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How To: Make a Tote Bag

Let's face it - our British summertime hasn't had the greatest weather so far! We have had a few lovely warm days full of sunshine over the Calico Laine buildings, but we have had plenty of rain and thunderstorms to go with it as well. I am off on my summer holidays soon, and in preparation for my long, lazy days at the beach, I have been making a few tote bags to carry all the items I will need to take with me. If you would like to find out how to make a tote bag of your very own, then keep on reading!

What you'll need:
- 1 metre of fabric for the outside of the bag (our floral cotton prints are great for this)
- 1 metre of dress lining for the inside of the bag (you could use a print or a complimentary colour)
- A reel of thread (Our Moon threads or Gutermann Sew-All threads will do the trick)
- A pair of bag handles
- Optional items for embellishing (e.g. buttons, acrylic jewels, embroidery thread, bias binding and trims, fabric paint/markers etc.)
- A pack of dressmaking pins
- A pair of fabric scissors (I recommend scissors from our Fiskars range)

Step 1
Firstly, you need to make a decision on how big you would like your bag to be. I made mine at a size of 40cm x 40cm, so those are the measurements I will be using during this tutorial (you can always change them for your own measurements if you would like a larger or smaller tote bag). Lay your outer bag fabric down on a flat surface, and lay your dress lining down flat on top of it. Smooth out any creases (give it a good ironing if need be!), fold it in half, then measure and mark out a square that is about 45cm x 45cm - this is to allow for 1 inch seams. Use pins to hold the fabrics in place while you measure your square out.

Step 2
Using your markings, cut out the square that you just measured. You should now have four square pieces - two in your outer fabric, and two in your dress lining. Pin your two squares in your outer fabric together with their right sides facing each other, and sew around three of the sides with 1 inch of seam allowance. Repeat this with your dress lining pieces. Turn the piece made of your outer fabric right side out. Place your dress lining piece (which should still be inside out) inside your outer fabric piece.

OPTIONAL: If you wish to embellish the outside of your bag, we recommend doing this during Step 2 of our tutorial before you insert the dress lining piece into your outer piece. You can use many kinds of craft items to decorate your bag, such as buttons and acrylic jewels, trims and embroidery thread, or even fabric paint and markers if you are feeling really artistic.

Step 3
Using your remaining outer fabric, cut a strip about 10cm wide. Fold it in half with right sides together and sew it, then turn it right side out so that you are left with a neat strip. Cut this piece into four equal lengths. These pieces will be what you use to attach your bag handles to your bag.

Step 4
Fold the un-sewn sides of your outer fabric and lining fabric inwards so that you make a neat edge, and pin in place. Iron along this edge to help create a neat finish. Estimate where you would like your bag handles to sit, then take one of the small strips you made in Step 3. Slip one end into the middle of the outer fabric and lining fabric, then loop it around your bag handle and slip the other end into the same place as the first end. Do this with all four small strips (two for each bag handle). Pin into place.

Step 5
Top stitch around the top side of your bag, closing this edge neatly. Ensure that your stitch runs over the strips of fabric holding your bag handles in place. Your tote bag is now finished!

If you decide to have a go at our tote bag tutorial be sure to share photos of your creations on our Facebook page - we love to see what our customers come up with!