When I created this super cute bucket bag for my daughters knitting and crochet projects, I had no idea just how versatile this bag would be. DIY tote bags are some of my favorite things to design and sew. They make great gift “bags” for people, holiday totes, craft project bags, I mean, who doesn’t love a good reusable, washable bag? Am I right? This one sews together fairly quick too. Grab your machine and let’s get to sewing.
First things first. You need supplies. Here’s the list of what you’ll need. I’ve also added the substitutes that can be used in parenthesis.
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- Fabric : 2-3 fabrics of your choice. You’ll need an exterior fabric, an interior fabric and a fabric for the binding. Fabric selections are totally up to you. I used a linen/cotton blend for the exterior of the bag pictured above and a quilting cotton for the interior.
- Fusible foam (you can use also use a fusible fleece. This will not give your bag the same stability as fusible foam though).
- Cotton webbing for the bag handles. Width and length of these handles is up to you as well. I used 1.5″ wide cotton webbing that was cut into 18″ long strips for each handle.
- Sewing machine.
- Applique pressing sheet if you are using a double sided fusible. This inexpensive sewing item will save your iron.
- Sewing pins or clips.
- Rotary cutter OR scissors.
Bucket Bag Bottom Pattern Piece:
- Bag bottom pattern piece. It’s the underlined link directly below here. You’ll also get a copy of the cutting instructions and some pattern cutting labels I made.
- BAG BOTTOM PATTERN **CLICK ON ME! I’M YOUR FREE PATTERN**
If you prefer video over written instructions, you can watch that here.
You can also find the full video under the “video” tab on this website. Along with all my other tutorials.
Let’s cut our fabric.
- As always, I recommend washing and ironing your fabric before you begin cutting your pieces out. Some people swear by pre-washing and others will tell you it isn’t necessary. I personally prefer it.
- DO NOT PRE-WASH ANY FUSIBLE material, just your fabric. You can thank me for this tip later when your not peeling a fusible off the inside of your dryer.
- Cut (2) pieces from the EXTERIOR fabric 14.5″ long x 12.5″ wide.
- Cut (1) piece from EXTERIOR fabric using your bag bottom pattern piece.
- Cut (2) pieces from INTERIOR fabric 14.5″ long x 12.5″ wide.
- Cut (1) piece from INTERIOR fabric using your bag bottom pattern piece.
- Cut (1) strip of fabric (USE FABRIC OF YOUR CHOICE) for the binding strip 35″ long x 3″ wide.
Cut the fusible and the bag handles:
- Cut (2) pieces from FUSIBLE FOAM 14.5″ long x 12.5″ wide.
- Cut (1) piece of FUSIBLE FOAM using your bag bottom pattern piece.
- Cut (2) pieces of cotton webbing 1.5-2″ wide webbing x 18″ long. This is only a recommendation. Make the handles any length and width you prefer. This is just what I used for this particular bag.
Your pieces should all be cut, so let’s start fusing! You’ll be fusing your EXTERIOR bag pieces to the fusible foam ONLY.
- Turn your iron on. HIGH heat, NO STEAM.
- Take each of your 3 pieces of EXTERIOR fabric and fuse them to the coordinating size of fusible foam. Iron each piece until it is “fused” together 10-15 seconds.
- When you are finished, you should have (3) pieces of your EXTERIOR fabric fused to fusible foam pieces.
- You can trim up any excess foam pieces that are sticking out past your fabric if needed.
- Set these (3) fused pieces aside for now.
Time to prep the binding strip of fabric for the top edge of our bag.
- Take the piece of fabric you cut 35″ long x 3″ wide and press it in half LENGTHWISE wrong sides together (WST).
- Set the binding piece off to the side for when we assemble the bag.
Let’s start sewing. Seam allowance can be 1/4″ or 1/2″ for this project. Just be sure you use the SAME seam allowance throughout the entire project. I did 1/4.”
- Begin by taking your (2) exterior fused bag sides and stitch them together along one of the 12.5″ sides.
- Remember to back stitch at the beginning and end of each line of stitching.
- After you have sewn the side seam, you’ll press this seam open.
- If you prefer to topstitch, you can topstitch 1/4″ or 1/2″ on each side of the side seam. Topstitching will always give your projects a more finished look but is totally optional.
Time to mark your quilting lines or design (optional).
- With your ruler and chalk pencil, head to a flat surface and mark your bag exterior sides and exterior bag bottom with some lines you want to quilt. This stitching will really stand out on fabric fused on foam. It helps keep all your bag pieces together during washing and with extensive use.
It’s quilting time!
- Time to make some decisions about thread. If you use a thread that matches your main fabric, it won’t stand out as much. Using a contrasting thread you’ll see your stitching lines more easily. This is all personal preference. For this particular project, I chose a matching thread.
