By March 16, 2014 3 Comments Read More →

Market Bag Tutorial

Market Bag I use a shameful amount of plastic bags when I go grocery shopping. Out of guilt, I decided to make myself a few reusable, fabric market bags. It should have been a simple task, but it wasn’t! The first bag I designed was very complicated to sew and I was unhappy with its proportions. I started over. I made an improved bag and wrote up the instructions for my blog. Then, in order to ensure that the instructions were clear, I made another bag following my blog instructions. After that, I was ready to take a picture of my finished market bag, so I filled it with groceries. What a disappointment! The bag was too wimpy for the heavy groceries. At that point, I had made three bags and was not happy with them. I felt defeated and was ready to give up. My husband, Richard, who has an engineering background, consoled me by saying that designers often have to make things many times before they get it right. So, I went back to the drawing board, again! I reinforced the bottom of the bag with interfacing and lined the entire bag to give it the strength it needed.

Although making this market bag was a long process, I am very pleased with my final design. The bag is beautiful inside and outside. It’s lightweight yet durable, and it’s washable. It measures 12″ x 12″ x 7″. The dimensions are the same as a paper grocery bag, only shorter.  Sewing this market bag is not difficult, but some experience with a sewing machine, and sewing terminology is helpful. MBinsidelining

Materials and Supplies

  • Fabric
  • iron-on interfacing
  • 1″ wide cotton strapping
  • thread
  • pins
  • scissors
  • straight edge
  • tailor’s chalk
  • sewing machine
  • iron and ironing board


Step 1. Buying and cutting the fabric. MBfabric For both the bag exterior and the lining, buy a fabric, with some body. I used a light weight canvas. Cut one 21″ x 37″ piece for the bag, and one 21″ x 31″ piece for the lining. Cut one 21″ x 7″ piece of medium weight, iron-on interfacing for the bottom of the bag. I used #809 iron-on backing from Pellon. Cut two 24″ lengths of 1″ wide cotton strapping for the handles.


Step 2. Attach the interfacing. MBinterfacing Fold the bag fabric in half by bringing the short sides together. Finger press a crease along the fold. Mark the edge of the center fold line with pins. Fold the interfacing in half by bringing the long sides together. Finger press a crease along the fold. Mark the edge of the center fold line with pins. With the interfacing on the wrong side of the bag fabric, line up the pins and the center fold lines. Iron the interfacing onto the fabric according to the interfacing instructions.


Step 3. Attaching the lining. MBlining Separately, fold the bag fabric and the lining fabric in half by bringing the short sides together. Finger press a center line crease along the fold on each piece. Mark the edges of the fold lines with a pin.  With the wrong sides together, match up the center lines of bag fabric and the lining fabric by aligning the fold creases and the center edge marker pins. At each end, the lining fabric will be 3 inches shorter than the bag fabric. Working from the center outwards, pin the lining to the bag fabric. Do not pin along the center fold line. It is easier to sew the bag if the lining and bag remain pinned together while the bag is being assembled.


Step 4. Sewing the side seams. sewsidecombo With the right side of the bag fabric facing out (i.e. lining sides together), fold the fabric in half by bringing the short sides together. Pin the side seams together. If necessary, trim off any of the lining or interfacing that extends beyond the bag fabric. Leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance, straight stitch the side seams, backstitching at the beginning and end. MBside seams copy Reverse the bag so that the lining is facing out. Press the side seams open and then press flat. Pin the side seams. sidesaem3Laving a 3/8″ seam allowance, straight stitch the side seams, backstitching at the beginning and end. Be sure that all of the 1/4″ under seam is enclosed within the 3/8″ seam being stitched. If necessary increase the seam allowance slightly. Placing the iron down inside the bag, press the side seam open with the under seam to one side.


