Tote Style Handbag Tutorial Free

Tote Style Handbag Tutorial (FREE!)

Welcome to my Tote Style Handbag Tutorial! I love handbags but am always struggling to find one I like.  No matter which brand I buy, they fall apart after not nearly long enough for my liking!  So I thought I would make my own!  This one has an optional Internal Pocket.

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My Tote Style Handbag had its first outing to the Fishing Club for lunch.  The verdict…I love it!  It’s just the right size for me, it can fit everything including my cardi when I got too hot.  Perfect!

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I wouldn’t just make one to show off and not share the pattern and tutorial with you!  That wouldn’t be fair would it!


Back to the beginning…I bought this fabric on a weekend away in Hamilton a couple of months ago.  When I saw it in the shop I just had to have it!  Even though I had no idea what I wanted to use it for, I bought a couple of meters anyway.  Probably have enough to make 10 Tote Style Handbags!

What you will need to make my Tote Style Handbag

  • Fabric – Measurements in Chart Below!
    • Heavy(ish) Fabric like cotton duck or denim is ideal.  I washed mine first to be sure it would wash well later…it’s amazing how dirty handbags get!
    • Lining can be lighter weight than the outside but doesn’t need to be.  I used a lightweight denim.
    • Internal Pocket Fabric of your choice.
  • Zips (Optional)
    • 35cm (a little less than 14”) Zip for top opening
    • 18cm (7”) for Internal Pocket

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Step 1  – Cut your Fabric

I haven’t created a PDF printable for this pattern as it is all rectangles!  Check out the chart below for the measurements and quantities.

Pattern Diagram Tote Style Handbag

Step 2 – Sew Main Pieces Together (*Only if using 2 piece pattern for patterned fabric)

This really is as easy as it sounds.  Lay your fabric with the right sides facing and pin the bottom side together.  Match your pattern up if you wish, but the seam will be on the bottom of the bag so won’t really be seen.

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Sew with a 1cm (3/8”) seam allowance.

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I then overlocked the seam for extra strength, as the bottom will carry a bit of weight.  Zigzag or an overlock stitch on your regular machine will be fine too.

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Press the seam over ready to topstitch.

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As you can see I haven’t matched my pattern.  It didn’t worry me as it is on the bottom of the bag.

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Topstitch the pressed seam, making sure you are sewing on the side the seam is folded under on.  So that the topstitch will hold it nicely flat and again provide extra strength.

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Step 3 – Adding Internal Pocket (Optional!)

Take your lining piece, and lay it down flat right side facing up.

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You will now need to sew your insert pocket.  Due to the length this tutorial would be all in one, I have added a separate tutorial for Sewing Internal Pockets.  Head over there to complete this step.

Step 4 – Sewing Up the sides

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Fold fabric piece in half right sides facing and pin side seams together.  Sew both sides, I again like to overlock for added security.

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You can repeat this step for the lining piece too!  Whether you chose to do the internal pocket or not the steps are the same.

Step 5 – Boxing Out the Bottom

Now we need to box out the bottom corners.  Get your ruler (or measuring tape is fine too) ready!

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Measure 5cm (2”) up the side seam and mark with a pin (or washable marker/pencil).

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Measure 5cm (2”) in from the SIDE SEAM (not from the edge of the overlocking) and mark again.

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After I have pinned I like to add a pencil (washable marker) mark.  You can do this straight away instead of pinning, but it was easier to show the measurements with the pin over the ruler!

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Fold the fabric so that the two marks (pins) line up.  I use my pin to ensure the marks line up.  Pin in place.

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Being careful to stay square pin out to the edge of the fold.  I’m sure there is a fancy way to make sure you stay straight but I just eye ball it, as long as it looks right it will be fine!

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Sew along the pinned line.  Then overlock just next to the seam.  You can also zigzag and trim away the excess.

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Now that you’ve got it sorted, you get to practice it three more times on the the other corners!  By that I mean the bottom corners of the main fabric and the bottom corners of the lining.

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Step 6 – Making the Straps

I made my straps using the same fabric as the bag, but you can  mix it up with different fabric or even webbing straps.  To make the fabric straps you will need to have cut out the two strap pieces on the chart.

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Fold in half lengthwise with the right sides facing (Use a small seam allowance here – see photo!)

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Turn the straps around the right way.  I have created some photo steps to show you how I do it.

