Small Canvas Tote Bag: The Perfect Spring Companion

small canvas tote bagThis is an easy tutorial and pattern for a small canvas tote bag.  You can also use upholstery fabric as well.  It's a request from a few readers who make items to sell at markets, but I think anyone who loves to sew bags will love this one too.

This small canvas tote bag is the perfect companion for the coming warmer weather and the right accessory to keep up with the current trend which is for small bags, crossbody wallets, and small backpacks.  I made this bag so it would be small to carry with the option of having it cross over the body.  There's enough room for a pair of sunglasses, phone, keys, money, and a few business cards.  You can make it with very little fabric, so it becomes the perfect project to use your fabric scraps.

small canvas tote bag

This small canvas tote bag is also the beginning of my exploration into alternative materials for bags.  Fabric is great to make bags with, but I am faced with a huge dilemma.  Where I live, the interfacing I need the most costs $35 a yard (on sale too).  So where do I put the money?  In interfacing or into fabric?   I'd rather explore the possibilities of heavier fabrics so I can avoid using quilting fabric.  Canvas is widely used in bags, so there is no exploring to do,  and the pattern works well as you can see on the bag below.  So feel free to explore this pattern with a different type of materials such as canvas, upholstery fabric, cork fabric, neoprene (wetsuit fabric), vinyl, or leather.

I had a hard time finding springtime colors for the small tote bag, so I decided to go with upholstery fabric.  The print is woven, so it makes a great candidate for a bag without fusible or sewable interfacing.

small canvas tote bag

I am going to make this small canvas tote bag with the option of a crossbody bag.  However, I will make a separate tutorial for it.  I am going to show you the way to transform any bag into a crossbody bag.

small canvas tote bag


  • 1/2 yard of canvas, upholstery fabric, duck cotton, linen duck, cork fabric, neoprene, vinyl, or leather
  • If your machine can take thick fabric, it's possible to self line this bag, if not use calico or quilting fabric with light interfacing.
  • Thread to match
  • 24″ cotton tape 1/2″ wide, nylon ribbon or decorative tape
  • 30″ cotton tape, cotton twill tape or light webbing 1 1/2″ wide
  • circular or square bag handles or of course you can use  12″ bag handles

Fabric Recommendations from


  • tailor's chalk or erasable ink pen
  • zipper foot
  • walking foot (optional)
  • jeans needle or leather needle

Pattern Download

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Print the pattern in landscape mode, using the latest version of Adobe Reader.  Piece the pattern together and trace it on the fabric.  I'm not using quilting fabric, but if you are you will find you need some interfacing to make the small tote bag retain the shape.  The main body consists of only two pieces.  While the internal part consists of the lining and one pocket that is optional.  The finished measurements are 13″ at the widest part, 8″ at the bottom and 7″ in height.

Pattern layout:small canvas tote bag

How to sew the small canvas tote bag:

The seam allowance is 3/8″ through the whole project.  The lining is one inch shorter than the outside of the bag make it easier to assemble.  Sew both lining and outside of the bag in the same way.  I have added a strap piece in the pattern for you to have the option of making fabric handles.  I think this bag will look good with padded fabric handles.

small canvas tote bag

Step One: Sewing the outside and the lining of the small canvas bag or the upholstery fabric tote bag

We will start to sew the front and back pieces right sides together sewing at 3/8″.small canvas tote bag

Mark the middle of the gusset by folding the piece in half.  small canvas tote bagPrint side down, place the gusset in the middle of the center piece.  Align and pin to the stitching you did previously which makes the middle of the small canvas tote bag.small canvas tote bag

Pin the gusset around the edges of the center piece and sew.  You will have to stretch the gusset slightly when sewing the rounded corners.small canvas tote bag

Attach the other gusset, sew as above and put aside.small canvas tote bag

 Step Two:  Making the inner pocket and lining

We will be sewing the pocket to the lining piece.  Remember that I am self lining this project so using the same fabric both for the lining and outside.small canvas tote bagTake the pocket piece and draw 1/2″ (1.3 cm) around the edge using tailor chalk or erasable ink pen. small canvas tote bag Using this line fold the edge in towards the wrong side and sew 1/4″ (.7cm).  small canvas tote bagPlace this pockets on top of the centerpiece of the lining and sew the pocket down at 1/8″.

Sew the sides of the lining the same way as you did for the outside of the bag in Step One.small canvas tote bag

Step Three: Adding the straps or handles

I am using round acrylic handles that I made a long time ago while learning jewelry design.  I have put the link in the Materials where you can get both square and round handles similar to this.  Both have a similar way of application.  The trend is metal so keep an eye for alternative metal handles you can recycle from old purses or buy on your own.  (If you are interested, I can make a tutorial on how to make the acrylic handles but I need to work out a supplier for you guys.  As far as I know the mold is the issue here.  Please let me know in the comments below.)

Cut the 1/2″ nylon ribbon or cotton tape 5″ in length.  Fold this 5″ in half and wrap around the handle.  Pin the tab to the edge of the bag.  Make sure both the tab and handle are hanging down and are in the middle of the bag.  Repeat the same procedure for the other handle.  Top stitch the tab down so it won't move in the next step.small canvas tote bagPin the 1.5″ cotton tape around the edge of the bag.  You will have a sandwich on the outside of the bag, the handles, and tabs and on top of all that the cotton tape.  Sew at 3/8″.  Fold the seam allowance to the tape away from the bag and top stitch at 1/8″.  small canvas tote bag

Step Four: Finishing the tote bag

Place the lining right side in inside the bag and align all the seams.  Tuck the lining under the cotton tape and fold the tape in.  Top stitch again at 1/8″ making sure the tape is not seen from the outside of the bag.  At this point, you might have to attach your walking foot for your machine to negotiate the thickness of this bag.  But if your machine can take it, sew the tape down catching the lining and making sure this stitching line is straight because it will show.   small canvas tote bag

Finally, I have made two tassels and attached them to the end of a 7″ of 1/2″ tape or deco ribbon.  Use the same tape or ribbon you used to attach the handles.

