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How to Make a Vinyl Tote Bag

 Vinyl Tote Bag DIY Sewing Tutorial

The fabric is Alexander Henry's with Michael Miller's Cherry That's It Dot as the lining, covered with 12 guage clear vinyl. The child may be purchased separately.
Materials Needed for Tote (finished size 16" wide x 6" deep x 11" high):

    1 yard of 12 guage clear vinyl
    1/2 yard of exterior fabric
    1/2 yard of interior fabric
    bias strip for top
    closed cell foam for bottom 1
    muslin or scrap fabric to cover foam
    2 yards of polypropylene webbing

Step 1:

Cut vinyl, fabric and foam.


    Cut 4 pieces 7" wide x 12" high for sides
    Cut 2 pieces 17" wide x 29" high for body

Exterior Fabric

    Cut 2 pieces 7" wide x 12" high for sides
    Cut 1 piece 17" wide x 29" high for body (If fabric is a one-way design, cut 2 pieces 17" wide x 15" high.)

Interior Fabric

    Cut 2 pieces 7" wide x 12" high for sides
    Cut 1 piece 17" wide x 29" high for body (If fabric is a one-way design, cut 2 pieces 17" wide x 15" high.)


    Cut 1 piece 6" wide x 15 3/4" long

Scrap fabric

    Cut 1 piece approximately 14" x 18". 

Step 2:

If your fabric has a design that runs one way, sew the two body pieces together using a 1/2" seam allowance and press open the seam. (Check the direction of the print before you sew.)

Step 3:

Pin fabric to its corresponding piece of vinyl. Make sure the right side of fabric is against the vinyl and that you pin within the 1/2" seam allowance. Baste with your sewing machine within the 1/2" seam allowance. Keep the vinyl layer against the feed dogs (bottom of your machine) and you should not have trouble sewing. Repeat for all pieces. Yes, your fabric and vinyl will not be perfect when you finish, but use your fabric edge as the guide in the rest of the steps- you can't see the vinyl well enough anyway.

Steps 4 through 9 will assemble the exterior of the bag. Just repeat the steps to make the interior of the bag.

Step 4:

Find the center of the long edge of the body piece. Mark the center on both sides of the piece. I find the center by folding the piece in half and I mark it with a nip of the scissors within the seam allowance.

Step 5:

Find and mark the center of the bottom edge of both side pieces. (The bottom edge is very important if your fabric is a one way design.)

Step 6:

Match the marks on the side pieces to the marks on the body piece. Pin (within the seam allowance) the side and body together. Mark 1/2" from each edge of side pieces.

Step 7:

Stitch between the marks on one side piece. Repeat for other side piece.

Step 8:

Clip the body piece on each end where the side stitching ends. Be careful to clip just up to the seam. Repeat for the other side.

Step 9:

Starting at the bottom of a side, pin the side piece to the body piece. Stitch. Repeat for other three seams.
Don't forget to repeat Steps 4 through 9 to assemble the inside of your bag.

Step 10:

Take your piece of scrap fabric and fold around the foam. Stitch the fabric to the foam on three sides. (The zipper foot on your machine will help you get close to the edge of the foam.) Trim the fabric to within 1/2" on the long side, to within 3/4" on the ends.

Step 11:

On what will be the inside of the exterior bag, pin the fabric "tail" of the foam piece to the seam allowance at the bottom of the bag. Again, you might find it helpful to use your zipper foot to stay close to the foam. Repeat for the other side of the bag.

Step 12:

Trim your seam allowances on both the exterior and interior bag to 1/4" to reduce bulk. Turn both bags right side out.

Step 13:

Cut polypropylene webbing to the desired length (23" on the large bag). Turn under the ends of the webbing about 1/2" and stitch down.

Step 14:

Position the handles on the bag. Stitch in place, stitching a square around an "X". Be sure to enclose the webbing end within the square. Then, if and when the polypro begins raveling, it is buried within the stitching. 

Step 15:

Place the interior bag inside the exterior bag. You will find that the top of the interior bag is anywhere from 1/4" to 1/2" taller than the exterior (due to the foam and bulk of the seams). Trim the interior bag down to the top of the exterior bag.

Step 16:

Use a ready made bias tape or make your own that is 1/2" wide after folding. Start the binding at an inconspicuous place (on the side or behind the handle) and pin the binding to the top of the bag (joining the interior and exterior top together).

Step 17:

Here's where it gets a little hairy. If you've worked on this bag straight through, take a break and come back well rested and patient. The difficult part here is keeping all the parts together at the top and getting the vinyl bag to feed nicely through your machine. The vinyl wants to stick to your machine like sweaty skin on a vinyl car seat. (Nice visual, eh?) The best way around the problem is use a piece of paper (I had the best luck with a catalog page). Place it on the bottom of the piece you are sewing, just missing the path of the needle. And even if you catch the paper in the needle, you can rip the paper out without taking out your stitching. I experimented with using the tissue paper that comes with the vinyl-- it tears too easily and isn't very slick. I also experimented with basting the tops together first, but that didn't help and actually seemed to make it harder. Just go for it and sew up the binding on the first pass!

Step 18:

When you come to where you started on the binding, fold the raw ends of your binding under and overlap them about 1/2" past your starting point.

1 Closed cell foam is a dense, thin foam that doesn't compress much. It is usually black, blue or white. It is not the cushy yellowish foam you find in your seat cushions. Where do you find closed cell foam? The easiest solution if you want just a little is to buy Foamies or another brand of foam sheets at a craft store and glue them together to get a thickness of a 1/4" or so. If you want closed cell foam in bulk, find a marine or auto upholstery business. If you're lucky, maybe they will give you a small piece to play with before you commit to a 10 yard roll! I'm sure you could also find it on the internet, it is just bulky (and thus expensive) to ship.

If you can't find any closed cell foam, your next best option is chair cushion foam or cardboard. The disadvantage of chair cushion foam is it has to be thicker (like an 1") to provide any rigidity. The disadvantage of cardboard is if it gets crushed or bent, it doesn't recover. It also disintegrates when wet, but in this bag that shouldn't happen.
I also made a version that is more of a lunch sack size (finished size 10" x 10" x 4"). The cutting sizes for that size are:


    Cut 4 pieces 5" wide x 11" high for sides
    Cut 2 pieces 11" wide x 25" high for body

Exterior Fabric

    Cut 2 pieces 5" wide x 11" high for sides
    Cut 1 piece 11" wide x 25" high for body (If fabric is a one-way design, cut 2 pieces 11" wide x 13" high.)

Interior Fabric

    Cut 2 pieces 5" wide x 11" high for sides
    Cut 1 piece 11" wide x 25" high for body (If fabric is a one-way design, cut 2 pieces 11" wide x 13" high.)


    Cut 1 piece 4" wide x 9 3/4" long

Scrap fabric

    Cut 1 piece approximately 10" x 12".

Polypropylene Webbing (I made handles instead of shoulder straps)

    Cut 2 pieces approximately 14" long.


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