Home » DIY Tutorials » DIY Sewing » Sewing: Clothing » Accessories » A Ruffled Tote (aka: Elli’s Church Bag)

A Ruffled Tote (aka: Elli’s Church Bag)


Last week, I made a Shirt/Tie Tote for my little Connor to carry all of his “quiet activities” to church and right when I finished it, my 5 year old Elli asked, “are you going to make me a shirt/tie bag for church too?”  “Ummm….nope, but how about ruffles,” I asked.  “Suuuuuure!” she squealed.


Okay.  Done deal.


So I got right to work.  But instead of using an old button up, I grabbed some thick upholstery fabric from my stash and a bit of jersey knit (no fray = no hemming) and made this little Ruffled Tote for her.




When it was all finished, she happily slung that new little ruffly tote right over her shoulder ……….and whew, excitedly told me everything little thing she was going to put inside.  (Just no rocks.  Or grass.  Okay?)




Whew, now both little chickies can carry their own stuff to church.  And no more arguing about what crayons belong to which child.  (Shirt/Tie Tote found here.)




Why is it so easy to make a 5 year old’s day?  I wish she’d stay 5 forever……so easy to please!




And yes, the bottom is nice and squared off.  Perfect for all her stuff.




And since I used jersey knit (which doesn’t fray) for the ruffles, no hemming was needed on those 3 rows of ruffles.




I’m sure glad we have a place for Elli’s books, markers, and “quiet toys” for church now.  And yay……’s just her size!




After testing out her new bag for a bit, Elli asked me when she’d be old enough to carry gum in her “church bag”.  I think, according to her, carrying gum and car keys in your purse means you’re really big. 

Well, hmmmm, maybe you can when you’re 31 like your momma. :)




Would you like to make your own Ruffled Tote?


Okay, first of all, you can make your tote out of anything you want.  Upholstery fabric, regular quilting cotton, faux leather, an old boot, etc.  Haha, okay, not an old boot…..but you get the idea.  However, if you’re using a flimsy outer fabric, try and make the lining something more sturdy, like Duck Cloth (which is what I used to make the shirt/tie tote here.)  And as for the ruffles, you can use cotton or some other fraying fabric……but you’ll need to hem (or maybe just serge) each bottom edge.  Otherwise your ruffles will fray quite a bit.  That’s why I chose jersey knit.  I bought my jersey knit at Wal-Mart but you could also cut up some old shirts and use those for your ruffles. 



  • Upholstery Fabric (or something thick and sturdy) for inner and outer bag.  I used about a yard.
  • 60″ wide jersey knit fabric for ruffles.  I used about a half yard.  (If you use knit that isn’t 60 inches wide and you still want the same amount of ruffling, you will need to sew strips together to make them 60 inches long.)
  • thread, scissors, pins, etc.


You can make your tote a variety of sizes but I will share the dimensions I used to make my little tote for my 5 year old, which is 14.5 inches tall (not including the handles) and 15 inches wide. 


Cut the following pieces of fabric as shown below.  The number of pieces is shown to the left of the parenthesis and the dimensions (in inches) is shown inside the parenthesis.  Then main large square pieces on the left are for the lining and the pieces on the right are for the outer bag.  It’s cut into 2 pieces so that you can sew your ruffle between the two, which will make more sense later on.

**The printed fabric is upholstery weight fabric from Joann’s and the pink is jersey knit from Wal-Mart.


Now, use a 1/2 inch seam allowance and sew your two lining pieces (16 x 16) together with right sides together, along the right and left sides…..shown on the right.  Then, sew the two 3.5 x 16 pieces together and the two 13.5 x 16 pieces together, with right sides together, and along the shorter ends……..shown on the left.  Turn right side out and iron seams open and flat.


Next, grab your smaller strip of knit fabric (4 x 60) and sew the two ends together (with right sides together), using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

**If you use knit that isn’t 60 inches wide to begin with and you still want the same amount of ruffling, you will need to sew strips together to get 60 inches long……..or if you want more ruffling, you can make your strips 80 inches long (or longer) for fuller ruffles.



