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Do It Yourself: Personalized Handmade Tote Bag

I dunno about you, but I am a huge tote bags lover: they are so practical and I usually carry one with me during summer, especially when I’m at the seaside. But since I decided to make my own handmade tote bag, which I personalized with the blog’s logo (lots of modesty around here), I carry it with me everywhere – almost. And since my handmade tote bag turned out so amazing, I decided to show you how to make one for yourself and personalize it with whatever you want!

handmade tote bag

Tote bags are perfect for school, when you have to carry a lot of books or courses with you, for a walk in the park, or pretty much when you are in the mood for a tote bag. The only drawback is that they get wet easily (if it rains) and they are not appropriate for business of formal meetings.

DIY: Personalized Handmade Tote Bag

homemade tote bag

What you will need:

  • raw cotton fabric – raw fabric has not been through any chemical process and you will usually find it in a light beige colour; you can choose whatever raw fabric you want, but I highly recommend using cotton;
    • one big piece of 43 x 40 cm;
    • two stripes of 66 x 3 cm.
  • black fabric paint (or any other colours of your choice);
  • white thread and a needle;
  • measuring tape;
  • a pair of scissors;
  • tailoring pins;
  • a pencil;
  • a small paint or foam brush – although I started with the foam brush, it turned out to be easier to work with a small square paint brush;
  • a sewing machine – you can totally sew it by hand, but I am terrible at it and using a sewing machine is faster and will ensure a beautiful finish to your tote bag;
  • a piece of parchment paper;
  • an iron.

Before you start!

Wash your raw fabric. Because it has no chemicals in it, it will get smaller when you wash it. So wash it before you start making the bag – in this way you will make sure you won’t end up with a weird and small tote bag. After it get dry, iron it as well.


1. Start by cutting the raw fabric at the dimensions mentioned above. The big piece will serve as the body of the handmade tote bag. You will notice that it is quite long. That’s because you will have to fold it in half. By folding it you will end up already with the bottom of the bag and you will have one less edge to sew. The other two long pieces of fabric will be the handles of the bag, and you will fold them in half as well, when the time comes, and you will end up having 4 cm wide handles.

handmade tote bag

2. Depending on what type if material you use, you will have to sew all the edges. My raw cotton was quite raveling, so I sew all the edges of the the stripes and the bigger piece of fabric.

3. Turn the bigger piece of fabric inside out. Using the tailoring pins, pin the left and right edge of the body. On the top of the body, fold about 2 cm of fabric and pin it as well. That upper folded part will provide the bag extra strength when you will attach the handles.

The pins will keep the fabric in place while you sew it. First sew the top folded parts and after that the right and left edges.Also, when you sew the edges, make sure to sew them about 1.5 cm away from the very edge of the fabric. Now, turn the freshly sewed body bag inside out once again, and half of this handmade tote bag is done!

diy-handmade-tote-bag-64. For the handles, fold lengthwise the stripes of fabric. Sew only on the length of the stripes! You will need the ends unstitched because the stripes will have to be turned inside out. Turning the handles inside out was probably one of the most time consuming part of this project. I recommend using a strong wooden stick to turn them inside out. After you finished, iron them so that they will look nice and flat.

5. Be careful when sewing the handles to the body of the bag! I sew them wrong the first time and I ended up with a tank top instead of a tote bag.Each handle goes from on each side of the bag, don’t cross them! I’ve let about 20 cm between the edges of the stripes. But depending on your needs and preferences you can adjust the spacing. Having the handles too close together or too apart will not hold the body bag properly.  On the folded top edge of the body bag, mark where the handles should go. Sew the handles inside the body bad. Sew on the edge of the handle, on a square shape and then add two diagonal lines inside of it. This sewing technique will provide extra strength to the handles of the handmade tote bag.

Personalize it!


1. Choose the template you’d like on your handmade tote bag, print it and crop it.

2. Attach it to the tote bag, using tailoring pins to keep it in place. I discovered that double sided tape works better than tailoring pins.

3. Using a pencil, trace the outline of your design.

4. Before painting it, add a piece of paper inside the bag; this will prevent the wet paint to get on the other side of the bag.