Step 5. Forming the box corners. MBboxcorner With the lining fabric facing out, place your hand inside the bag and lay the corner flat with side seam facing up. Adjust the fabric so that there are equal measurements on both sides of the side seam stitching line. Secure with a few pins. Measure 3 1/2 inches down from the corner tip of the seam stitching line. Place a straight edge at right angle to the side seam. Adjust the straight edge to  measure 7″  with  3 1/2″ on each side of the seam stitch line. Mark the 7″ line with tailor’s chalk. Backstitching at the beginning and end, straight stitch along the chalk line. Repeat with the other box corner. boxcorner2 With the right side of the bag facing out and the side seam facing up, press the box corner seam flat.  Reaching down inside the bag, pin the box corner triangle to the bottom of the bag. MBinsideboxcorner Backstitching at the beginning and end, stitch along the two folded sides of the triangle. Repeat with the other box corner.


Step 6. Hemming the top edge. MBtophem Press the top edge of the bag fabric under 1/2″. Then press the bag fabric under along the top edge of the lining. tophem Top stitch 1/4′” from the bottom edge and 1/4″ from the top fold edge.


Step 7. Top stitching the sides. sidetopstitch To form the sides of the bag, press and pin a crease line, from the bottom corner to the top edge, measuring 3 1/2″  from the side seam. Be sure that the lining is caught within the fold line. Repeat with all four corners. Top stitch 1/4″ from the fold lines, stopping 1/4″ short of the bottom corner.


Step 8. Top stitching the bottom. topstitchbottom1 To form the bottom of the bag, press and pin a crease line from bottom corner to bottom corner. Be sure that the lining is caught within the fold line. Pull the side fabric out and away from the corners. Repeat on the other side. Top stitch 1/4″ from the fold lines, starting and stopping 1/4″ from the corner. Remove any pins from the bag that are  still holding the lining in place.


Step 9. Attaching the strap handles. MBhandles Mark the center of the top edge by folding the top in half; mark with a pin. Measure out 2 1/2 inches from the center pin; mark with pins. This marks the inside edge of the handle placement. Measure 1″ down from the top edge and pin the handle strap, facing down. Repeat on the other side.step7B2 copy Straight stitch 1/4″ from the edge of the strap handle. step 7C Fold the strap up along the bottom, top stitching line. Press and pin in place. Step7F Sewing close to the edge of the strap handle, straight stitch a square to attach the strap to the bag. Go over the stitching a second time to secure the strap handle, stitching the line at the top of the square above the raw edge underneath. This will ensure that the raw edge is enclosed within the stitched square and not exposed on the underside of the handle. Repeat with the other handle. The bag is completed.

  MBshopping Although Richard is opposed to doing our grocery shopping, he volunteered to model my market, tote bag. He did a fantastic job, don’t you think?

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If you are interested in viewing more tote bags, you might find one you like on my Pinterest board “Tote Bags to Sew and Crochet”.

Posted in: PROJECTS, Sewing

3 Comments on "Market Bag Tutorial"

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  1. AAL says:

    Thank you so much for posting this pattern. This is the first tote bag pattern I’ve seen that looks like it would actually work. I was hoping to use old bedsheets for the tote itself. I know the canvass would be sturdier of course. I am a novice and never heard of the iron on interfacing. Sounds like it reinforces like an iron on patch. I am hoping I can follow the instructions as some of it is a little confusing, but I’m pretty sure that’s because I’m new to all this.

    • Lisa says:

      AAL, I can see how the instructions could be a bit daunting for a beginner. I tried to write clear, detailed instructions. But then, I’m very experienced at sewing. I would suggest that you watch a few you tube videos on how to sew box corners. They are not hard once you have the general concept. You are right, iron on interfacing is very much like an iron on patch. You can purchase it at any fabric store or even in the fabric department of Wal-Mart. Let me know how things work out. Lisa

      • AAL says:

        Thanks for the tip about watching the youtube videos on corners. That sounds like it will help a lot. I’m sure your instructions were quite complete; I’m self teaching and not even familiar with all the terms. I found some old fabric I want to try from a discarded sofa cover (I save everything) that will be a lot more substantial for this project. I will let you know how it all works out, though it may be a little slow…

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