Winter is knitting season for me, and I love to take a project along wherever I go. A simple and stylish tote bag would be great for this application.

When I laid eyes on the red of this gorgeous batik fabric, hand printed by Hmong Hill Tribe artisans from Thailand, I knew it was begging to be united with the indigo blue of denim. A rummage through my husband's closet and 1.5 hours later, my new on-the-go project bag was born.


  • 1 metre of Hmong Hill Tribe handprinted batik fabric
  • 2 pairs of old jeans, not too ripped, and the bigger the better!
  • Matching and contrasting threads of your choice
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife or seam ripper
  • Measuring tape
  • Ruler
  • Square
  • Tailor's chalk or other marking tool
  • Zipper foot

Before you begin, launder the fabric and the jeans according to care instructions.Remember that new fabric may shrink a little!



From the legs of the jeans, cut out 6 rectangles, as large as possible while avoiding seams, holes, and weak spots.They should be similar in size, but don't have to be exact. I got 17.5" by 10.5"rectangles out of mine.

Using a craft knife or seam ripper, carefully remove belt loops from the tops of both waistbands. Then with scissors, cut the waistbands off the jeans. Cut the ends of the waistbands to remove the buttons and buttonholes.


Piece together three rectangles to make one panel. To do this, put two rectangles WRONG sides together and sew along one long side. Open up your now 2-piece panel sew on one more rectangle the same way. Press the two seams open.

(NOTE: The seams will be on the OUTSIDE of the bag covered by the batik fabric later. And the INSIDE of your bag will not show any seams, hence no lining required!)

To hem to top of the body panel, press the top edge (short side of panel) 1/2" to the wrong side. Then press 2" to the wrong side again. Pin this fold into place and edgestitch it in place.

Fold the panel in half long sides together. At the top, using pins, mark 3" from the centre. You will now have 2 pins spaced 6" apart.

Make one more panel in the same way.


To form a handle, pin one waistband to one body panel, lining up the inside edges of the handle to the pin marks you put in earlier. The handle should be about 22" long, measured from top edge of the bag to top edge again. Make sure the handle extends a few inches below the top edge of the bag. Sew the handle down in a crossed box shape (see diagram). Trim the excess to just above the seam in the panel.

Repeat with the other waistband and body panel. Set these aside.


Now take your 1m of batik fabric. On the long sides, turn the raw edges 1/2" to the wrong side and press. If your piece has a ribbon along the edge, just trim the raw edge so that it doesn't stick out from beneath the ribbon. Fold the entire piece in half, short sides together, and cut along the fold to make two equal pieces.

Lay one body panel down, right side up. Lay one batik piece across the top, also right side up. Make sure the batik fabric covers the panel seams and the raw edges of the handle. Pin this in place, and edgestitch it down using matching thread. If your batik piece has a ribbon, stitch along both the top and the bottom of the ribbon.

Do the same on the other body panel. Measure to make sure both batik pieces are the same distance from the top!


With right sides together, pin the two panels together, taking care to line up the handles and the edges of the batik fabric.

Using tailor's chalk, draw the shape of your bag, leaving at least 1/4" seam allowance. (For the tutorial, I used a black pen to make the line more visible in the photos.) Use a square and a ruler, and take your time, to make everything square and plumb! I made my bag 16" wide by 19" high. Your bag's measurements may be different and it's OK.

Sew on this line. Then trim off the excess fabric, leaving about 3/16".


Turn your bag right side out and press the seams flat. Using a zipper foot on your sewing machine, stitch along the sides and bottom, about 1/4" from the edge and encasing the raw edges. Remember to backstitch on the ends! 

Trim any threads still sticking out and tada! You're all done!  

Posted by Carol Wentland