DIY Sturdy Storage Totes – free sewing pattern in 2 sizes!
Sew a quilted storage bag to keep your quilts, winter clothes, and your best fabrics organized all year long. You could also keep pillows, coats, and stuffed animals inside!
These totes are great for saving space and keeping annoying moths and bugs (gasp!) away from your stuff.
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 Optimized for Printing PDF download for $2 is totally optional.
I also added this sewing pattern to my list of 11+ Free Sewing Projects to Make You More Organized – because it totally fits!
My big storage totes are sewn from high quality quilting cotton fabric, sturdy foam stabilizer, and wide handbag zippers (YKK size 4.5 – the most economical choice is zippers by the yard). I’ve also used some 12 gauge vinyl for windows on the front of my storage totes.
Don’t worry, if you’ve tried my free video course for Designer Zipper Bags – then you’ve got the sewing skills to make these.
As you requested, I put a second half-size layer of vinyl on the front of each bag so you can insert a card to label the contents.
The large storage tote is 24’’ wide x 16 1/2’’ deep and 14’’ tall. It fits a king size quilt plus 2 pillow shams easily.
The medium sized storage tote is 18’’ wide x 11’’ deep and 9’’ tall.
The first step in this pattern is quilting large pieces of fabric with foam stabilizer in between. This is essentially the same thing you do to make my Designer Zipper Bags (see link above), but on a much larger scale.
To make the medium sized tote, you’ll quilt together two large pieces – one 19’’ x 20 1/2’’, and the other 33’’ x 21’’.
For the large storage tote, It’s a more economical use of fabric and stabilizer to quilt together one huge 40’’ x 54’’ piece.
For that reason, unless you have quilted large pieces of fabric and stabilizer like this before (such as when sewing patterns from ByAnnie) then I suggest sewing a medium sized storage tote first so you can get the hang of it.
Are you ready? Let’s sew some big sturdy storage totes!
To make the medium sized storage tote, you will need:
1 yard of fabric for the exterior
1 yard of fabric for the lining
1/4 yard of fabric for the binding and handles (a FQ will work too – or you can use leftover exterior or lining fabric)
1 yard of foam stabilizer (such as ByAnnie Soft and Stable)
one handbag zipper (YKK size 4.5) that is at least 41’’ long and has 2 slides.*
1/4 yd 12 gauge vinyl (see my tips for sewing with vinyl here)
1/4 yard fusible interfacing (such as Pellon SF101 or Pellon 809 Decor-Bond)
To make the large storage tote, you will need:
1 1/2 yards of fabric for the exterior
1 1/2 yards of fabric for the lining
1/3 yard of fabric for the binding and handles
1 1/2 yards of foam stabilizer (such as ByAnnie Soft and Stable)
one handbag zipper (YKK size 4.5) that is at least 58’’ long and has 2 slides.**
1/4 yard 12 gauge vinyl
1/4 yard fusible interfacing (such as Pellon SF101 or Pellon 809 Decor-Bond)
For both sizes, you will also need:
basting spray (such as SpraynBond)
**Tip: I highly recommend using Zippers By the Yard because that’s what I used. They are the exact size that works best for this project and they include 16 slides that you can put on in either direction. People have emailed me asking if they can use a different zipper. My answer is sure – go ahead, but I can’t guarantee the results. A sewing pattern is like a recipe. If you change the ingredients then you aren’t likely to end up with the same result.
