Hang on to your pants because today's DIY is a triple threat! This tea towel tote is made from three fabrics that all repurposed/recycled: a tea towel, an old bedsheet and some leftover fabric.
I love tote bags for the obvious reason that it's the environmentally friendly alternative to plastic bags. They can also be easily folded and stuffed into my purse when I'm hurrying out the door. Plus, having all your shopping in one bag is so much more convinient than hefting half a dozen paper or plastic bags! I used to feel weird when I started refusing plastic bags during checkouts but now I feel quite confident telling the cashier, "I don't need a bag, thank you,"especially when I whip out my well-worn canvas tote bag. The one I'm using right now is at least 3 years old; it's tremendously gratifying to think about all the plastic I've avoided using with just one single bag!
I must have browsed a dozen tutorials on how to sew a tote bag. I got even more excited when I realized I have materials I can repurpose into a bag. The tea towel is a mystery in that it's one of those things that's been laying about the house and no one in my family is 100% sure where it came from. We believe my brother bought it on an impulse (albeit, a weird impulse) during one of his trips to downtown Toronto, but we have yet to confirm that. The bedsheet is an old one from my own bed. The colour has gone from pale blue to even paler lifeless blue so I replaced it with a new one (in the exact same colour, I now realize...); but still, I couldn't bring myself to simply throw away all that fabric so I decided to dice it up and use as lining material. I wanted a jumbo-sized tote bag so I extended the height of the bag with some fabric, also from my scrap box. The extension fabric is actually from an old sarong and the tartan-like motif happened to match my tea towel quite perfectly.
Note: I took the extra step of sewing box corners for this bag; box corners give the bag dimension and a flat bottom, which I think is necessary for a bag this size. But it is optional and you can skip it if you like (Sew4home has detailed instructions on sewing boxed corners here).
Read on after the jump for the full picture tutorial.
Tea towel tote bag
1 piece tea towel 17"x 26"
2 pieces extension fabric 17" x 8"
2 pieces lining fabric 17" x 8"
4 pieces strap fabric 25" x 2"
Sewing machine or needle and thread
Place one extension fabric over the tea towel with righ sides facing together. Sew along the with of both fabrics with a 1/2" seam allowance. Then, flip the fabrics open, press to flatten the seam and top stitch along the joint fabric's width as indicated in the picture. Repeat with the second extension fabric at the other end of the tea towel.
Place and align one piece of the lining fabric along the width of the extension fabric with right sides facing together. Sew along the width of both fabrics with a 1/2" seam. Like before, flip the fabric open and press to flatten the seam. Repeat with the second lining material and the extension material at the other end of the tea towel.
Fold the entire strip in half and pin it in place. Stitch along the edge of the fabric but leave a gap as shown:
*Optional: Create boxed corners to give the bag dimensions. Open up one of the bag's corners, flatten and match the seams on either side to create a peak. It's important to make sure the seams - which will be on the front and at the back of the corner at this point - are perfectly matched. Measure 2"from the top of the peak and draw a horizontal line across the corner. Sew along that line and cut off the corner with a 1/2" seam above the line.
Turn the bag inside out through the gap. Sew the gap closed either by hand or with the machine.
Push the lining into the bag. Press the seam and top stitch to strengthen the edge.
Sew the straps: Place two pieces of the strap fabric, sew along both lengths and only one end as shown. Turn the strap inside out through the open end. Fold a 1" seam at the open end of the strap and press. Repeat with the remaining 2 pieces of fabric to make the second strap.
Take one strap, place it on the edge of the bag and 4" from the corner of the bag. Overlap 1" of the strap and the edge of the bag. Pin the strap in place. Attach the strap onto the bag by sewing a 1"x1" square as shown. Do the same with the other strap on the opposite edge of the bag.
Your tote bag is now complete!