Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dish Towel Tote Bag

This one was kind of an accident.  I had wanted to make a placemat totebag -- take two placemats, sew together, add straps -- and voila, a totebag!  Problem was, I never could find a color/pattern placemat that I liked.

Was in a kitchen store and finally found just the right placemat!  Bright colors, nice pattern -- just what I wanted.  Picked them up, showed it to my wife and explained how I was going to make a placemat totebag (we do a lot of beach trips, so always need more tote bags).

She though it was a good idea, but said "But that's a dish towel, not a placemat."  I began to correct her, then looked closer at my "placemat".  Darned if it wasn't a dish towel, after all!

Okay, I can salvage this.  My original plan of sewing two "mats" together wasn't going to work -- dish towels aren't as stiff as placemats, so I'll have to use just one towel and reduce the size.

The towel already has finished edges -- and I wanted to keep these.  So -- I folded the towel in half -- that puts the finished edges on the sides.

And the problem now -- is that that the pattern is upside down on one side after folding!

Alright, I can fix this.  I'll just cut the towel in half and then set the two sides together ... being careful to orient the pattern the same way on both sides.  This means my already finished edges on the top of the bag are now at the bottom of the bag-- meaning I'll have to hem the top.  I guess that's better than having upside-down flowers on my tote bag, though.

So -- quick and dirty -- I sewed a double-roll hem along the cut sides along the "top" parts of the bag.  I used red thread because I thought it stood out a little and looked nice.  Here are my two pieces after the hemming.

Ready for the next step -- I matched the good sides of the bag and sewed the bag together on three sides.  Note how the bottom seam has a little greater seam allowance -- this is because the "bottom" of the bag was the original "top" -- and it had the store-bought finished seams.  They were kind of thick -- rather than try to fold them, it was easier just to sew just above them.

Next part's pretty easy -- turn the bag right-side out and attach the straps.  I used some 1-inch webbing.  I wanted the straps a little long since I envisioned hanging the bag off our shoulders rather than holding it in our hands.  So -- I cut two 32" pieces of webbing.

I'm really conservative when I attach webbing to a bag.  I figure I'm going to load the bag up with books and stuff and don't want the strap to tear loose.  So -- here's how I normally do it:

I attached my straps about three inches in from the sides of the bag.  Three inches isn't a magic number -- it just looked kind of right on this side bag.  I positioned one strap about three inches in -- and arranged it so that the strap flowed towards the bottom of the bag.

I sewed a "square" to attach the strap -- the square is about 3/4" along each side.

Now, I fold the strap back up towards the top of the bag. This covers my initial sewn "square".

I'm going to sew this strap down again -- this folding over and sewing twice will securely attach the webbing -- and finish the webbing edge as well.

When I sew my folded over strap, I again sew a square -- but I then sew an "X" in the middle.  I'm sure this is over-engineered -- but I've never had a strap tear loose, either!

Follow the same scheme to attach the remain ends of the straps.  Be sure you don't have any twists in your strap before you secure the ends to the bag (found this out the hard way!)

Here's the finished product with the long straps:

By the way, I created all this trouble for myself when I selected a "placemat" where the pattern had a definite "up-down" orientation.  

I liked the bag so much that I bought another dish towel -- but this time the pattern didn't really have an upside-downside.  That let me do my original "fold the towel in half, sew the sides, attach straps" scheme.

Here's what it looked like:


  1. Great idea..
    and you figured it out so easy
    have a great day

  2. beautiful & bright.. love the colors..
    I like to run the straps the entire length , rather then just attach at the top.
    makes a firmer bag when carried..

    just an idea..

  3. Your method of attaching the straps is commonly used on commercial tote bags, so no, it's not over-engineered, it's the proper and secure way to attach the straps. You did good...

    I would have used a contrasting or perhaps a matching, single colored fabric for a lining, which would allow for more strength in the bag... especially since you envision loading up the bags with heavy books and stuff.

    gracielynn's idea of running the straps the entire length (wrapping around the bottom of the bag) is a good idea too, especially for bags in which you intend to carry a heavy load. This puts less stress on the attachment points.

  4. Cute idea! Now i will have my eyes open especially for this idea! i am a fan of iron on stabilizer now. I would iron that on the wrong side of a lining fabric...for added strength. Who knows what could serve as handles or straps! What a fun project!!!

  5. I have small grand daughters and I think smaller tea towels would be fun for them too! Thanks for the great ideas ladies!

    1. My great granddaughters are 6, 5 and 4. They would like this bag this size it is. I folded one of my kitchen towels in half and it's the perfect size for them although it would need shorter handles.

  6. Excellent idea, especially now we have to pay for carrier bags if we have any shopping. Nice 1.

  7. This is great! A different bag for each season. However, here in Texas we only have hot and mild!

  8. What a great idea. This could be used anywhere.
    Thank You for sharing.