For the medium tote, cut:
1 exterior fabric rectangle 19’’ tall x 20 1/2’’ wide
1 exterior fabric rectangle 33’’ tall x 20’’ wide
1 lining fabric rectangle 19’’ tall x 20 1/2’’ wide
1 lining fabric rectangle 33’’ tall x 20’’ wide
1 foam stabilizer rectangle 19’’ x 20 1/2’’
1 foam stabilizer rectangle 33’’ x 20’’
2 window binding strips 2’’ x 8 1/2’’
1 binding strip 2 1/2’’ x 62’’ (cut pieces and sew them together)
2 handle rectangles 4’’ x 9’’
2 fusible interfacing rectangles 4’’ x 9’’
1 vinyl piece 8 1/2’’ x 5’’
1 vinyl piece 6’’ x 5’’ (optional – if you want a pocket for the label)
For the large tote, cut:
1 exterior fabric rectangle 54’’ tall x 40’’ wide
1 lining fabric rectangle 54’’ tall x 40’’ wide
1 foam stabilizer rectangle 54’’ x 40’’
2 window binding strips 2’’ x 8 1/2’’
1 binding strip 2 1/2’’ x 90’’ (cut pieces and sew them together)
2 handle rectangles 6’’ x 10’’
2 fusible interfacing rectangles 6’’ x 10’’
1 vinyl piece 13 1/2’’ x 6 1/2’’
1 vinyl piece 9’’ x 6 1/2’’ (optional – if you want a pocket for the label)
Quilt the Fabric Layers and Foam Stabilizer Together
1. Use basting spray to adhere an exterior fabric piece to a piece of foam stabilizer of the same size. Then repeat to spray baste the lining fabric to the other side. The wrong sides of the fabric should be adhered to the stabilizer with the fabric right sides facing out.
Note: for the medium sized tote, you will make two quilt sandwiches – one 19’’ x 20 1/2’’ and one 33’’ x 20’’. For the large tote, you’ll only make one huge quilt sandwich that is 54’’ x 40’’.
Try to align the fabrics as best you can on both sides of the stabilizer and adhere them together well at the edges and corners. This doesn’t have to be perfect, though. We have a couple inches of extra material on either side because the layers do shift.
2. Quilt the layers together as you prefer. I like to use my walking foot and sew straight or curvy lines several inches apart, starting in the center and working my way out.
Tip: In case you didn’t notice, I chose a pink fabric with an evenly spaced design for my large tote, which meant I could quilt long diagonal lines without marking because I simply sewed in between every other row of x’s.
3. More cutting!
For the medium sized tote, cut two pieces that are 8 1/2’’ x 18 1/2’’ out of the quilted piece that was 19’’ x 20 1/2’’. Then trim the remaining piece down to 31’’ x 18’’ (the back piece).
For the large tote, cut your huge quilted piece into 3 pieces: 2 that are 13 1/2’’ x 26’’ and one that is 24’’ x 47’’ (the back piece).
4. Sew around the edges of all of the cut quilted pieces, 1/8’’ from the edge. This helps prevent the fabrics from separating as well as compresses the fabric and stabilizer in the seam allowances – making them easier to bind later.
Make a Long Wrap Around Piece for the Front and Sides
1. Place the smaller piece of vinyl on top of the larger piece, with the bottom edges together. Clip the bottom edges to hold them in place.
2. Place one of the smaller quilted pieces on your work table with the lining side up. Place the vinyl pieces on top, aligned with the right side edge. The shorter piece of vinyl (for the pocket) should be on top.
3. Fold one of the window binding strips in half lengthwise (wrong sides together) and lay it on top of the vinyl with all of the raw edges aligned on the right side. Use wonderclips to hold all of these layers in place.
4. Sew along the edge through all layers with a 1/4’’ seam allowance.
5. After sewing, open the vinyl away from the lining fabric and finger press the seam flat.
6. Flip the piece over to the right side and finger press the seam allowance toward the exterior fabric.
Then wrap the binding around the seam so that the folded edge of the binding tucks behind the seam allowance.
7. Topstitch the bound seam allowance down close to the edge.
8. Sew the remaining smaller quilted piece to the other side of the vinyl in the same way:
Place the small quilted rectangle on your workspace lining side up.
Place the vinyl and fabric piece on top, right side up and align the remaining cut edge of the vinyl with the side edge of the quilted piece underneath (this time the vinyl pocket will be upside down)
Fold the remaining window binding piece in half lengthwise and clip it to the vinyl and quilted layers underneath.
9. Stitch with a 1/4’’ seam allowance.
10. Finger press the vinyl away from the lining fabric, then flip the piece over and finger press the seam against the exterior fabric.
Wrap the binding around the seam allowance and topstitch it in place as before.
11. Trim the long wrap around piece to the right size.
To do this, fold it in half gently in the center of the vinyl (lining up the window binding pieces) and trim the folded piece at the fabric ends as follows:
For the medium tote, trim it to 20’’ folded, so it will be 40’’ long when unfolded.
