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How to Make a Cinch Tote Bag – DIY Sewing

A tote bag is one of those things that everybody has, but nobody really thinks about. It serves as a versatile midpoint between a duffle bag and carrying things around in your pockets. Design wise, the tote bag is very simple, and therefore easy to both make and modify.

This particular variant is about as basic as they come, the shape is square-ish, large, and the handle is one continuous piece of fabric that cinches to close the bag. Feel free to add pockets, compartments, different strap or closure configurations at your discretion. The canvas material (while classic, can also be switched up) can be patched, waxed, painted, printed on, or simply beat up depending on the direction you want to go.

What You’ll Need

  • About 2 yards of fabric (I used unbleached canvas but anything heavy works)
  • Heavy duty needles (optional, but nice to have)
  • An iron

How To

  1. First, you are going to want to cut your pieces of fabric. I found that a 22″x44″ piece works nicely for the body, and 3″x60″ for the strap.IMG_6598
  2. Fold the body in half so it forms a square, and press this into place. Make sure that the side of the fabric you want facing out on the finished product is also facing out at this point.
  3. Sew the side seams shut, leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance (distance between the stitch and the edge of the fabric).
  4. Turn the body inside out, and press the seams flat. Sew along the two sides you already did, this time with a 1/2″ seam allowance. The end result should look as pictured.IMG_6603
  5. Mark a line parallel to the opening of the bag, about 4″ down.
  6. Fold the excess material inwards, and press into place.IMG_6605
  7. Fold this piece in half, and press again. This forms where the strap is going to sit.IMG_6606
  8. Now let’s make the strap. Take your piece and press it in half lengthwise, as pictured.IMG_6607
  9. Press the two edges inwards, so they meet in the crease you made before.IMG_6608
  10. Sew this shut, leaving about 2″ un-sewn at the end so you can connect the strap into a loop.IMG_6609
  11. Connect as pictured, taking care to back stitch so the strap won’t come apart. The connection will not be visible, so this doesn’t need to look perfect, the priority is to make sure the seam is strong. IMG_6611
  12. Now you are going to form the openings for the strap. Mark the mid point between the side seams on both sides of the bag. Now mark 1.5″ away from this on either side.IMG_6612
  13. Position the strap as it will sit in the finished product. Make two quasi-bar tacks by sewing back and forth on either side of the center points. Pull the strap through slightly, and make another quasi-bar tack at the center point. This will keep the strap from slipping back into the bag.IMG_6614
  14. Complete the seam around the opening, enclosing the strap.

Voila–a tote bag is born!


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