TUTORIAL: Reversible, Lined, Color-blocked TOTE

by Dana on July 31, 2012

I’ve got a new summer bag that I totally love.
It’s nice and heavy-weight, the perfect size for all my stuff, annnnd……
It’s reversible!


It’s good to have options.

Here are the TOTE bag versions we’ve tried so far….

This time around we’ll make it:
• reversible (similar to having a lining)
• color-blocked on the outside with heavy Duck Cloth (read more about duck cloth and other fabrics in my book)
• DIY handles
Summer, Summer, Summer time.
Let’s get started.
If you’ve never made a bag before, read through the Basic Pocket Tote Tutorial first.

Start by cutting all your bag pieces. We’re using Duck Cloth which is like a heavy canvas. It’s very durable and typically comes in solid colors (though I’ve seen some fun prints at Hobby Lobby). Of course you can use other cotton fabrics as well.
The reversible bag is basically two separate bags, sewn together at the top. If you don’t care about the reversible option, use a more lightweight fabric (maybe a cute print) for one of the bags and it will simply be a lining.

Decide what size you’d like for your bag.
Here are the dimensions I went with:
Cut 4 of each (2 per bag; different colors for each bag):
12 x 18 inches (bag front and back)
6 x 18 inches (bottom for bag front and back)
2.5 x 25 inches (handles)
Start by sewing the handles.
There are two ways to do this….
If you’re using lightweight fabrics, place right sides of the fabric together and sew down each side. Then use a safety pin or bodkin to pull the long tube-like handle right-side out. Iron out the wrinkled handle.

However, with heavy duck cloth it’s very difficult to pull the fabric right-side out.
• Sew down one side with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
• Iron out the seam
• Iron the raw edges of each handle side under 1/2 inch
• Fold the handle together and sew a top stitch down each side, about 1/8 inches from the edge.
Set the handles aside.

Now piece together the bag fronts and backs….
• With right sides of the fabric together, place the smaller rectangle on the larger rectangle and sew them together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
• Iron out the seam
• Top stitch over the seam for added strength and to help it lay flat.

Now your bag pieces are ready to assemble.
With right sides of the fabric together, sew each bag together (separately, like you’re making two bags. For more info see the Basic Tote tutorial).
Then Box out the bottom of each bag, about 2 1/2 inches on each side.
See detailed info in THIS tutorial.
And you’re left with two cool looking bags.
You could leave them separate, throw on the handles, and give them away as gifts.
But attaching them together does makes your bag more polished, professional looking, and heavy duty.
Turn one of the bags inside out and place it inside of the other bag:
• Determine where the handles should go (mine are about 3 inches in from the sides). Then tuck the ends of each handle in-between the two bag layers, with about 2 inches of handle dangling inside. You may need to remove a few of the pins from above to do this.
• Sew a topstitch all the way around, about 1/8 inch from the top of the bag. Sew another parallel line 1/8 inch over from the first line for a stronger hold.
And you’re done!
Now give your tote a whirl.
I’m sure it loves the lake as much as the next girl.

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{ 83 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeanne G. July 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I know that this is about the bag, but I have to say, your hair looks so cute!


2 marketa August 15, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Yes,her hair is lovely (so is the bag)!


3 Shari Darrow July 31, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Love these totes. Easily one of the best sewing tutorials I have ever seen. Thank you. I so appreciate it!


4 beth July 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Adorable! LOVE the color blocking…it is so “now”. Thanks for sharing.


5 Kelly July 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm

I also must say I love the bag and plan on trying to make one, but I love your hair! I’ve tried to do that to mine and, yeah, it hasn’t worked…


6 beth lehman July 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm

perfect bag, can’t wait to try it!


7 Jackie July 31, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Love the colors you chose for the bags. So fun!


8 Christina July 31, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Love the tote. Now how about a tutorial on your hair?


9 heather July 31, 2012 at 10:05 pm

totally agree…need one for the hair…it’s fun!


10 April Spinetti July 31, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I agree…..the bag is just as amazing as the hair. Looking forward to trying both ;)


11 becky July 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm

cute bag. really cute hair! :)


12 jennifer July 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm

I also was going to comment on how cute your hair looks! And how cute Clara’s dress is! I bet you made that?


13 Clover@farrbetterlife July 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Duh duck cloth. I have been wanting a sturdier tote.


