Grocery Tote Tutorial

How about a quick grocery tote?  I can fit two gallons of milk in one of these babies.  And yes, every big grocery trip,  I seem to buy 3 gallons of milk.   Crazy, right?   This tutorial is a simple how-to for making a green-bag or recycled grocery bag.  My family has 5 people in it, so I needed a few bags.  I made 5 on the day I did the tutorial and at the every end I thought, “I wonder if my pictures are of the same fabric bag?”  Hum…  We’ll see.

The bag’s finished size is approximately  13″ tall, 12″ wide and 8″ deep.

Let’s get down to biz-  :: Sorry it’s not a glamorous picture, but it is just a grocery tote…   I wonder if the grocery store would be cool with me filling it up and snapping shots, IN the store?  Now that’d be a good picture.  ::

Supplies for ONE bag-

1 rectangle of decorator weight fabric measuring 41″ x 19″
2 rectangles of matching fabric for handles measuring 2 1/2″ x 22″
1 rectangle of foam core board measuring 8″ x 12″

Note- I used decorator weight fabrics purchased in South Korea.  Since I use these bags and really fill them up, I am pretty confident with the heavier weight fabrics.  I haven’t tried these bags with lovely quilter’s cottons.

Step 1. Build the Body

Fold the larger rectangle in half width-wise.  Stitch along one short edge and across the lower edge.  Press the folded edge and treat that crease as a side seam.

I busted out my old faithful Juki serger for this project.   It stitches a million times faster than my sewing machine and finishes the edges.  Since I was sergering, (yeh, that’s a word…) I also sergerd around the top to finish that edge.  I love my serger so much.

Step 2. Give it Shape

Next make the bag shaping darts at each lower corner.  Lay the side seam onto the bottom edge seam to form a point.  Measure and draw a perpendicular to the stitching line, 4″ from the point.  (In the picture below, the folded “crease” is treated as a side seam.)

Stitch or serger across the marked line.  If you are sewing, leave a 1/4″ seam allowance when cutting away the excess corner fabric.  Repeat this on all the corners.

Step 3. Press the Hem

Press the top edge of the bag towards the wrong side, 1″.  My edges are serged, but if yours are not treated, you’ll want to press a 1/4″ fold and then a 3/4″ fold to have a nice tidy edge in the top of your bag.

Step 4. Make the Handles

From the wrong side, press a 1/4″ fold along the length of each handle.

Press the handle again, in half length-wise.

Stitch down the right and left sides of the bag handles roughly, within 1/8″ from the folded edges.  Make sure your handle pairs are the exact same length.

Step 5.  Apply Handles

Stitch the top hem in place on the bag.  I used a 3/4″ seam allowance around each of the bag tops.  And of course, I used the Seamingly Accurate Seam Guide to make that super easy and consistent.

Decide on the handle placement for your bag.  For this size, my handles are about 6 1/4″ in from each side.  I folded the cut end of each handle back, 3/8″.  The cut end is concealed up against the body of the bag.

This is seriously important- When you apply the handles to the bag, make sure you sew an X shape and go over this X shape with many many stitching lines.  Groceries are pretty darn heavy.

Step 6.  Bag Bottom

This is it- the end, finito-   Cut a piece of foam core board 8″ x 12″ to fit into the bottom of your bag.  There are plenty of materials you could use here- cardboard, matte board, layers of cereal boxes glued together to make a stiff rectangle, plastic or plasticard – anything, really. I happened to have foam core on hand and have had good luck with it.

Place the board in the bottom of your bag and you are set.  I now own a total of 10 bags, which should be good for those big commissary days.  Here’s hoping I don’t have to use all 10 on any single trip, but then again, my family is just REALLY REALLY hungry…

Enjoy.  (This pattern/tutorial is for your personal use.)

Updated to add this ACTION SHOT:

ps- And if you were paying attention, it turns out that I didn’t take pictures of the same bag all the way through.  Just as well, I’m sure it didn’t throw you off.  You rock and roll!

One Response to “Grocery Tote Tutorial”

  1. Great tutorial for some nice looking grocery bags! I can’t wait to start making them =)

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