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How To Make a DIY Canvas Tote Bag - Totally Green Crafts

How To Make a DIY Canvas Tote Bag

Canvas tote bags are perfect for carrying your groceries or gym gear in, or for taking to college.

Not only do these tote bags look great, but they’re also far better for the environment.

Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which can be detrimental for wildlife and require 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture.

canvas tote bag

Swapping your plastic bag for a canvas tote is a simple way to reduce your impact on the environment, and while these canvas totes are widely available online and in stores, it’s even more economical and environmentally friendly to make your own.

It also allows you to express your individuality by customizing your tote with various colors or patterns. 

So, want to find out how to make a DIY canvas tote bag? 

First up, here’s what you’ll need before we get started:  

  • scissors
  • canvas 
  • pins
  • ruler
  • seam ripper
  • fabric crayon
  • sewing machine

How to sew your DIY canvas tote bag 

  1. Cut your canvas so you have a piece that is about 33" x 31". Fold the 33" x 31" canvas in half so it measures 16 1/2" x 15 1/2". Your fold should run along the bottom.
  2. For the straps on the bag, cut two 16" long straps.
  3. At the top of the fabric, fold the canvas down 1" from the edge, pin it in place, and then repeat on the other side.
  4. Next, on your sewing machine, sew about 5mm from the edge, remove the pins as you go along. Don’t forget to double stitch at the beginning and end for extra durability. 
  5. Once you’ve stitched the top fold, sew the sides of the bags together. To do this, pin the sides together and be sure to leave about 1mm from the edge of the fabric when sewing.
  6. On the bottom corners of your bag, pinch the corners and measure these, then pin them in place and sew about 3" across the corners. Repeat on the other bottom corner of the bag. This will give your bag more of a bottom and will add volume.
  7. Take one of the straps and measure about 4" to the side, then line this up to the 1" fold of the top of the bag, pin the strap down and repeat on the other side.
  8.  Sew the straps down by sewing around the edge of the strap, making a square shape to make the straps more hard-wearing, then sew from corner to corner of the square, in an “X” shape. So when you’ve finished, you should have a box with an "X" in the middle. Then repeat this on the other three sides of the straps. 
  9.  Clean up any loose thread, flip it inside out, and voila - you should have your very own DIY tote bag.

Decorating your DIY canvas tote bag


Paints are a great way to add a splash of color to your canvas tote.

Acrylic paint tends to be the best choice for canvas, as you can get acrylic paint specifically designed for fabric, and it dries quickly too. 

  • Before you get stuck in and start painting, ensure your bag is flat and free of any wrinkles. 
  • Lie it down on a clean, flat surface and you can also add some paper or board inside the bag to reduce the risk of any paint soaking through. 
  • You can sketch your design in pencil first. If you’re not a natural artist, you can also trace a design onto the bag. 
  • Start painting! 

Other ideas for personalizing your canvas tote bag


Embroidery is a great way to add a delicate, intricate design to your bag. This could be a floral pattern or your initials.

It’ll take more time and dedication than painting, but the results are sure to be worth it. 

Heat transfers

Heat transfer is a simple process requiring a ready-made vinyl cutout of your preferred shapes or symbols and an iron to apply the print design onto your tote bag.

These are quick and easy to do and provide you with a professional look. 

Marker pens

You can get fabric marker pens that work perfectly on canvas, and the good thing about these pens is that they’re ideal for kids and a lot easier to use than paints.

Like we mentioned above, when using paints or markers it’s best to put a sheet of paper or board inside the bag to prevent any ink or paint from soaking through.

Then you can simply sketch out your design or go straight in with the markers!

Things to consider about your DIY canvas tote bag 

  • Durability - ensure your canvas tote is stitched well, and double-stitched at the beginning and end of the seams, to ensure it can withstand heavy usage. 
  • Size - we’ve provided instructions for a medium-sized bag in this article, but feel free to make your design bigger or smaller to suit your needs. 
  • Washing - make sure that any paints or marker pens you use are designed for use on fabric and can be washed. 
  • Fixing your bag - if your bag rips, it’s an indication that the weight you’ve been carrying is more than the bag can take. You can usually repair a rip in the handle by re-stitching. If you get a hole in your bag, you can cut a patch out of a thicker material that is around 1 inch larger in diameter than the hole, then turn the bag inside out and stitch the patch over the hole. You can bond the patch to the original material by using heavy-duty fabric glue or stitching.


We hope you enjoyed making your own DIY canvas tote bag and that you found this tutorial helpful.

DIY bags make a thoughtful gift for friends and family, or a fun rainy-day activity for yourself or your kids.

They’re also a great way to do your bit for the environment and reduce your plastic usage. 

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