For the large tote, trim it to 28 1/2’’ folded, so it will be 57’’ long when unfolded.
Attach the Zipper
1. Prepare a zipper the right size with two sliders that are ‘kissing’ in the middle. I suggest cutting a piece of zipper by the yard to the correct length and putting one slider on from either end. Then sew across the ends of the zipper to create stoppers so the sliders don’t accidentally come off.
For the medium tote, you will need a 41’’ zipper and for the large tote, you will need a 58’’ zipper.
2. Place the zipper face down against the top of your wrap around piece. You should have about 1/2’’ of extra zipper at either end. Use wonderclips to secure the zipper.
3. Sew the zipper in place with a 1/4’’ seam allowance. Install a zipper foot on your sewing machine if needed (I did).
4. Carefully trim away 1/8’’ from the seam allowance behind the zipper tape. Cut only the fabric and stabilizer layers, not the zipper tape or the vinyl.
Then flip the zipper up and finger press the zipper tape against the lining side of the piece.
5. From the right side, topstitch a scant 1/4’’ below the zipper. This will catch the zipper tape on the underside and hide the seam allowance too.
Trim away the extra 1/2’’ of zipper at either end and sew across the ends again to create new stoppers.
Attach the Back Piece
1. Mark the center of the wrap around piece on the wrong side of the zipper tape. On the lining side, mark the center of one short end of the large back piece.
In order to sew my back piece to the zipper as accurately as possible (no wonky tote!), I am going to sew each side separately – always starting and stopping my seam 1/4’’ from the edge or the end of the zipper).
2. Place the side piece on top of the short end of the back piece, right sides together and matching up the center marks. Clip in place.
3. Using a zipper foot if needed, sew the zipper to the short edge of the back piece, starting and stopping 1/4’’ from the corners of the back piece.
You will need to peek underneath the zipper to make sure that you are starting and stopping 1/4’’ away from the corners of the back piece underneath.
4. Now fold the wrap around piece to help it turn the corner of the back piece and clip it in place.
5. Sew the zipper to the side of the back piece – once more starting and stopping 1/4’’ from the corner and the end of the zipper.
6. Repeat to sew the other side of the wrap around piece to the back piece, again remembering to start and stop sewing 1/4’’ from the end of the zipper and the corner of the back piece.
Your tote should look something like this!
7. Once more, trim away 1/8’’ of fabric and stabilizer from behind the zipper – being careful not to cut the zipper tape or the vinyl. Finger press the zipper up and the zipper tape against the wrong side of the tote.
8. Topstitch on the right side a scant 1/4’’ from the zipper. Open the zipper so that you can check to make sure the zipper tape is flat against the inside of the tote.
Make and Attach the Handles
1. Fuse the interfacing to the two handle pieces according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
2. Fold each short end over by 1/2’’ and press. Then fold the strip in half lengthwise and press.
3. Fold the long raw edges to the center and press. Then fold the piece in half one more time and press.
The handles on the medium tote should be approximately 1’’ x 8’’. The handles for the large tote should be approximately 1 1/2’’ x 9’’
4. Topstitch all the way around each handle piece 1/8’’ from the edge. (A walking foot helps with this step.)
5. Use a fabric marker or chalk to mark placement lines on the sides of the tote for each handle.
For the medium tote (see above) measure and draw a horizontal line 2’’ from the top edge of the fabric (under the zipper). Then mark two vertical lines, the first one should be 2’’ from the side raw edge of the wrap around piece and the second line should be 9’’ from the side raw edge.
For the large tote measure and draw a horizontal line 3’’ from the top edge of the fabric (under the zipper). Then mark two vertical lines, the first one should be 4’’ from the side raw edge of the wrap around piece and the second line should be 12’’ from the side raw edge.
6. Pin one of the handles to the side of the tote with the top edge of the handle lined up with the horizontal marked line and the short ends lined up with the vertical marked lines. The handle should pop up in the center.
7. Sew each end of the handle to the tote by sewing a rectangle or square and then sewing an ‘X’ in the center to make it extra secure.
Repeat to sew the other handle to the opposite side of the tote.