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Then feed the safety pin down through the tube, you may need to help it turn at the end it is gathering at by pulling the outside layer over top of the inside one.

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Now you will need to press it flat.  You may need to wiggle it to make sure it is not folded in at the seam.

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Now the last thing for the straps is to topstitch both sides to give the strap some strength and rigidity.

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Woo hoo!  Another step closer to the finish line!

Step 7 – Attach Straps

With your main fabric the right side facing out

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Lay the straps on top of the bag in this rough layout.  Then better grab that ruler again!

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Measure 10cm (4”) in from the side seam, and leave 2.5cm (1”) of the strap over hanging the edge.  Pin in place.  Repeat for the other half of the same strap.

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To do the other side turn the bag over and lay flat making sure the side seams are at the folds.  That way you can match the straps up with those on the opposite side, without having to measure again!

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Sew all four straps in place, I like to go over them a few times to be sure.  I used the edge of my presser foot for the seam allowance, so as long as your seam allowance is less than 1cm (3/8”) that way the stitching won’t be visible later on.

Step 8 – Join the Outer Fabric and Lining Together

Tuck the outer part of the bag inside the lining.

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Line up the raw edges.

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Pin at the two seams first.  I like to fold one seam in each direction so that it sews nicely and will fold over neatly.  I use two pins to keep it in place.

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You can pin all the way around the top of the bag, but you do need to leave a 10cm (4”) gap to turn the bag around the right way.  If your fabric is very thick you may like to leave a little more.  I use different coloured pins to mark the opening, double pinning also works well!

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Sew starting from the edge of the gap and sew all the way right round to the other gap marker.  Reverse a few stitches at each end (or lockstitch).

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Time to turn the bag around the right way.  Push it all through the gap you left.  Here is another set of photo steps!

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Once you have it around the right way press the seam with your iron.  Fold the opening pieces to match the rest of the edge.

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Pin the opening closed and topstitch the whole top edge to secure the seam.  This will also close the opening.

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If you are not adding a top zip then you are finished!

Step 9 – Add Top Zip (Optional)

Change to your zipper foot if you have one!

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Pin the zip in place on one side of the bag, I folded the tabs at the ends of the zips back in underneath the zip.  It’s OK to have a little gap at either end.

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Starting sewing down your topstitching seam at the open end of the zip, with the zipper head moved out of the way.  Sew up to the zipper head and stop with the needle in the fabric.  Lift the presser foot and move the zip head past the presser foot.  Lower the foot and carry on sewing till the end.  And guess what? …Yep another set of photo steps!

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Once you have sewn all the way down the one side of the zip it should look like this.

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With the zip closed pin the two strap areas in place.  This is so that the straps line up when the zip is closed.

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Then open the zip to make it easier to pin the rest in place.

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Again sew from the open end, you may need to swap sides with your zipper foot (or needle position settings).

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You will get to this point where it gets hard to reach.  Again leaving the needle in the fabric lift the presser foot and move the zipper head past the foot.

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Once you have done that you should be able to wriggle it around to get to the end.

Speaking of getting to the end…YOU MADE IT!!!  I hope you love it as much as I do, AND I would love to see a photo of your Tote Style Handbag creation.  Email, Instagram or Facebook me!

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Congratulations on your new Tote Style Handbag!

My First Knit Pencil Skirt For Me!

I found this lovely ruffled knit fabric at…you guessed it my local charity shop for $2.  I knew straight away I wanted it to be a pencil skirt for me!


It’s a very stretchy knit with layers of ruffles all the way down the fabric.  I just the loved the movement it gave and the flattering look I hoped it would create.


Not to mention I have a bit of a thing for grey!  Last winter just about everything in my wardrobe was grey, so I have been trying to mix things up a little more since!

What you will need

  • Fabric – 1m (roughly 1 yard) depending on the width of your fabric and your size.
  • 25mm (1”) wide elastic – Length of your waist measurement
  • Yep that is all!

Note: I sewed the whole project in zigzag!

Step 1 – Cut fabric

I roughly followed Dana from Made Everyday’s video tutorial for pencil skirts.  I didn’t follow it exactly (never have been one for instructions!) but I really like her method for measuring the pattern pieces.  Super simple and works great!


The only change I made to the cutting was to only slope in the waistband and leave the bottom square.  I think this gives my body shape a more flattering fit but do what you think will suit you best!

