TUTORIAL: Placemat Bags

by Dana on May 27, 2014

This is our last week of school till Summer Break!
I really can’t believe it.
Just like that, Owen is done with Kindergarten, Lucy knows multiplication, Owen can read, and Clara is happy to have her playmates back on the homefront.

And with the last days of school, come Thank You gifts for the teachers—who truly, deserve more than just a bag.  But every handmade thought counts.

And when I walked by the placemat aisle the other day at the store, I paused and realized….those would make really cute bags!

Really EASY cute bags.

So let’s add one more to our TOTE BAG series.

Here’s what we’ve made so far (click a photo for detailed steps):

We’ll use ONE placemat to make a purse-sized bag, with a pocket inside:

Then we’ll turn TWO placemats into a sturdy beach tote:

Whether it’s for you to enjoy or to give away as a gift, the summer just got way more colorful.

Let’s start with the full-sized bag.
Here’s what you do:

Then fill it with your favorite mag and a towel…and you’re off to the pool!

Now if you’re more a purse-sized gal here’s another simple idea:

This time around we’ll use only one placemat and sew the handles on as one continuous strap.

First, decide if you’re going to add a pocket inside or just leave it plain.
You’ll find a very detailed tutorial on pocket totes HERE.

And for this project I used a dishtowel for my fabric (from the same placemat aisle at the store).  But you can use whatever fabric scraps you have lying around.  The best way to position the pocket is to fold the placemat in half to find the center point (which will become the bottom of the bag) and then line up the bottom of your pocket with this center line.  Also, make sure the size of the pocket will fit within the space between the straps….otherwise you’ll be sewing over the pocket when you sew the straps to the placemat….which will make more sense with the images below.

Here’s what you do….

And with your pocket is sewn, we’re ready to cut the handles and sew the bag.

You can always make the handles as long (or as short) as you like, but I find that 24 inches for a handle (meaning JUST the handle part, from one top of the bag to the other top of the bag) is a good standard length.  Then you need to add the lengths of your bag sides to get the full measurement of your trim piece.  OR, you can simple sew handles separately as we’ve done in other tutorials here and here.   The choice is yours!

Here’s what you do:

Now wrap it up and give your favorite teacher or friend a hug.

Schools out!
Let the summer begin!

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jenni May 27, 2014 at 11:37 am

You kill me!! Sooo cute I can’t even take it! I was just thinking about what I am going to do for teachers gifts. Perfect! So thankful for this blog!!:)


2 KatieV May 27, 2014 at 11:50 am

@Wendy – it doesn’t need to be sewn along the bottom, since it’s just one placemat folded in half (the fold goes along the bottom). :)

Dana, I’m making these today! Off to find placemats!


3 Melissa Shultz May 27, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Wow! I see a lot of placemats I like in stores and always wondered what I could make with them. I will be making some of these for sure. Thanks for the awesome idea!


4 Dana May 28, 2014 at 1:23 am

Right??? It’s hard to pass up a cute rectangle of yummy fabric :)


5 Yasemin May 27, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Awesome!!!! I am a sucker for purses, bags, totes!!! I am making me SOME! Thank you!


6 Mikea May 27, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Really cute!


7 Rebecca May 27, 2014 at 10:01 pm

What a great idea. I’m often seeing great patterned placemats in the stores now I’ll have to buy some. A nice easy sewing project for the kids too (supervised of course!) Thanks Dana!


8 Jen May 27, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Luuuuuuucky! We have until June 13th! Thankfully we never went over our snow limit ;)


9 Dana May 28, 2014 at 1:24 am

haha. Woohoo! Raid every Target you come across :)


10 casycoso May 28, 2014 at 4:10 am

I love it! you are such an inspirartion! the tutorial is fantastic, very visual, easy to understand just through a quick glance. Congrats and Thanks!


11 Anne-Marie May 28, 2014 at 10:48 am

Wow, already?! Summer break doesn’t start until July 6th over here (The Netherlands) and only lasts 6 weeks.
Does give me a little extra time to make the teatcher’s gifts though ;-)
Love the totes!!!


12 Chelsie Brady May 28, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Your thank you cards!! <3 Where did you get those?!


13 Dana May 29, 2014 at 9:47 am

Good old Target :)


14 Becky Thompson May 29, 2014 at 6:20 am

Love this! What a great idea for a sewing project for 4H!! Thank you!

Oh, on another note, I’ve finished the Like-Dana’s Kitchen Backsplash at our house down in Port O’Connor. I’ll email you a photo. :)


15 Dana May 29, 2014 at 9:48 am

oooo. yes please! I’d love to see!


16 Carol May 29, 2014 at 8:21 am

I always love how complete and easy to understand your tutorials are. But I have a tip for you and your followers. When adding handles to your flat pieces (placemat/fabric/whatever) use your rotary cutting ruler. Place it so the edge of your fabric lines up with the 3 inch line (or however far in you want your handles. Then lay the handles against the edge of the ruler and pin in place. Gives a great guide for a very even placement, instead of trying to use a tape measure.


17 Dana May 29, 2014 at 9:47 am

yes that’s a great tip! Thanks for sharing


18 Penny May 29, 2014 at 10:29 pm

Love these, Dana – thanks for the great idea and easy tutorial. I can’t wait to make some for my friends to give them at our summer vacation trip. (yours will be great for your Key West sewing trip!) PLacemats shopping here I come!!!


19 Melissa June 2, 2014 at 12:12 am

What a great idea! I love it! I’ll have to check out the selection of placemats near me, but I’d love to make some of these for my kids to tote stuff around in.


20 Annie June 16, 2014 at 8:14 am

Genius!!! I want to run and get some placemats now!!! Love them!!


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