Tutorial: Sew a Tote Bag with a Block Appliqué

If making a whole quilt feels too daunting of a project to start your quilting journey with, you can always learn how to create a cute quilt block that you can sew onto a tote bag. On this appliqué-style tutorial you will learn how to piece the popular Friendship Star block and how to stitch it to a handmade tote bag!

Now, are you ready to start? :)

Step-by-step Appliqué Tote Bag

Materials needed

These are the materials and tools I used to make both my tote bag and the Friendship Star block. The final dimensions of my bag are 17’’ x 14’' (42cm x 36cm). You can of course change those and choose whichever dimensions you prefer for your bag. The block is 10 1/2'' x 10 1/2'' (27cm x 27cm).

  • Fabrics I used:
    • Ruby Star Society quilting cotton ‘Starry’ Collection for blue border, and pink HSTs + centre square.
    • Tula Pink quilting cotton ‘Fairy Dust’ Collection for the background and lining.
    • Medium weight navy cotton canvas, not too stiff for the tote bag itself and for the traps (optional cotton webbing instead of the straps it is also possible and what I used).
  • Thread.
  • Regular presser foot and optional 1/4'' presser foot.
  • Quilting ruler.
  • Rotary cutter and cutting mat.
  • Sewing machine and usual sewing tools like pins, iron and ironing board, unpicker...

Pieces to cut

For the Friendship Star block:

  • 4 x 3 ½’’ squares for the background colour.
  • 1 x 3 ½’’ square for the centre starry pink.
  • 2 x 4’’ squares of the background colour to create the HSTs.
  • 2 x 4’’ squares of the starry pink to create the HSTs.
  • 4 x 1’’ x 11’’ strips for the borders in blue.

For the tote bag:

  • 2 x 44cm x 38cm rectangles of cotton canvas for the outer layers.
  • 2 x 44cm x 38cm rectangles of lining fabric.
  • 2 x 70cm x 6cm rectangles of cotton canvas for the straps (or cotton webbing).

Steps to make your tote bag

1. Cut all the pieces needed for both your block and your tote bag, using a rotary cutter and cutting mat and following the pieces needed for cutting on the previous step.

2. Piece the Friendship Star block using a 1/4’’ seam allowance. Press seams open or towards the darker fabric and trim the edges to make sure the block measures 11''x11'' (28cm x 28cm).

Start creating the Half-Square Triangles


Sew the mini squares together

And then the rows

Add the border

3. Pin the finished block to one of the outer layers of the tote bag, on the right side of the canvas. Now, you can use your sewing machine to stitch the block in place using a zizag stitch or any decorative stitch on your machine (I used a blanket stitch) or your can hand sew the block in place as well.

I recommend using some sort of temporary fabric glue or basting spray to keep the block from moving.

4. Now, place the front and back outer layers of canvas with right sides together and pin along the sides and bottom of the bag. Sew them in place using a 1cm seam allowance. Repeat with the lining but leaving a 5cm gap on one of the sides unstitched.

5. Create the straps by folding each piece in half length-wise and pressing along the centre. Open the strap and fold one of the edges towards the centre, press. Repeat with the other side. Fold again, press and edge-stitch / top-stitch close to the outer folds to finish up the straps.

Or, like me, you can use cotton webbing.

6. Place the straps along the raw edges of the bag and sew them in place using a 1/2cm seam allowance. Then place the outer bag shell inside of the lining with RST along the top. Pin both outer and lining bags together and sew them with a 1cm seam allowance. Turn the bag right side out through the opening at the lining and sew that gap close.

Give everything a nice press and... you are done! How cute is the bag?! A lovely present or a great reusable bag for your daily commute or for a quick supermarket shopping visit.

I hope you liked this post and that you will try and give it a go :)

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!



Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.