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How to stitch a bag: Sew a bag in 5 easy steps

New to sewing and just getting started? Then this is a fantastic first project. You need just a few supplies and with the help of this handy guide, you will learn how to create your bag that will leave feeling accomplished.

In this comprehensive article, we will take you through the entire bag stitching process, from choosing the right materials and tools to mastering different stitching techniques. Get ready to unleash your inner fashion designer and create bags that will not only be functional but also a true expression of your creativity and individuality.

Tools and Materials Needed to stitch a bag:

Let’s talk about essential tools and materials you’ll need to get started. Having the right tools and materials is important for a good finish.

Sewing Machine: You can make hand sewn bags, but for this project you need a sewing machine. Make sure you thread it correctly and check the tension on a piece of scrap fabric before you start.

Fabric: Choosing the right fabric is crucial for the success of your bag stitching project. Choose fabrics that are sturdy and durable, such as canvas, denim, or upholstery fabrics if you want to make a stury tote bag. Choose soft cotton if you want a foldable tote bag.

Thread: High-quality thread is essential for strong and durable seams. Choose a thread that matches the color of your fabric. Also make sure it is suitable for the weight of the fabric.
Needles: Different types of needles are designed for different fabrics and stitches. Make sure you have the correct needle for the fabric you have chosen. Ask the fabric shop for advice if you are unsure or check your sewing machine manual.
Cutting Tools: A good pair of sharp fabric scissors is a must-have for precise cutting. Or you can use a rotary cutter and a cutting mat.

Measuring Tools: A measuring tape and a ruler will help you accurately measure and mark your fabric before cutting and stitching.

Pins and Clips: Pins and clips are essential for holding fabric pieces together during the stitching process.

Iron and Ironing Board: Pressing your fabric and seams is crucial for achieving professional-looking results. Make sure you have a reliable iron and an ironing board to press your fabric as you go.

Interfacing and Stabilizers: These materials are used to add structure and stability to your bags. Interfacing is often used for bag linings, while stabilizers are used to reinforce handles and other areas that need extra support.

stitch a bag | tote bag supplies | sew a tote bag

Now that you have a clear understanding of the essential tools and materials, let’s move on to choosing the right fabric for your bag.

Choosing the right fabric:

When sewing a tote bag, choosing the right fabric is crucial. The fabric you choose should not only match your personal style but also be suitable for the intended purpose of the bag.

Durability: Bags are prone to regular wear and tear. Look for sturdy and durable textiles like canvas, denim, and upholstery. These textiles are less likely to tear or show signs of wear with repeated use.

Weight and Thickness: Light weight fabrics, such as cotton or linen, are ideal for foldable bags. For larger tote bags, choose thicker fabrics that can withstand the weight of their contents.

Pattern and Print: The fabric pattern or print can add a unique touch to your bag. Consider your personal style and the occasion for which you’ll be using the bag. If you prefer a classic and versatile look, opt for solid-colored fabrics.If you want to make a statement, choose materials with bold prints or patterns.

Texture: Texture can add visual interest and dimension to your bag. Consider fabrics with interesting textures like tweed, corduroy, or faux leather. However, be mindful of the texture’s effect on the overall functionality of the bag. Avoid fabrics that are too rough or textured, as they may be uncomfortable or catch on clothing.

Lining Fabric: Don’t forget to choose a lining fabric that complements the outer fabric of your bag. Look for lightweight fabrics like cotton or polyester for the lining. Consider using a contrasting color or pattern for the lining to add a pop of color or create an interesting visual contrast.

Fabric selection done, let’s look at the sewing techniques you’ll need to master.

Sewing Techniques needed:

There are some basic sewing techniques needed to create a sturdy & durable bag.


One of the most basic and commonly used stitches in bag stitching is the backstitch. This stitch creates a strong seam that can withstand the weight and stress of everyday use. To create a backstitch, start by taking a small stitch forward, then bring the needle back through the end of the previous stitch. Repeat this process for a secure and neat seam.

Box Stitch

The box stitch is ideal for reinforcing the corners and edges of bags. This stitch creates a box-like shape that adds strength and stability to your bags. To create a box stitch, start by stitching along one edge, then turn the corner and stitch along the adjacent edge. Repeat this process for each corner, creating a box-shaped stitch pattern.


The topstitch is not only functional but also adds a decorative element to your bags. This stitch is visible on the outside of the bag and is often used to secure seams and add a professional finish. To create a topstitch, sew along the edge of the fabric, keeping the stitching line parallel to the edge. Use a longer stitch length for a bold and noticeable topstitch

Mastering these basic stitches will give you a solid foundation for creating bags. As you gain more experience, you can explore and experiment with other stitches to add unique and intricate details to your designs.

