Quilting the Perfect Tote Bag

The hardest part about buying a tote bag to carry around all of your essentials is finding the right fit. We’ve all faced that frustrating choice between comfort, style and size.

What if instead you could make your very own bag, perfect, just for you? This is a very basic but fun tote design, by Westalee Design Accredited Teacher, Janet Collins, that has pockets to hold your phone, pens or other bits and pieces. You can get this pattern FREE with the purchase of the Artisan 85 Template Design from our product store (be sure to select the 85 template to get the correct pattern!).


The Cutting Part

Cut one 4″ wide strip of colored fabric for the handle.
Cut one 1 1/4″ x 40″ piece of batting.


Front of the bag
Cut two 10″ squares of your colored fabric.
Cut both squares diagonally to create four equal triangles.
Cut one 10″ square of white fabric.
Cut one 18″ square of batting.


Back of the bag.
Cut one 16″ square of colored fabric.
Cut one 16″ square of batting.


Cut on piece of 15″ x 15 1/2″ of a multicolored fabric (or one of your choice)


The Quilting Part

Step 1:

Lay the 10″ square of white fabric diagonally on top of the batting square and lightly spray with adhesive.

Step 2:

Quilt your favorite pattern or design onto the white square. We like using high contrast thread to make the design pop. The design on Janet’s bag was created using this template pattern.

Step 3:

Sew two of the colored triangles on opposite sides of the white square and press outwards. Repeat with the other two colored triangles to create a colored square with a white center. Then trim the block to the correct size of 15″ across and 15 1/2″ high.

Step 4:

Quilt a simple pattern onto the colored triangles of the front of your bag. In Janet’s example she created a series of interlacing lines using the 12″ Arc Ruler as a straight edge.

Step 5:

Quilt the back of the bag using a similar pattern to the front  and starting at the middle of the quilt. Then trim the back block to be the same 15″ across and 15 1/2″ high as the front block.

Step 6:

Place the front and back together with the two outside faces together. Pin the blocks together and sew with a 1/2″ seam allowance.

Step 7:

To box the bottom of the bag, flatten the bottom corners with the side seam of the bag centered. Mark a line 1″ from the corner, pin and stitch across the line. Press towards the corner of the bag and trim the excess fabric.

Once both corners are done, be sure to turn the bag right side out to ensure that it sits nicely.


Step 8:

To create pockets in the lining, Janet used pieces of our colored fabric left over from the initial cutting. Take the desired length of fabric and fold the right sides together. Stitch with a 1/4″ seam allowance, turn through to the right side and top stitch the top edge to the right side of the liner.


Step 9:

Mark where you would like to stitch the channels for the pockets. Be sure to check that the size is okay for your phone or other personal items.

Once you have the sizes of your pockets correct mark the lines and stitch making sure to secure the top and bottom edged of each pocket with back stitching. Finally, stitch along the bottom edge of the pockets to close them.

Step 10:

To add a top edge to your bag, fold the right sides of the lining fabric together and sew around the two sides and bottom. Back stitch the top of the two edges and box the bottom corners as we did in Step 7. Press the seams open and turn over the top 1/2″ of the raw edge before pressing flat.

Step 11:

Place the lining inside the outer part of the bad with the wrong sides together. Adjust the two pieces so they sit flat and the seams meet. Pin in place and then fold the top of the lining to cover the raw edges of our bag pinning in place as well.

Step 12:

Create a handle for your bag by placing the handle fabric face down and folding both edges over 1/2″. Lay batting on top of the wrong side of the fabric, tucking it under one of the folded edges. You will have extra fabric on either end of the batting to help you adjust the length of the strap to your liking. Fold over the opposite side to create a 1 1/2″ strip, press firmly and pin in place. Top stitch the strap on both sides of the handle.

Step 13:

To attach the handle to the bag, adjust the handle to whatever angle feels comfortable for the bag to hang. Pin in place and trim any excess from the handle until it fits the angle. You should have already folded the top lining over to enclose the raw edges of the bag so begin top stitching the bottom edge first. Pull the handle out above the bag and run another line of top stitching along the top edge of the bag, stitching through the handle.

Congratulations! You now have a one of a kind, personalized tote bag. For more information about the materials Janet Collins used in this pattern or for the quilting design template the list is below. Be sure to share your creativity with us by taking a picture of your newly made tote and tagging us in a post on Instagram (@sewsteadytables) or Facebook (Sew Steady).

The Materials

55cm Purple Fabric
10″ Square White Fabric
45cm (18″) Multicolored fabric for the lining
50cm (20″) x 100cm (40″) batting
1 x 18″ Square fusible webbing
Thread for quilting. We suggest 40 or 50 weight thread that is 1-2 shades darker than the top fabric.


To add a little spice to the front design of your tote like the example shown we used the following Westalee Design Templates:

Westalee Design Ruler Foot

Westalee Design Artisan Curves Curved Marquise 85 – 2″ x 3″

Westalee Design 2″ Simple Circle from the Sampler Set

Westalee Design 12″ Arc Ruler

Westalee Design Crosshair Ruler

Westalee Design Circles on Quilts – Set 2 – (4.5″ Circle)

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