How to Sew an Easy Rope Handled Tote Bag – Free Sewing Pattern
How to sew a cute and easy tote bag with rope handles. This sewing pattern is is twice as fast any other bag pattern because you don’t have to make the handles! They are the perfect size – about 10” tall and 16” wide plus they hold a LOT of stuff.
You have to see my beach themed rope tote too!
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I think these rope handled totes are my favorite bags I’ve ever made. I took one to a youth sewing class and I filled it with about 8 yards of fabric, scissors, a pincushion, pattern weights, 4 patterns, and an extra package of needles in the inside pocket. I didn’t want to bring my purse, so I also stuffed keys, sunglasses, and my phone in. No problem. And to top it off they are pretty!
Seriously. This could be your new purse, gym bag, diaper bag, whatever you need. So let’s talk about what you’ll need.
Required materials for one Rope Handled Tote:
1/2 yard cotton canvas (or other 44” wide fabric) for the top portion
1/2 yard cotton canvas (or other 44” wide fabric) for the bottom portion
1 yard of HeatnBond Fusible Fleece or other stabilizer (I used HeatnBond fusible fleece but medium weight interfacing would work too)
4 sets of grommets and the tools to apply them (more info below)
1 3/4 yd of cotton rope for the handles (more below)
As you can see, I used cotton canvas for both the inside and outside of my totes in addition to fusible fleece stabilizer. These totes are sturdy and will hold up to lots of use. If you use quilting weight cotton instead, then I suggest using fusible fleece on the exterior pieces plus interfacing (such as HeatnBond lite) on the interior pieces.
I already discussed fabric so now let’s talk about the rope. I found this beautiful 100% cotton rope in the home decor trimmings section at my local Joanns. There are other sources online that you might try, but I am very happy with this. My favorite part is how nicely the ends fray. It’s $3.99/yd before coupon.
The grommets I used also came from the home decor section at Joanns. The first time you purchase grommets you’ll need to get the package that includes the tools (on the left). After that you can buy packages with grommets only. The tools only cost a couple dollars extra. These grommets are easy to install. Don’t even think twice about them.
Here’s my notebook where I first imagined how this tote would shape up. Just thought I’d share.
Start by cutting
4 rectangles 7 1/2” by 19” from the ‘top fabric’
4 rectangles 7 1/2” by 19” from the ‘bottom fabric’
2 rectangles 5 1/2” by 10” from either fabric for the pockets
Stitching the bag:
Pair one ‘top fabric’ with one ‘bottom fabric’ and sew together along one long edge. If one or both of your prints are directional, then make sure your prints are going the way that you want them to. Repeat for all 4 sets of large rectangles.
Press the seam toward the bottom fabric and top stitch close to the seam. Repeat for all 4. These are now your ‘side panels.’
Cut two 14” x 19” pieces of fusible fleece for the exterior. To tell the truth, I didn’t measure. I just used one of my side panels as a pattern. Yes, I cheat. Fuse the two pieces of fusible fleece to 2 of the side panels. The sewn pieces with fusible fleece are the exterior side panels. The pieces without fusible fleece are the interior side panels.
Download the free curve template. It is 5” wide and .75” tall if you want to draw your own. Fold each side panel in half to find the center. Align the center marks on the template with the center top of the bag, and cut out the curve. Repeat on all of the side panels.
Next cut 2 1/2” squares from the bottom corners of each side panel. The shape of all of the side panels should look like this.
For the pocket, pin the 5 1/2” x 10” rectangles right sides together and sew around all of the edges. Leave a 4” opening for turning on the bottom. Clip corners, turn, press, and topstitch along the top edge.
Pin the pocket on one of the lining panels. The pocket should be centered, over about 1” of the bottom fabric. Stitch around the sides and bottom of the pocket with a 1/4” seam allowance (this will close the opening). Then stitch a dividing line (or more than one) if desired.
Pin the side exterior panels and the side interior panels together along the sides and bottom.
Stitch with a 1/2” seam allowance. Leave a 5” opening on the bottom of the interior panels for turning the bag.
Press all seams open. Pinch the corners to align the side and bottom seams and box the corners. Pin.
