Reusable shopping bags are everywhere these days. In fact, in many towns and cities, plastic and even paper bags are simply no longer available in the check-out line. I love the sturdy fabric grocery totes you normally come across, and we've made a number of them here at Sew4Home (I've included links below). The only problem with the larger, heavier bags is remembering to bring them with you to the store! Today's final project in our Simply Color series with Vanessa Christenson and Moda Fabrics is a set of foldaway bags in their own carrying case. It's compact enough (just 5" x 7" x 2") to throw in your purse or keep in the car's glove box. But it still holds two generously-sized shopping duffles that will carry an amazing amount of stuff! The carrying case even has a handy front pocket to hold a shopping list, cards, keys and more.
We've loved bringing you our Simply Color series and hope you've enjoyed all the inspiration and information. This is Vanessa's debut collection, but you can expect to see much, much more from this very talented lady as she continues her work with the great folks at Moda.
The entire Simply Color collection is due to hit your favorite online and brick and mortar locations in October, but you may be able to find some of the pre-cut bundles out there already. As we always recommend, check out our Marketplace vendors when you're shopping. They are often among the first places to get the latest fabrics, and... when you support them, you support us! Their sponsorship helps us keep all our great ideas coming to you free of charge.
If you are interested in making other reusable shopping bags, check out these tutorials:
Sewing Tools You Need
- Any Sewing Machine (we recommend the Janome Sewist 500)
- Quarter Inch Seam Foot (optional, but helpful since all the seams are ¼")
- Zipper Foot (optional; helpful for sewing the Velcro® dots in place)
Fabric and Other Supplies
Supplies shown below are for two bags and one carrying case.
- 1 yard of 44-45" wide cotton fabric for Bag 1 exterior and Bag 2 lining; we used Simply Color Metro Leaves & Sprigs in Sweet Tangerine (Moda #10801-16) by Vanessa Christenson for Moda Fabrics
- 1½ yard of 44-45" wide cotton fabric for Bag 1 lining, Bag 2 exterior and carrying case; we used Simply Color Metro Ikat Diamonds in Mustard (Moda #10806-11) by Vanessa Christenson for Moda Fabrics
NOTE: Our pattern is sized to also fit Fat Quarters. If you decide to use Fat Quarters, you will need two for each bag lining, two for each bag exterior and one for the carrying case.
- Scrap of sew-on Velco® or ¾" sew-on Velcro® dot
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle
- Download and print the three pattern pieces: Foldaway Shopping Bag Top Section, Foldaway Shopping Bag Middle Section, Foldaway Shopping Bag Bottom Section
IMPORTANT: This pattern consists of THREE 8½" x 11" sheets. You must print the PDF files at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page.
- Cut out each of the pattern pieces along the solid lines.
- Butt together the pattern pieces, following the arrows shown on the templates, to make one pattern piece. Do NOT overlap. Tape in place. This creates one half of the pattern, which is designed to be cut on the fold of the fabric.
- For EACH bag, use the assembled pattern to cut TWO pieces from the lining fabric(s) and TWO pieces from the exterior fabric(s).
- From the fabric for the carrying case (Simply Color Ikat Diamonds in Mustard in our sample), fussy cut the following:
TWO 7½" wide x 9" high rectangles
ONE 5" wide x 7¼" high rectangle
ONE 2" x 7" strip
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Assemble the front and back
- Match each lining piece with a coordinating exterior piece.
- On each bag handle (the two lining handles and the two exterior handles), measure 2" down from the top raw edge and make a mark along each side of each handle.
- Place one lining piece and one exterior piece right sides together, matching all the raw edges. Pin in place along the outer edge of each handle, starting at the small lower curve and ending at that 2" mark. Pin in place along the inner "U" curve, starting and stopping at the 2" marks.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch each seam, remembering to stop and lock your stitch at the four 2" marks.
- Clip the curves. Press the seams open.
- Turn right side out and press flat, pressing in the top raw edges so they are flush with sewn seams.
- Repeat with the remaining exterior/lining set.
Sew the handles together
- Place the front and back panels lining sides together, aligning the handles and the top curves.
- On one side, pull back the exterior handle layers from the lining handle layers. Pin together just the lining layers along the top raw edge.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, start your seam at the "inside" end of the pinned lining layers (the end closet to the middle "U" seam). Stitch across the lining, holding the exterior layers out of the way.
- As you reach about the middle of this seam, start pulling the exterior layers around, twisting them so they are right sides together and so you can continue your seam from the lining layers and onto the exterior layers.
