Japanese Style Knock Off Patchwork Tote Bag – free sewing tutorial


 I LOVE my new Japanese Knock-Off Tote Bag! This free sewing tutorial will show you how to make a beautiful patchwork tote with pockets on the inside. Or an adorable tote with pockets on the outside and patchwork on the inside. Choosing how to sew it is up to you!

This free pattern is included in my Ultimate List of Fast and Easy Tote Bags to Sew. I think you’ll also love my newer Japanese-inspired bag pattern, the Simple Japanese Style Square Bag Pattern (in 2 sizes). Enjoy!

This blog post has been converted to an optional PDF that’s optimized for printing. Find it here. The free Japanese Style Patchwork Tote Pattern is included in the blog post below and is free to read, print, and sew! Just hit CTRL +P on your computer to print. The Optimized for Printing PDF pattern for $3 is optional. Did you know you can get ALL the Optimized for Printing PDF files organized in a library to access anytime you want? Check it out.

This tote bag looks so dang cute whether I carry it cinched or un-cinched, and I even got the chance to add some personal touches to it… see the little sewing machine applique patch?

I asked what you’d like me to make it with and some wanted linen, some wanted canvas. Someone made the brilliant suggestion of Essex Linen from Robert Kaufman (it’s a cotton/linen blend). I already had Essex Linen in my stash and at first I thought that the color would be too dark, but when I actually pulled it out and mixed it with some scraps, it looked great!

I put a sewing themed patch on the back too – both were made using the technique I showed you in my Applique from Novelty Fabrics tutorial.

But let’s get on with this sewing tutorial for the Japanese Knock-Off Linen Tote, shall we?

To start off with, you will need to sew fabric together to make two 18” tall x 21” wide pieces – I’m going to call this the lining, even though the bag is reversible. They are at the top left in the picture above. Don’t stress over this part, just sew pieces together in quasi-log cabin style until your piece is big enough… and then do it again for the other side. Easy.

You’ll also need to piece together three 2” x 21” patchwork strips.


Here’s the whole list of pieces to cut:

  • 2 patchwork pieces 18” x 21” (mentioned above)

  • 3 patchwork strips 2” x 21” (mentioned above)

  • 2 bag exterior pieces 18” x 21” (suggested: linen, Essex Linen, lightweight canvas)

  • 1 pocket piece 15” x 21”

  • 2 patches (store bought or DIY)

  • 2 handle pieces from the exterior fabric 3” x 14”

  • 2 print handle pieces 3” x 14”

  • 100” of cotton rope (clothesline), 1/4” thick


I applied Pellon shape-flex woven interfacing to all of the pieces except the 2” x 21” strips. I love that stuff – it makes everything better. 🙂

But seriously, I think bags with interfacing look so much more professional. I didn’t want this one to look quilted or sturdy, so a single layer of woven interfacing was just the ticket. You could leave it out if you want, but the bag would be really floppy.

And since the shape-flex is 20” wide and most of my bag pieces were 21” wide, I decided to be frugal with it and center the interfacing on my 21” pieces. There are 1/2” seam allowances anyway.

Cut 3” squares out of the bottom corners of both exterior pieces and both patchwork/lining pieces.


Seam allowance is 1/2”, except where noted.

Fold the pocket piece in half, wrong sides together, with the 15” edges aligned. Press. The raw edges will be the top, and the folded edge will be the bottom.

Fold one of the patchwork strips in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press. Fold one of the long edges to the center and press.

Pin the folded and pressed patchwork strip to the back of the pocket piece with the raw edges aligned. The side of the patchwork strip with the extra pressed fold should be at the bottom (not in this seam).

Stitch across the top with a 1/4” seam allowance.

Wrap the patchwork binding strip around to the front, press again with the raw edge tucked under, and stitch in place close to the fold.

Pin the pocket piece to one of the exterior pieces about 1/2” above the 3” cut out corners.

Stitch across the bottom pocket edge close to the fold and baste the sides in place within the 1/2” seam allowance.

If you want a divided pocket, you may stitch as many vertical lines as you want to divide it now.

The original bag, however, did not seem to have divided pockets. It looks like the maker just put a little patch over the center of the pocket to keep it from gaping open.

So that’s what I did. I love it.

On the remaining two patchwork strips turn, press, and sew 1/4” hems at the ends.

Then press these strips in half lengthwise, wrong sides together.

To make the casing, pin a folded patchwork strip to the top of each exterior piece with the raw edges aligned.

Baste in place within the 1/2” seam allowance.

There’s no picture of the other one, but both exterior pieces should have a hemmed and folded patchwork piece basted to the top. If you want to apply a patch to the back of the bag exterior like I did, sew that on now.

Pin each linen/exterior handle piece to a print handle piece and stitch along both long edges.

Turn both handles right side out and press. Topstitch close to the long edges.

Pin a handle to each side of the bag, right on top of the patchwork casing. The handles are centered, about 6” from each edge.

Baste the handles in place.

Pin the bag exterior pieces right sides together. Stitch along the sides and bottom (not the corners).

Press the seams open.

To box the corners, pinch each one flat, aligning the center and bottom seams. Pin. Stitch across both corners.

Pin and stitch the two lining/patchwork pieces together in the same way, except leave a 6” opening at the bottom of the lining for turning. Press the seams open.

Box the corners of the lining.

With the bag right side out and the lining still inside out, place the lining over the bag.

Pin around the top, aligning the side seams. Stitch all the way around the top of the bag.

Turn the bag right side out and press. Carefully press the top of the bag exterior and lining away from the casings.

Topstitch on the bag exterior close to the edge. Sew the opening in the lining closed.

Cut the 1/4” cotton rope in half to make two 50” long pieces. Attach a bodkin or safety pin at the end of one rope piece.

Pull the rope through one casing and then through the other.

With the bag flat (not cinched), tie a knot in both ends together about 1” from the edge of the bag. Trim away the rope ends past the knot.

Repeat this step to run the remaining piece of rope through both casings starting at the other side of the bag.

And you’re done! This tote bag is so adorable I can hardly stand it! If you make one too, I’d love to see. Post a picture in our SewCanShe Sewcialites Facebook group!


Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