Sewing tutorial

Fat Quarter Tote Tutorial

Large tote bags and shopping bags are great for when you have larger items or multiple items to carry. If you’re carrying a smaller number of small items, a large bag can be overkill. I designed this small tote for those times when I wanted a small shopping bag. I also designed it to make use of an entire fat quarter. This is a how to sew a fat quarter tote tutorial.

This Sewn By Tanya project is for personal use only.


A fat quarter has the same area of fabric as a 1/4 yard, but instead of being 9” by 44” it’s 18” by 22”. The Sewn By Tanya Fat Quarter Tote is a beginner project to make a 10.25” x 10.25” (26 cm x 26 cm) flat tote bag from a fat quarter. Optionally box the bottom for a 10.25” x 9.5” x 2” (26 cm x 24 cm x 5 cm) tote bag. The fabric handles are 8” (20 cm) long. When not in use, this un-lined tote can be rolled up and secured with either an elastic hair tie and button (easy) or a fabric tie (to use up the full fat quarter). It’s 1.5” x 3.25” (3.8 cm x 8.3 cm) when rolled so it’s easy to slip it into your bag, purse, or pocket.

This tote is the prefect size for small shopping purchases, gift giving and seasonal treats. Have Christmas fabrics? Make Christmas gift bags. Have Easter fabrics? Make Easter Egg Hunt bags. Have Halloween fabric? Make Halloween trick-or-treat bags.

  • 1 fat quarter of quilting weight cotton
  • fabric hair tie (optional)
  • button (optional)
  • fabric marking pens/chalks
  • scissors or rotary cutter
  • ruler
  • iron & ironing board
  • sewing machine
Seam allowance:
  • 1/4” (~0.6 cm)
Step 1 Cut materials

Cut the following pieces from your fat quarter:

  • main body: cut 2, 11” wide by 13” tall (28 cm x 33 cm)
  • handles: cut 2, 11” wide x 4” tall (28 cm x 10.2 cm)
  • optional tie: cut 1, 22” wide by 1” tall (55.9 cm x 2.54 cm)

Here’s a cutting guide to help you minimize waste.

Diagram showing how to cut fat quarter
Cutting guide for 22″ wide by 18″ tall fat quarter
Step 2 Sew Handles

Fold the short end of each handle piece 1/2” (1.2 mm) and press.

Floral fabric face down with the edge folded over 1/2"
Fold short ends over by 1/2″

Next, fold each handle piece in half length wise and press.

Strip of floral fabric folded in half lenghtwise on a green background
Fold & press handle in half lengthwise

Open them and fold the raw edges into the centre.

Folding floral fabric edges to the centre
Fold edges to middle

Press then fold the pieces in half length wise again. Press and sew along the perimeter with a 1/8” seam allowance, beginning with the open edge with the double fold.

Closeup of 1" wide strap with 1/8" seam along perimeter
1/8″ seam along handle perimeter

You now have 2 handles that are 1” wide and 10” long (2.54 cm wide by 25.4 cm long).

2 1" wide handles made from floral fabric
2 finished handles
Step 3 Sew Bag

Pin the main pieces (bag front and back) to each other, right sides together. Sew along the sides and bottom with a 1/4” (0.6 mm) seam allowance.

Closeup of sewing machiine presser foot sewing 1/4" seam allowance
Sew front and bag together with 1/4″ seam allowance

Press the side seam open. Fold the top of the bag over 1” (2.54 cm).

Side seam pressed open (middle) and tpo folded down 1" with seam guide (left)
Side seam pressed open and top folded down 1″

Fold the top of the bag over another 1” (2.54 cm).

Seam guide (left) for top seam folded 1"
1″ wide double fold

Press well and sew along the double fold with a 1/8” (3 mm) seam allowance. Sew along the single fold with as 1/8” (3 mm) seam allowance.