Stitch corners with a 1/2” seam allowance.
Turn the bag exterior right side out and place the bag interior over it, right sides together. Pin all around the top.
Stitch all around the top of the bag with a 1/2” seam allowance. Try to pivot at the curve edges even though it’s not a sharp turn.
Clip a wide notch over the corner of each curve. Then make lots of clips along the curves to help them turn. Clip close to the stitching without cutting it.
Turn the bag right side out through the opening in the interior. Push the corners out with your fingers or a turning tool.
Stitch the opening closed either by hand or by machine.
Press the top of the bag and top stitch 1/4” from the edge.
Adding the grommets and rope:
Here comes my favorite part! Use the larger half of one grommet to draw a circle at the top of the bag, in one of the curve corners. The grommet should be about 1/4” from the edges. The circle will be about 1/2” from the edges.
Cut out the circle through both layers. It helps to make a hole with your seam ripper and then cut around with little scissors.
These are the two extra tools that are needed to install the grommet. The tool on the left is the anvil and the tool on the right is the setter.
The larger (front) side of the grommet fits on the anvil.
The setter is positioned on the back side of the grommet and struck with a hammer.
So place the larger half of the grommet through the hole on the front of the bag, and place the smaller half of the grommet over it on the inside of the bag. On a hard surface (such as the floor) place the anvil under the grommet on the bottom (the front of the bag) and position the setter tool on top. Strike hard with a hammer. It’s okay to strike not-so-hard at first to see how much force is necessary to bend the metal and set the grommet. Just keep pounding until the grommet looks perfect.
Repeat until you have 2 grommets for each bag handle.
Cut two 28” lengths of rope. If the shop worker placed tape on the end of your rope remove it before you measure. Push the end of one rope section from the inside of the bag to the outside and tie a knot. Push the other end of the rope section through the remaining grommet on the same side of the bag and make a knot. Fray the ends, if desired and trim the strings so they are even.
Repeat for the other handle and you are done!
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Love all of these fabrics, but especially the arrow in gray! Hope they start carrying them in my Target soon!
Love the Vogue Arrow Feathers!
I like Escape birds – love the tote
love escape floral in brown, and the fabric you picked too
Fabric Loft Vogue Large Floral Fabric – green is my favorite. Thanks for this great giveaway!
Love the Trapeze Geo – Yellow and the Trapeze Large Damask – Pink! Those would make adorable bags!
I like the Loft Vogue Silhouette – Black/White which I might combine with the Loft Vogue Floral (green) or the Loft Trapeze Geo – Yellow
It’s hard to choose but I like the Fabric Loft Vogue Scallops Fabric – Citron
Thank you for this opportunity.
I love the ones you used! Very cheery! But I would love it all! Lol.
I love birds so I would say the Escape Birds. Thanks for the tutorial. Very nice. Love the colors you chose.
I love a lot of them but I think Fabric Loft Vogue Arrow Feathers Fabric – Gray (1 yd) really caught my eye!
Plus Thanks you for the great tutorial!
What a wonderful job you did on these bags. Thanks for sharing the tutorial! I love that Target now has fabric! I didn’t know that……..my favorite?? Fabric Loft Vogue Arrow Feathers Fabric – Gray.
I love them all but the large florals are my favorites! thanks for the great tutorials!
I tried to comment but don’t think it went thru. I like what you picked best, but next I love this one because of the bright colors: https://www.sewcanshe.com/blog/2014/8/23/rope-handled-tote-easy-tutorial
Oops — that didn’t work. lol Here is the fabric I like: Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Damask Fabric
What an adorable bag! I’m loving the Vogue line they have – the Large floral print is my favorite!
The Arrow Feathers and the large orange and navy floral. No Target near me has these, so I would love to try them out! Thanks!
I love Trapeze Medallion. So bright and colorful!
I absolutely love your tote…am going to start one today. The colors you used were wonderful but I also love Trapeze Large Chevron in Pink and Motley Greek Key in Navy. Hopefully one of our Targets will start carrying the fabric. Thanks for the chance to win.
I love them all, but especially the gray feathers.
My favorite is the arrow feathers
trapeze large damask pink
Love the large multi floral. Think these bags would be great for taking to the beach and making for family get together gifts.
