How to Make a Cute DIY Patchwork Tote Bag Out of Old Jeans & Vinyl

JRenee DIY
by JRenee DIY
10 Materials
5 Hours

Tote bags are great fun to make! In this tutorial, you’ll see how easy it is to make your very own DIY patchwork tote bag using denim from old jeans; talk about an upcycle, right?

What’s more, I’ll be using vinyl to make this awesome bag! If you don’t know how to work with vinyl and you’re interested to see the steps and results, then this DIY clear vinyl bag project is perfect for you!

Tools and materials:

  • Scrap denim or old jeans
  • Vinyl
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Sewing machine
  • Matching thread
  • Marker
  • Bag as a guide
  • Pins
Using a shopping bag as a template

1. Cut the pieces

I used a simple grocery bag as a guide to cut my vinyl pieces. I cut out four of the large rectangular sides, a gusset that covered the bottom and sides, plus two strap pieces. You can make this bag as big or as small as you’d like. 

Measuring a square pattern for the patchwork

2. Measure a square

Before we get into the patchwork, draw a 3 x 3 inch square on a piece of paper. This will be your pattern for the jean patches. Cut it out carefully, making sure it’s straight. 

Measuring seam allowance on the vinyl

3. Add seam allowance

Measure 1 inch off the side of the vinyl piece and mark the edge all the way around. This will be your seam allowance when assembling the bag. 

Tracing squares all over the vinyl

4. Trace the squares

Trace the square onto the vinyl to have a pre-layout and understanding of how the patchwork will look. It’s really like creating a map. 

Drawing the pattern for the patchwork squares

I created a chessboard-like design with my bag. You can place it however you want them. 

Cutting patchwork squares out of denim

5. Cut & place squares

From mapping out the squares, I calculated that I needed to cut 68 squares for both sides of the bag.

I took my jeans, folded them, put my square pattern on top, and cut around to make the process faster. 

Placing the patchwork squares on the vinyl

Next, place the squares on the spaces that you marked. I put random colors as I did not want to follow a particular pattern. Then, pin the squares down.

Using the jeans waistband as a border

An optional step is to create a border for the bag. Here, I took the jeans waistband, cut it to size, and placed it on the edge of the bag. 

How to sew a vinyl bag

6. Assemble the bag

Sew each patchwork square to the vinyl individually.

I need to point out that vinyl and sewing machines are not a match made in heaven. Vinyl is a rather stubborn material to sew with, and sometimes the needle doesn't seamlessly run through the vinyl.

The trick is to work slow and carefully. This step took a long time, so make sure you set some time aside.

Trimming the excess fabric

Once everything was sewn in place, I cut off the excess fabric from the squares. I wanted the denim to fray and also, I wanted a little space between each patch. 

How to make a vinyl tote bag

Lay a second vinyl piece over the patchwork side, so the patches are sealed between two layers of vinyl, then sew the sides. Repeat this for the other patchwork piece. 

Trimming the vinyl edges

Lay both sewn pieces on top of each other and cut any excess vinyl off the edges so they're symmetrical. 

Long gusset pieces of vinyl

Pinning the bottom of the bag

Pin the long piece along the sides of one piece of the bag (not on the top). This will serve as the bottom or gusset of the bag, as well as the side panels. Sew to secure.

Sewing the opposite side to the gusset

Pin the second big vinyl piece to the edge of the side panels and bottom. Sew it down.

Making vinyl straps for the vinyl bag

7. Make the straps

For the straps, fold the vinyl in half widthways and trim the sides to make them even. Then, fold the piece lengthways and sew the open side down.

Cutting a piece of denim for the strap

Take a long scrap denim piece and cut it to a length that can fit inside the strap.

Feeding the denim through the strap

Use a safety pin to feed the denim piece into the strap. I also attached a long piece of vinyl to pull the denim through from the other side effortlessly. You can check the video from 8:15 to see how I do this.

Folding and sewing the straps

Fold the sewn edge over and topstitch to make sure there are no "raw edges." Repeat for the second strap.

Attaching the straps to the bag

Pin the handle’s ends to the bags and sew a square on the edges. 

Cutting denim for the the tote bag insert

Making a tote bag insert

8. Make the tote bag insert

To make the bag sturdier, you can make a bottom insert to go inside the bag. First, measure the bottom of the bag.

Measuring and cutting the vinyl for an insert

Then, cut a piece of denim to that size, as well as two pieces of vinyl.

Making an insert for the tote bag

Iron the fabric, then sandwich the denim in between the vinyl pieces. Sew around all four edges. 

Placing the insert at the bottom of the tote

Place the piece at the bottom of the bag, and you’re done! 

DIY clear vinyl bag with denim patches

DIY patchwork tote bag with vinyl

DIY patchwork tote bag tutorial

Now you know how to sew a vinyl bag. It's perfect for pool or beach outings!

What do you think of this lovely DIY patchwork tote bag? Sure, it takes a while, but it’s totally worth it. Thanks for joining me. 

Suggested materials:
  • Scrap denim or old jeans
  • Vinyl
  • Ruler
See all materials

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Join the conversation
2 of 9 comments
  • Sharon Sharon on Feb 06, 2022

    Very creative and great directions. Don't know if I have the patience to make it, but I really like it. :-)

  • Julie Julie on Apr 04, 2023

    Thank you great instructions especially about the vinyl. Can't wait to cut my jeans.