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How to stitch a bag

In this section, we will walk you through the process of how to stitch a bag from scratch.

Gather Your Materials and Tools

Before you begin to stitch your bag, gather all the necessary materials and tools. You will need:

  • Fabric: Choose a sturdy fabric such as canvas or denim for durability.
  • Thread: Select a thread colour that complements your fabric.
  • Scissors: A good pair of fabric scissors will make cutting the fabric easier.
  • Pins: Use pins to hold the fabric in place during the stitching process.
  • Sewing Machine: You can hand stitching the bag. But using a sewing machine will save time.
  • Iron: An iron will help you press the fabric and create crisp seams.


  • Measure an existing bag or plan the bag and it’s measurements. Measurements you need will be its length, width and the length of the handles.
  • If you don’t have a bag to measure, here are some finished measurements for your bag (Length x Width):
  • Please add seam allowances to these measurements.

Large tote bag:

61 cm × 51 cm

Handle length: 50cm

Regular tote bag:

38 cm × 41 cm

Handle length: 45cm

Small tote bag:

32 cm × 38 cm

Handle length: 40cm

Cut and Prepare the Fabric

Measure and cut two identical rectangles of fabric for the main body of the bag. Remember to account for seam allowances when cutting the fabric.

Next, cut two additional strips of fabric for the handles.

Once you have cut the fabric, iron it to remove any wrinkles and create smooth surfaces for stitching.

Stitch the Bag Body

  • Place the two fabric rectangles together, right sides facing each other. Pin the edges to secure them in place. Using a backstitch or a sewing machine, stitch along the sides and bottom of the fabric rectangles, leaving the top open.
  • Trim any excess fabric and press the seams open for a clean finish.

Attach the Handles

  • Fold each handle strip in half lengthwise and press it with an iron. Then, unfold the strips and fold the raw edges towards the center crease. Press the strips again.
  • Position the handles on the inside of the bag, aligning their ends with the top edge. Pin them in place and stitch them securely using a box stitch.

Finishing the Bag

  • To finish the bag, fold the top edge of the fabric down by 1cm. Press it with an iron. Fold this ironed edge by another centimeter and press again. Stitch along the edge to create a clean and durable hem.
  • Trim any loose threads and give the bag a final press with the iron to ensure a polished look.

Congratulations! You have successfully created a basic tote bag. Feel free to customize it further by adding pockets, embellishments, or unique fabric combinations.

Personalizing Your Bag

Fabric Selection

Choose fabrics that represent your personal style and complement your wardrobe. Consider patterns, textures, and colors that resonate with your aesthetic. Don’t be afraid to mix and match fabrics to create unique combinations.


Add embellishments such as buttons, beads, or embroidery to create visual interest and make your bags stand out. These small details can transform a simple bag into a statement piece.

Appliques and Patches

Appliques and patches allow you to add decorative elements or showcase your favorite motifs or symbols. Cut out fabric shapes or use pre-made patches to personalize your bags.

Handles and Straps

Experiment with different handle styles and materials to change the overall look of your bag. Consider using leather or faux leather handles for a more sophisticated touch, or opt for colorful fabric straps for a fun and playful vibe.

Resources and Inspiration

It’s beneficial to have access to materials and look for inspiration from other crafters as you continue your sewing adventure. The following platforms and resources are suggested for your consideration:

Local Workshops and Classes

Check out your local craft stores or community centers for sewing workshops and classes. These hands-on experiences provide an opportunity to learn directly from experienced instructors and connect with local crafters.

Remember, learning is a continuous process, and seeking inspiration from others can fuel your creativity and help you grow as a bag stitching enthusiast.

We at isifiso, run sewing & mending workshops in South London. Come and spend an afternoon crafting with us.

Pattern Books and Magazines

Pattern books and sewing magazines provide a wealth of inspiration and patterns. They often include detailed instructions and templates to guide you through the creation process.

Online Communities and Forums

Joining online communities and forums allows you to connect with fellow sewists. These platforms provide a space to share ideas, ask questions, and showcase your creations. Look for groups on social media platforms or specialized crafting websites.

Next Steps

Congratulations on completing this comprehensive guide on how to sew a bag!

Remember to practice and experiment with different techniques, stitches, and designs to further refine your sewing abilities. Don’t be discouraged by minor setbacks or imperfections. They are all part of the learning process.

Continue to seek inspiration, explore new resources, and connect with other sewing enthusiasts.

Now that you have learnt how to sew bags, grab your sewing kit, choose your favourite fabric, and start to sew a bag. Stitching your way to a collection of beautiful and one-of-a-kind bags. Happy Sewing.

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