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There are lots of great tutorials for making tote bags. This one utilizes pillowcases so most of the seaming is already done and the sewing is mostly on the pockets. I included interior pockets so I can leave my purse in the car and just throw my phone, wallet, and keys in the bag so I'll only have to carry one bag. The exterior pockets easily accommodate magazines and since they extend around the entire bag they could also hold bricks of cheese or just about anything that isn't thick. Also, the handles are long enough to slip over the shoulder and the bag tucks under the arm. Roomy enough for multiple six packs of beer or back to school shopping at the mall.
This bag replaces 4-6 of the dreaded plastic white trash bags. Not only do plastic bags end up in landfills but also pollute oceans, killing marine life.
Step 1: Gather Materials
2 pillowcases, one for the bag and one for lining. I used standard size cases but any size will work.
Grograin ribbon (optional) I used a tad over 2 yards of 1 1/2" wide ribbon from my stash. If your pillowcase is plain you might want to embellish with a variety of ribbons, beads, rick rack, etc.
washable marking pen/pencil (I use soap slivers)
Rotary cutter and mat are useful but not necessary
You already have a sewing machine and thread, no?
Step 2: Cutting
Stack the 2 pillowcases on top of each other. They may not be exactly the same size but will probably be close.
Measure 20" from the bottom and slice off the top finished edge. The top edge usually has piping or some nice trim. This piece will become the outside pocket.
You've also just cut the lining and that remaining top finished piece will be cut down for the interior pocket. Also, this piece provides the fabric for the handles.
No ribbon: Cut a strip 3" wide from the extra lining piece (raw edge side) leaving the finished edge intact. Tnis piece will be approximately 40" and you'll be cutting it in half to make 2 handles. For now cut one of the seams open as it's a tube.
Ribbon: You'll be using the lining fabric as a facing for the ribbon. I used 1 1/2" ribbon so I cut a piece 2" wide. 1 1/2" plus a turn under of 1/4" on each side of the ribbon.
Step 3: Stitching the Pockets
Take the top finished edge piece(the one you sliced off) and turn under the raw edge 1/2" and press.
If you're going to embellish now is the time to add ribbon or appliques or whatever! I've added ribbon to the plain green.
Slip this tube over the bag with the right side of the bag facing out and the wrong side of pocket facing the bag. Position about 2" from the top raw edge of the bag. Stitch the bottom pressed edge.
For a magazine size opening, mark the center with a pin and measure 4 1/2" from each side of pin forming a 9" opening. Mark vertically with pen/pencil/chaulk from top to bottom edge of pocket. Do this on both sides of the bag. Stitch on the marked line and bartack for strength at beginning and end of stitching.
For the interior pocket you can utilize the lining piece in the same way or you can make a smaller pocket as I've done. Keeping the top finished edge intact (leftover from cutting the handles) cut this down to 10" wide by 5" tall. Turn under the raw edges 1/2" and press. Center on the right side of the lining 2" from the top edge. Notice that the sides of the pocket curve inward near the top so the pocket gaps open. Easier for putting one's hand in!
Here I've stitched down a vertical line about 3" from the left edge so I can keep my cell phone separated from wallet and keys.
Step 4: Handles
Ribbon handle: Sew the 40" strip (that you cut from lining) to the ribbon (wrong side) that you've cut the same length, turning under the raw edges of the facing. I didn't even press, just turned under the edges as I sewed.
No ribbon: Take the 40" strip and fold in half wrong sides together. Turn under each raw edge 1/4" each and stitch near edge. Stitch near the edge of the folded side as well. Alternately, you could fold, right sides together and stitch in a 1/4" seam making a tube that would have to be turned to the right side.
Cut the length in half making 2 handles.
For a more comfortable handle, measure 6" from each raw edge and mark with a pin. Fold the handle in half between the pins and stitch close to the edge.
Determine the center of the bag and position handle right sides facing to the top of the bag Measure 3" from center each way, placing the handles 6" apart. Stitch.
Step 5: You're almost done!
Turn the lining wrong side out and slip the bag inside of it so right sides are facing. Pin the top edge. Leave a 6" opening near the side so you can turn the bag. Stitch in 1/2" seam being careful that the handles are laying flat. Turn the bag right side out through the opening and topstitch near the edge, making sure the opening is stitched down at the same time. I've added multiple rows of stitching between the edge and the pocket for a little extra strength. Personally, I'd rather add rows of stitching instead of dealing with interfacing.
Now, grab a bottom corner of the bag (including the lining) and bring the side seam up to the bottom edge of the pocket. Doing this will form a triangle and the point will easily meet the edge. Pin and sew the 2 edges of the triangle.
Admire your new fantastic shopping bag that you made from stuff you had around the house. Practically free!