (Art Gallery Fabrics studio)
Details/tips: Incorporate unexpected pieces of hardware into your totes – a press lock is one such piece. And those tabs – small changes to the basic bag that yield big looks.
Where will you carry your tote bag? To the farmer’s market? To the gym? To work? Let the end use of your tote dictate the details and functionality that your bag needs. Looking good is imperative – and we’ve got you covered there!
Some of these bags look so fashionable that they can do double duty as your purse. So depending on what your day entails, you may choose to make one of these “best totes” your sole carry-all. We think bags that can multi-task are a good thing!
Check out our Tote Bags Lookbook and see all of these bags in action – it’s packed with more great ideas and details. We hope our ideas for planning, making and customizing totes have your creative juices flowing!
We have many resources for you to utilize, depending upon which Dritz® hardware pieces you’re using. Visit our YouTube channel to see many of our items in action. Leave us comments and questions below if you’ve got a specific question or need, or reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook. And of course, our Dritz® website covers all of our products detail. And if you love those Art Gallery Fabrics, find them here.
Kick off 2018 by making a tote bag or twenty! We did!