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  • Writer's pictureLonda

Canvas Tote To Teach Kids To Sew

Updated: Jun 1, 2022


Londa’s Sunroom Sewing Studio

These directions are based on a YouTube Video by Alanda Craft. I have added both lots of detail and a pocket for my sewing students. This is a great Tote for about any occasion including pockets across both bottom sides perfect for your phone/keys. ESPECIALLY....use these directions to teach a YOUNG ONE to sew!!!



54” Canvas ‘Outdoor’ Weight Fabric - your local chain fabric store has many to choose from, and they are often on SALE! Mine are from JoAnn Fabrics. I recommend that you NOT use a stripe, however - as doing so provides some additional challenges a beginning sewer should avoid.

Body - 1/2 yard

Straps - 1/3 yard

Machine Needle: Size 90 Denim/Sharp - Teach your student (AND yourself!) that a larger, sharp-pointed needle is needed to stitch through all these heavy layers of fabric. Stitch SLOWLY when going through many your machine a chance to accomplish each stitch!


1. For Tote Body - Straighten left edge. Cut one rectangle, 17” along the selvage and 35” tall.

2. For Pockets - Cut one 17” x 18” tall.

3. For Straps - Straighten left edge, then cut 2 strips, both 5” wide and the total width of the fabric, 54”.

Pieces to cut...


Upper Edges

1. Press each 16” edge (the top and the bottom edges) as follows:


Cardboard templates insure accurate pressing.

Align upper edge exactly along edge of a 2 1/4” template and press firmly as in photo below.

Align left edge of 1 3/4" template with first pressed line...

-Align 1 3/4” template along the edge just pressed to allow pressing of uppermost small edge as in photo at right below.

2. Stitch along the bottom edge of the pressed in upper hem and again 1/4" from the uppermost folded edges. Do this at both edges (tops) of the canvas tote Body.

Add the Pocket

1. Along each 17” edge, press 1/2” to the wrong side, and then again.

pressing in top edges of pocket along 17" edges
Along each 17" edge, press 1/2" in to wrong side, and then again.

2. Along both 17” edges, topstitch 1/4” from each pressed edge forming tops of the pocket. See the photo above.

3. Press the pocket in half so it is now 8” x 17”, with a fold at the lowermost edge.

4. To mark the bottom of the tote, fold and press the Tote Body in half at the bottom, aligning the hemmed upper edges.

5. Stitch along the marked lowermost edge through both the Body and the Pocket. If necessary, trim to straighten side edges… then stitch close to both side edges very close to the cut edges.

center pocket at bottom of tote
Centering Pocket at bottom of Tote.

Create and Attach Straps

1. Press each strap lengthwise, wrong sides together.

2. Open up, then press both raw edges in to almost meet at the center pressed fold.

3. Join both ends of the straps to the other to make one LONG strap as shown. Press seams open.

stitch Straps together to be one huge loop.
Seam both ends of the 2 Strap pieces to create one large loop.

4. Press strap's long edges in again, and perfectly align folded edges together, pressing the center fold firmly.

Locate straps 3.5" from sides.

5. Position the long strap as shown…

- Loose edges positioned towards the center of the tote.

- Seams that join the two Straps into one long piece aligned with the bottom line of the tote.

- Outermost single folded edge of the Straps placed 3 1/2” from the sides of the tote.

Bird's Eye View

- Before stitching, make sure that the loose part of the straps align at their uppermost 'handle' edges when the Tote is folded in half.

- Stitch, starting at the bottom of the bag, and along the innermost, loose folded edges first, aligning them perfectly together, and stitching 1/8” from the edge. You’ll be stitching all along the innermost strap edges.*

- Stitch all along the outermost strap edges, also 1/8” from the folded center edge of the Straps. *

Experiment with the needle position capability on your sewing machine! Often, even on simpler machines, this 'hides' in the stitch width control knob or button on straight stitch.

Be sure to use a LONGER stitch length when going through heavy stitching was done with a 3.5 stitch length. FOR KIDS: they love ZigZag stitching! visually 'aligns' less than straight stitching, so invite them to ZigZag stitch both of these rows of stitching if they want to! I'd guess about 3.5 wide and 3 long...experiment.

Finish Tote with Side French Seams

French Seams finish themselves! You start OPPOSITE: WRONG sides together…..

1. Fold Tote in half, WRONG sides together, taking care to match uppermost edges exactly.

2. Stitch along each side in a 1/4” seam allowance. Trim close to the stitching.

3. Turn Tote Wrong sides out - aligning the stitched seam right on the edge. Press firmly.

French seam final stitching.
Final stitching line of a French Seam.

4. Stitch again as shown to encase the seam allowance - stitching 1/4 to 3/8” from the pressed, folded edges. Be sure to backtrack securely at both the top edge and the bottom fold.

See below how nice the French Seam looks from the inside of the Tote.

BOX the Bottom

If desired, create a ‘box’ at the bottom of the Tote….The deeper the seam is sewn at the corners, the wider the bottom and the shorter the sides of the tote will be.

1. Align side final stitching line with the stitched line at the very bottom of the Tote by sticking in a pin as seen in the photo above.

2. Fold the triangle flat, and stitch a 1/2” from the point as shown. The corner can be tacked up to the side seam as shown in the last photograph, or cut off, and zigzagged or serged to finish.

Copyright June 2019 Londa J. Rohlfing Londa’s Sunroom Sewing Studio

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