- You may need to stop, with your needle in the down position, and rearrange the fabric to keep everything flat and to match up the raw edges of the exterior layers.
- Continue the ¼" seam across the exterior layers.
- Ending at the folded edges of the exterior layers.
- You have created one straight seam that kind of curves around because the handle is actually a tube.
- Turn the sewn handle right side out and press flat. Pin the opening in place.
- Slip stitch the opening closed.
Side seams, side gussets and bottom French Seam
- Open up the bag and place the front and back right sides together. The sewn handles will be sandwiched in between the layers.
- Pin both sides, matching the middle seams.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch both side seams. Press seams open.
- Turn the bag right side out.
- Fold one handle in half toward the center of the bag, lining sides together and matching the top seams.
- From the top seam, measure 1½" to the left and 1½" to the right. Mark each of these points.
- Using ¼" seam allowance, sew a short seam between these two points.
- This secures the handle fold and creates the side gusset
- Repeat to fold and stitch the remaining handle.
- Machine baste or serge the lining and exterior layers together all around the bottom. This will prevent the layers from slipping during the final French seam.
- Fold in the bottom of the bag along each side to align with the handle folds. Pin in place across the bottom. You are still working with the bag right side out.
- Make a French seam along the bottom. To do this, sew across the bottom (wrong sides together, right side out).
- Trim close to the seam.
- Turn the bag inside out. Make sure the side gussets are still properly folded and the bag is flat. Pin in place again across the bottom.
- Stitch across the bottom again, this time with a ⅜" seam, encasing your first seam in this second seam.
- Turn right side out again and press flat. You bottom seam is now finished inside and out.
Make and place the pocket
- Find the 5" x 7¼" rectangle.
- Fold under both sides and the bottom ½" and press in place.
- Fold the top raw edge ¼" and press. Then fold the top down an additional 1" and press again.
- Topstitch close to the inside folded edge to create the finished pocket top.
- Find or cut the ¾" Velcro® dot.
- Place half of the dot at the center top of the pocket, approximately ⅛" - ¼" from the top folded edge.
- Stitch the dot in place. We used our regular presser foot, but you can also use a Zipper foot if you prefer.
- Find one of the 7½" x 9" rectangles. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the finished pocket right side up on top of it. The top of the pocket should be approximately 1" - 1¼" from the top raw edge of the panel and centered side to side. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Double back-tack at both the beginning and end of the seam to create a good secure lock at the seam's top corner stress points.
Make the tab closure
- Find the 2" x 7" strip. Fold it in half, right sides together, so it is now 1" x 7". Press to set a center crease.
- Place the remaining half of the Velcro dot as one end of the strip, approximately ½" in from the top raw edge of the strip and up against the crease line. Stitch in place all around as you did with the first half above.
- Re-fold the strip right sides together, sandwiching the Velcro® between the layers. Pin in place across the top end and down the side.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch across the top and down the side, pivoting at the corner. Clip the corners and press the seam open
- Turn the strip right side out through the open end. Press flat.
- Roll in the raw edges of the end approximately ½", press flat and pin in place. this is the bottom end of the tab closure.
- Find the remaining 7½" x 9" panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the bottom end of the tab at the center top of the panel. The tab strip should be placed so the Velcro® dot is facing up and the dot end is pointing down towards the bottom of the bag. Center the tab 3⅜" from each side and 2⅞" down from the top raw edge. Pin in place. Stitch across the end of the tab with a ¼" seam allowance.
- Fold the tab up towards the top of the seam, hiding the tiny bottom seam you just made.
- Secure the tab in place with a ¾" x 1¼" box stitch. Then stitch an "X" through the box.
Complete the carrying case
- Place the front and back panels right sides together, matching all the raw edges. Make sure the tab is out of the way of the seam. Pin in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. Press the seams open.
- Mark and cut out a 1" square from each bottom corner
- Create a 2" box corner at each side. If you are new to this technique, check our tutorial on boxing the bottom of bags and more.
- Turn the bag right side out.
- Around the top raw edge, make a double turn hem to finish. To do this, fold down the top raw edge ¼" and press all around. Then, turn down an additional ½" and press again. Pin in place. Stitch in place close to inside folded edge. If you are new to hemming, we have a technique to help: Making A Simple Hem.
- This carrying case will hold two folded shopping bags. To fold the bags, start with a flat bag. Fold it in thirds vertically, then fold it in thirds horizontally.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild