Oilcloth Tote Tutorial

We love our oilcloth around here and since a bunch of you have requested a tote bag/shopping bag/gift bag DIY, we put one together using this fabulous material. See how we are? We also love bias tape so we threw some of that in too.

My priorities were to make this easy and to use only 1/2 yard of oilcloth because while it’s totally worth it, it’s pretty pricey stuff. Prudent!

And remember that any sweet/clever/weird comment you leave this week could win you 1/2 yard of Nicey Jane oilcloth from our personal stash. Then you can make one too! Will you make one? Have you tried oilcloth yet? What DIY would you like to see on Prudent Baby? (and don’t say carseat cover, say something easy)

Read More for the Oilcloth Tote Tutorial.

What you need:

• 1/2 yard oilcloth. You can also use canvas. If you use something lighter, like cotton, you should line the bag and add interfacing which would be very easy. I love this project so much that I’m sure we will share a lined version in the near future.

• 2 – 26″ lengths of cotton webbing for straps

• 3 yards of 1/2″ double-fold bias tape

• Basic sewing supplies, sewing machine, masking tape, glue

1. This is how I measured out the 1/2 yard of Oilcloth, which is Echino by Etsuko Furuya Flower Bed. Fabricworm has Natural in stock right now which is the most pretty, I think. There are a bunch of sweet options here!

The large front and back panels are 19″ wide and 14″ high. The bottom panel is 19″ wide by 4″ tall. The side panels are 4″ wide by 14″ tall. Note that one of your sides is oriented the “wrong” way so you want to be sure that it works with your fabric. Something like stripes would be difficult with this configuration. Cut out your pieces.

I’ve read that you shouldn’t iron your oilcloth but if I have some creases, I’ve ironed the fabric side or the laminated side (WITH A CLOTH PROTECTING THE SURFACE) with great success. But do so at your own risk!

2. Keep the ends of your straps from unraveling by running a bit of clear glue (or no-fray) along each edge. Set aside to dry.

3. Fold over the top of your front panel 1″ and press (WITH CLOTH PROTECTING)

4. Pin one strap to bag through top layer only, 5″ from each side.

5. Apply masking tape along top (folded) edge of panel, front and back. (ignore stitches in photo.)

6. Stitch along entire length of top edge through strap, 1/8″ from edge. The masking tape is there to keep the oilcloth from sticking to your sewing machine.

7. Lift up the tape and remove the strap pins.

8. Replace tape and sew another straight stitch the entire length, 1/4″ from bottom of seam.

9. Remove tape. Be careful not to rip out stitches at the ends. They should be fine in the middle, just tear it away.

9. Repeat steps 3-9 on back panel.

10. with right-sides facing, sew two side panels to bottom panel end to end.

11. Fold both seams over so right side is facing out and press (WITH CLOTH PROTECTING)

12. Add masking tape to front and back on both sides and stitch with a straight stitch 1/8″ from fold.

13. Remove tape again being careful of end threads.

14. For the two unfinished ends of the sides, repeat step 3-9 (minus the strap steps.)

15. Lay down your front panel (wrong side up) and align the side of the side panel (right side up) with the side of the front panel.

16. Leaving 1″ at the end, wrap bias tape around edge of side and pin through all layers.

17. At the top, fold the end of the bias tape into the bag like so and pin.

18. When you get to the corner, align the bottom of the front panel with the long end of the bottom panel and continue to pin. You can create a mitered corner in the front of the bias tape now or do it later while you are sewing. Continue the same process up the third side and tuck the end of the bias tape into the bag as you did in step 17. This is what your bag will look like from the back.

19. This is what it will look like from the front.

20. Begin at the top on one side (with a few forward and back stitches to secure end) and sew straight down side through all layers. Make sure you are catching the oilcloth inside the bias tape. I stitched down center of bias tape to avoid doing the masking tape on the sides. It stuck a bit but not bad. You could add the tape under the bias tape and tear it out when finished. In which case, I would have sewn along the inside edge of bias tape rather than down the center. Make sense?

21.When you get to the end of the first side, add a few back stitches to secure and tuck the corner of the bias tape to create a mitered corner on the front.

22. Then sew along the next side securing the mitered corner with a few back stitches at the start and finish.

23. Note. When you turn the corner make sure you move the extra fabric (the bottom and side panel) out of the way as shown below.

24. At the other tucked end of the bias tape (the top of the bag) sew up very close to the top and add a few back stitches to secure.

25. Repeat step 15-24 to attach back side to bag. Trim all threads, and you are done. If you look inside and there is a hole where you missed sewing the oilcloth into the bias tape, just smooth everything out and sew another row along the inside edge of the bias tape. No one will ever notice.

And you are done! I love the idea of using these as a gift bag for the holidays although it makes a fantastic gift on its own! I’ve already used mine and I love it!




thanks for this! I've just "accidentally" ordered some Cath Kidston oilcloth and this is exactly what I wanted to make!


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