The Vogue Silhouette – Black/White is gorgeous!
Love the Motley Large Multi Floral in navy. Thanks for the tute and giveaway 🙂
I love the Fabric Loft Vogue Scallops Fabric – Citron
Escape Medallion-brown looks like it would make a nice fall/winter bag. JMC
My favorite was Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Chevron Fabric – Pink.
The arrow feathers are great, and i love the scallops. I had no idea Target had fabric!! Crazy!
The large medallions and pink damask are my favorite. So colorful!
Gray arrow feathers
Love this tote! Need one for a retreat in October. Too bad my Target does not carry the fabric. Guess I’ll go to Joann’s. Harbor Freight has a big bag of grommets, only brass tone, with tools for $3.99. Thanks for all your tutes, have made many of them!
Oops, forgot to say that my favorite was the Escape fabric. I also put in a request for Target to carry fabric in MY store!
The Escape Gradient Stripe in brown is my fav!!
Love your bag and the colors!!
My favorite is "Vogue Arrow Feathers"…but all of them are great. I cannot wait to print out your tutorial for this bag! I love it and want to make one for all three of my girls. I already have a grommet kit. Thanks so much and I’m keeping my fingers crossed! 🙂
Trapeze Large Chevron Fabric
I really like the Vogue Large Floral Green.
I also love the bag tutorial you shared will be pinning that for later when I have some time to try it out.
My favorite is the Vogue Scallops – Citron..Will have to try gommets on my next bag…thanks for the giveaway!
I love grommets but haven’t gotten around to putting any in. After this bag, I’ll be all over making LOTS of holes in things…hmmm, shower curtains? Thanks for the tute!!
Favorite is the Trapeze Large Damask Fabric. Thanks so much for the giveaway!
I can’t believe Target is selling fabric. That’s awesome. I love the Arrow Feathers in gray, and the Large floral in green, but they’re all pretty! And I love this bag. I’ve never made a bag before, but this one is so cute, I think I might just have to give it a go. 🙂
I love this one: Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Damask Fabric. Too bad it is only in 1 yard increments! 🙂
I love the zigzag fabric. And your tote. I think it would make a fabulous beach tote too.
i love the escape birds would make a great gift for my granddaughter who starts college this week.
I love the Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Chevron Fabric – Pink
My fave is the Fabric Loft Vogue Arrow Feathers in Gray. Cute tote and thanks for the tutorial.
Fabric Loft Escape Birds Fabric – Turquoise which I would use with the Fabric Loft Escape Medallion Fabric – Brown. I think I would really like them used together.
I like the blue escape birds, but the pink damask is close – but I don’t know if I’d use it.
I really love the Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Medallions Fabric – Pink. The tote is really cute and I’d love to make one for myself 🙂
Love all the fabrics but my favorite is the Motley Greek Key, as blue is my favorite color. Would love to win the fabric.
Thanks for the great tutorial and for the giveaway.
I really like the Escape Birds. I love your bags!
Birds Fabric in Turquoise! Awesome of Target to pick up this fabric line! YAY!
I would have to say that my favorite is the Medallion fabric in brown. Thanks for the great tutorial.
These bags are so cute, I use bags like these for about anything, you can fill them up and out the door you go. I love the colors and would love to win some fabric so I can make me and my mom a bag to finish out the summer with. Your tutorials are very easy to understand, I’ll stay tune for the next one you have on line.
It’s hard to choose, but I especially love the Escape collection, so I’ll pick Fabric Loft Escape Lead Floral Fabric – Brown.
It’s hard to choose, but I especially love the Escape collection, so I’ll pick Fabric Loft Escape Lead Floral Fabric – Brown.
I love love love the Birds in Turquoise! I can see making these reusable grocery bags 🙂
I love your bags!! thanks for Tutorial!!! 🙂
Wow…love allll the Loft Trapeze Collection prints..think right now I would pick "Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Damask Fabric – Pink"……would use to make tote for Daughter!
Love the Trapeze Chevron fabric but I also love the Escape Birds! So many pretty ones it was hard to decide! I will have to check and see if my Target carries them. I was wanting some fabrics like these.
