Basic Directions for Denim Totes
These are the basic directions for sewing up the simple denim totes. These totes are distributed to surgery patients at a local hospital in lieu of a plastic bag as a container for various items the patient will take home.
The tote is simple and there are many ways it could be put together. Below I illustrate one way, but the specifics can be modified as long as the finished product is functionally the same. Some of the modifications that our seamstresses have made to this basic design are mentioned at the end. If you have a change or a sewing tip to add to the instructions, feel free to include it in the comments.
Update: I’ve added a second method of finishing the totes. After Step 2, you can choose “L’s Method” or “P’s Method”.
The kit consists of a piece of denim approximately 26 inches by 18 inches. (The exact size will vary) and two 18 inch pieces of webbing for the handles.
To complete the tote you will also need some material or binding about 3 inches wide (may vary) and approximately 30 inches long (long enough to go around the top of the tote with a little extra.) Most of us find material in our scrap bags to make binding, and we would be happy to share if you need some.
With right sides together, sew the bottom seam and the side seam.
Sew a 4 inch box bottom. As a reminder, do this by pinching the bottom seam to create a triangle with the seam going exactly down the center. Mark a line 4 inches across. Pin and stitch across the line. Repeat at the other corner.
Step 3 – L’s Method (See below for an alternate method)
Turn tote right side out. Place one handle as shown in the photo and pin. Place the other handle matching it on the other side. The handles should be centered and have approximately 3.5 inches between one side and the other.
Next, place the binding with the right side facing the right side of the tote and one edge of the binding against the top edge of the tote, as shown in the photo. Pin the binding around the top edge over the handles leaving the ends hanging.
I don’t know why in my photo one end of the binding is so much longer than the other, but normally they’d be about equal. It doesn’t matter as long as you have enough material to work with.
Sew the binding and handles to the tote with a seam of about ¼ inch or less from the top. Leave an opening of about an inch or so where the ends of the binding meet.
Draw a line as shown where the binding overlaps. Sew the binding together on this line and trim the ends. Then finish the seam across the top of the tote.
Step 4 – L’s Method
Turn tote inside out. Fold the binding inside so that the handles are up. I fold the binding in half and pin as shown in the photo.
Sew around the top and bottom of the binding at about 1/8 inch from the edges.
That’s all! The basic tote is done.
Additional touches that may be added:
- The handles may be reinforced at the top of the tote as necessary.
- A decorative lace or ribbon may be sewn on the outside top of the tote. Remember that totes are given to both men and women.
Alternate Method – Starting after Step 2
Step 3 – P’s Method
Fold down ½” from the top of the tote body and sew down to create the top edge. (Note: This step can be done before or after steps 1 and 2)
With the tote right side out, place one handle as shown in the photo and pin. Place the other handle matching it on the other side. The handles should be centered and have approximately 3.5 inches between one side and the other and extending about 1/2 inch down.
Sew the handles to the tote and reinforce.
Step 4 – P’s Method
Fold the sides of the binding to the middle and press them down.
Pin binding to the outside of the tote and stitch around the top and bottom of the binding. Where the ends of the binding meet, fold one end under the other before stitching.
That’s all! The basic tote is done, and is just as good as the other method.