Sew the Tote Sides and Bottom Together
1. Mark the center of the wrap around piece on the bottom edge (at the center of the vinyl) as well as the center of the remaining short end of the back piece.
2. Clip the short end of the back piece to the bottom edge of the wrap around piece, matching the centers.
This time, clip them wrong sides together. Once more, I am going to sew the front long edge first (stopping and starting 1/4’’ away from the corners) and then I will sew the sides. This is to ensure that my tote doesn’t get crooked.
3. Sew the front long edge with a 1/4’’ seam allowance, stopping and starting 1/4’’ away from the corners.
4. At each corner, use small scissors to make a small clip in the seam allowance on the straight edge of the wrap around piece that cuts just to the end of the stitching. This will help the straight edge turn the corner.
5. Finish attaching the back piece to the remaining sides of the wrap around piece (wrong sides together) using wonderclips. As seen above, making another 1/4’’ scissor clip in the straight back piece will help it turn the corner.
6. Finish sewing the sides of the tote together with a 1/4’’ seam allowance. It is still very helpful to start and stop sewing 1/4’’ from each edge.
Remember to also pivot at the corner, 1/4’’ from the edge.
Now You are Ready for Binding
1. Fold your prepared 2 1/2’’ x 62’’ or 2 1/2’’ x 90’’ binding strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together. Press in half, if desired.
2. Clip one end of the binding to the seam allowance on the back of the tote, lining up the raw edges of the binding with the raw edges of the storage tote.
Let at least 1/2’’ of binding stick up past the top.
3. Sew the binding on with a 1/4’’ seam allowance.
When turning the corners, it is helpful to cut a 1/4’’ clip in the binding strip at the corner to help it turn.
4. After sewing the binding all the way around the raw edges of the bag, cut off the extra binding, leaving 1/2’’ at the top.
5. Wrap the extra 1/2’’ of binding over the top to the front and then wrap the folded edge around to the front and clip it in place.
Tip: a sewing stiletto can help you make this fold neatly, and also help feed it through your sewing machine without sewing your fingers!
6. Sew the binding down on the front of the bag close to the fold.
This was a really long sewing tutorial! Don’t forget that you can also get it in a PDF that has been optimized for printing. I hope you are able to make some beautiful fabric storage containers to organize your home or sewing studio.
As always, I’d love to see the projects you sew from my patterns and tutorials. Please post a picture to Instagram and tag me @sewcanshe or #sewcanshe so I can take a look!
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. 🙂
Ohh Caroline!!! you have outdone yourself with the most wonderful tutorial, so simple to follow, so well written and photographed, you fill my sewing mind and heart with joy and love!! Thank you and bless you and yours for sharing!
Caroline, These are so great – thanks for such a detailed post! (And all the work that went into them!)
Can you recommend any stabilizer/padding that is a natural fiber?
Hi Melody – I’m glad you like this tutorial. I did not try this design with a natural stabilizer. You could substitute cotton quilt batting but it will not provide nearly as much structure. Like I said, a sewing pattern is like a recipe. If you change the ingredients, you are sure to have different results. 🙂
So accurate, amazing!
Ever since you put the banner up "The Sturdy Storage Tote Pattern is here…and it’s free of course! Click to see." It only takes me to pay for two dollars. Is this one you get when you pay the $15? Either way, I could never find the pdf for it unless I pay for it. I don’t mind but still to say it is free…
The banner takes you to this blog post that is free – it contains all the information that you need and you may read or print it at no cost. I do charge a small fee for the edited PDF file, but that is totally optional and contains the exact same information.
Hope that helps!
Thank you so much. I don’t mind paying for it. Love your patterns.
I don’t like to use fabric because it can accumulate dust. How can I make a storage bag that is 100% vinyl and zero fabric? Which directions above should I omit? Thank you.
Speaking logically, you can buy a vinyl storage bag for way less than you can make one. Here is a 5 pack in a similar size for $25: https://amzn.to/2Rpx5ua
To me, the point of sewing one is to use pretty fabrics that match my home. But if you simply must sew your own using just vinyl and a zipper, then I suggest buying one of the above linked bags and picking it apart. Then you can use the pieces as your templates. 😊