Thank you for all your tutorials and ideas!
I love that Target is carrying fabric! I hope they start carrying it at the stores since I love shopping there. I think my favorites are the scallops in Citron and Escape Birds in Turquoise.
I fell in love with he yellow you used, but then I checked the site and fell even harder for the grey feathers! I just wish my Target stocked fabric– although it would be serious trouble! Thanks for sharing!
Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Medallions Fabric – Pink…It is nice, colorful and happy.
I like their Motley fabric line the best, especially the navy Greek Key.
Thank you for this tutorial. I really like this bag.
I Like this one Fabric Loft Vogue Large Floral Fabric – Green Thanks for the tut I pinned for later…Love the colors you used.
Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Chevron Fabric – Pink
My favorite is the Trapeze Large Medallions Pink.
I like the Vogue Large Floral Fabric – Green the best!
I like the Large Floral Green and the Arrow Feathers Gray the best! But they are all wonderful!
Wow, go Target! My favorite is Large Multi Floral – Navy. Last week I actually found Free Spirit, one of my favorite lines, at Tuesday Morning!
i love both of them, thanks
Trapeze large medallions pink is awesome. But there are so many great prints it’s really hard to choose just one.
Vogue Arrow Feathers!
My favorite is Fabric Loft Motley Large Floral Fabric – Red. There are so many other fun fabrics there too!
I can’t stop thinking about the red large floral, so that is definitely my favorite!
Vogue Arrow Feathers
Love the Arrow Feathers, but they are all pretty great! Who knew Target sold such great fabric!
NO.1 Trapeze Large Chevron
I like the Large Floral Green
Grey Arrow Feathers here!
I really LOVE the arrow feathers but my second favorite was the medallions you used in your bags <3
The Fabric Loft Vogue Scallops Fabric – Citron is my favorite.
I’m loving the escape birds and arrow feathers.
The vogue silhouette black/white is my favorite. I can see it with hot pink accents and possibly a hot pink lining. Very chic!
I would definitely get the Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Medallions Fabric – Pink – I can never have enough pink!
Trapeze large damask in pink is adorable! Love this bag.
Love Vogue Silhouette black/white and medallions.
Okay I struggled with a favorite because I LOVED three of them but I have to say the Vogue Arrow feathers was my favorite favorite. 🙂
Beautiful bag! Will start making one today! Very surprised that Target has such beautiful fabric. My favorite is Fabric Loft Motley, Large Multi Floral Fabric-Navy. Will definitely return to Target.Com to search for fabrics.
Absolutely beautiful! I love the large medallion fabric you used and I also like the escape floral fabric with the birds. Thanks for the giveaway.
Thanks for sharing the gromets. I like how easy it looks! I liked the arrow feathers best. I can see it being versatile!
I liked the Loft Vogue Arrow Feathers fabric and the Loft Escape Gradiant Stripe Fabric – Brown
I like the vogue satellite.
I like the Damask fabric. Thanks.
My favorite is the Damask fabric. Thanks for the giveaway! email@example.com
I love the Chevron fabric! The colors work so well together!
My favorite is the Trapeze Large Medallions – pink
Joan H. firstname.lastname@example.org
The whole Trapeze collection is so colorful and fun but if I had to pick just one favorite it would be the Trapeze Large Damask.
Hah, I really needed another source of fabric. Really! I like the floral print from Escape.
I really love the colors in these fabrics! Love the tutorial too! Thanks! I like Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Medallions Fabric – Pink
i LOVE the vogue scallop fabric!! melcrafts [at] hotmail [dot] com
I liked the Chevron print best!
I love them all…who knew that Target had fabric (not my local store!!) but I LOVED the grommet lesson…oh thank you so much for that!!! VERY helpful!
I love the Trapeze Large Chevron Fabric – Pink!
So when did Target start carrying fabric? I love the color blue so I really love the Fabric Loft Motley Greek Key Fabric – Navy.
I wish Target would start selling fabric in the store. They are all fabulous! Like many of the previous comments, I love the Navy Morley Greek Key. I would pair it with either the Vogue Grey Arrow Feathers, or the Yellow Trapeze Geo.
