Time for the second installment in our TOTE bag tutorials.

First we talked about the Basic Pocket Tote.  And some of you asked, “if I sew a pocket to the inside of the bag, will the stitching show up on the outside?”  Yes.  But typically, the stitches aren’t very noticeable.  Just check out many of your store-bought bags!  So keep on sewing.

And let’s try a new twist….

Let’s Box-out the bottom of the bag so it sits, lays, and fills up nicely.  Then let’s bank on the 80’s craze and paint our fabrics NEON!….and sparkly metallic.  There are so many options!
Let’s get started.

First, paint the fabric.
• I used heavier twill cotton fabrics in white and off-white colors.  They show off the neon colors well.
• cut two 16×16 squares
• mark your stripes.  Measure 3 inches from the bottom and place a mark in the side seam. Then measure 2 inches up from there and mark.  Continue marking every 2 inches so you have 2 inch wide stripes.  You should end up with 3 stripes and about 3 inches left at the top
• then tape off the 2-inch stripes with masking tape.

• Grab Neon and Metallic paints.
My favorite fabric paint brand is Tulip, matte finish. But you can also use inexpensive acrylic paints.   Use the acrylic just as-is…or if you plan to wash the bag at some point (and to soften up the paint), add a fabric painting medium (discussed more HERE—and in the comments).

• Test out your paints on scrap fabric first to see how they look.

• Use a sponge brush to paint the stripes.  Allow the paint to dry.  Then enjoy the best part….peeling off the tape!

• Always lay a cloth over the top of your painted fabric and iron for a minute or so to “heat-set” your paint. This ensures that the paint won’t dissolve when washed (read the instructions on your paint bottle for more info)

• Look!  You’ve made cool fabric!

• Follow the instructions on the Basic Pocket Tote for sewing your bag.

When you’ve sewn the sides and bottom together….BOX out the bottom of the bag!
This is a great way to add dimension to your Tote.  It helps the bag stand up better, when filled with stuff. And it just looks more polished and professional.
Here’s what you do….
• When your bag seams are sewn, take the bottom seam and the side seam and squeeze them both together, so you create a right triangle.
* It’s very important that the two seams are laying directly on top of each other, or else your boxed-out corners will not be even on both sides.  Take your time to be precise with this step.
• Iron the triangle corner so that everything is perfectly flat.
• Measure 1 1/2 inches down from the tip of the triangle (or 1 inch…or 2 inches….it just depends how deep you want the bag to be) and draw a straight line across the fabric.
• Do this for both corners of the bag.

• Sew on top of the marked line and look….you’ve created a box bottom!
• Trim the excess fabric in the corners (or leave it as-is.  Doesn’t matter).
• Turn the bag right side out and finish it off.

And ask your daughter to take photos of you “using” your bag.

Then smile when she asks if she can model one of the bags, and tries to sit in the same positions as you.

I love you Luce.
(and thank you Owen or taking this picture of her):

Enjoy your new Boxed-out TOTE!

  1. 1) Stephanie

    I Love this Idea. I was just searching all over the house for a cute little bag for on the go. Now I’ll have to head over to Jo Ann’s and get some fabric paint! Thanks Dana

  2. So summery and cute!
    Luce is adorable being all “grown up” on that photo. Makes me smile!

  3. omigosh that photo of clara in the tote is KILLING me. so cute! i’m reveling in the neon trend these days too – just got myself a gray-with-neon-pink-stripes shirt! it’s so fun and summery.

    • 4) Chelsea

      I have to admit those are really cute. I made some totes for my bridesmaids a few years ago but I cheated a little and used pre-made canvas totes from Michael’s (I am not a very good sewer yet). I painted on them and and labeled them all by name. They weren’t as stellar as I had hoped but it was my first go and the girls used them happily so it all worked out. I think if Ido it again i will do something a little more like these.

      Thanks for the ideas!

  4. please tell me you painted Clara’s adorable shirt?! sweet totes love the pics!

