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Retro Striped Pocket Tote Bag Sewing.

Functional and Fabulous

This DIY bag is super strong and durable to carry books and large enough for an overnight getaway. It’s also easy to sew with our free tutorial! The outside of the bag features a colorful section that creates outside pockets all the way around the bag. Bold bright fabrics give this a retro vibe, but you can also swap in some of your favourite florals for a softer feeling.

Supplies and Cutting Guide

Supplies and Tools

1-1/3 yard of 60″ wide linen – canvas, denim or another heavy-duty fabric also works
1-1/4 yard of midweight fusible interfacing
1/8 yard each of four colorful cotton fabrics
2/3 yard of lining fabric – quilting cotton or linen to match the outside
3 2/3 yards of 1-1/2″ wide ​​cotton webbing
Optional: 3 2/3 yards of ribbon to embellish the straps
Optional: 4″ by 14-1/2″ piece of lightweight chipboard, corrugated plastic or similar sturdy material for the base of the bag
Rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat
Iron and ironing board
Sewing machine

Cutting Guide

Main Fabric (linen):

Cut one 40″ by 20″
Cut two 20″ by 9.5″


Cut one 40″ by 20″ (alternately, you can iron this to the linen before you cut the 40″ by 20″ piece)
Pocket Fabrics (colorful cotton):

Cut two 20″ by 2.75″ from each of four fabrics
Lining Fabric (quilting cotton or linen):

Cut one 39″ by 20″

Outside Pockets

During the construction of this bag, it is important to remain accurate with seam allowances and placement measurements so that the outside pocket sections line up properly as the bag comes together. As long as you are accurate and consistent, the outside pockets will appear to be one continuous strip around the bag.

Sew four of the strips of fabric to make a striped panel. Use 1/4″ seam allowances. Repeat with the other four strips. Press the seam allowances toward the darker fabric.

Sew the Pocket Pieces

Pin the pocket backing to the front of the striped panel and, using a 1/4″ seam allowance, sew the fabrics together along the 20″ edges. Repeat for the second set of pieces.

Press the seams to set them.

Turn the joined fabric sections right side out and press well, making sure that the seams are open and at the very edges of the sections.

Top stitch the Striped Pocket Pieces

Top stitch 1/8″ from the top edge of the pocket, then top stitch 1/8″ on each side of the stripe seams. You may want to pin the layers together while sewing to prevent the layers from shifting.

Leave the bottom edge plain and without top stitching.

Place and Sew the Outside Pockets

If you didn’t attach the interfacing to the main piece of the bag before cutting, do that now.

Lay the main part of the bag flat with the interfacing side down. If there are any wrinkles press the piece before proceeding.

Measure and mark 5 1/2″ from each 20″ end of the strip of fabric. Place the top-stitched edge of each pocket along the markings and pin the pocket sections in place.

Double check your measurements to be sure the pockets are straight and that they line up when you fold the body of the bag in half.

Sew the bottom each pocket section to the main part of the bag piece, stitching 1/8″ from the edge so it matches the other topstitching.

Baste the side edges of the pockets to the main part of the bag, sewing about 1/8″ from the edge. You can also sew around the entire main bag piece to finish prevent fraying.

Fold the bag in half and gently press the center fold line. The pressed line will be used for lining up pieces but is not a part of the finished bag.

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