I liked the Escape birds in turquoise best. Lovely!
I like the Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Chevron Fabric – Pink.
We are starved for fabric stores in West Seattle, there are only 2 stores in opposite directions and about 10 miles away, slim pickins. I checked and there are only 2 Target stores in the Seattle area and they are very far from where I live. I loved the Trapeze Medallions, but in truth, there were many I liked quite well.
I love the vogue arrow fabric!! I can’t believe they are selling it at target! I already loved target and now I have MORE reasons to spend all my money there!
The Large Chevron fabric would make such a fun bag. This tutorial will make a great bag. Thank you.
I like the Fabric Loft Escape Birds Fabric and the Large Floral Fabric Green.
I love the bright colors in the Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Chevron.
Fabric Loft Trapese Large Medalions is so cute!
Vogue Silhouette and Escape birds Now I have to go and check my Target and see if they are have this in stock.
I like the Fabric Loft Vogue Silhouette – Black/White the best, email@example.com
They are all very pretty – I like Vogue Arrow Feathers Fabric – Gray best!!
Definitely the arrow feathers
I love the red Motley Large Floral Fabric. It’s adorable!
Arrow feather looks great
I like the Trapeze Large Medallion Fabric best.
I would choose arrow feather, gray; then trapeze geometric, yellow, to go with it!
I love the Trapeze large chevron in pinks!
I liked Motley Greek Key and the Trapeze large Medallion.
I liked the vogue scallops in citron.
Vogue large floral green is my favorite.
The Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Medallions fabric in pink really jumped out at me. I loved the bag ans especially the curved cut out on the top.
OmG! These are WONDERFUL! I love the Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Damask Fabric – Pink and the Fabric Loft Motley Greek Key Fabric – Navy. Oh the possibilities! Thanks for the chance to win!
Vogue Arrow Feathers in Gray is my favorite!
I really like the Trapeze print!
Thank you for the tutorial and for offering the giveaway. These prints are so fabulous that it’s hard to choose just one; so if I have to choose only one, I select the Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Damask Fabric. Will have to look at Target online more often. Thanks again.
I love the escape birds turquoise!
The large medallions-pink
You used the best fabric for your bag, Fabric Loft Trapeze Large Medallions Fabric in Pink. Thanks for the chance to win! jacklynnsteven at netzero dot com
Love, love this tote! I am going to attempt with your great tutorial! My favorite fabrics are 1): Fabric Loft Vogue Silhouette – Black/White and 2): Fabric Loft Escape Birds Fabric – Turquoise . I think they would look great together. Of course, it is really hard to choose since they are all gorgeous! Thank you for the opportunity and the great tutorial! ♥
Hard to choose by my favorite would be the Fabric Loft Motley Large Multi Floral Fabric – Navy.
I am making this bag this weekend. I would love to win some fabric.
I like the Fabric Loft Motley Multi Stripe
Love the citron scallops!
I’d choose this one…Fabric Loft Escape Medallion Fabric – Brown (1 yd)
It says brown, but looks black.
The one I would choose would be the Birds Fabric.
I really love the Fabric Loft Escape Lead Floral Fabric – Brown. I know it says floral but it looks like a bird design. Love it! Thanks for letting us know about this.
Fabric Loft Trapeze Geo YELLOW ~ is my favorite! Makes me smile! Thank you for your wonderful tutorials ~ something to work with my granddaughter on! 🙂
Wow! Who knew that target had fabric. It’s all really pretty but I’m partial to the Loft Trapeze big pink flowers. I want to make some of those cute fabric bins to organize my sewing dodads. Happy Labor Day!
Love Escape Birds very nice! Thanks for the giveaway 🙂
I feel silly that I didn’t know Target.com sold fabric! I really like the large chevron fabric, as well as the large medallion fabric used in the super cute bag tutorial!
I was clueless as well. I may be spending more time at target.com. I really like the vogue arrow feathers and the escape birds. The vogue silhouette black/white is also awesome. Thanks for the new shopping link and for a chance to win.
Thank you for that great tutorial and for a chance to win fabric! I love the Escape Birds and the Vogue Silhouette black/white. Now, I’m off to find more of your fabulous tutorials.
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