mtl simple tote pattern

The inspiration: ever since I was a kid, I have loved making bags. This tote design holds a special place in my heart because it was inspired by one of the first bags I ever sewed. I took an after school embroidery class throughout elementary school, which I loved, and the same teacher offered machine sewing classes during the summer. The teacher let us design our own projects and would then help us make the projects (which was so cool! she could’ve just walked us through set projects like a normal sewing class would, but took the time and effort to help 10 year olds make something from scratch instead). I became obsessed with sewing tote bags and spent most of my time in class working on that. Tote bags were a great project to become obsessed with, because I was introduced to many techniques as I started getting more ambitious with the various features added to the bag: zippers, invisible zippers, pockets, flaps, straps, etc. Given, my teacher had to walk me through those additions and I never felt comfortable doing it on my own until I was much older, but I had so much fun making and using my tote bags that my bag making obsession has only grown over the years. This tote bag pattern is based off one of those original tote bags, one that I’ve used immensely for the past 10 years. I made the dimensions slightly larger and added better pockets, but the overall shape is the same.

A note about the shape: though I’ve seen many bag patterns out on the internet, I haven’t seen much of this rectangular bottom construction; I’ve noticed that most tote bag patterns use boxed corners instead. Boxed corners are great, but I like the rectangular bottom better because it makes it easier to add pockets to the bag. Side pockets are possible, and you don’t have to worry about weird slanted side proportions when deciding where to place a patch pocket. Because I want everyone to get the chance to experience the thrill of designing a bag and choosing where and what pockets to add, I kept the main tote pattern very simple and have written up a pocket guide to use as a building block for a customized result.

The overall tote bag is zero waste (made up entirely of rectangles) and reversible. There are so so many possibilities and I can’t wait to see what people make of it. I’ve already had so much fun making more tote bags for myself, friends, and family. This size is perfect; big enough to hold quite a lot of stuff and small enough that it can be made from fabric scraps or upcycled material. Please enjoy this pattern as much as I do!!

Here are some of the tote bags that I’ve made. I normally don’t make this many samples of a pattern, but this design is really quick and enjoyable to make. The variations on this design are truly infinite; you can see that none of my tote bags are exactly the same. I love that depending on the fabric and handles you choose, the tote bag can either be sophisticated or a great way to use up fabric scraps. I got many compliments on my natural canvas/quilted pocket tote bag in my first year of college and it was a great conversation starter when I told people I made it myself 🙂

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