A Sunbrella Tote

From February 2010 –

You don’t have to use Sunbrella for this tote, of course, but it is a very strong, water proof, UV resistant fabric that will stand up to years of wear. It will probably be around after the Apocalypse – this stuff is that tough! Any heavy canvas, cordura or denim fabric will work almost as well.

Chief Inspector Pookie approves of this tote which is based on a paper grocery sack. The bottom folds out when it’s in use to create a really strong bag.

On to the tutorial!

Materials –

One piece of Sunbrella or similar fairly stiff fabric measuring 24″ x 39″ or thereabouts. You can make the bag any size you want. Measurements are given for a finished bag 18″ tall (when loaded) x 13 1/2″ wide x 6 1/2″ deep.

One scrap of canvas or similar measuring 1 1/2″ x 26″ for the bottom trim.

2 pieces of nylon webbing 1 1/2″ wide x 16″ long for handles.

Thread, etc. I used a heavy duty polyester thread in black – pardon the waves on the photos – trying to get the camera to focus on the thread and not the weave of the Sunbrella proved a bit problematic. Remember that the bag will only be as strong as the thread you use – regular home sewing thread will not give you long-lasting results. My old Singer 403 sews just fine with this heavy thread after a few tension adjustments. If you have trouble getting a nice, regular stitch (you will do a bit of sewing on a swatch of fabric, right?) try a narrow zig-zag to see if that solves the problem. Use a size 18 needle for the best results.

1. Sew a 1″ hem along one long side of the fabric with a double row of zig-zag stitching –

2. Sew two of the short sides together with a French Seam to enclose the raw edges, topstitching with a narrow zig-zag stitch.
3. Fold up the side with the seam like so –
Creating the tuck on one side. Pin or mark where the second side seam will go and sew it up with a narrow zig-zag –
Do the same for the other side and you will have a boxy rectangle.
5. Fold the sides in and sew across the bottom of the bag, lining up the tucks so it lays flat –
Sew over this seam a couple of times for added strength.
6. Sew the handles on with a X in box pattern in the desired position. Use longer web if you want to sling the bag over your shoulder –

7. Hand sew the canvas over the seam on the bottom to enclose the raw edges (Sunbrella ravels like crazy!) for a nice, neat finish –
Fold and iron the canvas like bias tape and neatly tuck the ends under as you go.
Done! Here’s the bag in action –

This tote will hold a lot of groceries and is convenient for carrying the assorted things that need to go from car to house to car again. The handles ensure it can be slung over a hook or cleat for easy stowage. It will fold flat for storage –

Or roll it up and secure with a small cord or velcro strap or somesuch.
You can just as easily piece this bag if you don’t have scraps large enough to make it in one. Vary the size, add a closure at the top, or make it roll over like a lunch sack. The uses are endless. And there’s no need to worry if you carry a bunch of heavy tools in it – this tote can handle the weight!

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