- I prefer to wear quilting gloves when I do any quilting work that involves a lot of time. I have found that it eases muscle tension in my shoulders and neck since I’m not working as hard to pull and push my fabric. Again, gloves are optional though.
- Quilt all the lines that you drew on your fabric pieces. Don’t forget to quilt the EXTERIOR bag bottom as well.
Once you have finished quilting, It’s time to sew up the other side of your main exterior bag.
- Take your bag exterior piece and fold RST (right sides together).
- Using your 1/4″ or 1/2″ seam allowance, stitch the remaining side of your bag together. Backstitch at the beginning and end of each line of stitching.
- Turn your bag RSO (right side out) and topstitch this side seam if you chose to topstitch the other side. This part can be tricky so just take it slow.
Now it’s time to attach your bag EXTERIOR bottom to the bag exterior sides you just finished. Again, this part requires so easing so just take it slow.
- Grab your pins or clips. I prefer clips as I have found that when I try to use pins that I seem to get poked a lot more. If you don’t want to purchase expensive sewing clips, mini binder clips work great as a substitute.
- Make sure for this part that your bag exterior is facing with the right side facing in. When you clip the bottom to the sides, you want the RST (right sides together). So the fusible foam sides of your bag should be facing you.
- I begin by finding the (4) centers along my bag bottom edge, and clip this first. Then I Slowly begin to clip and EASE the bottom to the bag sides. Clipping or pinning along the way around.
- Once you have finished clipping or pinning, you’ll sew the bag bottom to the sides using the seam allowance you have been using thus far (1/4″ OR 1/2″).
After you have finished attaching your bag bottom, turn your bag so it’s RSO (right sides facing out). Run your finger along the seem around the base of your bag to make sure there isn’t any holes or areas that seem weak. Now is the time to be able to easily fix this. Once you insert and attach your bag liner, it will be very difficult.
- If you have no holes or areas of concern, set your completed bag EXTERIOR off to the side.
Now you’ll begin constructing your bag INTERIOR using the steps you just did to complete the exterior. You don’t need to quilt the interior of your bag, unless you really want to.
- Sew the 12.5″ side seam of your bag interior.
- You can topstitch these seams as well (optional).
- Attach interior bag bottom to interior sides.
- Once you have completed assembly of the bag liner, set off to the side for later.
Grab your bag EXTERIOR and lets figure out where to place our handles.
- This part is really personal preference. Just make sure when you are marking your bag for handle placement, that you leave enough room along the top of your bag to attach the binding.
- Using your ruler and chalk pencil, place marks where you’d like your handles to go.
- Once you have marked your bag for handle placement, set the EXTERIOR of your bag off to the side for later.
- It’s time to construct the handles so we can stitch them on.
- NOTE: If you are using a cotton webbing like I did, you need to decide if you want the stitching lines on your handles to be visible or not. I choose to hide these as much as possible by using a matching thread. So if you want to hide them, change your thread and bobbin thread now.
- First thing to do when you begin making bag handles using just cotton webbing, is to fold the end of each strap down and stitch. This will hide the raw edge.
- Repeat for the remaining strap ends.
- NOTE: This step is also optional, but I really prefer the finished look and feel of a rolled handle. But if you prefer, you can skip this step.
- Begin by folding each of your straps in half and finding the center. Mark with a pin or pencil mark.
- Once you have identified the center of each strap, determine how long you want the roll on each handle to be. For my straps, I measured 5″ from the center pin on each side. The total “roll” of my handle will be 10.” This will leave me enough room to attach my handle easily as well. Again, the amount of roll you want to your handle is up to you.
- Clip or pin your handle, then sew using 1/4″ through both layers of webbing. This is a lot of bulk so go sew. It may help to use a denim needle if you find your machine has difficulty with layers. I have found that cotton webbing is far easier to sew through then most other webbing material.
- Make sure you backstitch at the beginning and end of these lines of stitching- THIS IS IMPORTANT! Your handle is going to get a lot of wear and tear so you want to be sure it is properly stitched. I actually sew over the same line of stitching multiple times, just to be sure its really secure, especially if you are going to wash this bag.
- Repeat for other bag handle.
Attaching the bag handles to the bag EXTERIOR.
- Using the mark you created earlier, Place you bag handles onto the bag exterior and pin in place. I prefer pins for this part just to make sure the handles don’t shift at all when sewing them on.
- NOTE: Be sure that your bag handles aren’t twisted. Make sure that raw edge you turned under on your handle are laying up against your bag exterior-you don’t want to see this. Again, change your thread if you don’t want to see it. This is your last chance to do that.
- Stitch into place. Backstitch at the beginning and end of each line of stitching. I always try to go over the same lines of stitching I already did. Keeps it nice and clean looking.
- Repeat for all (4) handle ends.
Now it’s time to insert our bag liner into our bag exterior.
