How to Make an Oversized Tote Bag

Item # X-HT-300019

Pack up your towels, snacks, sunscreen and all your other weekend boating essentials in an extra-large tote bag you sewed yourself! This bag is fun, easy to make and is handy to have around when bringing gear to and from your boat. It's also great for sports games, picnics and as a reusable grocery bag. We’re going to show you how to make one for yourself!

Oversized tote bag filled with towels for a day at the lake.

For our bag we used Fairfield’s Oly*Fun™ Multi-Purpose Fabric. This fabric is a lightweight polypropylene material that is similar to the material used for reusable grocery bags. Instead of Oly*Fun, you could use a fabric from our "Bag Fabric" section of our website. At the menu, find the "Hobby Fabric" section and click on "Bag Fabric." Nylon or Cordura® make for great bags as they're easy to clean and abrasion resistant. You'll need 2 yards of fabric to make the tote bag.

We wanted to make a functional bag using only one craft pack of Oly*Fun and we came up with this design, and kept things pretty simple. The bag features a zippered top and one large interior pocket. If you want a fancier design, you can use this bag as a starting point for getting more creative with customizations for your bag. For example, you could add a pocket to the inside or the outside or add color-contrasting straps. The possibilities are endless!

Tote Bag Materials:

    Tote Bag Materials.
  • 1 Craft Pack of Oly*Fun Fabric OR approximately 2 yards of bag fabric
  • #4.5 Continuous Coil Zipper #104385
  • #4.5 Coil Zipper Slider #104335
  • V-46 or Dual Duty XP Thread

How to Make an Oversized Tote Bag

1. Unroll your craft pack of fabric. For the main panels of your bag, cut two pieces that measure 20 inches (the full width) x 22 inches. We left our fabric folded in half here for ease of use, but you can unfold it completely if you prefer.

Cut out your bag's main panels.

2. Cut a piece of fabric that measures 7 x 64 inches (which should be all the length that’s left of the Oly*Fun). This is your bag’s boxing.

Cut out the bag's boxing.

3. Then cut a piece of fabric measuring 4 inches x the remainder of the length for the straps. Then cut that piece in half lengthwise.

Cut out your strap pieces.

4. On the long side of the main bag panels, fold down 2 inches and pin in place to make a 20 x 20-inch square.

Fold down and pin along the long sides.

5. Take the strap pieces and fold them in thirds widthwise. Pin in place.

Fold strap pieces in thirds.

6. Take the strap pieces to the sewing machine and sew down each long edge of the straps about one presser foot’s width away from the edge.

Sew the strap pieces.

7. Sew two rows of stitches along the top fold of your main bag pieces.

Sewing around the top of the bag.

8. Measure 4 inches in from either side of the bag tops (the side you just sewed) and pin your straps in place.

Measuring for the strap placement.

9. Sew the straps down using a box stitch. You can make an “X” in your box or just diagonal.

Sewing the straps with a box stitch.

10. To create a zipper stop, cut a scrap piece of fabric about 2 x 5 inches. Fold it in half and then in half again, sandwiching the zipper in the center. Pin in place on the end of the zipper. Sew the stop in place by stitching along the open edge, across the width of the zipper.

Making a zipper stop.

11. Pin the zipper to the wrong sides of the bag panels, leaving about 4 inches of the zipper (the end with the stop) hanging off one end of the bag. We only left 2 inches of the zipper in our photo, but 4 inches would have worked better.

Pin the zipper in place on the inside of the bag.

12. Install your zipper slider and cut the open end of the zipper so it’s even with the end of your bag.

Install zipper slider and trim off extra zipper.

13. Place a pin 1 inch in from the side of your bag that has the open zipper. Fold half of the zipper back at that point on the bag. Repeat this process on the opposite side of the bag.

Folding the zipper back one half at a time.

14. Once you have everything pinned in place, use a zipper foot on your sewing machine to sew the zipper to the top of your bag. Sew right next to the zipper teeth on each side of the bag. Stop sewing 1 inch from the closed end of the zipper. Sew a second row of stitches next to the first to reinforce the top. Be sure to keep your handles out of the way when sewing the zipper!

Sewing the zipper to the top of the bag.

15. Find the center of the bottom of your bag on each side as well as the center of your boxing piece.

Bottom of the bag and boxing with the centers marked.

16. Match up the center points and pin the boxing in place around the bag. Clip a relief notch in the corners of the boxing if necessary to smoothly make the turn. Leave the excess at the top as is for now.

Pin the boxing in place.

17. Fold down the excess at the top of the boxing so it lines up with the top of the bag. Stitch it in place with two rows of stitching to match the rest of the bag top.

Fold down the excess boxing and stitch so it matches the top of the bag.

18. Stitch around the three sides of the bag to attach the boxing.

Sewing the boxing in place.

19. Unzip the bag and turn it right side out.

Turning the bag right side out.

20. Flatten out the inside seam and pin it flat in place. Then sew around the row of stitches on top of the flat seam. When you reach the bottom corners of the bag, stop 1/2 inch away and backstitch. Turn the corner and start sewing a new seam 1/2 inch away from the corner.

Top stitching.

21. Optional last step: We didn’t like the way our zipper stop looked, so we trimmed the excess width of the fabric and added another half circle of stitches for a cleaner look.

Our finished zipper stop with an extra half circle of stitches for decoration.

Now all that’s left to do is fill your bag up with goodies and head out for the weekend!