Sew A Big Bag from a Quilt: Quilted Bag Tutorial

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Do you need a new bag? Do you have an extra patchwork quilt laying around? I’m so excited to share with you a super easy, super fun way to turn that extra quilt into a big beautiful quilted bag! This will be your favorite quilted bag tutorial because it’s so fast and easy. It’s perfect for carrying essentials, last minute travel, trips to the grocery store, or simply using as a big purse.

This blog post has been converted to an optional PDF that’s optimized for printing. Find it here. The free Big Bag from a Quilt Tutorial is included in the blog post below and 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. Did you know you can get ALL the Optimized for Printing PDF files organized in a library for you to access anytime you want? Check it out.

The quilt doesn’t have to be very big. In fact, I made TWO big quilted tote bags from a single 44” x 54” baby quilt. I made these quilted bags in just a couple hours, and I was taking pictures along the way!

If you have a small quilt at least 40” x 40”, you can make two bags out of it.

This was a small quilt that I hand pieced while spending time in the hospital with my son. I added borders to it and then quilted it on my longarm. I had a fun time practicing different designs in each of the hexagon pieces (kind of like our Color By Number Quiltalong). But then I thought that the quilt turned out over quilted and not cuddly enough to gift as a baby quilt. It sat in my closet for a long time before I decided to use it to sew some bags!

Quilted Tote Bag Details

The beauty of this quilted tote bag pattern is that you can use literally any quilt. The binding on your quilt will be the top edge of your bag, which is one reason why this tutorial is so fast.

If your quilt doesn’t have binding yet (for example if you finished quilting and then stopped working on it), that’s okay too! I’ll tell you when to bind the top edge of the bag.

This DIY bag really is big enough to hold all your things (including craft supplies). Not including the straps, it is approximately 13’’ tall, 19’’ wide, and 4’’ deep (about the same size as my Sew Easy Big Tote Bag). Wouldn’t it make a great gift?

So let’s get on with the quilted tote bag tutorial. The instructions are all below…

How to Sew a Big Bag from a Quilt (Big Quilted Bag Pattern)

You will need:

  • 1 small quilt at least 40” x 21”*
  • 1/4 to 1/2 yard of cotton fabric for making binding for the strap sides. (you may want this binding to match the binding that is already on your quilt)
  • a fabric marking pen or tailor’s chalk
  • acrylic ruler, rotary cutter, and cutting mat
  • sewing machine
  • a heavy duty needle such as 14/90 or 16/100
  • coordinating thread

*You can cut out the pieces for 2 bags from one quilt that’s at least 40” x 40”. If your quilt isn’t bound yet, that’s okay. You will just have one extra step to bind the top edge of the bag.

This image shows how I cut out 2 bag pieces and 4 strap pieces for sewing 2 bags from this single quilt.

Cutting

1. From the one edge of the quilt, cut one rectangle 16’’ tall and 40’’ wide. Do not cut off the binding – make the bound edge the top edge of your 16” x 40” rectangle.

As you can see from the image above, there were several different places on the quilt where I could cut a 16” x 40” rectangle. I chose a spot in the center of a long side of the quilt so my bag would highlight my hand pieced hexagons and machine quilting.

2. Cut two strap pieces that are 2” wide x at least 32” long. My strap pieces are each 2” x 54” long and the ends still have binding because that’s the length of my quilt (but that doesn’t really matter). The max length of your strap pieces should be 2” x 60”.

3. After cutting, you will bind the raw edges of your strap pieces. Measure the edges of your strap pieces that need binding. For me, that was just the long side edges, but you may need to sew binding all the way around your straps if the ends don’t already have binding.

From your binding fabric, cut enough 2 1/4” wide strips so that you can bind the raw edges on both straps. If the top edge of your main 16” x 40” bag piece isn’t bound (such as, if you started with an unbound quilt), then you’ll need an additional 40” of binding.

Sew the binding strips together at an angle as shown above. Trim the seam allowances to 1/4” and press open.

4. Fold the binding in half lengthwise (wrong sides together) and press.

Bind the Long Edges of the Straps

1. Cut pieces of binding that are long enough to bind the long edges of the straps, plus 1”. Sew the binding to the wrong (back) side of the strap long edge with a 1/4” seam allowance. Leave 1/2” of extra binding at either end.

Note: You can see in the photo above, that the short ends of my straps already have binding on them because that was the edge of the quilt. If your strap ends do not already have binding, you’ll need to sew binding all the way around the strap, mitering the corners as if it were a quilt. See how I bind my quilts.

Exception: If your straps are 60” long then the short ends will not need binding because they will be caught in the seam at the bottom of the bag.

