To market, to market… A Market Bag Tutorial

This is my first tutorial, and it comes during the same week that I’ve given up coffee, so hopefully this makes sense (and if it doesn’t, let me know and let’s just blame it on the lack of caffeine!)

I make two versions of this market bag, and I use both on a daily basis. I made a number of one style recently, as shown here and here. These have side panels and end up measuring about 15″ across when laid flat. The bottom of this bag is about 3.5″ across, which sounds small, but since it’s fabric, it does actually accommodate quite a bit.

In any case, my sister has one of these bags, and continues to tell me that it doesn’t perfectly fit all the items she typically packs in there. Hence the second version. I made this one with her in mind, eliminating the side panels and making the main portion of the bag a couple inches larger. I also made the bottom about an inch wider, and the resulting bag is a better size. I suppose I’ll have to let her test it out to see if it works better for her needs!

This tutorial will be for the second version, which seems easier to make, as it requires less sewing and cutting. The measurements I’ve decided on allow me to cut 2 bags out of 2 yards of fabric (1 yard for the lining for 2 bags and 1 yard for the outside for 2 bags). These measurements could certainly be adjusted based on your own needs. So here we go… (please note that you can click on any photo to enlarge it)

Market Bag Tutorial

To start, I select two coordinating fabrics. Today I’ll show a bag made of Alexander Henry Birdseed in Pink, with Amy Butler Full Moon Polka Dot in Cherry for the lining (although it should be noted that this bag is reversible, so that’s something to consider when selecting fabrics!)

Next you’ll cut out the pieces for the bag. You’ll need 4 pieces for the main part of the bag – 2 out of the main fabric, and 2 out of the lining fabric. Each piece measures 18.5″ by 13″. You will also need 2 pieces for the bottom of the bag (one piece from each fabric). These should measure 14″ by 5″. The last pieces to cut are the pieces for the straps – again, 4 total – 2 from each fabric. These should measure 27″ by 2″.

I use a piece of interfacing on each of the bottom pieces for a little added support. This is optional, of course, but if you go this route, you’ll need to cut two pieces of interfacing, cut slightly smaller than the bottom pieces (I don’t like to sew through the interfacing, so I cut it about 1/4″ smaller than the bottom pieces. Iron these pieces to the wrong side of each fabric.

Now on to the sewing – I usually start with the lining, but the order really makes no difference. You’ll start with the main pieces for the bag. With right sides together, pin the rectangles together along the short edges. Each short edge will be sewn down the entire length, using whatever seam allowance you like. (Make sure you remember what you used, as you’ll want to use the same for the second fabric set).

Once both sides are sewn, it’s time to attach the bottom piece. Again, with right sides together, you’ll want to center the bottom rectangle along the bottom edge of the main section (you should have about 2 – 2.5″ on each side). This piece will be sewn along that edge, using the same seam allowance. On this piece however, you’ll start sewing about 1/4″ in and will end about 1/4″ before the end. Repeat, attaching the other side of the bottom panel to the main section of the bag. (I switched fabrics here, but you get the idea!)

Now you should have a bag that has a bottom, with an opening on either side of the bottom panel.

This part is tricky to explain, but here goes! You will now sew the short edge of the bottom panel to the remaining fabric from the main part of the bag. I typically hold it so that the short edge of the bottom is facing up. I then pull the sides of the bag out to the sides, making a sort of pyramid. That short edge will be sewn to the bottom edge of the main portion (the part that hasn’t yet been sewn). Maybe a photo will help.

Sew along this edge, starting from where you ended your sewing on the bottom panel, across to the stitch line on the opposite side of the bottom panel. Repeat for the opposite side.

You’ll now have a very basic bag. You can turn it right side out and you’ll see the final shape of the bag. At this point I make sure that there aren’t any holes in the corners, then trim as necessary. Repeat the entire process with the second fabric.

Next I sew the straps. I take one of each fabric strip and put them right side together. You’ll sew along the long side. If you wanted, you could then sew along the other long side and then flip it inside out and topstitch. I don’t use this method, though it’s probably easier. Instead, after sewing one long side together, I iron it flat and then fold and iron so the right sides are facing out. I then fold and iron along the unsewn long edge and then topstitch both sides.

Now we’ll put the bag together! Take the bag with the main fabric (the one you want on the outside) and turn it right side out. Keep the bag with the lining fabric inside out and place the lining bag inside the other, lining up the seams.

Fold the fabrics inward at the top (right sides facing each other), creating a clean top edge, and pin and iron. Then insert the straps between the two fabrics. I tend to put them about 3″ from the side seam of the main panel. Once all pinned and looking as you’d like, you’ll sew along the top edge. I typically use a small straight stitch, but a zig zag is also fun.

Trim all threads, et voila!… a finished bag! Great for groceries, books, beach stuff, you name it!


Update: I went a little market bag crazy recently, and now have a few for sale here!

This entry was posted in Household Sewing - bags, napkins, pillows, Tutorials and tagged alexander henry, Amy Butler, Fabric, handmade, market bag, tote, tutorial. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to To market, to market… A Market Bag Tutorial

  1. 1
    evensweeter says:

    well now i don’t know which i like better! maybe i’ll just hold off and see what new fabulous fabric you get next week…or buy them all. i just can’t decide! i mean, not that i now couldn’t make my own, as your tutorial was very clear and easy to follow…i’d still just rather get them all made up from you. bringing them to the store soon, i hope?

  2. 2
    Amy says:

    Excellent tutorial. I must have one. Or two. And good luck with the coffee. Why anyone would give it up is beyond me!

  3. 3
    Amy Collins says:

    Hi Ashley!!! I love the pillow and the bag. Have you ever heard of Hable Construction fabrics? Amy

  4. 4
    Amy says:

    Oops. I need help. Will you email me?

  5. 5
    Rachel says:

    The birds are so cute, love those colors! I totally hear you on the coffee. I switched over to tea last year and the first week or so…wow, it was tough!

  6. 6

    oh, that is too cute! I wouldn’t want to get it dirty with food stuffs though! I sell canvas totes with snarky and/or eco graphics – which my husband uses every time he goes to the market for me This bag is seriously adorable!

  7. 7
    Amy says:

    I did it! Your instructions are great – I just needed to actually READ them! I’ll send a photo soon.

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  13. 8

    I never thought of attaching a lining and outside piece that way… I usually use the ‘leave an opening at the bottom of the lining and pull the outside bit through’ technique.