Step 2 – Sew the sides


As simple as it sounds just sew straight down the sides using zigzag or a stretch stitch of your choice.  With the ruffles on mine I had to pin it very carefully to ensure they stayed in place.  I would do this for matching patterns or stripes too, otherwise with a plain fabric just go for it!  I also overlocked the raw edge, as the edge of the ruffled fabric was quite untidy and I’m fussy like that!

Step 3 – Waistband

I sewed the waistband slightly differently than Dana.  I wanted to be able to determine the finished size before sewing.  I did not want it to be at all snug, as the elastic digging in is not my favourite look and something I’ve had to work round since the kids err shall we say ‘softened’ my mid section!  So I measured where I wanted the skirt to sit, mid rise I suppose you’d call it.  And made the elastic the same length.


The point of the elastic isn’t really to hold the skirt up as the fitted stretch style stays up pretty well on its own, it’s more to stabilize the waistband and stop it rolling over.


As you can see I had to trim the top ruffle off, so that it didn’t roll up on the outside.  I joined the elastic ends together and pinned in place before sewing.  In the same way as I did for the Merino Baby Pants Tutorial.  Except I used the overlocker for  attaching the elastic the first time round.  I love it!  Very neat and tidy and super stretchy!  Then I folded over and zigzagged around again, just as Dana did in the video.

Step 4 – Hem

Well to be honest I didn’t hem mine at all!  With the ruffles it seemed better just to leave it be, being knit it won’t fray anyway.

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Now I just can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can wear it!  It’s super comfortable and I just love that I actually made something for myself (not the kids) that I will actually wear ♥

What is your favourite self made piece of clothing?

Adding a Yoga Band Waist

I was shopping a little while ago and saw some floral fabric on the clearance rack, turns out it was a skirt. But it was shorter than I would normally wear, maybe with tights I thought!  For a whole $2.49 I thought well just give it a try!

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I got it home and tried it on and with the elastic waist, I had a stunner muffin top going on.  Do you call them ‘Muffin Tops’ too?  Just in case that’s a kiwi thing, its that skin/fat roll you get over the top of a tight waist band usually with low rise pants/skirts.  Ever since I had kids elastic waists have not been my friend!

Not wanting to waste the skirt and since I do like the fabric, I thought a yoga band waist should fix it!  Yoga band waists are much more forgiving and you can wear it folded or flat, allowing you to make the skirt longer too.  Yoga Band Waists are great for maternity clothes or altering your existing clothes to fit while you are pregnant too!

What you will need,

  • Fabric – It needs to be stretch (the original skirt/pants don’t but the band will).  Mine is Cotton/Lycra Blend.
  • Overlocker/Sewing machine
  • Matching thread
  • And That’s it!!

Step 1

Cut off the original waistband, you can unpick it if you like but with the overlocked edge that would have taken an eternity!

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You should be left with the skirt minus waistband, the elastic and the fabric casing of the old waistband.  Sometimes these two will be sewn together, but that doesn’t matter.

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Step 2

Try on the cut off waistband for size, mine fit perfectly and was 42cm (16.5”), double this number 84cm (33”) and decide how wide you want the band to be.  Remember it will be folded double to make it.  I decided on 44cm (17.25”).  So my pattern size for the band is 84cm (33”) x 44cm (17.25”).  I am quite tall (176cm – a little over 5’ 9”) so you can make it smaller if you like!  You can also measure your waist and go from there, you may want to make it a few cm/inches smaller than your waist measurement to allow for the stretch.

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Step 3

Cut out your fabric (didn’t take a photo of that but I’m sure you can cut a rectangle out all on your own!), make sure the stretch is going across the waistband! Pin the two ends together with the right sides facing each other.  Overlock/sew them together, at this point a stretch stitch is not necessary as the stretch should be going the other way.

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Step 4

Fold your waist band half over so the two long sides line up, much like when you are making cuffs.

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Mark the middles and ends with pins, pinning the two layers together.  Make sure to unroll the fabric if like mine it has rolled up on the edges.  See photo below, it’s a little hard to see the pins I won’t use yellow ones next time!

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Step 5

Place your skirt inside the new waistband, right side facing out, and line the edge up with the edge on the waistband.  All three cut edges should line up.

