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Make a Denim Tote Bag

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Grab a Denim Skirt and Turn it into an Easy Tote Bag
Denim Tote Bag

Denim Tote Bag Made from Recycled Denim Skirt

Janet Wickell
This easy tote bag is made by recycling a denim skirt. If you really don’t want to cut up one of your own skirts, visit a local thrift shop and browse their clothing racks. I nearly always find an inexpensive skirt or two during those outings.

Supplies Required

  • A denim skirt
  • Denim/jeans needle for your sewing machine (needle basics)
  • Cotton thread
  • Scissors that will cut through denim
  • lightweight fusible interfacing (optional)
  • Fabric for tote lining (recycled or new yardage, amount varies)
  • Cording for belt
  • Heavy crocheted lace doily for pocket trim (another thrift store find)

Make the Denim Tote Bag

  1. Wash, dry and press the denim skirt.

  2. Lay the skirt on a table or cutting mat and decide how long you would like for it to be. Add about 1/2" to that figure and cut the skirt straight across.

  3. Cut slight curves along the lower right and left bottom edges of the trimmed skirt. Trace around a large dinner plate or another circular object and make sure that curves match from side to side.

  4. To make a lining, place the skirt on top of a piece of fabric that’s been folded in half and pinned together to keep it from shifting.

  5. Cut out the fabric, using the skirt as a template. Add about 1/2" on the sides and bottom edges of the lining and about 3/4" at its top edge.

  6. Turn the denim skirt inside out and sew a 1/2" seam along its open bottom, backstitching at the beginning and ending of the seam. Press the seam open and turn the skirt right side out.

  7. Align the lining pieces right sides together and stitch a 1/2" seam from the top of one edge, across the bottom and up to the opposite side of the top edge. Press the seam open.

  8. Turn under the unsewn top edge of the lining (wrong sides together) about 3/4" and press. Set aside.

  9. Choose a strap length and width. To make straps, cut two long strips of fabric from leftover denim, adding about 2" to the selected length and 1/2" to the width. Use the binding strip construction method to piece shorter strips together if necessary to achieve the correct length.

  10. Cut lining fabric to match the length and width of the denim strips (apply lightweight interfacing to the strips if you wish, avoiding the 1/4" outer edges that will become seam allowances).

  11. Match a denim strip to a lining fabric strip, right sides together. Sew a 1/4" seam along the two long sides. Use a tube turner to turn the sewn unit right side out (or attach a safety pin to the denim at one end and pull it through the tube). Press.

    Note: Use another method to construct the handles if you wish.

  12. Assemble a second handle. Make sure handle lengths are the same.

  13. Pin one end of a strap behind the belt loop at the front of the tote, denim touching denim and extending about 1-inch inwards. Pin the other end of the strap on the back of the tote, aligning it with the position of the front strap.

  14. Sew the ends of the strap to the tote. You can stitch a box-like shape around the strap end, placing an "X" in the middle of the box, or sew a series of three vertical lines with a seam just above and below them. Backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam and pivot with the needle in the fabric when making a turn.

  15. Place the lining inside the tote, wrong side of the fabric against the denim. Align and pin the lining's upper edge with top of the skirt's waistband.

  16. Sew two seams around the skirt's waistband, one near the existing seam at the top of the band and one near the seam at the bottom. Sew slowly – you’ll encounter areas thick with denim and moving too quickly may break the needle or hamper accuracy. Remove the pins.

  17. Cut lace to fit along a pocket and sew it to the skirt with invisible thread or a thread that blends with the lace. I used half of a round lace doily on one side only, because I liked the asymmetrical appearance. You might prefer sewing the lace to both pockets.

  18. Wrap a length of bulky cord through the belt loops and tie a knot at each end. Tie another knot to hold the ends of the cord together at the center of the tote's waistband.

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