Church Tote Tutorial

I’ve been working on this tutorial for a bag to take to church. I like having everything together in one spot, and I really didn’t care for the bags that I had to carry my Bible on it’s side. So I made this one with a wide enough bottom that my Bible can lay flat. Perfect! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

First, choose 2 coordinating fabrics. The outer fabric should be more sturdy, like duck cloth. The inner liner can be thinner, like cotton fabric. You will also need a medium/heavy weight interfacing. The heavier, the stiffer the sides of your tote will be.  I like the fusible kind because it saves a step of stitching the interfacing to the fabric. Cut your outer fabric, inner lining, and interfacing to 14″ (ON THE FOLD) X 19″. On the folded side, cut out the corners from each end, 3 1/2″ in from the edge, by 3″ in from the fold.

Cut straps. One from outer fabric and 1 from inner lining fabric (or both from outer fabric if you prefer) 3″ X 45″. 20170915_180330

Iron your interfacing to the wrong side of your outer fabric. If you are going to apply an applique or do any embroidery on the front of your bag, do that step now.  Remember, the center of the finished bag will be between the top of the corner cutout and the top edge of the fabric.  I apply my appliques with Heat and Bond first, then stitch around the edges.

After applying your applique, stitch the sides of the outer fabric, right sides together. I use 1/2 inch seam allowances..20170916_093419Next, press open the side seams, open the bottom of the bag and fold the right sides together, against the bottom to form the bottom corner. See pic below. Pin together then stitch. Repeat to other side.

Your outer part of the bag should now look something like this…20170916_094416.jpgNow repeat the same sewing steps to the inner lining.

Next comes straps. Fold each strap in half, lengthwise and press with iron to form a center crease.

20170927_104027Open and fold each side in to crease line. You can do both sides at once, or one at a time, whichever is easier for you. Do this for both straps.

Lay one strap on top of the other with folded part in the middle. Pin edges together. Stitch along the sides close to the edge of each.

Fold the sewn strap in half and cut. You now have 2 identical straps. Measure 5 inches in from each side seam on right side of outer fabric and pin straps with like fabrics together. Edges of straps should extend slightly past edge of fabric with straps going toward the bottom. You can stitch these now, close to the edge, by themselves, or just stitch them in with the next step as I do.

With outer shell inside out, place lining fabric outside it with right sides together. So basically, they are both inside out, with one inside the other. Handles should be down between the two layers of fabric. Pin top edges together.


Stitch around top edge, be sure to back-stitch over the straps for extra strength. Do not stitch in between the straps on one side. This leaves an open area to turn your tote.


Reach inside the space you didn’t stitch, along the top edge and start to pull through your bag. This takes a little work and it looks like you have just a wad of fabric at first, but just keep at it!


Once you have everything pulled through, stuff the liner on the inside and smooth it out. Press with iron to get the wrinkles out, and to get a crisp edge at the top.


Stitch around the top of the bag, being sure to catch the fabric that is folded and pressed in where you didn’t sew between the handles on one side. Also, be sure that handles are up when you stitch.


This next step is optional, but I like having a hard bottom on my tote for stability.  Measure the bottom of the bag and cut a stiff piece of cardboard or foam core board to the size of the bottom.

Cut a piece from the same fabric you used on the lining that is twice as wide, plus 1 inch, and about 2 1/2 inches longer than the cardboard you just cut.


Sew the long edges together, then center that seam on the top of your piece and press seam open with iron. With that seam still centered, stitch one end closed.  Turn down the other end and stitch around the top edge. Then turn right side out. You’ve just made a cover for your bottom piece.

20170927_153727Just slide your cardboard in this sleeve and fold under the open edge. Place flat in the bottom of your bag.20170927_154420TaDa! You’ve made a Church tote! You can always expand your design from here. Add pockets or fabrics…..Customize it! Make it your own! 20170928_220347Enjoy!


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