We think that you are in United States and that you would prefer to view Bookwitty in English.
We will display prices in United States Dollar (USD).
Have a cookie!
Bookwitty uses cookies to personalize content and make the site easier to use. We also share some information with third parties to gather statistics about visits.

Are you Witty?

Sign in or register to share your ideas

Sign In Register

Tutorial: Sew Your Own Book Tote

SultanaBun By SultanaBun Published on July 5, 2016
This article was updated on December 9, 2016

I didn’t need a new bag. I wanted one.

I’m a book-totin’ kinda gal. I don’t leave home without a book and, if I’m almost finished a book, I might need to bring the next book along too. Recently, I’ve been following Steven King’s advice to carry a notebook with me at all times. One never knows when a bright idea will strike. Genius striking seems as likely as lightning but, nevertheless, I am prepared. In addition to the books and notebooks, I must keep my Staedtler fineliner pens close about my person at all times or risk losing them to my nefarious offspring. Throw in wallet, phone and an emergency packet of nuts... is it any wonder that I lust after tote bags of generous proportions?

Inspired by The Great British Sewing Bee, I decided to design and make a bag to fit my own requirements.

This is a basic, functional bag with no darts or gussets to concern you. I made the shoulder strap extra wide as there is nothing worse than a mean strap slicing through your shoulder. You can make the strap narrower if you wish. This bag sits with the opening level with my waist. Adjust the strap length if you would like the bag to hang lower to the hip or sit snugly under your arm. I made two pockets, one is just the right size to hold my wallet and the other is a tight fit for my phone. You might like to adjust these to hold a tablet or pens.

I've used a third fabric for the pockets to make it easier to see where they are fitted. If you omit the pockets, or make them from scraps, and reduce the strap width to 7cm, you would need to purchase only 0.5m each of your main and lining fabric.

The more you make the bag fit you, the better you will like it. The point is to make it yourself and make it your own.

You will need:

One metre each of two contrasting fabrics in medium weight cotton, one for the outer body of the bag and one for the lining.

Thread in a coordinating colour.

Scissors.

Pins.

Measuring tape.

Sewing machine.

Cutting out:

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2fae859749 bac6 4bcf a5d4 528f7525985d inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Press your outer fabric. Carefully mark and cut the following:

Body: Two rectangles 39cm wide and 43cm long.

Strap: One rectangle 88cm wide and 10 cm long.

Press your lining fabric. Carefully mark and cut the following:

Lining: Two rectangles 39cm wide and 43cm long.

Strap: One rectangle 88cm wide and 43cm long.

Wallet pocket: One rectangle 25cm wide and 19cm long.

Phone pocket: One rectangle 10cm wide and 17cm long.

Make the strap:

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2fcd22d378 9f4f 4c28 b558 4ede3110c0d7 inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

With right sides of fabric facing, pin the strip of outer fabric to the strip of lining fabric. Sew around three sides leaving just one short end open. Turn the strap out to the right side by pulling it through the open end. Press the strap flat paying particular attention to the edges. There is no need to sew the end closed as this will be concealed inside the finished bag.

Place pockets:

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2ffe38b4fd 5f41 4c85 b03f a1f897c15902 inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Turn down and press a narrow hem (0.5 cm) around all four sides of the pocket pieces. Snip excess fabric from the corners and sew the hem. Pin one pocket in position on to the right side of each lining piece. For the sake of security, I placed the pockets quite low down on the lining. You could add a pen pocket if you feel so inclined. Sew the sides and bottom of the pocket pieces on to the lining.

Make the lining:

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2f75b8b558 3493 4381 b7d5 b51fa1fba61c inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

With the right sides facing, sew the side and bottom seams together. Press the seams inwards and snip excess from the corners. Turn down, press and sew a 1 cm hem around the top edge of the lining.

Attach the strap:

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2fe8352d1f b561 4640 bdc5 8db6f8831c30 inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Pin the ends of the strap to the wrong side of the lining. Make sure the strap isn’t twisted. Line up the side seams of the lining with the centre of the strap. Check that you are comfortable with the length and adjust it as you like. Stitch the strap securely in place. I’ve sewn a box shape, you could add a cross inside the box for some serious book-toting capability.

Make the body:

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2fad5c11b5 efe1 4b8c 8b73 5352280a3fd3 inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

With right sides facing, sew the side and bottom seams together. Press the seams inwards and snip excess fabric from the corners. Turn down and press a 1cm seam around the top edge of the body but do NOT sew the top hem. There is no need and the finish is neater without the extra line of stitches. This also leaves you a little room for manoeuvre in case your lining doesn’t match up exactly with the top of your bag.

Assemble the bag:

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2fb0999768 10e1 42b4 90d8 c6d4075a315b inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Turn the body of the bag right side out and the lining inside out. Press both parts. Tuck the lining inside the body paying particular attention to the corners. With the outside of the bag facing up, sew around the top circumference of the bag. Ecco fatto!

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2f606b9f34 e045 4c1f 94c5 cf93190f74d3 inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

As I said, I didn’t need a new bag. I decided to give this one to my daughter’s music teacher as an end of year gift. A quick change of badges was all I needed.

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2f6a09ea8c cf03 45d9 942d a71e276d135c inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

If you make a bag, please post a photo here! Just click on the pencil icon in the top right hand corner of your screen and follow the instructions. I'd love to see your choice of fabric and how you have personalised the design. I'm no expert so I would be grateful for your tips and advice. 

I have certainly been stung by the sewing bee and I’ve already invested in some new fabric. I may even be ready to brave an attempt on darts and gussets. Will you join me? 

I know, I know, I don’t need a new bag but still, I want one.

Irish blogger and book reviewer. Official contributor to Bookwitty.com and author of Bookwitty's monthly 'Cooking the Books' feature. Erstwhile microbiologist with an MSc in Food Science, she ... Show More

2 Comments

Please log in or sign up to join the discussion

kat
OMG I have the same floral material....LOL  not sure what to make with it, but loved all the colors in it....we are soul sisters.....LOL
SultanaBun
I don't believe it! That's a hoot! Mine was almost an apron until this project came along.