Earth Day Tote Bag

  • Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
Earth Day Tote Bag

In honor of Earth Day this April 22nd, I wanted to create a re-useable grocery bag that had some flair and practicality wrapped up in one tote.

I have several re-useable bags from my local grocery store, but I’d like to start making some of my own from more natural materials. And I thought it would be convenient to create something I could use for those quick trips to the store where I pick up just for a few items. The tote needed to be sturdy and I wanted it to have pockets to keep necessities at my fingertips so that I could avoid the need to bring along my purse.

Final bag measures: 14 inches long x 12 inches tall x 4 inches wide


1. Start with the Rotary Cutter and cut 1 - 32 inch x 16 inch piece of green cotton duck cloth.
2. Also cut 1 - 32 inch x 16 inch piece of dot patterned fabric.
3. For both pieces, fold down .5 inch along the lengths of both sides of each piece and press with an iron. Be sure that you maintain the same width (15 inches) for both pieces.

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4. Now lay out the dot piece of fabric (right side down) and lay the green duck cloth on top (right side up). Be sure the corners meet and edges are lined up.
5. Find the center of the length (at the 16 inch mark) and pin in place. Stitch across the 15 inch width along the center line to join the two fabrics together.

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6. Mark 2 more 1 inch marks on either side of the center line and machine stitch along the 15 inch width for these as well. This will create a 4 inch x 15 inch area that will be the bottom of the bag. The stitching will provide additional reinforcement.
7. Create the pockets inside the bag by first cutting 2 - 6 inch by 17 inch pieces of brown duck cloth. Then, fold down .5 inch along the bottom length of each piece and press with an iron. The top edge of my fabric had a finished edge so I left it as it was.
8. Separate the dot cloth from the green on one side by folding the green fabric back. Place the brown cloth across the width of the dot fabric and pin it 4 inches above the stitching indicating the bottom of the bag. Be sure to only pin the pocket material to the dot fabric. Fold the excess brown ends behind the dot fabric and stitch across the bottom only. Do this for both pieces.

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9. Mark lines to create different pocket widths and machine stitch from top to bottom on the pockets. This will create spaces for coupons, shopping lists, a calculator, a cell phone, or whatever else you might need with you.
Note: This is where I found the Sewing Multi-Tool especially helpful for the times I messed up my stitches. I simply used the seam ripper to pull the seams apart and tried again.
10. For the outside stripe on the front and back of the bag, cut 2 ñ 6 inch x 17 inch pieces of striped fabric. Fold down .5 along the lengths and press with an iron.
11. This time separate the green cloth from the dot by folding the dot back. Place the stripe fabric piece across the width of the green duck cloth 4 inches from the stitching indicating the bottom of the bag and pin in place. Fold the excess ends behind the green cloth and stitch along both the top and bottom of the fabric.
12. Now for the top edges of the bag. Fold down the top edge of the fabric 1; press with an iron; then fold down again 1 inch and press again. Do this to the ends of both pieces of fabric cut in Steps 1 and 2. Make sure that the two pieces of fabric line up and are the same length. Each piece should now measure 28 inches long.
Note: At this point, set aside this part of the project in order to create the tote straps.
13. From the brown duck cloth, cut 2 - 5 inch x 26 inch pieces. Fold along the length and machine stitch from end to end. Press the seam open and flat. Then use the safety pin from the Sewing Multi-Tool to turn the tube inside out. Pin the safety pin to the edge of one end and the feed it through the center of the tube. Work it through to the end and pull to invert the tube. Then flatten the tube with the seam in the center and press flat with an iron. Finally, stitch both edges along the length to keep them flat and maintain a finished look.

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14. To add the straps to the bag, position each strap end between the outer fabric and the liner at the top edges of the bag. I positioned each strap end 2 inches from the top edge of the bag and 2 inches from the edge. I used the 1 inch by 6 inch acrylic ruler to help measure. Position the straps so that the seam is facing in and down when the straps are placed on your shoulder. Once the two ends of a strap are secured machine stitch across the top edge of the bag to creating two rows of stitching. Repeat this for the other strap and other side of the bag.

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15. For added support, I stitched boxes crossed in the center where each strap end was positioned.

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16. Now for the side panels. Cut 2 - 6 inch wide by 15 inch pieces of brown duck cloth. Fold down .5 inch along lengths of each piece and press. Then fold down .5 inch from bottom and press. Finally, fold down 1 inch along the top of the fabric; press with an iron; then fold down again 1 inch and press again.
17. Repeat Step 16 with the dot fabric. Line up the one dot with a brown piece to create each panel. Machine stitch across the top twice.
18. To attach the panels start by pinning one side edge of the panel first. Position the pieces so that the dot pattern is facing out as you pin. Cut out a small square from the bottom corner of the panel. Machine stitch the one side all the way to the bottom.

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19. Next, line up the bottom of the panel with the bottom of the bag and pin. Cutting out the notch will help position the fabric more easily. Machine stitch across the bottom.
20. Then, line up the other edge of the panel to the other side of the bag and pin. Stitch that side from top to bottom.

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21. Repeat Steps 18 - 20 for the other side panel of the bag.
22. Turn the bag right side out and press edges.
23. Using the Circle Shape Template, trace circles from the fabric for this project; trim with Scallop and Pinking Shears. Layer the circles and attach buttons in the center with embroidery thread. Use the embroidery thread to also attach the flowers to the bag.

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The bag is now complete and ready to use. It’s roomy, sturdy, cute and allows you to keep the essentials close at hand within the pockets inside the tote. I hope you’ll give this project a try and go green whenever you can!
Try a quicker version of this bag by skipping the liner, pockets and decoration. I plan on doing this so that I can have multiple bags for larger shopping trips.

Supply List

.5 yard dot fabric

.25 yard stripe fabric

.5 yard green cotton duck cloth (canvas)

.5 yard brown cotton duck cloth


brown embroidery thread

Tip: To make this project even greener, try using organic cotton fabrics.