Sew yourself (or a friend) a cute tote bag that has a unique braided strap and a cell phone pocket on the inside! This free tote bag sewing pattern includes the pattern pieces and a step-by-step photo tutorial so anyone can make it.
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I still wasn’t sure what to call this adorable tote until I started taking pictures and there it was… the name was printed right on it – Arial Tote!
I think you are going to love the sweet shape and size of this bag. It’s perfect for tossing in your phone and wallet and running out the door. The tall narrow shape means you’ll also have room for a water bottle, so be sure to sew one up in time for summer vacation.
The finished dimensions are approximately 9” tall and 8” wide at the top.
There is a magnetic snap at the top, and cute circular patches on the exterior to make it easy to close every time.
But I have to say I love the braided strap the most. It’s really strong (trust me) and if you use the same size extra large eyelets that I did, you don’t have to sew it to the bag – the knotted end will never go through the eyelet so it’s secure.
Note: some of you asked for an interior or exterior zipper pocket. I didn’t include one on my bag to save time, but feel free to use my Welt Zipper Pocket tutorial to add one wherever you want.
Who’s ready??? Let’s sew the Arial Tote now!
You will need:
1/4 yd fabric for the exterior top of the bag + strap (I used cotton/linen blend fabric, but other medium weight fabric such as quilting cotton or home decor weight fabric would also work well)
1/4 yard fabric for the exterior bottom of the bag + strap + pocket
1/3 yard fabric for the lining
2 extra large eyelets and the eyelet setting tool
fabric marking pen or pencil
Use the included patterns (the download link is above) to cut 2 bag top pieces and 2 bag bottom pieces for the exterior.
Cut 1 interior pocket piece from the same fabric as the exterior bottom. If you want a large (Kindle) sized pocket, cut it 16” x 7”. If you want a smaller (iPhone +) sized pocket, cut it 13” x 5 1/4”.
To make the strap, you will need 3 strips 1” x 60”. Cut enough 1” strips from your fabrics to piece these together later.
Don’t worry about cutting your lining pieces or fusible interfacing now. You’ll do that in a few minutes.
1. Sew an exterior top and bottom piece together with a 3/8” seam allowance. Press the seam toward the bottom.
2. Topstitch along the seam on the bottom piece to finish an exterior side.
Repeat steps 1 and 2 above with the remaining exterior top and bottom pieces.
3. Use one of the exterior sides as a pattern to cut 2 lining pieces and 2 pieces of fusible fleece.
4. Apply the fusible fleece to the wrong side of the exterior side pieces following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Sewing the Tote Exterior:
1. Place the tote exterior pieces right sides together and sew around the 3 straight edges with a 3/8” seam allowance. Press the seams open.
2. To box the corners, flatten the side of the bag against the bottom, aligning the seams. Pin. Mark a line that is 2 1/2” long.
3. Sew across the line. Make sure your backstitch at the start and end to make the corner secure. Trim the corner away with a 3/8” seam allowance.
4. Repeat steps 2-3 above to box the other exterior bag corner.
Sewing the Tote Lining with a Slip Pocket:
(The instructions are the same whether you make the large or small pocket.)
1. Fold the pocket piece in half with the shorter ends together. Sew around the 3 raw edges, leaving an opening about 3” long for turning the pocket right side out. Use a 1/4” seam allowance.
2. Clip the corners and turn the pocket right side out. Press it flat.
3. Topstitch across one of the shorter ends to make the top of the pocket. The topstitching should be about 1/8” from the edge.
4. Center the pocket on one of the lining pieces and pin it in place.
A large pocket should be placed about 1 1/2” above the bottom edge.
A small pocket should be placed about 2” above the bottom edge.
5. Topstitch around the sides and bottom of the pocket to secure it.
6. Place the tote lining pieces right sides together and pin. Sew the straight edges with a 3/8” seam allowance, leaving a 3-4” opening for turning the tote right side out. Press the seams open.
7. Box the corners the same way as the tote exterior above.
Sewing the Body of the Tote:
1. With the tote exterior right side out and the lining inside out, place the lining over the exterior (right sides will be together) and pin around the top curved edge. Make sure the side seams are pressed open and aligned.
2. Sew carefully all the way around the top edge. The pattern allows for a 3/8” seam allowance, but I sewed mine using the edge of my presser foot as a guide to make the curve smoother.
3. Cut notches around the curved edge. Turn the tote right side out through the opening in the lining.
4. Press the edges of the opening to the inside and sew the opening closed (by hand or by machine).
5. Carefully press the top edge of the bag, turning the lining to the inside slightly. Topstitch around the top curved edge, sewing 1/8” – 1/4” from the edge.
Attach the Snap and Circle Patches:
1. Use the fabric marking pen to place a dot centered and 1” below the top of the bag.
2. Follow the snap instructions to apply 1 piece of the snap over the dot. Repeat on the other side of the tote with the other snap piece.
Note: the snap prongs and circle disk will show on the bag exterior. I designed it this way because I don’t like baggy linings that pull away from the bag when it is closed. The circle patches will cover the snap prongs and disk and look great!
3. For the circle patches, cut a scrap of fabric that is 2” x 4” and fuse fusible interfacing to the back. Use a thread spool to make two circles about 1 1/2” in diameter on the fabric.
3. Topstitch along the circles you drew. I sewed around twice quickly for a messy, urban look. Cut out the circle patches about 1/8” outside the stitching.
4. Apply a generous amount of the permanent fabric glue to the back of the patches and secure them over the snap prongs that show on the exterior of the tote.
Making and Attaching the Braided Strap:
1. Use part of an eyelet to mark a circle about 1/2” from the top of the tote and the left side seam. Cut around the circle through all layers. Use the eyelet setting tool and a hammer to set the eyelet following the manufacturer’s instructions. Attach the other eyelet on the opposite side of the bag.
2. Next we need to make 3 strips that are 1” by approximately 60”. If you don’t have a strip that long already, piece 1” strips together diagonally as shown above to reduce bulk. Trim away the corners to make a 1/4” seam allowance and press the seams open.
3. Once you have 3 strips that are 1” wide and approximately 60” long, you’ll need to press the long edges to the center bias tape style. This is tricky with 1” wide strips, but I will show you two different ways.
The first way is to carefully press the long edges at one end of the strip to the center as shown above and then weave a long needle or pin through your ironing board cover so that the 1/2” wide folded end just fits under the pin. Then you can carefully pull the strip through the opening under the pin and the edges will keep folding to the center (with some help) so you can press them.
The second way is to use a handy bias tape maker. This is the 1/2” size. I love it.
Next, you can fold the 1/2” wide folded strip in half again and press, or just fold it the second time at the sewing machine. That’s what I did. 🙂
4. Sew the edges together to make a narrow strap. I discovered that the Ribbon and Sequin foot that came with my sewing machine was absolutely genius at this. But this tutorial is already too long, so I included more photos and a little video in a new post here.
Press and sew 3 narrow straps that are at least 60” long as shown above.
5. Hold the ends of the three narrow straps together and pass them through one of the eyelets from the inside. Tie them together in a knot on the outside of the bag. Then start braiding!
Braid the entire length of the 3 narrow straps.
When you are nearing the ends of the narrow straps, insert them through the other eyelet (from the inside). Tie them together in a knot and trim the ends to make them even.
Yay! Your Arial Tote is finished! Please let me know how this pattern worked for you, and share any modifications that you made in the comments below. And upload a picture to our next Show Off Saturday Picture Party (no blog required).
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