- This is called a “drop-in” liner. You’re literally going to take the liner and drop it into the bag WST (wrong sides together). So the exterior of your bag stays pretty side out, and the liners wrong side is going to stay facing the wrong side of your bag exterior when dropped into place.
- Begin by clipping or pinning the side seams together. Then working around the top of your bag, ease the raw top edges together all the way around.
- By now your bag should start looking more like a bag. Yay!
- Now we’re going to attach the liner to the bag exterior using a basting stitch. This just means that you’re going to lengthen your stitch to a 4.5 or 5 and NOT backstitch. Consider basting a temporary stitch to hold this in place. At the end of bag construction, you can easily snip, and pull the thread out.
- BASTE STITCH the entire way around the top of your bag.
Attaching the binding. You’re almost done.
- This part can be a bit tricky. If you are a quilter and you’re familiar with attaching quilt binding, this step will be a cinch.
- Grab the binding strip you created earlier. You’re also going to need clips or pins for this step, and some patience.
- Beginning at one of your side seams, match the raw edge of your binding strip, to the raw edge of your bags top. You’ll want to begin clipping or pining with leaving yourself a 8-9″ tail before your pinned area. You’ll see why in a minute.
- Pin your binding strip to the top of your bag all the way around, stopping at the other side about 8-10″ AWAY from the other pinned side. You’re creating a “GAP” in the binding attachment.
Return your stitch length back to standard setting for your make and model of sewing machine. Do it now so you don’t forget!
- Make sure that your machine is returned back to the normal stitch length after you have basted. Normal stitch length is 2.5 to 3.5 depending on the make and model of your machine.
- Sew around the top edge of your bag to attach the the binding. When you are finished, you should have a gap like the one pictured above.
- Next, carefully open up the two ends of your binding strips. Now for the tricky part.
- Making sure the strips aren’t twisted. Lay the two open end of binding strip RST (right sides together).
- Pinch the strips together so they would lay nice and flat if sewn together. They should lay flat against the exterior of the bag, slightly tight and not have a bunch of excess fabric or bulging.
- Pin through both layers of the strap to hold them together where you’ll want to stretch them.
- Continue to lay the strips flat, RST, and pin along the entire binding strip. Make sure the pins don’t shift.
- Sew a straight line from the top to the bottom of the binding strip.
Before you trim the excess fabric from the binding strip…
- Ok, so you have just finished sewing the binding strip together. DO NOT CUT the excess fabric from the strip until you have checked to make sure that 1.) the strips lays flat against the bag. 2.) the binding isn’t twisted. 3.) there isn’t a lot of excess fabric.
- Once you have doubled check that everything is as it should be, trim away the excess fabric from the binding. Trim about 1/2″ away from your line of stitching.
- Finger press that seam open.
- After you have finger pressed your seam open, fold the binding strip back into place. Raw edges should be meeting at the top.
- So now you can take it back to your sewing machine and finish that line of stitching. Begins sewing right over the top of your last line and overlap a bit as to make sure it won’t come undone. Backstitch at the beginning and end.
Time to stitch in the ditch.
- We are officially on the last step to complete this adorable bag.
- Ok, so now take that binding strip that you just finished attaching to your bag, and flip it up, over the top raw edge, and towards the center of your bag.
- Fold it up and over then clip or pin it into place around the entire top edge of your bag.
- You’re going to stitch in that seam that you created between the bag exterior and the binding. This is called stitching in the ditch. If you are slow and careful, that stitching line should be hidden within that seam and you won’t see it. It will catch the binding on the inside of your bag as well. It’s totally genius.
Congratulations! You have just finished your tote bag.
What are your favorite things to sew? I love sewing just about anything, but tote bag are probably one of my favorites because of their versatility.
Shop for items I used to create this bag. I will only ever recommend items that I use and love.
Juki Sewing Machine (heavy duty sewing machine): https://amzn.to/2GCqzIn
Havel Mini Scissors for thread trimming: https://amzn.to/2I5fNwP
Olfa Cutting Mat: https://amzn.to/2MWF8b9
Rotary Cutter: https://amzn.to/2BvYlM8
Fiskar Scissors: https://amzn.to/2MXFcHu
Cordless Iron: https://amzn.to/2GAY8KY
Applique Pressing Sheet: https://amzn.to/2DverWw
Olipfa Lip Edge Ruler: https://amzn.to/2WV9zTr
Quilting Gloves: https://amzn.to/2Vn8rcx
Erasable Chalk pencil: https://amzn.to/3cxRNwy
Height adjustable sewing tables: https://amzn.to/2GEZ3dD
Pin Cushion: https://amzn.to/2Ez8VD2
Clover Quick Clips: https://amzn.to/2EEDXtf
Pellon Fusible Foam: https://amzn.to/2SJWo4w
Pin in for later:
Video Tutorial. Sew along with me!