5. Using a square shaped paint brush, start filling in your design, using the pencil outline as your guide. After you finished painting, let the paint dry for a few hours.

7. Follow the instructions of your type of fabric paint. I had to iron the painted fabric using a piece of parchment paper to protect it from the hot iron, but the fabric paint brand the you’re using, might have different directions on fixing the paint into the fabric.

The handmade tote bag can be washed by hand or in the washing machine as well. Don’t use too hot water! The paint that I used had instruction for 40 degrees C water resistance. Using too hot water might end up washing away the fabric paint and turning the whole tote bag in a weird grey colour. And I’m sure you don’t want a weird coloured tote bag, who would want that?!

You can get creative and personalize the bag whatever you want. Here are some really nice pics for inspiration.

I really hope you like this DIY project. Took me a whole day to put this handmade tote bag together, but I really love the result and I hope you found inspiration for your own personalized handmade tote bag.

Please share this project with your friends and let me know in the comments down below what you think about it and also check some other nice DIY projects around here for more crafting inspiration!

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  • This looks awesome! I don’t have a sewing machine but will have to pass this on to some friends who do!

  • I’m not much of a seamstress, but I think I could maybe pull this off! Great idea to put your blog’s logo on the bag (;

    xoxo takingonthekitchen.weebly.com

    • Haha, thank you! Don’t worry, I’m not a seamstress either; thay tote bag is not perfectly sewen for sure.

  • Thank you! You can hand sew it as well, but it will be more time consuming.

  • Such a cute DIY! I wish I was craftier.
    xoxo, Jenny

    • Well, practice makes perfect, Jenny!

  • Wow, this is such a great DIY!! Thank you for sharing — I might need to give this one a try since I can NEVER have too many tote bags. ;)

    • Haha, thank you! Glad you like it!

  • Joules (Pocketful of Joules)

    Great tutorial! I’ve been wanting a tote bag with leather handles and I think I might try making one on my own using your instructions and an old thrift store belt. Thanks!

    • Great! Let me know how it turned out!

  • This is so awesome, Oana! Love a good DIY, especially when it’s something like this that you can put your own personal stamp on. Love this tote tutorial!

    • Thank you, Summer! So happy that you like it!

  • This is so creative!

  • I love this idea! I might try this for Christmas gifts for some of my family! :)

    • That is a lovely idea! Let me know how they turned out!

  • This is such a great idea!! I would love to make these little bags for gifts :) Thanks for the awesome idea

  • What a fun project! I’d love to try making these!

    • Thank you, Cassandra! Let me know how it turned out if you’ll give it a try.

  • Your bag looks great! I appreciate all the little tips, because I don’t sew very often, so pointers like that are always helpful!

    • Thank you, Beth! Feel free to ask for more tips if you feel so, I’m glad to help.

  • This is so cute! I love it! I’m not very good at sewing, but I’m looking to get better, so maybe I can try it out. Love the tip about printing out the design and tracing it.

    • You can do it, Eva! Let me know if you need more tips.

  • This is so simple and sweet! I’m definitely going to try this in my leisure time! Thanks for sharing! :)

    • Glad you like it, Aishwarya! Nice to see you around again. Let me know how your personalized tote bag turned out.

  • Greta Hollar

    Love this easy DIY! Your tote looks so cute!

    Greta | http://www.gretahollar.com

  • Samantha

    This looks so great! It would make a perfect gift, too! Thanks!

    • I’ve seen that lots of people thought it would be a priceless gift.
      It’s so nice to see that you got some inspiration for cute gifts. Thank you for stopping by, Samantha!

  • This is so cute! I am addicted to tote bags, I have a million of them!

  • This is cute! I have never used a sewing machine, but I would like to learn. This is a cute project!

    • Thank you, Kristin!
      I’ve never used a sewing machine before; it was quite a challenge to be honest.

  • I’m not very good with a sewing machine (sadly) but I bet I could buy a plain tote bag to decorate… that may need to be a project on my fall list!

    Maybe some pretty autumn themes… I love tote bags!

    Laura @ http://www.cookwineandthinker.com

    • If you can find plain tote bags, please let me know!