Doll Up a Plain Tote With Appliquéd Scrap Fabric

Fresh, fun, scrappy — there's so much to love about this tiny tote bag. Whether you're jumping straight to the appliqué on a store-bought bag or sewing your own from canvas, this bag is just what you need for your next girls' night out.

Dolled-Up Disco Tote Bag

Level: Easy

Christie and Isa give humdrum tote bags a makeover using creative embroidery and appliqué techniques!
Tote Bag Upcycle
Tote Bag Upcycle
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What You Need


Good to Know

Steps 1-3 cover constructing the tote bag from scratch. If you buy a ready-made one, skip ahead to step 4.

1. Cut Your Materials

Cut two pieces of canvas 9” x 21” with a ½” seam allowance.

Cut two 18” lengths of webbing. These will be the handles.

2. Stitch the Hem and Handles

Fold the top of a piece of canvas 1” toward the wrong side to create the hem. Pin in place.

Place one piece of webbing approximately 1½” from the edge of the bag and pin in place. Pin the other side at the opposite edge (again 1½” from the edge), being careful not to twist the handle.

Stitch both the hem and handles. Repeat the entire step with the second piece of canvas and handle.

3. Stitch the Tote

Place your canvas pieces right sides together. Fold the fabric lengthwise.

Stitch along the edges of the canvas using a ½” seam allowance. Leave the top open.

Turn the bag right side out and get ready to decorate!

4. Make Your Appliqué Pieces

Choose which fabric scraps you’ll use to decorate your bag. Apply fusible interfacing to your chosen scraps.

Trace the face, hands and martini glass from your pattern onto the interfacing. Cut out the appliqué pieces.

5. Apply the Appliqué

Adhere the appliqué pieces to the front of the tote bag, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Pro Tip

Iron-on backing is a fast and easy way to appliqué without having to pin and sew. You could also use fabric glue in a pinch.

6. Embroider the Bag

Use a simple straight stitch to embroider the eyelashes, lip line and martini glass stem in black floss.

Pro Tip

Because canvas is a stiffer material, we didn’t hoop up for this quick splash of embroidery. But you can always take the time to do so — the tighter the fabric, the less likely your thread will pucker!

7. Add the Finishing Touches

Use fabric markers to apply eyeshadow and blush and give your bag an extra pop of personality.

Hand sew three sequins onto the bag: a red and green “olive and pimento” for the martini, plus a blue “beauty mark” above the upper lip.

Find Your Next Project

Fill your closet with even more custom totes.

Show off your love of books — and devotion to book club — with a bag toting all of your favorite reads. It’s one of those fun projects you can add to as you cross books off your list. Keep your embroidery materials nearby and you can even stitch new titles while discussing the latest read!
An appliqué design is kind of like the cherry on top of a sundae: a tasty add-on that makes your project extra special. The trouble is (we're not gonna lie here), some forms of appliqué take quite a bit of skill and practice to master. But not this one! The raw-edge appliqué method is incredibly beginner-friendly, and the perfect way to try your hand and this decorative technique.
Lindsay Conner
Got more canvas tote bags than you know what to do with? Rather than let them pile up in the closet, give 'em new life with a stencil and paint.

February 05, 2020
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Doll Up a Plain Tote With Appliquéd Scrap Fabric