Free Canvas Lunch Tote Sewing Tutorial

Canvas tote with apricots

This bag is easy to make and works great for office lunches, summer picnics, road trip snacks, and more! 
Mini tote bag
If you make this bag, share on social media with the hashtag #SCQLunchTote. I would love to see your make! 
 

Affiliate Disclosure

If I mention a fabric, product, or notion, I will often provide an affiliate link to the item. If you choose purchase the item through the affiliate link, I will get a small percentage of your purchase to support my work. This will never change the price for you, and I will never recommend anything I wouldn't personally stand behind! 

My goal is for you to have a great sewing experience, so I am really careful about the quality of products I link to. 

Any time you see an affiliate link, I'll also provide a non-affiliate link next to it, so you can choose whichever you prefer! 

 
Canvas, fabric, and cotton webbing for tote tutorial.

Materials

  • Outer fabric: 12" x 25" piece of canvas
    • OR a 12" x 25" piece of quilting cotton, interfaced with a 12" x 25" piece of medium weight interfacing
  • Lining fabric: 12" x 25" piece of quilting cotton
  • Handles: (2) 9" lengths of cotton webbing, at least 1" wide
  • Closure: (1) 2" length of hook-and-loop tape, a.k.a. Velcro (Optional) 

Supplies

When sewing with canvas, you'll want to make sure you're using a needle and thread that can stand up to heavier fabric. 
Use a size 90 or 100 universal needle (affiliate link | non-affiliate link).
Use a strong thread, like mercerized cotton or high-quality polyester. I recommend Aurifil 40 wt (affiliate link | non-affiliate link). When I made my bag, I used Aurifil 50 wt, since it's what I had in my machine. I sewed twice over some of the seam lines to ensure that the stitches were strong! 
Here are some other tools & supplies I used for this project:

Pattern Notes

Throughout this tutorial, you will use a 1/2" seam allowance unless otherwise noted. Keeping an exact seam allowance is not important for this pattern, but we do want to use a larger allowance than the 1/4" that is typical for quilts.

Backstitch every time you start and stop stitching. 

If you choose to use quilting cotton for the outside of your bag, interface your fabric before beginning the tutorial. 
     

    Instructions

    Create the Bag Base

    Stitching together tote bag base
    Start by folding the canvas in half lengthwise, right sides together. Sew around the side and bottom of the fabric to create a simple bag base. Give it a quick press so that the folded side of the bag holds a visible crease. 
    Repeat with the lining fabric. 

    Box the Corners

    Box corner
    Open up your bag base, and then fold one corner of the bag like so. Match the side seam of the bag with the bottom seam. Pin in place. 
    You can stick a pin through both layers of fabric to check the seam alignment. If you stick a pin into the side seam line, it should come out along the bottom seam line on the other side.  
    Measuring the box corner
    Place a ruler on top of your bag corner as shown. Line up your ruler along the side seam stitches.  
    Marked line on box corner.
    Position the edge of the ruler 2 inches away from either side of the corner. The ruler will be about 2 to 2 1/4" away from the bottom of the bag. Mark a 4" long line alone the ruler edge, using a pencil or another marking tool. 
    Trimming a box corner
    Sew on the marked line, then cut away the corner fabric 1/2" from your seam. 
    Repeat with the folded side of your bag, using the folded line as a marker. 
    Then, repeat all steps with your lining. 

    Sew in Straps and Lining

    Tote bag handle positioning
    Turn your outer fabric right side out, and position your straps along the bag opening.  You will want the ends of the straps to be approximately 4" from either side of the bag, and about 3" apart from each other. 
    Sewing on bag handles
    Each strap should fall along the side of the bag, as shown in the photo. Pin the straps into place, then sew in each strap with a 1/4" seam allowance. 
    Pinning outer bag and lining together
    Turn your lining wrong side out. Then, place the outer bag into the lining, and match up the edges. I like to line up the seams on the side of the bag edge for a clean finish. 
    Sew in the lining, leaving a gap.
    Pin around the full length of the bag edges. Sew almost all the way around the bag, leaving a gap so you can turn your lining out later.
    I start at the edge seam, and stop sewing after I've sewn on the handles on both sides. This will leave a 3-4 inch opening along one side. 
     

    Turn The Bag

    Bag lining
    Using that 3-4 inch gap in the seam you just sewed, turn your bag and lining right side out. Push the lining into the bag. 

    Edge Stitch

    Pressing the bag edge
    Press around the top lip of your bag, keeping the lining slightly below the edge of the bag. The outer fabric should come over the top of the edge, just a little bit. 
    Press in place, and pin if needed, paying extra attention to the gap in your seam.
    Edge stitching the bag
    Stitch around the opening of your bag, as close to the edge as possible. You will want to catch both the outer and lining fabric in your stitching, and this is especially important around that open gap in your top seam. 
     

    Attach Velcro Closure (Optional)

    This is where you'd position a velcro closure
    Silly me-- I didn't have velcro on hand when I made this bag! I do think that adding a velcro (a.k.a. hook-and-loop) closure will hugely improve the functionality of this tote, though.
    If you're using velcro, you'll want to position it at the top inside of your bag, just below the handles. I'm using a small piece of fabric to show you the positioning I would use, if I *did* have some on hand! 
    Pin it in place and sew around the edges to attach. You will sew a rectangle around the edges of your velcro to hold it into place. Your stitching will be visible on the outside of the bag, and you can use matching thread if you want to minimize the appearance of your stitches. 
    Repeat on the other side of the bag to finish. 

    Press Your Bag

    Folding tote bag corners
    To create a more classic "lunch bag" look, fold in your bag sides like so. Press to set. 
    Pressing the folded bag 
    Keep in mind that a canvas bag will tend to be softer and won't hold those creases as crisply. If you use interfaced quilting cotton, your bag should have a more crisp finish. 
    Finished canvas lunch tote
    That's it! Now your bag is ready to hold a sandwich, some fresh fruit, or whatever else you like to picnic with. 
    Use tag me @strawberrycreekquilts and use the hashtag #SCQLunchTote on social media - I'd love to see your makes! :)
     

    3 comments

    • I used this same avocado print in two sizes to make the front and back of a newborn shirt, using another online tutorial. The expectant mother had been craving avocados!
      Thanks for sharing your tutorial as well. It is appreciated!

      Claudia Tang
    • I love this simple bag pattern. When I cut the handles, I cut them 1’ longer each end, so when I sew them down I leave them 1/2” below the seam, to make sure when I topstitch the finished edge, I’ve caught the handles. And I can also sew a square/cross with the extra just in case I feel the handles will need the extra support. I’ve never used canvas for the outside, I will next time. Your fabric is gorgeous!

      Marty
    • Love the avocado print for the lunch bag theme! I really like your method for making the box bottom—I’m used to instructions that tell you to cut squares out first, but sometimes mine end up wonky that way. Excited to try this! :)

      Hannah

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