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Bag……from Tea Towels

I found some tea towels that were kind of thicker and decided they’d make a great fabric for a bag. What do you think??


(But you don’t have to find any extra thick tea towels. Any will do just fine.)


I’d love to say, it’s a “Quick and Easy” bag tutorial but we won’t all feel the same way about it. Yeah, yeah, I’ve said it in the past and probably shouldn’t say something’s “easy” anymore. Because for some, it’s dang hard. Just like growing tomatoes is HARD HARD HARD for me. So here’s a tutorial for a pretty difficult and frustrating bag. I’m not even sure you should attempt it. You’ll probably get so mad at my directions that you’ll throw your boot at the computer monitor. Sorry. (Did the reversed psychology work?? Now, if it works out better than this, you can consider yourself a seamstress……..and I promise it really is pretty basic. Give it a try!)


You’ll Need:


  • 3 tea towels, 2 of which are the same color. (my towel dimensions were 29 x 20.5 inches.)
  • Coordinating thread
  • Sewing machine
First, lay your tea towel in front of you vertically. Then you’re going to cut squares out of the 2 bottom corners of each towel that are 3.5 x 3.5 inches.
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Then you will fold the two sides of that 3.5 x 3.5 inch square together, with right sides together.


Then pin it together.


Do this to both corners of the tea towel…..and then the same thing to the other tea towel.


Sew 1/2 inch seam down the 3 1/2 inch side and then sew another zig-zag seam right next to it, to reinforce it. Do this to all 4 corners. (We are making the bottom 4 corners of our bag.)


Now, depending how tall or short you want your bag, you’re going to cut some length off the top of each tea towel. I cut off 7 inches. You can do more or less…..


*****At this point, make sure that both towels are the same length from top to bottom. If not, trim and adjust. It’s easier to do this now, rather than later after you’ve started putting everything together. This will ensure that the two sides of your bag will fit together evenly, when you sew them together later on.**********


Then Fold down the top, (right where you cut off the 7 inches), about 1/2 inch, and then another inch. Sew this top hem into place.


Next, you’re going to cut your straps and middle ties. Cut all of the hems off of all 4 sides of this 3rd towel. Now divide the towel into 4 even sections and cut. Make sure you are cutting the long way, to ensure that you are going to have long enough handles and ties.


Now you’ll need to sew each strip in half, long ways, and sew a 1/4 inch seam down the side to close up the straps and ties. Sew another zig-zag right next to that. Turn it right side out and press flat, with the seam towards the back. The ends for the straps can be left unfinished for right now. But you’ll need to finish all the ends of the ties. Tuck the frayed end of the fabric inside of the tie, about 1/4 inch. Press. Do the same thing to both ends of the 2 ties. Then sew around all four sides of the ties, really close to the edge. Now, sew down both sides of the straps, with the ends still unfinished. Set the straps aside.


Next, you’re going to pin the ties to each towel. Measure to find the middle of the towel and the middle of the strap. Then measure down 4 inches from the top of the towel and pin the strap in two places, 5 inches apart. See the little yellow and pink pins? They are 5 inches apart and centered on the bag. (Do this to both towels.)


Now, you’re going to pin the straps on. But first, fold one end of the strap down about 1/2 inch…..


………and then attach it to the backside of the main towel. Make the bottom of the strap (where the fold is) even with the bottom of the hem at the top of your bag. Do this to the other end of the strap and place the strap ends about 3 inches apart. (Make sure that the back side of the strap, where the seam is, is facing towards the inside of the bag. So you can’t see it from the outside, while holding the bag.)


Do this with both straps, on both towels. Now that you have the straps and the ties pinned, you need to move on over to the sewing machine.


Sew each strap in place with an X with a box around it and sew the straps in place where it’s pinned, in a tall rectangle shape. Or you could even just do a line to secure it. Either way works.


Now, you are going to sew the 2 sides of the bag together. You aren’t going to sew right sides together. You’re just going to lay one side hem on top of the other side hem and sew one continuous line, all the way around the bag.


Then sew another seam right next to it, about 1/4 inch away. This will help reinforce your bag, so that it can carry more weight. Now, tie the two ends of each tie together on both sides of your bag, cinching it in a bit. Kind of gives it a sassy look. Throw some things inside…….. And you’re done.


Oh, and I added that little blossom diddy on the front. I just cut out circles of the leftover towel that I cut off from the top, layered them one on top of the other, sewed them together in the middle, and then added a button like the one HERE, covered in the towel fabric. Then I just hand stitched it right to the bag.



***After I finished, something that I might do differently…… before sewing the top hem of the bag and before adding the ties and the straps, sew the bag together first along the bottom and sides, then fold and hem the top down. Then add the ties and straps. This way, the two top sides of the bag don’t have to be EXACT before sewing them together. You can just fold the top down 2 times and sew all the way around, hiding the uneven sides, if you have any. Might make it easier if you can’t get your two towels to be perfectly even in length.



