Sunday, February 10, 2013

Make A Bag Chapter 11: Bucket Tote

The Bucket Tote structure is probably my favorite bag category to make! My reasons are very silly and personal: I like circular bases, I like piping that I can attach to circular bases, I like circles and roundness in general, and bucket-style bags are squat and stable and fun to customize in weird shapes. Bucket totes do not have to be circular in cross-section; they can be rectangular or square or any other shape, really. Their distinguishing feature (from other categories of totes) is really that their body piece is a single one that's been sewn into a tube, which is then attached around its lower perimeter to the base (whatever shape that may be).

Here is the schematic diagram
translated to fabric:

There are many instructional tutorials on the internet on how to sew a straight edge (of the body) to a circular edge (of the base), so you can google them to find one you like. Usually, this involves pins and gathers and upside-down sewing (i.e. base-side-up). It's preference, but this is how I orientate my pieces when I am sewing body to base - I snip the SA of the lower edge of the body, match up quarter marks, don't use pins at all, and ease that lower edge around the circular base as I sew. It's a method that works well for me, even with piping.

So here is what the (circular) bucket looks like when its base has been sewn on (with piping). Without handle or straps, the lining would just be a simple second bucket inserted into the first and edge-stitched to it around their openings. 

But that would be boring. So today's bucket has integrated straps that loop into each other to make a handle. It was partially covered in the earlier chapter on integrated straps but I'll include it here again.

The lining is assembled, leaving a hole in a seam for turning the entire bag RS later. We cannot edgestitch the lining to the outer bag like we would if it were strapless. 

The two bags are nested one in the other, RS together, and stitched together along the edges of their straps. The entire bag is then turned RS out through the hole in the lining. The ends of the straps are left disconnected, as shown.

In addition, the stitching stops a few inches from the actual ends of the straps (blue arrows), to allow for some fabric contortion later.

The ends of the straps are then connected, layer by layer. First, the lining,

then the outer bag (or vice versa). The straps are then edge-stitched around their entire perimeter, closing those side openings in the process. 

This bag is completely reversible, except that our lining layer has no base piping.

Such a pretty pinwheel look to the opening!

Here are other Bucket Tote variations:

Simple fabric buckets with stitched art

and reverse applique;

drawstring pouches;

a cordstop cinch pouch

which is reversible

and has a rectangular base;

a fold up grocery tote;

a market basket

and another;

lunch buckets;

a trapezoidal tote;

a zippered cosmetic bag;

a convertible wallet-tote;

and a boxy handbag.


  1. I think your love of roundness is part of what draws me to your designs - they look so friendly! I think the strap for your feature bag is brilliant, and I still adore that trapezoidal tote! :-)

  2. Your bags always look so nice!

  3. I so love all your bags! The handles on today's first bucket are very fun!

  4. Beautiful bags! So the body is closed AFTER it is sewn to the base?

  5. I like the perfect finishing on all your bags, they look absolutely stylish and professional

  6. dear Lorraine,I'm Eleonora and I'm writing from Italy!I follow your interesting funny blog, it is full of good ideas.and your "make a bag" serie is very very useful!I select and copy every post in a Word document, so I'm creating a "bag encyclopedia" with your explanation!!! thank you!!!!
    (why don't you add the possibility of print a pdf version of your post?you are so clear and accurate!I think your sewing tutorial are all useful!)

  7. I am very fascinated by the market basket that has the pvc peeking through. Do you have instructions for making the "bones" of that basket?

    Of course, I am fascinated by all your bags and totes and am still in awe of your skill and generosity of sharing your skills.

    1. She does, in fact, have instructions for the PVC bssket:

    2. Juanita,

      Sorry for the late response - I'm on vacation and it takes a while to get to the computer. Thank you, Anonymous, for finding the link to that old post on making the frame from PVC piping.

  8. I just "found" your site through Pinterest and I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your ideas. I love the lunch buckets with the button-on strapvand plan to make some of those to store Lego etc. So adorable. As well, I love your tutorials and the Anatomy-of-a-Bag series. So generous. So clever.


  9. I jet found your site through Pinterest and I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your ideas and the clear way that you provide instruction. Thank you for sharing your ideas! Your aesthetic is charming and cheerful. I really like the lunch buckets -especially the button-on handles. So cute. I really have to make some of those.

    ....found you via are an inspiration!

  11. This is simply brilliant. Thank you for including all the ways this could be interpreted!! I was curious about the zippered cosmetic bag; would you insert the lining similar to the first bag without the handles (nested), and then insert the zipper before "top stitching" the top seam of the bottom portion? I'm attempting to make something similar, while using vinyl as the lining, so it's too stiff to turn inside out. Just curious! Thank you so much for all the effort you've put into this! Your love for teaching has certainly blessed a whole bunch of us :)

  12. I love it, thanks for the instructions

  13. Beautiful bags!

  14. Thank you very much, I did one to offer at Christmas. Not so easy, I had to do twice. I wish you a merry Christmas.

  15. Love your bags. I like a bag that stands up rather than falling over.i love the featured bags handles. Think im going to try that. Going to use a larger version of the base for my 3 year old grandsons little cars and put his name on it.

  16. Thank you so muchfor sharing your skills. I look forward to making a couple of these for my girls.

  17. Your bags are awesome and make great gift ideas for the members of my Church Ladies Group. I do want to ask, however, reference the bucket tote, can the tote strap be cut longer instead of adding on the extension? And, can you give me an idea of how much fabric should be used for this tote? I'm planning to make a few for Christmas Gifts, and wan an idea of how much fabric to purchase for each of them. Thank you, and keep up the great work. Your bags are awesome.

    1. Nana4: yes, the strap can be cut longer (it'll certainly save you that extra joining-seam!). I chose to add the extension to keep the layout more symmetrical on the fabric. It felt as if I'd be wasting fabric to cut it all as one (very irregularly-shaped) piece.
      As for yardage, I wouldn't know how much. I'd say a yard of each fabric (one for outer and one for lining) is plenty for a single bag, and I'm estimating you could cut at least two, maybe four? out of one yard of each fabric. Incidentally, the full tutorial for the cloverleaf bag (the first bag in the photos) can be found on the Sew Mama Sew website here:

  18. Thank you so much for being so generous in sharing your beautiful designs with very clear instructions. Just love your bags.


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