Next, split this little circle of fabric into 2 sections and add basting stitches (1/2 inch seam allowance) to the top edge of the circle.  Then pull in the basting stitches to create ruffling and then pin your circle of ruffles all the way around the top edge of the 13.5 x 16 inch pieces that were sewn together.  (Need help with gathering/making ruffles? Go here.)  Then sew these ruffles to the top edge of the fabric, using a 1/2 inch seam allowance again.

A ruffled tote (aka: elli’s church bag)
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Next, sew your other two strips of knit fabric into circles, then add basting stitches and create ruffles…….just like you did above.  Then pin these next two rows of ruffles to the base fabric, evenly spacing them and overlapping them.  Pin in place.  Also, be sure that your bottom ruffle doesn’t go all the way down to the bottom of the base fabric, because the bottom of the bag will shorten up when you square off the bottom.  (I pinned the bottom ruffle about 2 inches from the bottom……but this can vary, depending on how much you square off the bottom.)  Then sew each ruffle in place.


Next, grab the top sections of fabric that were sewn together into a circle (3.5 x 16 inch pieces) and slide it over the ruffled section of fabric, with right sides together.  Match the top edges up evenly, then sew together with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.



Next, flip that top strip of fabric up and iron open.  Be sure that the fabric flap from behind (the seam allowance) is ironed upwards.  Then sew a seam right at the bottom of the strip of fabric you just attached, making sure that the seam allowance from behind is included in the seam.  (I sewed about 1/16 of an inch from the edge.)



Now, sew your handles pieces together, just like shown in this bag tutorial here.


Now, you have 3 sections left to sew together.  The lining (on the left), the outer fabric (in the middle), and the two handles on the right.  Visit the other tote tutorial here, and put these pieces together in exactly the same way.




And that’s it. 


A sweet little ruffled tote. 


Ready for filling.



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Featured Sponsor:


Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
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  1. marziye says:

    Thanks for your creative ideas dear friend

  2. Amy says:

    Geniales tus ideas

  3. ruma says:

    I am a big big fan of yours and learn lots of things from you.Thanks

  4. Jody says:

    I just made this bag without the ruffle but with Noah’s ark fabric for a church bag. I used PUL on the inside so crayon, crumbs, marker and who-knows-what-else can just be simply wiped out. I LOVE IT!!! I can’t wait to make more for other people :)

  5. sandaleana bengundoeala says:

    youre a greatly creative person!

  6. Kristi says:

    Help!! I’m sorry to ask and I’m sure the answer is right there in the tutorial but I can’t find the instructions for the squared bottom of this tote. This would make an adorable dance bag for my 4 yr old! Loving the tutorials.

    Thank you!

  7. Cath says:

    I will do that bag for the same use!! Very important to cary QUIET games to church!! Thanks a lot! And as we say in France: la classe! We also add “la classe américaine!!”. Wich means: “the us class or style”!

  8. Anonymous says:

    SSoooooooooo cute! I think adults would love it, too……a fun tote!

  9. Ramona says:

    Love this so pretty will be making this as soon as I get home. My granddaughter is going to love this.

  10. Dana grimmer says:

    I love your idea, I was thinking on making some scripture bags for the kids in my class.

  11. Lisa says:

    That is so cute! Love the colours and patterns. Great tutorial

  12. Kay says:

    Oh i wish, I wish i knew how to sew! I would use this all summer! So darn cute! Are you considering making/ selling these???? I will be your first sale! :)

  13. Jenn says:

    So cute!!!! and a wonderful tutorial thank you very much! I’m going to have to make these now!!!

  14. Cassie says:

    So cute, I might make one for me and all my yw stuff!!! Thanks for the great tutorial!!

  15. SLS says:

    Ok, these are the two cutest church bags ever! Glad that she has one as equally awesome as her brothers. Great work!