14 Jessica! July 31, 2012 at 3:32 pm

OMG! LOVE your hair.


15 amy July 31, 2012 at 3:53 pm

First thing I thought was “OMG — the hair. To die for” That is, until I got to the last pic…and that flat belly/perfect bod so soon after a baby!!! Forget the bag…YOU’RE amazing!


16 Christa @ BrownSugarToast July 31, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Yep – came to comment on the bag AND the hair!! super cute on both! thanks for the great tutorial!


17 Lynette July 31, 2012 at 4:37 pm

I love the color blockedness. :) Ya, I made that word up. I just may have to make one of these for a new church bag. Oh the possibilities. Love the simplicity of it. And I love your hair, and those ice cream sandwich cookies look so yummy. so so yummy.


18 Maryall July 31, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Great tutorial, great colours, great hair, great photos…. just G.R.E.A.T.!!!! :D
Thank you!


19 Jessica at Me Sew Crazy July 31, 2012 at 5:24 pm

ok – my first thought was naturally awesome tote and photos. And then I thought about it, and saw you with your new baby – and then was like…

Wait a second, she looks freaking AWESOME for just having had a baby. Go Dana!


20 ali thompson July 31, 2012 at 6:05 pm

wowza. that is an amazing tutorial. i’ve seen tutorials that are vague and can’t figure how to get from step 1 to step 17….! i see a trip to the fabric store in my future!


21 Kristi July 31, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Perfect timing… just this morning my mom asked me to make her some totes as Bellingham, WA (where we live) just went bagless. By law stores can no longer have plastic/paper bags available in our town. So there will be a lot of these getting sewn up!


22 Rochelle July 31, 2012 at 6:55 pm

Love the bag! Love your hair! I also love your sunglasses!!! Where can I snag a pair?


23 Dana July 31, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Forever 21…$1.80 regular price!! I should have bought 3 pairs for when this one breaks.


24 Melody July 31, 2012 at 8:18 pm

So excited to try this! Thanks so much! Also, I love the sunglasses!


25 Katie July 31, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Totally rad, Dana.


26 Rhiannon July 31, 2012 at 9:50 pm

I love this bag :) Your tutes are awesome! And I agree about your hair, it looks so cute! I wish I could do that!


27 Anneliese July 31, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Gorgeous tote and pics, and I agree about your fabulous hair and figure–nice work! And little Clara steals the show. Did you make her adorable dress? It looks so “you!” -Anneliese


28 Emily July 31, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Love the hair and bag and tip for sewing thick straps.


29 bdaiss July 31, 2012 at 11:19 pm

So cute! You AND the bag. : ) I love the bright colors. Seems I’ve finally moved past my grey/black/brown phase.


30 Jen July 31, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Perfect! I love the bag, thank you! Your whole style is super cute!


31 Lydia July 31, 2012 at 11:54 pm

This tote is so cute! These quick, simple projects are the best! Also, love the photography and all the bright colors! You always have such great ideas!


32 Leigh August 1, 2012 at 12:51 am

When I make reversible bags, I put the 2 ‘bags’ together differently – I put them right sides together, pinning the handles in-between. Then I sew almost all the way around the top, leaving a gap. Then turn everything right side out through the hole, and topstich, which closes up the hole. Its less fiddly than getting the folded edge just right, and it also gives you a double stitch on your handles making them stronger. If I want really tough handles, I leave the ‘tails’ a couple inches long sticking in-between the layers of the bag, and after topstiching, go back and “X box” where the handles attach.

I think I mostly do this because I have an aversion to my iron, and avoid it when its not absolutely necessary!

Love the color blocking by the way, I was just about to make a pair of color blocked shorts for my 5yr old.


33 Anke August 1, 2012 at 2:46 am

Beautiful! I love how it turned out, I would totally make this!


34 Delia August 1, 2012 at 2:55 am

Your pictures are so adorable. Seriously… You look great. I love the color blocking on this bag! I have a million bags but I don’t mind making it a million and one! :)


35 Kev August 1, 2012 at 5:40 am

Tote’s nice and all but that baby is so adorable. Bless her. Soooo cute.


36 Amanda August 1, 2012 at 9:32 am

I agree, let’s see a tutorial on your cute hair!


37 Laura August 1, 2012 at 10:58 am

Beautifully done, both the tutorial and the bag.