Edited to Add:
Someone asked what a Tea Towel was and that is actually a great question. Those are towels that you dry your dishes with. They are woven instead of having loops like a regular towel. They are somewhat thin (thinner than a bath towel) and come in lots of colors and patterns. But usually pretty basic looking. Does that help at all?? I have seen a variety of projects using tea towels so they are often found in the craft sections of stores but if not, they will be near the kitchen stuff (like hot pads and kitchen decor and such).


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. Fran says:

    Had a ball making this tote bag today after putting it off for so long.
    Thanks for sharing it

  2. takla khoueiry says:

    thanks it was so helpful and creative

  3. Shawnana says:

    you are very creative and your directions are so clear. Thanks for sharing

  4. Debbie says:

    How is it possible that people don’t know what tea towels are? Are they not a staple in every kitchen?

  5. Eva says:

    Pretty :) This might be a stupid question… But is the bag specifically designed for tea towels or could any fabric work?

  6. Angela says:

    Love this!! I made an apron out of 2 tea towels not so long ago so I think this is next on the list of things to do – coming from someone who can really only sew straight lines – just!

  7. Janey says:

    Would people know what tea towels are if you called them cup towels?

  8. Ashley says:

    Desi……it is always worth a try. This isn't terribly difficult. There's no gathering, no curved seams, etc. Just straight lines and some patience. Remember that it doesn't have to be perfect and you are just a beginner, so give it some time. And keep your seam ripper handy. I still use mine all the time! Good luck and email me with any questions!


  9. Desi says:

    Hi Ashley, Just found your blog and LOVE (said in a sing songy voice) it!! Okay, I was looking at this tutorial for the bag, and my question is…can a beginner (such as myself) really make it???
    I want to try it, but that nasty old fear of failure gets in the way! ;)

  10. Danielle says:

    I love the bag! I found you via Women Who Do It All. You have some great ideas & tutorials :) I will be following!

  11. michellejohnnie says:

    Darling Towels! DArling bag!

  12. Melissa says:

    I did it! I’m NOT a seamstress and this is actually my first project, but I followed your tutorial and I made myself a cute little diaper bag! I found a great deal at Porter’s and got enough tea towels for 2 bags. Thanks for the tutorial, it was a lot of fun!

  13. Sawyers Family says:

    So I never found any tea towels, but I did find some fun fabric…check out what I made
    I LOVE IT! It’s the perfect size for what I need.

  14. Ashley says:

    Hahaha Aubrey……nope, no jail here. And wow, Martha has so many more tricks up her sleeve. My projects are way more toned down. Thanks though……and good luck on the bag. It’s pretty fun.

    Christine… glad you made it. Hope it works for you. Send a pic.

  15. Christine says:

    Ashley, this project was so much fun, thanks for sharing it with all of us! Although I would agree that it may be a little frustrating/difficult as a beginner project. I would definitely recommend the bag holder as a starter project – very fast and easy!

  16. Aubrey says:

    Wow! I am new to the site and you are my new Martha Stewart! (but w/out all the shady jail sentences and stuff…) That is the cutest bag I have ever seen! Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to get started!
    Thanks for explaining what a tea towel was, so I didn’t have to google it…

  17. Christie says:

    I am quite in love with those tea towels…and the bag is adorable. Love it all! Great tutorial. I can’t wait to try it out.

  18. Ashley says:

    Jodi G – I left a message over on your blog… case you check here first.

    Other JODI – I found the Tea Towels at a local craft store called Porters. I don’t know where you live but check out the craft section of one of your stores. Many people do crafts with these towels so they are often stocked in the craft section. If not, go look in the kitchen section of your store. Like the towels and hotpads, etc.

  19. jodi says:

    Where did you get your cute tea towels?

  20. The Hardy Things in Life says:

    Love it, I just think I might have to give it a try! Super cute~

  21. Ashley says:

    Oh, and Sawyers Family, I wrote an explanation of what a tea towel is at the bottom of the post. So go back and take a peek. Great question, I figured I better explain that one better. Thanks.

  22. Ashley says:

    Sorry…..I was being a bit too sarcastic with the description. It really is a pretty basic project.

  23. Strand Family says:

    oh man! When I saw this one I thought “Wow, I really want to make this.” and then I saw your description. Probably not a good first project for me. I’m lurking on craigslist to find a sewing machine. Maybe I’ll start with the plastic bag holder…if I make it small it can hold our doggie bags.

    1. Molly says:

      When she said “So heres for a pretty difficult and frustrating bag” she was kidding! This project is relatively easy.

  24. Sawyers Family says:

    I totally LOVE that bag…but because I am so stupid, what is a Tea Towel?

    1. rego says:

      really what is a tea towel????

    2. Anonymous says:

      I call it a cup towel……. it’s the towel that you use to dry dishes…..

  25. Jodi says:

    Super cute, I am not so sure that I could do that one (sigh). But… I was just going through my pile of bows for the girls, and was wondering if you still make the bow organizer, or if I should try to come up with something myself. That drawer needs some serious help!

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

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