When opportunity knocks…you should like totally make a super-cute tote bag!

JoAnn’s Fabrics is one of my regular haunts. I like to pop in there often to see what I can dig up. I just found out my local JoAnn’s store is moving, and they’re clearing everything out of the old store. Last week, I found upholstery samples on the clearance rack for $1 each. Now you may be thinking, “NanaBread, why on earth do you need upholstery fabric samples, even for $1 each?” Well, I’m proud to say that I was blessed with my mother’s “artsy fartsy” gene, so I’ll tell you exactly what I was thinking:

• Upholstery fabric samples are pre-cut into 18” squares
• All 4 edges of the squares are already finished (serged)
• Upholstery fabrics are usually a heavier grade of fabric
• There are usually multiple samples of the same fabric
• If I can find 2 of the same fabric, I can make a tote bag
• Two squares for each tote bag = $2 per tote bag

With the addition of some woven belting in coordinating colors to use as handles, I was off to the races. I found at least 8 matching pairs of fabric samples, which means I can make 8 tote bags. I picked up another yard of upholstery fabric so I can make a total of 10 bags. I’m planning to give them as gifts for our annual Hoegarden Weekend in March, so I’ll need 10 bags. If you’re not familiar with Hoegarden, it’s our “girls only” family gathering named after a beer and held each March. It’s 3 glorious days of shopping, eating, board games, make-overs, one-handed croquet, chocolate and cocktails. Sorry, mom, sisters, nieces and granddaughters – if you’re reading this, the gift cat’s out of the bag. The tote bag! Get it? Hello? Anybody there? {crickets chirping}. Ahem….so back to the tote bags. Here’s how easy it is to make an upholstery sample tote bag, just in case you find a good clearance sale in your area:

1. Start by ironing your fabric squares
2. Turn the 2 squares with the “good sides” facing each other & pin 3 sides
3. Stitch the 3 pinned sides together; I like to go around twice for extra strength

4. Turn your bag right sides out and press the side seams to flatten them

5. Lay your bag down flat and cut off the top 2” (the unsewn side is at the top)
6. Turn the 2” piece inside out and pin it to the bag so the right sides are facing each other and the cut edges are at the top of the bag; pin them together, matching them at the outside seams
7. Cut the woven belting into two 22” straps and pin them into the edges of the bag for the handles, making sure the handles are between the 2 pieces of fabric
8. Stitch around the entire top of the bag

9. Turn the top edge of the bag out and iron to flatten the seams
10. Turn the edging inside and pin into place

11. Hem the top of the bag to hold the edging and handles in place (I like to use 2 hems, ¼” apart)

12. Fold the bottom corners up 1” and pin them to the sides of the bag, matching the side seams again; stitch the corners in a triangle to create a wider, flatter bottom to your bag; press the entire bag one last time to finish

That’s it! Each bag took approximately 30 minutes to complete. If you have your woven belting pre-cut into 22” straps, your iron on and ready to go, and you’re using the same color thread for each bag, you can do it in 20 minutes. For a bonus, stitch a coordinating colored ribbon to the inside edge of your bag and attach a metal swivel hook to hold your keys. They’re super handy and only $1.50 at Home Depot, which STILL keeps your cost under $5.00 per bag.

To re-cap: that’s 2 upholstery fabric samples for $1 each, woven belting for $1.50, a key hook for $1.50, thread I already had in my sewing room, and 20-30 minutes to stitch up each bag. And just like that, you have a one-of-a-kind heavy-duty super-cute tote bag for only $4 … a tote bag that would easily sell for $20 in stores. Now that’s my kind of crafting. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… I absolutely love it when I can be creative and cheap at the same time. And I must be on to something, because I’ve laid this out and described the process to at least 5 other women at JoAnn’s since I started this project, and each time I do, they take off running for the upholstery fabric sample racks. Sometimes the best projects just fall into your lap. Like I said, when opportunity knocks…



Filed under Craft Projects

21 responses to “When opportunity knocks…you should like totally make a super-cute tote bag!

  1. Big Sis

    I want the red one!!!! I called it first!

    • Slow your roll, Big Sis! No one’s calling dibs just yet, and when they do there will be two others in front of you – me and My Baby. Sorry, chick. You’ll just have to cross your fingers and hope your draft pick is still there in Round 3. Good luck! PS – the one you have your eye on is a deep raspberry with pink accents, not red. Does than influence your choice?

  2. Oh my goodness, I had no idea you were so crafty! (Well, I knew you were a little “crafty” …oh, never mind!) ;)

    Those bags are gorgeous and your family is going to love them, I bet! Those fabrics are wonderful, can’t believe they were only $1. It’s sad that your JoAnn’s is closing, though. Hopefully there’s another one nearby!

    • Sadly, the next closest JoAnn’s is at least 15 miles from me, but there’s good news. They are supposed to be opening up a new, larger store within 10 miles. The bad news is that it won’t open until March. Looks like I’ll be driving into town for a while!

  3. Cindy

    Is there nothing that you can’t do? You never cease to amaze me! Loving those bags….

    • Hmmm…can’t play golf, can’t stand on one foot without falling over, can’t fix my own computer or car, can’t speak German, can’t eat bell peppers or anchovies without gagging…. the list goes on and on. I just like to focus on the stuff I CAN do. Makes me feel better, and it keeps me from having to do the Stuart Smalley daily affirmation in the mirror every day. Remember that one? “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

  4. Cindy

    You crack me up! Yes, I remember!

  5. Thrifty and adorable –LOVE it!! My JoAnn’s is teeny-tiny, but I am going to look for upholstery samples, anyway. Although it is a dangerous place for me to be–too many cute ideas.

    That Stuart Smalley bit is hilarious. That was one of my favs, right after “Deep Thoughts” with Jack Handy. Only we used to substitute my cousin’s name for Jack’s because she actually spouts that sort of “wisdom.” ;)

    • HA! I’d forgotten about “Deep Thoughts” with Jack Handy. Funny how hearing something like that can bring back a flood of memories. I love that your cousin spouts little nuggets of Jack Handy-style wisdom. That’s hysterical. I’m not sure I could keep a straight face if one of my relatives started quoting stuff like that. I might get myself in trouble.

  6. Pat Counts

    You have way too many hidden talents! Very cute idea. Pat

  7. Oh my, I found your blog at Tasty Kitchen. I love the bags, and Joann’s is a favorite haunt for me also!! Janet

    • Hello, Janet! Don’t you just love the Tasty Kitchen recipe sharing site? I’ve tried so many great recipes from contributors. I’m very happy you found me, and I always appreciate new readers and comments. I hope you’ll come back and visit again and again!

  8. Wow! you did an awesome job on those bags! Smart thinkin’! :)


    • Thanks, Wendy. Someone needs to stop me now. I’ve made at least 12 tote bags, two toy bags for the grandbabies and one book bag for my neice in high school. I need to stop now. I may have to host a “clearance sale” on my blog if I don’t get a grip soon.

  9. Oo OO! The green one is my favorite! I am definitely not a crafty/artsy person, but I’m glad there are people like you in the world to make crafts for me :)
    Sounds like a fun weekend planned.

    • Thanks, Mads! It is a fun weekend. Some might say we have too much fun, but I’m not one of them! That’s one of the things I love most about our girls weekend. We always crack each other up. There’s always some kind of shennanigans going on, which always leads to hilarity. It’s a shame we don’t get along better. Ha!

  10. Katrina LovesAnimals Fillo

    Okay….found this blog 3+ years later…did you sister get the raspberry bag that she wanted? I love happy endings ;-D

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s