Sew your own shweshwe tote bag with this easy tutorial

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Sew your own shweshwe tote bag

If you are looking for a quick and easy sewing project, this tote bag tutorial by Craftsy is the perfect option for you.

Tote bags are wonderful additions to add to your collection as they are super versatile and easy to sew, even if you are a beginner. Shweshwe is the perfect fabric for tote bags, as it is a strong and durable fabric that will hold your heavier items perfectly.

Follow this easy and detailed tutorial to create your first tote bag.

What you’ll need:

  • Shweshwe fabric
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron and ironing board

Step 1: Cut the fabric

The measurements used for this tutorial are for a medium-sized tote bag that can hold a water bottle and a snack-sized box. Craftsy suggests following these measurements to start and once you’ve mastered it, you can resize it.

Piece A (tote): Cut one piece that is 27 cm wide and 74 cm long.

Piece B (handle): Cut two pieces that are each 12 cm wide and 40 cm long.

Step 2: Pre-press the creases

Pro tip: This step will save you a lot of time and effort when hemming.

Piece A:

Lay Piece A on the ironing table, wrong side up, and press the short raw edge up 3 cm. This is fold mark #1.

Fold the hem up again 3 cm to conceal the raw edges. Steam press to set the crease. This is fold mark #2.

Repeat on the other short raw edge.

Unroll the creases, then set aside.

Piece B:

Take the two Piece B’s and fold them in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, matching the long raw edges together. Press to create crease #1.

Unfold the fabric, then fold raw edges in, to almost meet at crease #1. Steam press to set the fold.

Step 3: Sewing the handles

Head to your sewing machine and topstitch each handle 3 mm from each long side edge. Put aside.

Step 4: Sewing the side seams

Before you start, fold Piece A in half with the wrong sides together (the opposite of what you normally do), so the short raw edges are aligned.

Sew the side seam 3 mm from the raw edge, starting at the fold to the short raw edge (make sure you have unfolded the fabric, as required in step 2).

Trim the excess fabric, leaving a constant 3 mm seam allowance.

Pro tip: if you have a serger available, you can use it to make this step faster, since it will sew and trim all at once.

Press the side seam to one side, then turn the tote inside-out and press the side seam from the wrong side, so it lays flat.

Pro tip: a pointy presser/clapper will help a lot, but you can totally do without it. Use a broom’s wooden handle or a wooden spoon’s handle to reach in the corner and press on top of it for better results.

Sew another seam 6 mm from the folded edge, backstitching on both ends.

Pro tip: using your fingers while you sew, feel the seam allowances underneath to make sure you’re not sewing on top of them but you’re enclosing them so they won’t show.

Turn the tote so the right side is out. Repeat for the other side seam.

Step 5: Attaching the handles and finishing the upper edge

Turn the tote bag inside-out, and lay it flat on top of the ironing board.

Tip: Give the bag a nice steam press if it needs it, but don’t steam much on the upper edge. You don’t want the fold marks you made in Step 2 to disappear.

Mark quarters on each side of the opening: Fold the bag in half and put a pin on each side; then fold it in half again and put two more pins on each side of the bag.

Center each end of one handle to these pins. Pin the handles in place, aligning their raw edges to the fold mark #1. Make sure you don’t twist them.

Fold the raw edge down along fold mark #1, all around the opening. Repeat for the other handle, on the other side of the bag.

Tip: Put the pin on the exterior side of the bag because we’re going to fold the edge down once again.

Fold the entire upper edge of the bag down again, along fold mark #2. Move the pins on the handles to secure them in place.

Head to your sewing machine and topstitch along fold mark #2, all around the bag opening.

Fold the handles up and pin them in place.

Secure the handles by sewing a cross pattern on top of each one, so your tote bag will be cute but sturdy!

Your tote bag is done!

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