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French Market Tote with Coco Chanel Style Chain Handles

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High end boutique style you can make yourself! Our French Market Tote will make a bold fashion statement as you stroll the open air markets of Provence, France... or the aisles of your local farmer's market and specialty grocer. Load it up with fresh baguettes and bouquets of bright flowers. The pièce de résistance is the great Coco Chanel style chain and leather (faux leather in our case) handles. It's the perfect synergy of unique trim and dramatic fabric blended to achieve a designer look. We love to show you how to look at combinations from a new angle, mix textures and look for unexpected pairings. 

To successfully create the trendy look of today's bag, the right fabric and the awesome chain trim is a must. 

To mimic a set of Coco Chanel style handles, we used ½" Silver Tone Chain with Black Faux Leather from Simplicity's Project Runway Trim Collection.

The exact French Feedsack fabric we used is no longer in-stock at Fabric.com. If you don't happen to have an actual French feedsack hanging in your pantry, below are some other great combinations to consider, all available now.




Top row shows bag exterior options, middle row shows side inserts and top band options, bottom sows lining options. To learn more click on the swatch.

Finished tote size: 17" high x 20" wide  x 5" deep.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • ¾ yard of 56-58" wide medium-heavyweight fabric for the bag exterior; see our fabric options above
  • 1 yard of 44-45" wide solid quilting weight fabric for the bag lining; we used cotton broadcloth in black
  • ½ yard of 44-45" wide heavy weight fabric for the bag side inserts and top band; we used a cotton duck in black
  • 1¼ to 2 yards of ½" Silver Tone Chain with Black Faux Leather from Simplicity's Project Runway Trim Collection; we wanted a shorter handle and used just 40" of chain – you could certainly go longer, we wouldn't recommend going any shorter.
  • ¼ yard of 44" heavyweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor Bond
  • Four 1" plastic, snap-on grommets; we used 1" Dritz Home curtain grommets in brushed silver
  • All purpose thread to match fabrics
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Straight pins
  • Craft glue
  • Needle nose pliers (two pair if possible)

Getting Started

  1. Download and print the French Market Tote Template-1 and French Market Tote Template-2.
    IMPORTANT: Each pattern consists of ONE 8½" x 11" sheet. You must print the PDF files at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page.
  2. Cut out each of the pattern pieces along the solid lines.
  3. Butt together the pattern pieces, using the printed arrows as your guide. Do NOT overlap. Tape in place.
  4. From the fabric for the bag exterior, carefully fussy cut TWO 21" wide x 18" high panels.
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  5. From the quilting weight fabric for the bag lining, cut the following:
    Two 21" x 18" panels
    One 10" x 16" rectangle for the pocket
    Use the assembled pattern to cut TWO side panels
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  6. From the heavy weight fabric for the bag side inserts and top band, cut the following:
    TWO 3½" x 26" strips
    Use the assembled pattern to cut TWO side panels
  7. From the heavyweight fusible interfacing, cut TWO 3½" x 26" strips.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Exterior panels

  1. Sew the lower edge of the exterior panels together with a flat felled seam, which is the kind of seam you see along the side of your favorite jeans. To make this seam, place the two exterior panels WRONG sides together and pin in place along the bottom edge.
    NOTE: If you are using a directional motif as we did, BE SURE the two panels are both facing the same way: bottom edge to bottom edge, and top edge to top edge! It may seem silly to make such a big deal about this, but you want to be sure your motif is facing right side UP on both sides of your finished bag. Nothing is sadder than to finish a flat felled seam and then open up your panel to find one design upside down. Well... there are things that are sadder, but this mistake is right up there! Take your time and check your work before you stitch.
  2. Using a ¾" seam allowance, stitch along the bottom edge only.
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  3. Press the sewn seam flat (ie. not open). Trim ONE side of the seam allowance back to ¼".
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  4. Fold the un-trimmed side of the seam allowance over the trimmed seam allowance, matching the raw edge to the seam line. Press.
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  5. Fold this "wrapped" seam once again, fully enclosing and hiding the raw edge. Press.
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  6. Edgestitch the folded-over seam allowance in place.
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  7. Below is what your finished flat felled seam should look like. You want it finished with nice straight seams as it will show along the bottom of the bag.
    NOTE: If you are new to this technique, we have a complete Flat Felled Seams tutorial
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  1. Find the two 21" x 18" lining panels. Place them right sides together and pin in place along the bottom edge.
  2. Using a ¾" seam allowance, stitch the panels together.
  3. Trim the seam allowance back to ½" and press open and flat.
  4. Find the 10" x 16" pocket rectangle.
  5. Fold the rectangle in half so it is now 10" x 8". Pin along all three sides, leaving a 3" opening along the 10" raw edge.
  6. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around all three sides. Remember to pivot at the corners and lock your seam on either side of the 3" opening.
  7. Trim the corners at a diagonal. Turn the pocket right side out. Press flat, folding in the raw edges at the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
  8. Lay the sewn lining flat on your work surface, right side up.
  9. Place the pocket on one end of the lining piece so the pocket is centered side-to-side and 4" down from the upper raw edge. The top of the pocket is the folded edge.
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  10. Edge stitch along the two sides of the pocket and across the bottom, leaving the upper folded edge open. This edgestitching closes the opening used for turning.

