Tutorial: Appliquéd Mini Tote Bag

  • By: joleenllorence
  • Date: August 21, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

I’ve talked a lot about appliquéing recently, so here’s a quick and easy project to showcase your favourite designs. This is a great mini tote bag for whatever your kids are into – I made one for A and each of The Cousins and popped a few goodies inside to keep them occupied on the plane for our holiday in a few weeks (I know my sister reads this blog, so for the record, I’m not taking credit for this idea – goodies on the plane is completely her idea, and has become something of a family tradition now!).

So here’s how to make a mini tote bag with an appliqué pocket – use any appliqué design of your choice (or use one of mine).

This is a simple project, that you can easily adapt by changing the size or appliqué design. The lining forms a contrast band along the top edge of the bag, making it look more complicated than it really is. You could simplify it still further by omitting pocket and appliquéing the front of the bag directly; this would work well for a larger design.


The exact measurements here don’t matter too much, so rather than convert the metric amounts directly into inches I’ve rounded up to nice numbers to make it easier. Use either metric or inches – don’t mix and match here! In these measurements (W) indicates the width of a rectangle, and (H) indicates the height.

Use a 1cm (or 1/2″) seam allowance throughout; again, note that these are not interchangeable, so pick one and stick to it!

The finished size of the bag is 20cm wide by 22cm high (or 8″ wide by 9″ high).

You can use any appliqué design you like here as long as it will fit. The finished pocket size is 10cm (4″) square, so make sure your design will fit – it will look best if there’s a little space between the edges of the pocket and the design. Alternatively, you could make the pocket a little bigger.

  • Outer fabric: Cut two squares 22cm x 22cm (9″x 9″)

This will form the main body of the bag, and need to stand up to a bit of use, so choose something a little more hard-wearing than a plain cotton. Home decorating fabrics are a good choice. I used a cotton drill.

  • Lining fabric: Cut two rectangles 22cm (W) x 26cm (H) (9″ (W) x 11″ (H))

The lining will show at the top edge of the bag; quilting cottons are a goo choice here, so pick something that will complement your appliqué design.

  • Pocket: cut one square 12cm x 12cm (5″ x 5″)

I used the same fabric as the main body of the bag; you don’t have to, though, if you want a contrast, and it’s not essential to choose a heavier fabric here.

  • Pocket lining: cut one rectangle 12cm (W) x 14cm (H) (5″(W) x 6″ (H))

Again, the top edge of the lining will form a border at the top of the pocket. Either match the main lining like I did, or choose something complementary.

  • Straps: cut two long strips 30cm (12″) long and 6cm (2.5″) wide


When I made the bag, I didn’t bother interfacing anything; the cotton drill is heavy enough to give it a bit of weight and since it’s just intended to take a few light-weight items I didn’t feel it really needed extra support. If you want the bag to stand up to a bit more wear and tear, you could interface the outer fabric first.

Make the straps

  1. Fold over the short ends of the two strips for the straps by 1cm (1/2″) and press. Now fold the long sides into the middle and fold in half lengthwise, enclosing all raw edges.
  2. Topstitch round all sides close to the edge.

Make the Pocket

1, Appliqué the outer pocket

I used my football appliqué template, but you can any appliqué design you like here; see the notes above for the size restrictions.

2. class=”main-step”>Sew pocket outer and lining together along top edge with a 1cm (1/2″) seam allowance.

3, Press the seam towards the lining, and topstitch from the right side on the lining close to the seam.

4. Fold the bottom edge of the pocket outer fabric to the wrong side by 1cm (1/2″). Repeat with the lining bottom edge.

Basically, you’re folding up the bottom seam allowance on both pieces here to save yourself some effort later on.

5. Fold the entire pocket piece in half, right sides together so the bottom outer edge and bottom lining edge align. Stitch up both sides, leaving the bottom turned edges open.

Note that when you fold the pocket piece in half, the seam between the lining and outer will lie to one side of the fold.

6. Trim corners, turn to right side through the bottom edge, and press.

Because you folded up the seam allowance on the bottom edges before sewing the sides, you should find that the raw edges are already turned under.

7. Position the pocket on the outer front piece of the bag

I centred it horizontally 6cm (2.5″) from each side and placed it vertically 6cm (2.5″) from the bottom.

Construct the Main Bag

1. Place front and back outer pieces right sides together and sew round sides and bottom, leaving the top open. 

2. Place front and back lining right sides together and sew sides and bottom, leaving a gap in the bottom to turn.

If you use a very slightly larger seam allowance for the lining (about 2mm, so approximately 1/16″ or so) this will make the lining slightly smaller so it fits neatly inside the main bag.

3. Turn the lining right side out and place inside the outer bag (still wrong side out), aligning top edges. Sew round the top edge.

The right sides of the lining and outer fabric will be facing each other. You might need to stretch the lining very slightly as you sew to account for that slightly larger seam allowance.

4. Trim corners and turn the bag right sides out, with the lining out of the bag. Press well, with the top edge seam allowance towards lining.

This is the time to press everything into submission for the best results.

5. Close the gap in the lining.

You can do this invisibly by sewing with ladder stitch by hand, or if you’re lazy like I am, just sew the gap closed on the sewing machine, close to the edge. It’s the lining – no-one’s going to look!

6. Push the lining inside the main bag, so that the bottom corners meet and the top 2cm (1″) of the lining shows at the top edge. Topstitch the bag close to the lining seam.


  • Sew on the straps 5cm (2″) from the sides, just under the lining band.

Use a cross box to attach the straps securely. You might want to change the bobbin thread to match the lining, so the stitching is less visible on the inside. Or you might only think of doing this a few days after finishing the bag…

A simple tote bag pattern like this, is a great one to have in your sewing arsenal. Its quick and easy to make, doesn’t require any specialist equipment and is easily adaptable and customisable to suit the occasion. Who are you going to make one for?

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