Tutorial: Upcycled Market Tote Bag

Posted in: Tutorials — By on November 2, 2010 7:02 AM

These reusable shopping totes are made from recycled pillowcases. They’re fully lined, machine washable, compact and cute. And as it turns out, they’re also really easy to make with this tutorial by Sewing School’s Jordynn Mackenzie.

Tote Bag by Jordynn Mackenzie

Level of Difficulty: Easy


– a pillowcase
– thread
– metal snap
– a scrap of fusible interfacing (light to medium weight)
optional: scraps of another fabric for closure***
– sewing machine
– iron & ironing board
– scissors
– straight pins

***Note: You may have to adjust some measuresments if your bag is made from a smaller pillowcase than I used. Mine was about 33″ by 20″ which includes a 2.5″ folded over edge at the top (which will be the top of your bag). If your pillowcase doesn’t have a 2.5″ folded over edge you may need some extra scraps of fabric for the closure.  And this may seem obvious, but make sure your pillowcase is in decent condition – it’s meant to have a second life lugging your groceries and shopping around!


  1. Wash and dry your pillow case.
  2. Turn it inside out, iron it and lay it flat.
  3. Cut off the bottom seam and one side seam.


  1. Mark and cut 5″ off of the long side that you just cut. You should have two long strips of fabric.
  2. Cut the folded top off, remove any seams, and make sure these pieces have straight square edges.
  3. Press under 1/2″ on all short sides of straps.
  4. Press under 1/2″ on all long sides of straps.
  5. Fold each strap in half lengthwise and press.
  6. Pin and top stitch close to edge around the perimeter.


If your pillowcase is big enough, you will have two pieces of fabric about 5″ x 5″ from the fabric you cut off when you cut your straps. If you don’t have this much fabric, use a scrap of something else.

  1. Take one of those pieces and interface it with light to medium weight fusible interfacing. Press under 1/4″ on one edge (if you’re using pillowcase fabric, press under a side perpendicular to the crease)
  2. Fold it in half right sides together along the crease and sew a 1/4″ seam along two open edges (leave the top open). Trim corners.
  3. Turn inside out, press and top stitch around the perimeter close to the edges.

With the second 5″ x 5″ piece:

  1. Fold in half along original crease (wrong sides together).
  2. Fold in half again the other way (right sides together).
  3. Stitch a 1/4″ seam around the raw edges (leave folded edge open). Trim corners.
  4. Turn inside out and press. You now have two pieces with no raw edges:


  1. Unfold the rest of the pillowcase.
  2. Press under 1/2″ on bottom raw edge.
  3. Fold the bottom up to just cover the bottom edge of seam at the top with right sides facing matching the fold (or seam, depending on your pillowcase).
  4. Trim sides so that they are square and straight.
  5. Pin and stitch the sides together with a 1/2″ seam allowance. Stitch along the entire side – not just where the two fabrics met.
  6. Turn inside out and press making sure that the seam at the top is overlapped by the pressed under fabric. Also make sure that the raw edges at the top left and right get pressed under along the stitch line.
  7. Pin and top stitch the open edge closed. This will be the inside/lining of the bag.

Attach the Straps and Closure

  1. Fold the bag in half with the lining on the inside.
  2. Pin the straps down to the outside of the bag on the front and back. You can eyeball the placement, or measure it.
  3. Unfold and top stitch each strap down with a big box with an X inside.
  4. Pin the smaller closure piece in the middle to one side at about the 1/3 mark.
  5. Line up the other piece and pin it down at the other 1/3 mark. You’re going to want the flap to be about 1/2″ away from what will be the folded side of the tote.
  6. Top stitch down with another X-box stitch, but make sure you only do this stitch on 1/3 of the flap.
  7. Attach metal snaps (or another closure if you prefer) to the closure pieces. Make sure the snap on the flap is facing toward the bag.
  8. Fold the bag in half with the lining on the outside.
  9. Pin bag together at side and bottom seams.
  10. Stitch side and bottom seams 1/2″ away from edges.
  11. Turn inside out and press flat.

To Roll Up The Bag

Note: You’ll want to press/crease the first two folds with your iron to make rolling up the bag easier.

  1. Lay the bag flat so that the closures are facing away from you.
  2. Fold down the top and straps into the middle and fold the straps in.
  3. Fold the bottom up to the middle.
  4. Roll each side in until you can snap the roll closed.Tote Bag by Jordynn Mackenzie

There you have it, a durable and compact market bag.  Throw this cute bag in your backpack or purse for your next trip to the grocery store!

(For more easy to follow patterns, check out Jordynn Mackenzie’s website!)

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