2. Wrap the binding around to the front side of the strap. Use the 1/2” of extra binding at the end to wrap around the corner and tuck under to make a neat finish. Secure with a few pins or wonderclips.

3. Sew the binding to the front side of the strap, stitching close to the folded edge.

4. If the top edge of your 16” x 40” bag piece does not already have binding attached to it, use the steps above to bind the top edge only of your main bag piece.

Make the Quilted Bag Exterior

1. Use the fabric pen to draw 5 vertical lines on the exterior side of the 16” x 40” bag rectangle:

  • First draw a vertical line down the center of the rectangle.
  • Measuring from the center line, draw 2 vertical lines that are 6 1/2’’ from the center.
  • Draw 2 vertical lines that are 7’’ away from the raw outer edges.

2. Using thread that matches the quilting on the bag piece, sew along the center vertical line. This will mark the side of the bag and help it to fold naturally.

3. Fold each strap in half, placing the short ends together. Measure 14” from the fold and draw a line across the strap. Turn the strap over and draw a line on the other side, 14” from the fold. Repeat with the other strap.

Notes:

  • The amount of strap that you have past the marked line will vary. I have 13” past the line on each side because my straps are 54” long.
  • The minimum strap length is 32”, which would give you only 2” past the marked line on each side.
  • If your straps are 60” long, you will have 16” past the marked line and your strap ends will be sewn into the bottom seam of the bag.

6. Pin each strap to the sides of the bag as seen above.

The lines marked on the strap should be even with the binding on the top edge of the bag. Notice that the straps are not centered on the lines marked on the bag piece, but the inside edge of each strap is lined up against a line.

If your straps are not 54” long like mine, then they will look a little different. With 32” long straps, they will only be attached at the top of the bag for 2”. If they are 60” long, they will reach all the way down to the bottom of the bag piece.

7. Using thread that matches the binding, sew right on top of the stitching on the binding from the top edge of the bag, down to the bottom of the strap, around the bottom of the strap, and back up to the top edge of the bag again.

Sew around the strap again, this time sewing close to the outer edge of the binding on the strap to make it extra secure. Notice how I didn’t sew across the top of the strap. You could, but I chose not to because my thread color did not match the color of the strap.

Repeat this step a total of 4 times to secure both straps.

Sew the Bag with French Seams

1. Fold the bag in half, wrong sides together, lining up the short edges. The straps will be on the outside. Pin the side seam.

It is important that the top edges line up nicely. Don’t worry too much about the bottom raw edges right now.

2. Sew the side seam with a 3/8’’ seam allowance.

3. Trim the seam allowance to just 1/8’’.

4. Turn the bag inside out. Make sure the seam is straight and completely turned out. Sew across the side seam again with a 1/4’’ seam allowance.

You’ve just sewn a French seam! There are no raw edges showing on the outside or the inside and you didn’t have to use any binding.

5. Sew another French seam along the bottom of the bag by pinning the raw edges together (with the bag right side out).

Sew the bottom seam with a 3/8” seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance to only 1/8”.

Trim the seam allowance to 1/8’’ and turn the bag inside out.

6. Stitch along the bottom edge with a 1/4’’ seam allowance.

Tip: It can be difficult to sew into the corners at the bottom of the bag. Don’t worry about that. In fact, you can start and end sewing about an inch away from the corner and you will be fine.

Box the Corners

1. It’s easy to make boxed corners on a finished bag like this. Make sure you are using a heavy duty needle, at least size 14/90.

With the bag still inside out, flatten each corner of the bag by making the bottom seam line up with the side seam (on one side the ‘side seam’ is only topstitching).

2. Use a fabric pen to draw a 4’’ long line across the corner. Pin the corner flat.

3. Sew across the drawn line, backstitching securely.

Tip: I prefer to leave this corner triangle intact inside my bag to give it structure (it helps it stand up). If that bothers you, you can trim away the triangle 1/4” past the stitching. If you do that, finish the seam by serging, zig zagging, or binding the raw edge.

Do you love your bag made with a quilt and my quilted bag pattern? I hope so! Post a picture of your favorite bag sewn with my tutorial to instagram and tag me @sewcanshe or #sewcanshe so I can see.

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This free bag pattern will definitely go on my list of 14+ Tote Bags You Can Sew in an Afternoon. Check it out!

xoxo,

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4 Comments

  1. Janet Miller says:

    Caroline, what an awesome project. Now I will have to look through all the quilts I have to find one to make this.

    Janet M

  2. This is genius ✂️ Can’t wait to try. AND thank you Caroline.

  3. This is fantastic, I’m literally having a new quilt quilted for my daughter now, and didn’t know what to do with the old one. This might be just the thing.

  4. WOW! This is BRILLIANT!!! And beautiful!!

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