  5. Cute bags! I’ll have to try my hand at one this summer. And that picture of your baby in the bag just slays me! Sooo cute!

  6. Seriously cute. I might have to make myself one. Or ten. Or more. And give them as gifts. It’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas presents! I giggled out loud at Clara in a bag. I wonder what she was thinking….

  7. 9) Mrs. P

    I love the funky plaid the two sides made when they we’re laying on top of one another. You could just see it through the layer of fabric. I am inspired to try a plaid neon tote!! So cool!

  8. I am really loving all the neon this season!

  9. 12) Leigh Anne

    Super fun & easy! Love the neon too…..and Lucy & Clara – adorableness!!

  10. 13) Lauren

    these are my favorite tote bags to sew. I use them for everything. Such a great idea to paint the fabric. I also sew up the sides to give it more structure for a boxed look.

  11. I’m loving the neon trend too! I still have full bottles of neon paint when I did the boys’ shirts…now I know what to do with them! 🙂

    I really like the simple purple rectangle design.

  12. These look so much fun! And kids copying adults never fails to bring a smile…

  13. love the neon!! love le bebe!!!

  14. 17) Diane

    The pic of Clara in the bag is too much!! I love it!

  15. Looks great – like all of your projects! I love the one with the hearts.
    I experimented with neon-color, too – on a shirt.
    Even washing was no problem – the color is still shiny.

    I already had in my mind to make a tote with some Neon. Now, that I have seen yours, I know that I HAVE to make one, or two, or three,,,,

  16. If I wasn’t the least bit interested in the totes (and that’s a BIG wasn’t) I would fall in love with them the nano-second I scrolled down and laid eyes on your baby-kins in the bag… TOO CUTE! You are creative in many many ways! 😀 PS I LOVE the totes!

  17. Such an interesting idea to paint the fabric. I love the colors.

  18. Merci pour le tuto et la photo de Clara dans le sac est vraiment drôle!!
    Thank you for tuto and the photo with Clara is realy funny!!
    (sorry for my english!!)

  19. 24) Dee

    LOVE these! I was just wondering if these straps were 27 inches as well. I’m working on one of my own and your straps look the perfect length!

  20. Thanks again for your tutorials!!! I’m making a tote for my kiddos to trick-or-treat! I love my embroidery machine so I’m personalizing them but I realized what a doozy this first design is! lol! So, my oldest will have a pretty detailed design but the baby gets a cute candy corn! lol! 🙂

  21. 26) Mollie

    Adore, your series on totes-am about to start making the basic tote, and continue through ALL of the totes 🙂 The tote, painted with hearts…what measurements did you use for the tote and how tall/wide are your hearts? Thank you, for such a wonderful blog and tutorials, that leave me feeling confident, and ready to sew LOTS of totes! A current goal, is to have specific bags, for various activities [no more searching for where somebody moved something, thus taking up time] and to always have re-usable bags, for various trips to the store…and they must be functional/strong, easy to store, and I strive for fashionable/chic, “me,” items, that reflect my style or use for the tote. A store that made handbags, went out of business and they sold ALL fabric, ribbon, notecards, along with fabric samples (these are big pieces with matching fabrics for each one-indoor or outdoor use, only on the samples). Very economical, and will try to use as much of that fabric, before buying more…some repeats in prints, so donating totes to charity or gifting them is in my tote plans.

    VERY sturdy, high quality canvas/duck, but most of it is a dark navy or brown. Any ideas to possibly bleach and dye some of the fabric a brighter color? I’m a person that would want the bright pink, orange, neon hues…Lilly colors with a big twist

  22. 27) Angie K

    How do your pictures look so gorgeous?? The totes look great, too! Love the neon/neutral combo. I came across this page while googling how to give a canvas bag a wider bottom, and your instructions were just what I was looking for, and so clear! THANK YOU!!!

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  24. 29) Paige W

    Thank you again Dana! You always pull through for my last minute projects, day or night. Phew! I love your clear instructions. Always so practical and clean.
    And The (most recent)Tote

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