A lot of supermarkets and stores in Manila have stopped giving out plastic bags for free in an effort to be more environmentally responsible. While that’s a good thing, I’ve made purchases lately where the paper bags fell apart even before I make the short walk to my car. So in that light, here’s my newest sewing project, a reversible grocery bag for my beautiful mother-in-law. 🙂 I based this on the book Stitch by Stitch by Deborah Moebes but I made a few alterations here and there.
Reversible Tote Bag Tutorial
First, take two types of canvas and cut out 18 x 18 inch squares, 2 of each. Here they are:
Pick a fabric that you want to designate as the outside, the other side will be the lining. This won’t really be important since we’re going to make a fully reversible bag but it will make it easier to explain. 🙂 Pin the fabric with right sides together (very important!) and sew using the following diagram:
Clip your corners to remove the bulk then pull the lower corners together making sure that bottom and side seams are aligned and measure at the part where the fabric is 3 inches across, pin and sew down there:
If you want a bag with a bigger/flatter bottom, this is the step where you can control this by stitching across a bigger portion of the bag.
Next you have to make the straps. You can use one type of fabric (outside or lining only) if you don’t mind that it’s not fully reversible. Then all you have to do is make 2 straps by sewing down one side and turning it inside out. I wanted something fully reversible so I first tried to sew fabric from the outside and lining together and turn it inside out but since the straps are relatively thin and canvas frays like crazy they sort of fell apart. If you used cotton there should be absolutely no problem though.
I decided to make my own reversible straps, it requires a little more effort but it’s totally worth it! I cut out two 18 x 2.5 inch straps for each of my types of fabric and carefully pressed them down so that they were almost the same size, around 1 inch across. I pinned them wrong sides together then I topstitched them in place. I went as slow as I needed to go to make sure that my lines were straight, they will come out looking like this:
Pin your straps to the outside of the bag, right sides together. Make sure the straps are the same distance from the side seams, I pinned them 4.5 inches from the side seams. Next take your lining, and put the outside bag with the straps in your lining like so:
Match up the raw edges and pin the sides together then sew all the way across the bag (use the free arm of your sewing machine). I sewed half an inch from the raw edges. You will essentially be stitching through 3 layers (your lining, the handles and one side of the outside part).
Reach into the 5 inch gap you left in the lining and pull out the other bag, the straps will now be magically stitched between your layers. 🙂
Iron down the sides to smoothen everything out, then if you want, topstitch the edges like I did for more structure:
And there you have it, a useful and completely reversible tote bag that is very easy to customize. I’m already thinking of making one with pockets or longer straps next time. 🙂