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Step 6

Use the for pins you have already put in to pin the two together.  In my case I had four seams in the skirt (middle back and front, and both sides), if you only have two you will need to find the middle between each one to pin the other pins in.  Now work your way around putting pins in the middle of the gap each time, you may need to stretch either layer to make it line up that is fine!

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Step 7

Overlock or sew with a stretch stitch (or zigzag) around your waist band, making sure you are catching all three layers!  I had to take it slow and unroll the edges as I went to be sure they all got caught in the seam.

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And that’s all folks!!  It’s as simple as that!  Turn your skirt/pants around the right way and you are finished!


You can wear it with the band folded over, it feels nice and secure and still flattering on the waist.

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You can also wear it unfolded or flat I suppose you’d call it!  It gives extra length, and I like the fitting around your bottom and flaring our after that look!

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Either way I’m going to get plenty of wear out of a $2.49 skirt, when summer finally comes!!!

T-Shirt Too Short?

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I couldn’t resist the clearance rack at the warehouse last week.  They had T-Shirts for just under NZ$5.00!  I bought four thinking they were the same style as the ones I usually buy from there.  But no these are quite a bit shorter.  I was a little disappointed after all that rummaging to find ones that didn’t have some ridiculous slogan printed on them!
I had also recently got new singlets with the same problem, again the same brand I always buy (I pretty much live in singlets year round, just add layers when it’s cold!).  This was just a slightly different style which was shorter than my T-Shirts.
20150712_114437Here is the before photo, I didn’t take one with it on…it does fit and looks ok but just rides up every time I move.  I can’t bend over, crouch down or reach up without having to rearrange it!  I am quite tall 176cm (5 foot 9”) so you may not like to make yours quite as long as mine but the steps are still the same.
Now it’s sewing machine to the rescue!  I matched the T-Shirts and the singlets so that I liked the colours together.  Luckily I bought four of each!  You could use any other T-shirt you have or even a piece of knit fabric.  With the fabric you will have to sew it into a tube and hem the bottom as well.



What you will need

  • T-Shirt/top that is too short
  • Singlet or t-shirt or knit fabric
That is all!

Lets get started

First you need to work out how much longer you want the T-Shirt to be.  Once you have done that use this measurement to cut the bottom off you singlet allowing a little extra for the overlap.
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I love that my ironing board has stripes on it!  It’s great to be able to line them up and use them as a guide.  Don’t get too fussy about the straightness, if you look at the bought T-Shirts/Singlets they are never perfect either.  You won’t notice it once they are on!
Overlock/zigzag the cut edge all the way round.
20150712_114324They will go together like above, no hems to sew!  As you can see there is quite a size difference but as as long as the smaller will stretch to the larger (and they both fit you!) it will work just fine.  It will look a little odd on a hanger but it will fit just fine.  The smaller (light blue) of the two here has much more stretch than the black T-shirt.
Now it is time to pin it in place.  Start at the seams and line them up on both pieces, if one doesn’t have seams then lay it flat and mark the two ends with pins, use those pins to line up with the seams on the other layer.
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Then I work out the middles by holding the pins together and folding in half.  You can do this for all the different sides.  I mark the centre with a pin and match them up after that.
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It will look like below at this stage.
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Then pin evenly around the remaining edge.  Again I do this by finding the middles in between the pins and pinning them together each time.  I used 8 pins for mine and just made sure as I sewed that it still lined up.  But to be extra sure use as many pins as you like.  NOTE: The gather needs to be even or you may end up getting to the end and have fabric left over that the smaller piece can’t stretch to match.

Sewing Time!

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This is the easiest part!  It is all sewn using a basic zigzag stitch (to allow for the stretch).  Start with a lock stitch/sew and reverse at one of the seams, and sew all the way round, and lock stitch/reverse again.  DONE!!  The only thing you have to remember is to stretch the layers, at least to the point they match.  It pays to stretch a little more so that the longer piece is stretched a little too.  It will pull back once sewed but gives you more give in the seam for when you are putting it on or taking it off.
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Here is a closer look at zigzag on the hem of the T-shirt.  This is one of the other T-shirts, the contrast shows the stitching much better.  You can use a contrast thread if you like the detail.
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These photos do make them look exceptionally long, and yes you could wear them with tights but for me I like them a little gathered at the hip.  I will add photos of me wearing them soon, just need to rope in someone to take the photos.  Tried to take some in the mirror for you…FAIL!!!