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The XL Tote Bag Tutorial | Madam Sew

The XL Tote Bag Tutorial | Madam Sew

The XL Tote Bag Tutorial

I really needed a new extra large tote for my groceries and I thought it would be a fun project to share with you all! Make one for yourself, or for a gift; the holiday season is right around the corner!

This tote bag is a boxed bag. The finished dimensions are about 15 x 18 x 5 inch,but you will see that it is very easy to change the dimensions if you want yours wider, smaller, or longer. This is definitely a beginner level project. No lining necessary!

large tote bag
large tote bag
large tote bag
large tote bag

You can complete this tote project with a regular sewing machine. While a serger is helpful to finish your edges, it is not necessary. If you do have a serger, I know how daunting thread changing can be! I went for it and changed my grey serger thread to yellow thread for this project and I really like the results. If changing your thread is too much work or you don’t have a serger, try MadamSew’s overlock presser foot and an overlock stitch with a regular sewing machine. The result is just as nice! How do you finish your edges? Comment below!

For this tote bag, I bought a firm cotton canvas fabric in my local fabric store, but you can use different types of fabric as long as it is sturdy and can withstand a lot of use. steer away from fabric with stretch or any lightweight . I think a winter version made out of corduroy or plush teddy bear-like fabric would also be great. What kind of fabric will you use? Share your thoughts in the comments!

The XL Tote Bag Tutorial

This project is so simple, there isn’t even a pattern! You will just need the dimensions to measure and cut the fabric in rectangular pieces.

There are 7 fabric pieces to be measured and cut. The side pieces have the same width as the bottom piece. The length of these 3 matches the sides and bottom of the main piece. With this information, you can decide how big you want your tote to be. If you want to try my size, use the following dimensions:

    • 2 main pieces of 16 ½ inch x 19 ½ inch
    • 2 side pieces of 16 ½ inch x 5 ½ inch
    • 1 bottom piece of 19 ½ inch x 5 ½ inch
    • 2 strips for the handles of 2 inch x 34 inch
Tote bag Tutorial

1. Make the handles

Fold and iron the 2 long sides inwards towards the middle. Now fold the strip in half and sew along the 2 long edges. If you think your fabric isn’t sturdy enough, add some fusible interfacing before starting to fold, iron and sew.

fold and iron the 2 long sides
Fold the strip in half
fold and iron the 2 long sides inwards
fusible interfacing
sew along 2 sides
fold and iron

I like to use the fusible hem tape we have in our store. It makes ironing straps really easy. No pinning!

2. Prepare the main pieces

Finish the edges of the 2 main pieces with a zigzag stitch, an overlock stitch (using an overlock presser foot) or your serger. More information on how to use your regular sewing machine as a serger, you can find HERE.

Overlock stitch
Serger matching thread

3. Attach the handles to the main pieces

To attach the handles to the main pieces, pin both ends of 1 strip to the long side on the right side of the main piece, 2-3 inches from the edge, raw ends matching. Do the same thing with the other handle and the other main piece and sew over the handles at the edge of the main piece.

attach the handles to the main piece
sew the long side
matching ends

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4. Prepare the side strip

Make one long strip out of the 2 side pieces and the bottom piece. Sew them together at the short ends, right sides facing in the following order: side piece - bottom piece - side piece.

Finish the edges of this long strip.

make one long strip
sew them together at the short ends
finish the edges

5. Assemble the tote bag

Pin this long strip to one of the main pieces, attaching it to the 3 sides, right sides facing, matching the corners. Sew along the 3 sides at ⅜ inch. Fold the seams open when you sew over them.

Assemble the tote
Pin long strip to one of the main piece
Sew along the 3 sides at 1/3 inch

Now pin the other main piece to the other side of the long strip, right sides facing and sew with ⅜ seam allowance.

Pin the other main piece
sew with 3/8 seam allowance
Finish Tote bag

6. Hem the top edge of the tote bag

Fold the top edge towards the inside twice, about ¾ inch, like a double folded hem. Fold the handles along with the hem and fold them over the hem towards the outside of the bag. Edgestitch all around (at ⅛ of an inch) and add a second stitching at ⅝ inch from the edge. You can use an edge joining foot to keep that ⅛ stitching straight and the bulky seam jumper to sew over the handles and the thick seams. Cut off all the little thread ends.

fold the top edge
fold th ehandles along witht he hem
Pin the handles
sew over the handles
cut off the little threads
finish handles

When you get to this point… your XL tote bag is ready! That wasn’t so hard, was it? And what a great result!

XL tote Bag
XL tote Bag
XL tote Bag
XL tote Bag

I’ll be back in 2 weeks with a new tutorial!

Don’t hesitate to send me questions or suggestions for new tutorials!

I need to go shopping!


Writing and making tutorials for

Download and print the tutorial here


  • Seam allowance? Sew 1/4", 1/2", or 5/8" seams?

    Thanks, My

    Mylene Ortiz
  • How do you used the serger, I have one and can not use it.

    Doris V Itchue
  • Looks easy I’m not a good sewer but will like to try this you made it look so easy I was wondering if there is anyway I can get the foot letter not sure what’s it’s called (to so over thick seams)

    Frances silva
  • Thank you for the instructions for the xl bad

  • you should iron the seams after sewing to get a smoother more professional look

    Lisa Katz

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