38 Kathy August 1, 2012 at 1:55 pm

I agree with everyone that these totes are cool, easy to follow and LOVE your hair too! A tutorial on that would be a plus!


39 simplemittens August 1, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I know a few ladies who wouldn’t mind one bit of I stitched up obe of these for them. Your hair is darling!


40 Suzi August 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Dana–I love your bag, but (almost) more importantly your hair! I need a tutorial!! It’s gorgeous!


41 Lynne Tilley August 1, 2012 at 5:14 pm

So cute, so colorful, and who doesn’t love reversible! Great bag!


42 turtleina August 1, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Already ordered fabric to make two of them o.O
I hope it will work out, I’m a total sewing-beginner! It just looks like a lot of work but not too hard.


43 Rachelle August 1, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Dana, these are so cool. I’m going to make some.
Do you have a good online source for cotton duck cloth? Thanks!


44 Anne August 1, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Looooove!!! I’m definitely making one as soon as I get my hands on some duck cloth. Thanks for sharing!


45 Angela August 2, 2012 at 2:24 am

Can I request an insulated tote? I’ve been tossing the idea around, but I’m lost as to what would make a good insulator? I have yet to find a store bought one that works for me, quality/size/color… Plus I’d love to say I made it! And yes your hair is super cute!


46 Carol Sue August 7, 2015 at 9:00 pm

http://www.homesew.com has reflective insulated lining that could be used to make an insulated bag. They carry lots of stuff and the prices are very reasonable. Shipping is fast also. Usually less than a week after I order on line I have it in my hands. This is one of my go to sites for sewing supplies.


47 kati lukacs August 2, 2012 at 10:26 am

I’m from Hungary. I love your blog :) and I’m just finished my union jack themed tote bag. You and the olympic games inspirated me.

Thanks for the tutorial!


48 Lena August 3, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I agree with the comments left in here. Cute bag, good tutorial.thanks!


49 Jennifer August 4, 2012 at 7:54 am

Love the bag! And great tutorial. I am so in love with the color blocking right now. And your hair is gorgeous! We need a tutorial for that too :0)

- jen


50 Mattie (Inthekitchenwithmattie.com) August 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm

I am so making these bags for all the fantastic nurses that took such great care of both hubby and I while we were in the hospital 4 times this year alone. They don’t get thanked enough for all they do! I’ve used my JoAnnes coupons this week to purchase the canvas in all different prints and solids to make lots of different ones, I’m going to embroider their first initial on the solid side of the bags.


51 Elaine D August 5, 2012 at 9:55 pm

You look amazing and I agree the hair is SUPER cute! Question for you…I have some duck cloth I’m going to try this tute out on and I wondered what size needle you used in your machine? Thought I’d ask before breaking one since I’ve never sewn with duck cloth before! Thanks!


52 Elisa August 10, 2012 at 6:58 am
53 Megan August 20, 2012 at 6:50 am

Hi Dana! I am a huge fan of your blog, but this is my first time leaving a comment! Your photos and projects are such an inspiration! Anyway, I just made this bag as a gift and wanted to show you how it turned out: http://www.thehomesihavemade.com/2012/08/stars-and-stripes-reversible-tote.html
Loved the tutorial and loved this project! Can’t wait to make more! Thanks again!


54 Lauren August 22, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Please please please share a tute for how you did your hair in those pics! I never can figure out how to make my hands work behind my head!


55 Mariane September 16, 2012 at 10:32 am

Love, love, love the bag. Just finished making one using the same colours as yours but actually made a boo-booh with the colour-combo but worked out quite well. Thank you (I’ll share pics once it’s daylight here in Australia)
~ Mariane :)


56 Mariane September 16, 2012 at 7:38 pm
57 Precious Crafts December 3, 2012 at 8:45 am

Totally fabulous colour combo – I want it!


58 Samantha December 21, 2012 at 2:37 am

I made this reversible boxed out tote yesterday for Christmas presents for my daughters teachers. Thank you for an amazing tutorial that was so easy to follow and I think for the first time ever when making something i did not have to unpick anything :)
The bags looked brilliant, the teachers were so happy, and a little Pre school graduating girl was proud to give them as gifts.
Happy Christmas


59 angie January 5, 2013 at 8:21 am

love this!


60 esther January 28, 2013 at 4:14 am


I tried yesterday and even if I do not have much experience it worked perfectly. Thanks for the clear instructions.