Closeup of sewing machine presser foot sewing 1/8" seam allowance
Sewing 1/8″ from edges of double fold
Step 4 Attach Handles

Mark the centre of the top of the front and back panels on the inside of your tote bag. Make additional marks 2.25” (5.7 cm) to these left and right of the centre marks.

Seam gauge showing marks at centre and 2.25" from center on floral fabric
Mark centre and 2.25″ from centre

Pin your handles to the inside top of each panel so that the middle of the short ends of the handle lined up with the marks 2.25” (5.7 cm) from the centre. The short ends of the handles extend 1” (2.54 cm) down from the top of the bag.

Seam gauge showing centre mark and handle centered at 2.25" mark
Pin handles in place

Attach the handles by sewing a 1” (2.54 cm) square box and a cross through the four corners of the square. This is called the “x-box” stitch.

Closeup of x-box stitch
Sew handles in place
Step 5 Box Corners (optional)

With your tote bag inside out, match the side seams with the bottom seam to form triangles at the bottom corners. Pin each corner. You may wish to check the exteriors of the corners to make sure the seams line up properly.

Closeup of side seam and bottom seam aligned and bottom boxed
Align side seam and bottom seam

Draw a line across each corner where the base of the point is 2” (5.1 cm) wide.

Corner of floral fabric with seam gauge showing 2" wide corner
Draw 2″ long sewing line across the point of the triangle

Straight stitch across this line then trim off the excess corner leaving a 1/4” (6 mm) seam allowance.

Closeup of corner after sewing and trimming
Sew along line the trim off excess
Step 6 Storage Closure Options

Here are 2 options for securing your Fat Quarter Tote when not in use.

a) Hair Elastic & Button

Position the centre of your hair elastic to the centre top of your tote bag’s interior so that it’s roughly 1/3” (8.5 mm) down from the top. Zigzag over the elastic to secure it in place.

Black hair elastic sewn midway between handles on bag interior
Zigzag hair elastic to interior

Sew your button to the exterior of your tote. Position it ~ 1/2” (1.2 cm) from the centre top of your tote on the same side that the you sewed the hair elastic to.

Button sew midway between handles on bag exterior
Stitch button to exterior
b) Fabric Tie

Repeat the pressing and folding from step 2 with the Tie piece to create a tie that is 1/4” wide and 21” long (0.6 cm by 53.3 cm). You will only need to stitch the length of the tie once due to its narrow width.

Pin the centre of your tie to the centre top of your tote bag’s interior so that it’s roughly 1/3” (8.5 mm) down from the top of the bag. Zigzag over the centre 1/2” (1.3 cm) of the tie to secure it in place.

Closeup of fabric tie sewn midway between handles on bag interior
Zigzag centre of tie to centre top bag interior
Step 7 Rolling For Storage

Turn your Fat Quarter Tote right-side out and it’s ready for use.

If you used the hair elastic and button, place your Fat Quarter Tote button-side down on your work space. If you used the fabric tie, place your Fat Quarter Tote tie-side down on your work space. Fold the handles down and pull the hair elastic/fabric tie up. Fold you tote in thirds bringing each side toward the middle and overlapping it. Roll your tote up from the bottom. Stretch the hair elastic over the button to secure it in place or tie the fabric tie around the rolled tote and tie the ends in a bow.

2 Fat Quarter Totes folded in thirds on a green background
Fold tote into thirds
2 Fat Quarter Totes rolled up and secured on a green background
Roll up starting at the bottom and secure

Here are some photos of my finished Fat Quarter Tote Bags:

floral Flat Fat Quarter Tote (left) & Boxed Corners Fat Quarter Tote (right)
Flat Fat Quarter Tote (left) & Boxed Corners Fat Quarter Tote (right)
floral Fat Quarter Totes with black DVD case for scale
Fat Quarter Totes with DVD case for scale

This small tote bag makes great use of a fat quarter. It’s easy to store in your handbag, purse or pocket. Both the button and elastic, and fabric tie closure are easy to use. I keep one in my purse for small purchases like greeting cards, DVDs, and paperback books.

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