DIY: 8 steps sailor tote bag tutorial

I sewed this pretty bag a couple of weeks ago but never came around to share it with you. Ever since I have been using this tote bag almost daily either for university, to run errands or for day trips.
My intention was to create a bag that will hold a lot of stuff and easily carry my ring binder, spiral pad, water bottle, pencil pouch, wallet, phone and sometimes even my laptop. So it had to be huge. And cute, obviously.
I love sailor themed everything so when I found this red & white fabric in the sale section, I knew I had to buy it. It's a rather thick canvas fabric and therefore perfect for sewing a bag.
All the other fabric I used were leftovers from other projects so this entire thing cost me about 3 Euros. Whaaat?

This is a super fast & easy project and if you are lucky like me it's super cheap as well.

Here's what you'll need:


- two 40x45cm pieces of fabric for the outside bag (I chose striped heavy canvas)
- two pieces of the same size for the inside bag (I chose dark red heavy canvas)
- two 18x20cm pieces of fabric for the pocket (I chose navy blue canvas)
- two 20x45cm pieces for the bottom of your bag (I chose the same navy blue as the pocket)
(OPTIONAL: 5x45cm pieces for the inside upper edge, NOT INCLUDED in this tutorial)
- two 125cm long pieces for whichever strap you prefer (you could make this shorter if desired)

Now how to make it:

Step 1:
Sew together the two pieces of the pocket by folding & pinning in the edges. (left sides together!)

Step 2:
Sew the pocket onto one of your outer bag pieces, the pocket should sit right on top of the bottom so measure 20cm from the lower edge. I made a mistake in my sketch, you should of course not sew the upper edge of the pocket.
Try and sew along the stitches you made for sewing both pocket pieces together.

Step 3:
Now sew on the straps. They should align with the sides of the pocket.
As you can see in the detail sketch, I sewed on both edges and also made a big X just on the upper side of the outer bag fabric.
ATTENTION: Leave 1 cm of fabric for folding in later on, DO NOT sew the straps on right onto the upper edge of the striped fabric!!!
Repeat on the backside of your outer bag and make sure the two straps align.

Step 4:
Sew on the bottom pieces on each piece of the outer bag (either fold in the edges or sew right on right) you don't have to sew on the sides of the bottom pieces just yet, the upper edge is enough (we'll sew the two parts together now anyways).

Step 5:
Lay the two outer bag pieces RIGHT ON RIGHT on top of each other, pin around the edges and sew together. (Leave opene the upper side obviously).
Set aside.

Step 6:
Lay the two inner bag pieces right on right on top of each other, pin around the edges and sew together (leave the open the upper edge obviously)
Turn right side out.

Step 7:
It gets a little bit more tricky now.
Put your outer bag (which is still left side out) into your inner bag, so when you look inside you should see the outside of your bag while on the outside there should be the RIGHT side of you inner bag.
Fold in the upper edges, so you can't see any raw edges anymore, pin and sew together. this will be a little thick at places so you should try and sew really slowly at these points.
(Now you see why it was important to leave a little room for folding in when sewing on the straps.)
It should look like this:

Step 8:
Before we can turn the bag and marvel at what we just created, you should sew off the corners of your bag to create boxed corners so your bag will stand up and you'll have a flat surface at the bottom, just fold your edges so the seams are in the middle and sew off a big triangle. (The bigger the triangle the broader your bottom) either cut the tips off or fold them in.

Step 9:
Turn right side out, fill with candy and cakes and be merry!

I really hope this makes sense and you understand my instructions, I have never made a tutorial before, so let me know if something is unclear, I will happily explain everything in more detail!
All in all this took me about 3 hours to make, so if you have an afternoon off, grab your sewing machine and make yourself a sailor tote bag everyone will compliment you on.


  1. Wirklich eine schöne Idee, sieht toll aus :)
    Leider kann ich so überhaupt nicht nähen...
    Liebe Grüße,
    Kerstin von 30 ROCKT

  2. how cute is this! i've always wanted to make my own tote bag, thanks for the tips!
    xo jac

  3. Was Latzhosen angeht, war ich anfangs auch kritisch, aber mittlerweile bekennender Fan :D