Easy breezy, eco-friendly, reusable Grocery Totes

I know its been such a long time since I wrote. I think about writing almost everyday and then you know what? – Life Happens :). I am usually a very organized person, but with my little one entering our lives, I am sooo behind on everything that I have even lost count of the things on my to-do list (except that i know the real list is much bigger than what I think it is and growing at an alarming rate :)). Before I had a baby, I would wonder and complain as to why my friends with little kids were always stressed out and drowned in chaos. Now that mine is a toddler, I take back all that I have said about all of you. I am sorry if I’ve judged you. It’s not you, my dears, it is definitely not you..it is the little monkeys…they somehow manage to do that to you. LOL!

Phew! Getting back to topic, the grocery totes that you’re going to see today are so fun to make for yourself and as gifts for loved ones.

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These are super handy and super useful and extremely pretty. There are so many permutations and combinations you could make with these You can make them small/big/reversible/short handle/with flaps/zippers. The possibilities are endless. These are one of the first bags I’ve made and I am in love with the idea. I want to make so many of them( and so fast).  How I wish my hands could make as fast as my brain can come up with ideas! I just finished making these bags yesterday and sent the pics over to my sisters( I have 2 siblings and love them to death 😉 )so they could pick what they like. It turns out my mom loves them too and wants one for herself and one for my aunt. Lots of work in store for me :).

And you know something? By making and sharing these bags, you’d be doing the earth a huge favor. By eLandfillncouraging  people to stay away from plastic and be earth friendly, you will be helping leave behind a cleaner and greener earth for our kids.  If it were up to me, I would print a picture of a landfill ( like the one below) on every plastic bag. Not kidding!

Ha! Enough of yapping. Let me get to the tutorial.


Calculating how much fabric to cut:

p.s: I have also added these calculations to the image above. This way, you can quickly take a print out of the measurements and file it. 

  • Width = finished bag width + side seam allowance for both sides = 19” +½” * 2 = 20” 
  • Length/Height  = finished bag height + bottom seat + top seam( to tuck in handles) + top seam allowance = 13” + 2” +1.5” +½” = 17”
  • Total length of fabric = Length * 2 =  17” * 2 = 34” ( assuming we are folding at the bottom)
  • Handles, each  = handle length  + tuck in allowance for 2 ends  = 22” + 2” *2 = 26”


  • These are the fabric measurements for the basic bag. You can always play around with embellishments once you are comfortable making the basic structure.
  • Total length of fabric is calculated under the assumption that we’re folding at center/bag bottom. If you wish to use directional fabric/different colored fabric for each side of the bag, then you need to cut two panels of length 17” each and join them at the bottom.

How to:

First, cut the main fabric of length 20” * 34” as mentioned in the pattern. (You can skip the next few steps and directly go to the step where I join the bag sides if you want to make a simple bag without any additional base)


For the base, cut out a co-ordinating fabric of same width as the bag and height of 12”. Fold it in double and press.


If your fabric is directional, then make sure you cut along the center fold, turn it in the right direction. Pin the right sides together and stitch the bottom seam.

This is the time when you should add the embellishments you like to the base/the main fabric. I’ve done some fabric appliqué. For instructions on how to appliqué ,  please look here.

For the piping, cut two 1” strips of same length as the width of the bag/base. Fold it in half widthwise and press.


Pin it to both ends of the right side of the base fabric (folded end of piping facing inwards) and sew them on.

Now fold the seam inwards and press, this creates a piping like you see in the pic.


Place the center fold crease of the base on the center seam of the main fabric and pin them together.


Now sew along the edge of the base fabric (not the piping), attaching the base fabric to the main fabric. You can add more embellishments now like adding decorative stitches etc.

Once you’ve finished attaching the base fabric on both sides, fold the bag, right sides together and pin. Join the sides. You can also do a zigzag stitch and secure any loose threads. (It’s optional, though, a prefered approach)


At the base of the bag (which now forms an L), fold the corner such that the center seam lies on top of the side seam. Use a scale/tape and a vanishing marker/chalk pencil to mark a line perpendicular to the center seam where the fabric extends exactly 2 inches on either side if the center seam. Do this on both sides of the bag.


Pin and stitch along this line. Finish this with a zigzag stitch.

Turn it right side out. Yaay! You’ve now made the seat of the bag. Your bag is shaping up. You’re close to being done.


For the handles, cut four pieces of handle fabric, 2 for each handle. I’ve used two co-ordinating fabrics. I cut one of the colors slightly shorter (about ½”) than the other. This creates a fun effect, which you’ll see as you read further. If you want to make it simpler, just cut all the fabrics to the same width.


Put the right sides together and stitch along one side. Do this with the other side too. If the two fabric are of varied width, the wider fabric will pucker. Don’t worry about it, just join the sides.

Now, to turn your handle over, attach a safety pin on to one end of the handle. Start threading the pin through the handle until you reach the other end. You might need to stop and adjust as you go. Once you reach the other end, just pull down the fabric and there you go, you’ve turned the handle right side out.

Now Press along the seam to straighten it and then open it up and press to get a nice and crisp seam. If you’d cut one of your fabrics shorter than the other, you’d see a pretty border along the edges.

Run a straight stitch along the side to define the handles better. Your handles are ready to be attached to the bag.


For the top seam, fold once at approx ¼” and press and then fold 1” and press again.

Now for the final step – Attaching the handles. With a fabric chalk, mark the bag to identify where your handles need to go. I usually keep them at 5” from the corners.

Keep the handle at the 1” crease and pin. (The handles will seem to go inside the bag)

Run a straight stitch along the inner side of the seam.


Now flip the handles out of the bag and pin to the seam again.

Run a stitch along the outer perimeter.


To strengthen the handles further, run multiples stiches at the junction. The most common pattern you notice in bags you buy is something like this.

stitch double

There you go. Your grocery tote is ready to flaunt!


  • PRESS, PRESS, When in doubt, Press. ( makes your job a lot easier)

Comments/Suggestions are most welcome!

Until next time, Happy Making!


10 thoughts on “Easy breezy, eco-friendly, reusable Grocery Totes

    1. Thanks Susan. Glad you liked them. The best part about projects like these are that they can be as simple or as sophisticated as you like.
      Yes Indeed. You’re right. A little bit of conscious effort from each of us and we can make earth a greener/more beautiful place to live in.


  1. Love the fabric choice and the appliqué! I have a grocery tote on my WIP pile that I may now add some appliqué to!
    Thanks for linking up at the Talented Tuesday Link Party 🙂


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