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!
UPDATE: This blog post has been converted to an optional PDF that’s optimized for printing. Find it here. The blog post below is totally free to read, print, and sew! Just hit CTRL +P on your computer to print. The PDF download for $2 is totally optional.
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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