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A Quick Tutorial for Lining a Tote Bag

Most of us who are sewing enthusiasts have learned how to make a tote at one time or another. They make wonderful gifts, are easy and quick to sew, and require a minimum amount of fabric and few tools. By adding an easy lining to your bags, you can improve both the appearance and wearability of your bag. Read on for some tips and a tutorial on lining a tote bag.

Photo via Bluprint instructor Kristin Link

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How to line a tote bag:

Lining fabrics

Think about the job you want the lining to perform. Say you're in the process of learning how to make a reversible tote bag. You'll definitely want to choose fabric that you like showing off on the outside as well. If it's a regular bag, and will be holding wet swim clothes, a waterproof lining is a great idea. A light colored lining will show dirt more easily, but it will also allow you to see your bag contents better than a dark lining. If your bag needs to hold large heavy items, the lining fabric needs to be sturdy to help withstand wear and tear.

Cutting out the lining

Cut out the lining using the same pattern pieces as you used for the main bag body. At a minimum, these will include both the front bag and back bag pattern piece. If you are making a messenger style bag or something similar, you might also want a lining piece on the front flap, and if there is a sashing strip that goes down the side and across the bottom of the bag, you will need one of those out of lining fabric as well.

Also, think about adding some useful features to the lining. A simple patch pocket is really handy to slip a cell phone or wallet into. A D-ring attached to a side seam with a narrow fabric or ribbon strap can be used to clip on house or car keys.

Assembling the lining

If you are adding pockets, topstitch them to either the front or back lining first. Then proceed to stitch the front, back and optional sashing strip together just as you stitched the main bag body. Remember to leave a hole at least 3" long in the bottom seam edge so you can pull the entire bag assembly right side out.

Joining the bag and lining

Slipping lining onto bag - lining a tote bag on

Step 1:

Start with the main bag body right side out. Pin or baste the handles to the main bag. The handles should be lying on the right side of the main bag body, and hanging toward the bottom edge.

Step 2:

If your bag has a front flap, this should also be pinned or basted in place on the back of the bag at this time.

Pinning lining to a tote bag

Step 3:

Slip the bag lining over the main bag, right sides touching. Matching all seamlines, pin the lining to the main bag body with the handles sandwiched between the two fabrics.

Step 4:

Stitch completely around the top edge of the bag.

View of Sewn Lining in a Tote Bag -

Step 5:

Reach into the hole at the bottom edge of the lining, and pull the entire bag through the opening.

Lining open at bottom of bag

Step 6:

At the lining opening at the bottom of the bag, fold the raw edges of the lining to the inside, and stitch these edges closed, backstitching at both ends.

Step 7:

Push your lining fabric down into the main bag body, and press the top edge of the bag.

Final bag topstitching - how to line a tote bag on Bluprint

Step 8:

If desired, topstitch close to the top edge of the bag. Take care to keep the handles and the optional front flap away from the bag body and topstitching.

Step 9:

Enjoy your awesome new bag!

If you're not wanting to make a whole tote bag, it's easy to learn how to make a zippered pouch using the same lining techniques.

You might also enjoy our roundup of sewing patterns for travel bags.

Free Online Sewing Class

free online sewing class

Learn how to make a stylish reversible tote & zipper pouch.Enroll FREE Now »



Wow, I was always confused how this worked. So simple, so obvious, yet talk about a nice epiphany for a beginning sewer! Thanks for the tutorial!


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