How to Sew a Tote Bag With Inside Pockets: Easy Step-by-Step Tutorial

Alicia Yanson
by Alicia Yanson
10 Materials
1 Hour

Today, I’m going to be showing you how to sew a tote bag with inside pockets. This is a beginner-friendly tutorial. This DIY tote bag with a pocket is super easy and fun to make, and it's a great way to use up leftover fabric.

A cute tote bag is also an excellent idea to make as a gift or a special occasion. If you’re wondering about the pattern - it's super easy! Let’s get started.

Tools and materials:

  • ½ meter (just over ½ yard) of cotton fabric
  • Paper
  • Pen
  • Matching thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pins
  • Marker
  • Barbecue skewer
Drawing a pattern for the tote bag

1. Make the DIY tote bag pattern

This pattern is for the body of the bag. Start by drawing a rectangle that measures 14.5 inches wide and 18 inches long. 

Adding 2x2-inch squares at the bottom corners

Then add 2x2-inch squares at the bottom corners. You’ll need two tote bag body pieces.

Drawing a pattern for the tote bag pocket

For the pockets, measure a rectangle that measures 9 inches wide and 12.5 inches long. You’ll need one of these. 

Drawing a pattern for the tote bag straps

Then, draw out the straps. These will be 2.5 inches wide and 26 inches long. You’ll need two of these. 

DIY tote bag with pockets pattern pieces

So, your pattern should look something like this once cut out in your chosen fabric. Remember to cut out the small bottom squares. How cute is this cat pattern, by the way? 

How to sew a tote bag with pockets

2. Sew the bag

Place the body pieces wrong sides facing, then sew the sides and the bottom at a ¼ inch from the edge. I’m sewing French seams as this will hide the seams.

If you’re not sure how to do a French seam, then pay attention to the next two steps. 

Pressing the DIY tote bag with an iron

3. Press

Turn the bag right sides in, and iron the DIY tote bag so it’s nice and flat. 

How to do a French seam

4. Sew again

Now, sew the sides and bottom again (with the fabric wrong sides out) and this time, add ½ inch from the edges. 

Pinning the corners of the tote bag

Repeat the same steps for the corners as well. Fold the corners, as shown. Pin them wrong sides together and sew. 

Sewing the corners from the inside

Then, flip the bag inside out and sew the corner a second time. 

Topstitching the tote bag

To add more strength to the tote bag, go ahead and topstitch the seams all around the bag. 

Clean and strong seams on the tote bag

Now, you have super clean and strong seams. 

Hemming the pocket piece

5. Assemble the pocket

Start by hemming the top edge by folding it down twice. 

Measuring and marking the fabric

Folding the pocket up to the marked line

Next, mark the other edge at 1.5 inches and fold the pocket up to that line. 

Sewing a basting stitch along the sides

Then, baste stitch the sides. This will make it easier to hem the sides afterward.

Folding and sewing the pocket edges

Fold both of the sides in twice, and sew. 

Making straps for the DIY tote bag

6. Make the straps

Fold the long rectangular pieces right sides together, and sew the edge. 

Using a barbecue skewer to turn the fabric

How to turn straps with a barbecue skewer

Here’s a neat trick to flip it right sides out. Sew one of the short ends close, and flip it with a barbecue skewer by pushing it up from the stitched end. Then, remove the side stitches. 

Ironing and topstitching the straps

Iron the straps and sew a topstitch on either side. 

How to make a tote bag with pockets

7. Assemble the DIY tote bag

Now that all of the parts are sewn, it’s time to assemble them. 

Marking the center of the bag

Placing the pocket on the bag

Mark the center of the bag and the center of the pocket. Place the pocket on top, and align the center marks. 

Marking where the straps will go

Then, mark the sides; this is where you’ll place the straps. 

Attaching the straps to the bag

Place the straps facing down and sew them on both sides of the bag. 

How to sew pockets in a tote bag

If you’re wondering how to sew pockets in a tote bag, then pay attention to the following steps. Place the pocket facing down and sew the top edge. 

Sewing the DIY tote bag with pockets

Folding the edges to hem

Hem the top of the bag; fold the top end by about ½ and inch and a second time at 1 inch. 

Hemming the top of the DIY tote bag

Now, sew the edge. For a cleaner finish, sew a topstitch at the outer edge of the bag. 

Sewing an "X" on the strap for strength

Sew a tiny “X” on each strap to give it extra strength. 

Sewing the strap to the tote bag with an "X"

Pivot around the “X” mark. 

How to sew a tote bag with inside pockets

How to sew a tote bag with inside pockets

Your stunning DIY tote bag is complete! I hope you found this tutorial on how to sew a tote bag with inside pockets useful. This DIY only takes an hour but may take a little longer if you’re a beginner.

Thanks for joining me and good luck! 

Suggested materials:
  • ½ meter (just over ½ yard) of cotton fabric
  • Paper
  • Pen
See all materials

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Join the conversation
 1 comment
  • Suzanne Suzanne on Feb 16, 2022

    I really like the simplicity of this bag. Thank you for such clear instructions.