Assemble the main body and side panels

  1. Place the exterior panel and the lining panel right sides together. Pin the pieces together along both long sides.
  2. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch both sides. Turn the unit right side out and press.
  3. Find the exterior side panel pieces and lining side panel pieces.
  4. Place one exterior piece right sides together with one lining piece. Pin together along both long sides and around the curved end. Leave the top (the flat end) open.
  5. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the pieces together.
  6. Trim the seam allowance back to approximately ¼" and clip the curve, being careful to not clip through your seam.
  7. Turn the panel right side out through the top open edge. Press well.
  8. Repeat to create the second side panel.
  9. Fold the long bag panel lining sides together. Do not make a hard crease along the bottom; it should be slightly bowed.
  10. Place one side panel into position, aligning the finished edge of the side panel with the finished edge of the tote bag. It's as if you are placing a lid onto a carton.
  11. It's best if you start by matching the center point of the curved bottom of the panel with the flat felled seam of the tote bag, then work up each side toward the top, pinning as you go. Don't be afraid to use plenty of pins.
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  12. Re-thread your machine with thread in the top to match the side panel (black in our sample) and thread to match the exterior of the bag in the bobbin (tan in our sample). Slide the aligned and pinned seams under your presser foot so you are stitching with the side panel facing up.
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  13. Edgestitch in place, approximately ⅛" from the edge.
  14. Repeat to create the second side.
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Top band

  1. Find the two 3½" x 26" top band strips and the matching 3½" x 26" strips of interfacing.
  2. Following manufacturer's recommendations, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of each strip.
  3. Place the interfaced strips right sides together. Pin along both short ends.
  4. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch each short end, creating a loop. Press both seams open.
  5. Fold back one edge ½" (folding to the wrong side) all around the loop. Press well.
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  6. Turn the band right side out and slip the band inside the top of the bag. The right side of the band should be against the lining of the bag. The seams of the band should be aligned with the top center point of each side panel. The raw edge of the band is facing up; the folded edge is facing down toward the inside of the bag. Pin the band in place all around.
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  7. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the band in place all the way around the top of the bag.
  8. Bring the band up from the inside and fold it over the exterior of the bag. The seam you just sewed now becomes the top finished edge of your bag. Make sure this seam line is even all the way around. Press the folded edge of the band into place against the exterior of the bag. You should have a 2½" band showing all around. Take the time to measure the band at several points to make sure this reveal is even all around. You can slightly adjust the folded edge if needed to maintain a straight line.
  9. Press again and pin in place.
  10. Edgestitch close to the lower folded edge. Then edgestitch around again, this time close to the upper seam to keep that top edge nice and flat.
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    NOTE: The four side seams of the panels will be thick to stitch across. Go slowly, stopping and hand-cranking over the thick parts if necessary.

Grommets and chain handle

  1. Following manufacturer's instructions or our own Sew4Home tutorial on the subject, mark the position of the four snap-on grommets. Ours are centered within the band; the center of each grommet is 6" from the each outside edge of the exterior panel. Looking at it another way, the inside edges of the grommets are 6" apart on center.
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  2. Again, following manufacturer's instructions and/or our tutorial, place the four grommets.
  3. Measure your desired length of Simplicity Chain with Faux Leather. We used 40" of chain. Mark the link closest to the measured length.
  4. Using two pairs of needle-nose pliers, twist the link open and separate the chain.
  5. Un-weave the faux leather so there is an extra 1" for an overlap to finish. Clip the faux leather at this point.
  6. Thread the chain through the grommets to form a continuous handle on either side.
  7. Match the link ends and rejoin, using the pliers again to twist the open link back to a closed position.
  8. Overlap and secure the leather strand with a dot of craft glue.
  9. We have more information as well as lovely step-by-step photos, describing this and other trim techniques in our tutorial: Working With Metal Trims.

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    Project Design: Alicia Thommas 
    Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler


    Comments (5)

    FrenchToteMaker said:
    FrenchToteMaker's picture

    This is gorgeous and being relatively new to sewing, I'm really enjoying this project. however, I didn't pay attention prior to ordering the pink material scheme - which handle do you recommend, the black leather chain or the brown? Thanks!

    Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
    Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

    @ FrenchToteMaker - I believe the black would still look best.

    FrenchToteMaker said:
    FrenchToteMaker's picture

    THANKS!!!  Also, the handle is one long loop through both sides of the bag, right? 

    Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
    Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

    @ FrenchToteMaker - yes, that's correct: one coninuous loop. It's described in the instructional steps.

    linda99 said:
    linda99's picture

    Beautiful ... I love your blog full of great ideas , in fact I just signed up to your news if you want to do the same, it is with pleasure , I wish you good luck very soon

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