Before you attach the tassel pass it through one of the tabs holding the handle then attached the other tassel.small canvas tote bagIf you need a tutorial on how to make your own tassels here are three easy methods.

small canvas tote bag

As you can see, this is a very easy to make small canvas tote bag even when using the upholstery fabric option.  This little number is as practical as it is useful.  It truly makes a great gift for a wonderful teacher, mother, sister, granddaughter or any woman you know and need to thank.

Join me next week will have more pattern transformations and a quick video on how to put this bag together.

Until next time, keep your fabric scissors safe!

small canvas tote bag

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39 Responses to Small Canvas Tote Bag: The Perfect Spring Companion

  1. Linda says:

    having a hard time downloading patters and instructions

  2. Cheryl W says:

    Even the wrong side of your upholstery fabric looks bright and cheerful 🙂 Great pattern.

  3. Julie says:

    Is there a larger version of this bag? I love it but it is too small…

  4. Martini says:

    Hi, I am a newbie on sewing
    Thanks God I found you

    Due the material optimalization and I thought it was too small for me,, I had made some modification from your pattern, like :
    1. I used patchwork ( cause I haven’t have canvas yet ) and interlining
    2. I made it bigger, so I can use it for “Mukenah Bag ”
    3. I add more pocket with magnetic buttons
    4. I used padded fabric handles
    5. I add magnetic button and hooks for savety

    because I am a beginner, my sewing had not been neat yet
    but, at least I knew how to improve it

    thank you

  5. Beverley Potter says:

    Hi love the look of this bag. You mentioned that you were doing a tutorial for a cross over body version. Do you have a link for it? Also do you have the link for the zipper pouches that are shown in one of the bags you have made. Thanks

  6. Jo bautista says:

    Silly me lol i cant view the tutorial at first,turns out all i need to d9 is scroll down.awesome bag ?

  7. Love this bag. I see you have two zipper pouches inside. Is this part of the lining pocket? Maybe I’m missing something.

  8. Marg says:

    Thank you so much for this pattern. I watched the video, and will make it as soon as things quieten down for me. This is a great inspiration. I look forward to seeing your modifications. It has great possibilities. I wonder if the upholstery fabric allows it to stand up? I agree that the lining is so expensive. Love all your videos.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Marg, Yes it is heavy enough to stand up. But, that is partly because of the pattern. A thinner fabric will be needing fusible or sewable interfacing. Hope you get a chance to make it.

  9. What is the name and manufacturer of the fabric? I’m in the US. Perhaps I can find it online or in a store here.

  10. Yvette Lawrence says:

    Which wallet pattern did you use to accessorize with the bag? Thanks again for this adorable pattern.

  11. frynchee says:

    So adorable!! I downloaded the pattern yesterday and I am making it today! Thank you so much for the weekly newsletters which I anxiously look forward to every Sunday.

  12. CatheeB says:

    I may be missing something, but I could not find the dimensions? I know it is small, but I would like to know the bottom width and height as in the last picture above.

  13. taiwanrose says:

    Lovely bag and the fabric. I will try to make one. What’s the name of the fabric and where can it get it? Thank you!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Thank you, I got this fabric in a store called Spotlight in Australia in the Upholstery section. I know they have stores in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore where I live.

  14. dlynn inga says:

    How big is “small”? Or I have missed the finished measurements?
    And I’m glad it was me not being able to find the pattern this morning!

  15. Kimberly says:

    What an adorable bag, Mayra! Perfect for use while running errands or doing some quick shopping when you don’t want to lug a larger bag along. Thank you for sharing this pattern!

  16. Jan N. says:

    What are the dimensions of the tote?

  17. Merry says:

    Confusing instructions. You mention previous sewing where there is none just confusing.

    • So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Merry, thanks for your feedback. Could you be a bit more precise about where you find the instructions confusing? We strive to make everything perfect but sometimes mistakes are made. We’d like to correct where possible. Thanks and kind regards.

  18. GrrannyH says:

    What is the finished size of the bag? I did a quick read through and did not see it.

  19. Carol says:

    Thank you for the free small canvas tote pattern. I am going to make one today! Do you have access to an auto upholstery shop? The headliner they sell works magic for purses, gives lots of support without adding weight. It’s not very expensive. I have used it many times and get perfect results every time. Here it is about $13/yd but it is about 72″ wide so you get alot of fabric for your dollar. Just a thought–Carol

  20. Christine mcmahan says:

    Love it! I’m anxious to make it. Do you have the cross body bag tutorial somewhere? I Like the idea of the cross body bag.

  21. Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing! My local Joann Fabric store has a nice selection of outdoor fabric in so many pretty colors and patterns that would be great for this tote 🙂

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Sounds like you have a chance to make many pretty bags right at your fingertips. It takes only an hour and 20 minutes to make this bag. I would love to see what you come up with. Do share a picture with me I will added to the post.

  22. Mila Kette says:

    This is absolutely ADORABLE! I must make one for myself! Thank you so much for sharing the pattern and explanations. It is very generous of you.

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