  16. Saray says:

    HI Ashley, i love all your tutorials… you are a blessing to all of us!!! and I’m not saying that just because, but really I do appreciate your time and effort every time you post something…

    I have a question for you… i got a serger… i think is an old model but i have no idea how to use it? Will you able to give me some tips or an idea… cause i have no clue :/ is

    PFAFF hobbylock 774 SORRY to bother you… hehe but i was like… maybe she can HELP ME!

  17. Rosana says:

    I can’t wait to get an invitation for one of my friends girls birthday party, just to make one of this.
    It is lovely… Thanks.

  18. erin says:

    Oh how cute!! Please help me find your towel ponchos and the tutorial. What happened to it? I saw it and now its gone. :( I bought all the stuff to make them. HELP! :) Thanks.

  19. Kerry says:

    How cute is that?! :)

  20. Kristina Noall says:

    Do you get sick of my comments? Hopefully not. Just wanted to thank you for the help you gave me over the weekend. Made a tote bag for a 3-year-old girl whose birthday party my son got invited to–I didn’t want to spend money on a gift, already had all the stuff, I had an excuse to sew, and she got a personalized bag. (I appliqued her initial on it and made a matching fabric flower pin for the handle.) Your tutorial on how to finish a quilt was my guide to finishing my first one EVER. I just can’t tell you how much I love your site, and how much it’s taught me.

  21. Irma says:

    I love your idea! It’s perfect for my 4 years old daughter…I must try to find a perfect fabric like yours. Thanks a lot.

  22. Tabitha says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your ideas! I have marked so many that I am going to be busy for a LONG time.

  23. carolyn says:

    hermoso…gracias por compartir tus ideas¡¡¡ beautiful … thanks for sharing your thoughts¡¡
    cariños desde Chile

  24. laura says:

    This is so adorable, and I love the pair of bags together! Such a cute his & hers. My little one is 19 months, and she seems to think that the most important item in a purse is the cell phone. So anything in her play purse is treated as a phone. Including play keys, a teether, even a plastic banana one time.

  25. nikol says:

    oh’ ashley!
    thank you so much!
    your tutorials are clear and I learn from you a lot!!

    I’ll be happy if you cuold show how to sew this bag with a zipper

  26. Cherie says:

    I am pretty confident that you could make a tote out of an old boot… ;)

    1. Ashley says:

      Haha…’re too cute! :)

  27. Monica says:

    I LOVE IT! Do you know how happy I am that I found your blog?!?!?!?! SOOOOOOO Happy! :)
    I am planning on making this one and the shirt and tie one!

    P.S. I made the toothfairy pouches and my kids LOVED them! I will be linking my post back to yours!

  28. Debbie C says:

    Hi Ashley, the links to the tote/bag tutorial is actually taking me to a ruffling/gathering tutorial…

    1. Ashley says:

      Thanks, I fixed them!

  29. Andrea says:

    Oh Ashley, you are so talented… I have so many projects planned from your website… if only I could sew all day!! Thanks for the inspiration!

    P.S. some of the links in this post don’t seem to match up… :)

    1. Ashley says:

      Whew, I fixed them. Thanks!

  30. Stacy says:

    I love everything about this!! Too cute!!

  31. Lindsey says:

    I nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award. Thanks for all your fabulous posts!

  32. Angela says:

    Where did you get the printed outdoor fabric? I can’t find anything as cute as that!

    1. Ashley says:

      I found it at Joann’s a couple of month ago. I bet they still carry it. Good luck! :)

  33. Amanda S says:

    I love this! That’s an adorable fabric (the patterned one) and I’m a sucker for anything ruffled. Thanks for posting such great projects; I really love your blog :)

  34. Brenda Rhodes says:

    I love little girls and their purses. When I was teaching 5 year ols in Sunday School some years back one of the little girls was showing me what all she had in her purse. Imagine my suppose when she pulled out a biscuit! I love to see what they carry. They are precious!

    1. Ashley says:

      Ha……that made me laugh out loud! She was probably really serious, and thought it was perfectly logical to have a biscuit. Too cute! :)

  35. Mrs M says:

    That bag is lovely! She’s a lucky young lady.

  36. Kati says:

    So cute! If I were her…I’d be asking for a matching skirt! :)

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Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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