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Picnic Tote Bag Tutorial

Picnic Tote Bag Tutorial

How to make the tote bag for summer picnics all season long.

I don’t know about you, but when I go grocery shopping in the summer, I feel like I have to race home like the wind so my ice cream doesn’t melt or my yogurt doesn’t get too warm.

This is a great summer sewing project to help with just that. It’s an insulated (stylish) tote that you can take with you on a picnic to keep your foods hot/cold or just on a run to the store in that hot summer heat to help keep your pizzas frozen and your ice cream from melting!

Picnic Tote Bag Tutorial

It’s super simple, with some nice little details. It’s got a zipper closure on top and made with heavy decor weight fabrics (or canvas) and it’s fully lined. This would also be fabulous made from laminated fabrics so you could just wipe it clean. The bag has a double layer if Insul-Bright to keep hot things hot and cold things cold. The handles and details are made from recycled jeans.

Picnic Tote Bag Tutorial

It’s fairly large; it can easily hold 4 boxed pizzas or 3 gallons of milk. The final dimensions are: 26″ (top width)/18″ bottom width x 17″ high x 8″ deep (at the base).

So here’s what you’ll need:

1 28″ sport weight zipper
2 pieces heavy duty / decor weight exterior fabric, 28″ w x 21″ h.
2 pieces plain canvas or other heavy fabric for lining, 28″ x 21″
1 2/3 yd. of 45″ wide Insul-Bright, cut into 4 28″ x 21″ pieces.
heavy duty sewing machine needle

For the handles and decorative stripes, you’ll need:

4 pieces of 2″ x 28″ (stripes)
2 pieces of 4″ x 28″ (handles)
I upcycled a pair of jeans for this part!

Note: All seam allowances are 1/2″, unless otherwise noted.

Grab your handle pieces and fold in half. Iron. Open them and fold the outer edges into the center. Iron again. Finally fold in half on the original fold line). Iron and pin.

Sew 1/4″ from each edge and again down the center. I like using a thread you can see so your beautiful stitching stands out. Set this aside.

Take the decorative stripe pieces and fold under the edges by 1/2″ on each side and iron flat, so you now have four pieces 1″ x 28″.

Grab the two exterior pieces of your bag and make a mark on the center at the top. Measure out 4″ from the center in each direction and make another mark.

Pin the stripe piece so that one end is at a bottom corner and the top lies on top of the mark you just made. Repeat for the other side of the bag.

Stitch this on using the same stitch pattern as for the handles. Repeat this for the opposite side of the exterior bag. Trim any excess.

Pin the handles onto the bag, matching the placement with the stripes. Baste on as close to the edge as possible. Set aside.

For the lining, lay down two pieces of Insul-Bright and the lining (facing up) on top. Quilt together with 2″ wide vertical lines. Repeat for the other two pieces of Insul-Bright and lining.

Now we’ll assemble the bag. Sandwich together one piece of exterior bag (face up, handles at the top), the zipper (face down), and then the quilted lining piece (wrong side up).

Pin in place and using a zipper foot, sew these three layers together aligning the outer edge of the fabric with the outside of the zipper foot.

Now you’ve got one side attached to the zipper.

Repeat for the other side.

Now grab the two exterior pieces and place them together (right sides touching) laying it out flat so that the lining pieces also touch each other (again, right sides together). Pin in place and sew around the exterior of the bag, leaving an opening in the bottom of the lining for turning. I’d recommend at least a 12″ opening. It’s a lot to sew up later, but it is a very thick tote.

Take the corners and pull them flat. Measure where the bag is 8″ across and mark a line. Sew along this line and repeat 1/4″ in from that (towards the point). Trim excess corner piece. Repeat for all four corners (2 lining and 2 exterior).

Picnic Tote Bag Tutorial

Turn right side out. Hand stitch up the opening at the bottom of the tote. And you’re done!

Picnic Tote Bag Tutorial


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