Saludos desde España


61 Sara February 15, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Hi Dana! As always I think you Rock! Love everything about it. Oh please Oh Please Oh Please some time share a version of your tote with a zippered top. And where did you get your white T? silly question I know but it’s hard to find a quality nice fitting white T!!
Thanks so much!


62 Susie April 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Love the bag and what a perfect palette for large embroidery with 2 themes. Thanks for the great tutorial. S


63 sara April 14, 2013 at 11:31 am

can’t wait to use a lot of my fabrics to do a lot of bags like this!

thanks for sharing :)


64 Megan May 8, 2013 at 11:43 pm

I made this bag and am so happy with it! http://www.findingclovers.com/zebra-tote-bag/

What type of stitch did you use to sew the panels together? It’s obviously not just a straight stitch but I wasn’t sure what exactly it was. Would a straight stitch suffice or would it not be strong enough?


65 JHanna June 5, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Thank you so much for the tutorial…couldn’t have been easier. So so impressed with the way my bag turned out-perfect teacher gift!
I posted pics on my blog – hope you get a chance to check it out.


66 Dana McDonald July 3, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Thanks this is really helpful! I plan on trying to make one. Just one question. If you don’t make a reversable one does it make the bag look messy?



67 Liz September 28, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Made several of these and they turned out beautiful. I used pillow panels on some of them. Very clear instructions. Everyone loved them. Thank you


68 chrissy October 18, 2013 at 8:55 pm

I love your tutorials. I am almost done with your faux chenille blanket, and just finished this bag for my 18 month old’s Halloween costume. I cut the size down a little, of course. It’s red and blue, for her Supergirl outfit! Thanks again.


69 Kate February 1, 2014 at 5:20 pm

I’ve been looking for a tote to make that’s not to big, not too small – yours looks JUST RIGHT! Thanks for the inspiration, love your design and I’m so impressed by your blog – will be back for sure! Kate from Melbourne, Australia.


70 Danielle Aleman March 12, 2014 at 12:32 pm

I made two of these totes. Outer duck fabric the same. Lining – one in green and one in purple with handles to match lining. Duck fabric was a retro, hippie type pattern. Have had lots of complements. Thank you.


71 Kim April 13, 2014 at 12:47 am

Thanks for the great tutorial! I just finished a kid sized tote tonight :) Love how it turned out.


72 Sharon April 21, 2014 at 3:01 pm

This is just the best tutorial around! So easy to follow, and to adapt. Many thanks!


73 Sasha May 9, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Fab tote! I think people forget about how good block colours can look in a bag. LOVE that hot pink and your hair…gorgeous!


74 Paige W May 23, 2014 at 2:27 am

Perfect teacher gift! Thank you thank you! :D


75 Tricia June 12, 2014 at 9:43 am

Will be doing this for sure… I love how you explain it step by step. It is truly very helpful especially for a beginner like me.


76 Roxanne Q. August 16, 2014 at 1:21 pm

I just made this tote as my first sewing project! Love it!! Thank you for your tutorials they are easy to follow and super cute!


77 anouk February 22, 2015 at 10:07 am

Wahou thank you so much for this perfect tutorial!
I made mine and I think I will do another 1 million of them!


78 Julie March 18, 2015 at 9:12 pm

Thank you very much! I’m a beginner in sewing and it was this bag or i stopped! The result is beautiful (don’t look to close for the topstitch isn’t nice) i love my bag!!

Thanks thanks thanks for this great tutorial, Dana!

Ps: Used to live in Austin too :) In Circle C :))


79 Ann San Zek May 25, 2015 at 12:50 am

thaaaaankssssss a lot u sweeeeeeet dear daaaannaaaaa 4 giving me such a be
uticious tute for reversble tot……………… may god bless u dear ………..u r so beautiful daaaaaaaaaana


80 Ann San Zek May 25, 2015 at 1:06 am

u r so incredible one daaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnnaaaaaaaaaaaaaa………………..


81 Laurence July 8, 2015 at 7:22 am

Thank you for all of your tips !!! I like your bags. I’ll make one for the beach, for this summer. Thanks !!!


82 Jackie August 29, 2015 at 8:08 am

Oh my gosh thank you! I’m learning how to sew and trying to follows other tutorial on double sided tote and it’s driving me mad! Yours seems so much simpler thank you!!


83 poszewki i bieżniki October 30, 2015 at 11:40 am

Torba jest piękna!!!


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