DIY Tote Bag – with zipper pocket instructions

diy tote bagdiy tote bag 2 Once again. I was strolling through Stoff og Stil and found this lovely fabric!

I have been waiting for the perfect tote bag fabric and I knew this was it.

While I was planning this DIY tote bag, I had so many ideas popping into my head that it was quite overwhelming, but I finally came to a conclusion on what I tote bag 9This bag consists of two inner pockets…diy tote bag 8

… an outer zipper pocket…
diy tote bag 10

…and a side string closure that alters the shape of the bag.



  • Lining: Plaid fabric – thin
  • Outer: Aztec canvas – thick
  • Pockets: Same as lining
  • Straps: Faux leather – medium weight
  • Fastening straps: same as lining
  • Zip: Metal slide – 20cm

If you’re wondering how much fabric to actually buy:

  • Outer fabric: 60cm 
  • Lining fabric: 60cm – 1 meter (used for lining, pockets and straps)

This will vary depending on how many pockets you intend on making.

  • Strap fabric: 20cm


I’ve given the measurements of the materials used in the tutorials below, they include the seam allowance of 1cm.

I’ve provided the tutorials for each part of this tote bag including the pockets and straps.



Instruction Layout - tote bag body

1. Measure out and cut lining and outer fabrics – 2 pieces of each. Size: 52cm x 45cm.

2. Add all the desired pockets to the lining and outer fabrics before continuing.

The tutorials for the zipper pocket and simple pockets are provided below.

3. Construct the lining and outer bodies. Do this by pinning the two lining pieces right sides together and sewing along the sides and bottom. Repeat this process for the outer fabric pieces.

4. Pinch the bottom corners of the body to create a triangle, pin in place. Do this for both the lining and outer bodies.

5. On the triangles, measure 7cm down from the corner and mark a line. Sew across this line.

6. Cut off the excess fabric from the bottom corners.

You should be able to see the general shape of the tote bag already.

7. Attach the leather straps and the fastening strings to the top edge of your outer body. Sew in place.

You can only do this step after creating your straps and fastening strings.

8. Insert the outer body into the lining body right sides facing each other. Make sure the straps and strings are placed between the two bodies and nothing is sticking out from the top.

9. Pin and sew the two bodies together along the top edge leaving a gap.

10. Turn everything right side out through the gap.

11. Press the top edge of the bag and sew all across the top edge.

12. Reinforce the area where you had the gap.


Instruction Layout - tote bag simple pocket

1. Start with a fabric piece of your desired size. I used 26cm x 35cm.

When deciding on your pocket size, make sure to leave a 2-3cm seam allowance when doing this kind of pocket.

2. Fold the corners in at about 3cm and press.

3. Fold the edges in at 1cm and press.

4. Fold the corners in again at about 1cm and press.

5. Fold the edges in again at 1cm and press, then pin everything in place and sew all around the fabric piece.

6. Place pocket onto your base fabric and sew into place. Sew along the sides and the bottom of pocket.

There are many ways to do simple pockets, however, because I didn’t want any fraying and my pocket fabric was very thin, I decided that I could fold the edges in a second time to avoid open edges on the inside of the pocket.


Instruction Layout - tote bag zipper pocket

1. Cut out 2 pieces for your pocket lining. I used a size slightly smaller than my base fabric.

It is fine if these pieces are larger than the base, because it is possible to cut off the excess after the zip has been inserted and the lining pieces have been sewn together.

2. Place one pocket lining piece on the base fabric right sides facing each other and pin in place.

3. Place zip on top and mark out the start and end of the zip longways and amark the centre of the zip shortways. Draw a rectangle corresponding to the zip markings for your zip opening.

The zip I used was 20cm x 3cm so my rectangle was 20cm x 2cm. Make sure your opening isn’t too wide as it needs to be slighting smaller than the entire zip.

4. Sew all around the rectangle with a small stitch.

5. Cut through the centre and towards the corners of the rectangle. Make sure you don’t snip the sewed box.

6. Push all the pocket lining fabric through the hole.

7. Press everything down. Now you have your zip opening.

8. Place the zip behind all the fabric facing outwards. Sew in place.

9. Flip work around so that now you are looking at the inside of the pocket.

10. Place the second pocket lining over the first pocket lining (right sides facing each other) and pin the pocket lining fabrics together. Sew the lining pieces together by going all around the edges.


Instruction Layout - tote bag straps

1. Cut out two pieces from the faux leather. I made mine 80cm x 8cm.

2. Fold the edges in and tack in place. By this I mean, using a large stitch, sew the edges down.

3. Fold the whole piece in half and sew the outer edges together.

4. Pick the basting stitches.

5. This should be your final result and is ready to be used.

6. Attach straps to bag body.

I have not provided pictures for making the fastening strings because the construction is similar to making the leather straps. The only difference is that on one end, make sure you fold the short edge down first before folding the long edges down. Also because you will be using regular fabric and not faux leather, be sure to use the iron and press before sewing.

Make sure to add all the pockets, zips and straps before full constructing the whole tote bag.


diy tote bag whole

diy tote bag whole 2

diy tote bag 6

diy tote bag 7

That was a fairly long winded DIY! But I swear it’s really not difficult. This project just has a lot of small simple parts to it.

This did take a little while to make because I didn’t work from a pattern and I was still working out what kinda features I wanted, but once you have all that sorted its fairly simple.

LOve <3





3 Replies to “DIY Tote Bag – with zipper pocket instructions”

Comments are closed.