Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Make A Bag Chapter 6: Lined Flat Tote

Welcome back to our Make A Bag series, friends!

In the next few posts we will be reconstructing the six different categories of bags and translating them from schematic diagrams into fabric. We're beginning with the most straightforward bag structure - the Lined Flat Tote. I say this is the most straightforward (even though it requires a lining and thus a little more time to assemble) because there is no need to finish any of the seams. 

If you remember, all our bags have this volume/capacity,

which, for a Flat Tote, translates to these finished dimensions,

and which, as a pattern (with no seam allowances), can take these layouts:

Which layout we pick depends on several factors. Here are three to consider:
  1. Convenience - The folded layouts require bigger pieces of fabric than the layout of the two separate pieces. Bigger pieces are faster to cut out but smaller pieces are more viable if you are working with remnants.
  2. Seams - a fold (uncut fabric) is generally stronger than a seam (cut fabric). However, sometimes we deliberately pick seams over folds for design, fancy seam finishing, piping, the incorporation of in-seam pockets, and so on.
  3. Print - pieces of fabric that are separate allow more control over print distribution. The third layout, for instance, will not work for unidirectional print because it will end up upside down on one face of the bag. 
We are going to work with that last layout - in which the bag is cut out as a single piece of fabric folded along its bottom edge - in actual fabric with seam allowances.

In the photo below, the orange lines represent the actual stitching lines, surrounded by a border of seam allowance. Labeled on the diagram are the parts of the bag that the different sections of the fabric will become.

We can use any straps with this bag but for this example, we're making folded open-ended straps 

and stitching them to the outer fabric layer.

This is usually how externally-attached straps are sewn to the bag fabric (RS), before the bag seams are done. 

Then the bag is folded along its bottom edge (red arrow), RS together, and the side seams sewn (black arrows).

A second bag is made out of lining fabric, identical to the outer bag, but without straps. The seam allowances of the top edges of both bags are folded and pressed to the WS,

the lining bag inserted into the outer bag so that their WS are together (concealing all the unfinished seam allowances) and the two layers edgestitched together at that top edge.

This is the completed bag - outer face out

and lining face out. Note that because the straps are attached to the outer face of the bag, this is not a truly reversible bag; it is simply a lined bag.

Here are some other bags that have the Lined Flat Tote structure:

a convertible grocery tote 

a pinch-frame eyeglass case

and a flat zippered pouch -


  1. Great pictures and tute. I wish I wasn't so struck down by the heat here and did some sewing. I have an air conditioner for my sewing room but lent it to a g/daughter 2 years ago!!!!

  2. thanks to you, i can now make a bag.

  3. I am really enjoying your class! I am enjoying making my own bags, figuring out how you constructed yours, and enjoy classifying them too, oddly enough. :-)

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your bag tutorial. Great work (as all of your blog)! I'm really enjoying it a lot. May I ask why you don't finish SAs? Don't they fray?

    1. I don't finish SAs when they will be enclosed within a lining. They will thus not be exposed to wear and tear or washing, and will not fray underneath the lining.

  5. Well, two bags down and mine still look quite awful. It is difficult for me to edge stitch the two bags together while getting them to line up exactly. Plus, my straps sewn on are not aligned either. Practice, practice, practice. Any tips on getting the straps to not shift while sewing so they don't end up with excess in the fold area?

  6. So much useful information- thank you! Whenever I sew a strap on the outside fabric, during use, it pulls that fabric up, while the contents inside my purse pull the lining fabric down. Thus, creating a weird bunching effect towards the outside top seam when the two fabrics separate from being pulled in opposite directions. What would you suggest to combat that problem?

  7. Many thanks and much appreciation for your wonderful and easy to follow instructions!!

  8. Hello LiEr,
    May I ask what the finished width of the straps is? I'm giving a friend sewing lessons, and we are working up to making a bag. Should be fun!

    1. Sarah: it depends on how big your bag is. This sample bag was 6" x 6" so the straps were about 1/2" wide. For a regular (i.e. non-mini) bag, I'd suggest 1" to 1 1/4", which are a comfortable width to hold in your hand.


Thank you for talking to me! If you have a question, I might reply to it here in the comments or in an email.