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18 Upcycled DIY Tote Bag Ideas for Beginners

A tote bag is not only a great beginner’s sewing project, it’s also a super versatile way of using upcycled fabrics and materials. This post is a round-up of some of the best upcycled DIY tote bag ideas we could find to get you started.

I recently took a tote bag workshop at a local Remakery to refresh the sewing skills my Grandma taught me that I ungratefully left unused for years. It was a big sewing confidence builder, so I hope if you are in the same boat one of these projects will inspire you to have a go at making your own upcycled diy tote bag!

The crazy pattern print tote bag above is the one I made at the Remakery sewing workshop. The pattern is the teacher’s own and you can find her here to get in touch and purchase the pattern if you are keen (but also read on for bloggers sharing their free patterns!).

The second one is my adapted version of this pattern using two of my husband’s old shirts. I think it turned out really well and I’m challenging myself to see how many other things I can make out of what was left over of the shirts. That’s for another post though head here to check out how many items I managed to make from his two button down shirts.!

Below are some fun ideas and tutorials for how you can upcycle fabrics, clothing and other materials to make your own DIY tote bags. Any of them could be adapted to use whatever spare material you have lying around – use your creativity to make it your own!

Tea Towel Tote Bags

This idea is pure genius. Upcycle tea towels to quickly make your own DIY Tote Bag! Vicky Myers (the yellow and white bag in the photos) claims you can make one of these in 10 Minutes.

You can find her tutorial here. DIY Candy and Sum of their Stories also have great Tea Towel Tote Tutorials (say that 10 times fast!).

Tote Bag made from Placemats

As you are raiding the kitchen drawers for tea towels, why not make a tote bag out of placemats you don’t use as well? Happiest Camper have a tutorial for how they made this cute and summery tote bag out of placemats.

Tote Bag made from a Rug

DIY tote bag ideas - rug tote
Photo: Craft Bits

This is a similar idea to the placemats tote above. For this one, Craft Bits have made a tote bag from small Ikea rugs. A great idea if you are changing your decor and you have some of these rugs that no longer match your decor. You can find the tutorial here.

Cushion Cover Kid’s Tote Bag

DIY pillowcase tote bag
Photo: My Poppet

This DIY tote bag idea is courtesy of Cintia at My Poppet. She used an old cushion cover to make a kids’ tote bag complete with monster face! You can check out her tutorial for how to make your own here.

Of course a cushion cover or even a pillowcase tote bag doesn’t need to be a child’s bag. You could use the same instructions to make your own lightweight shopper style tote and decorate it (or not) with whatever motif you like!

Tote Bag made of Plastic Bags

I love love love this DIY Tote Bag made from plastic carrier bags by Learning and Yearning. And I also love their super detailed and easy to follow tutorial here.

This has to be the ultimate example of an upcycled tote bag! Watch this space as I will absolutely be trying this one!

Tote Bag made from a Feedsack

Here is another tote bag made from something that usually gets thrown away – a feedsack of all things! If you think about it they are made to be strong! Happiest Camper have the ingenious tutorial here.

Upcycled Jacket Tote Bag

jacket to tote bag transformation
Photo: My Poppet

Okay, if you follow the blog you know I am a big fan of My Poppet. The lovely Cintia, who writes the blog, is super generous in sharing her tutorials so I am not apologising for having a second one of her creations on this list. Especially as this one is so amazing! It’s the most brilliant ’80s leather jacket to tote bag transformation you are ever going to see – hands down. Head to her blog for all the details of how she achieved it.

Upcycled Denim Tote Bag

Another blogger I am a big fan of is Vicky Myers. She shared this DIY tote bag idea with us for a quintessential upcycle project – a bag made out of old denim jeans. Its a classic if there ever was one in the upcycling world. Her tutorial for how to make one of your own is here.

I made my own upcycled denim tote bag as well, using the back pockets of several old pairs of jeans, some fabric scraps and an upcycled leather belt for a strap. You can find my DIY Denim Handbag Tutorial here.

If you are looking for ways to use up what is left over from your jeans when you are finished have a look at these articles:

25 Stunning Ideas for Reusing Your Old Jeans

How to Make a Bedside Pocket Organizer from Old Jeans

Upcycling Stretch Denim – Face your Fears!

T-shirt Tote Bags

There are so many variations on a T-shirt Tote Bag out there. Arguably it is the easiest one to start with for a complete beginner. You can find three different takes on how to make a T-shirt tote bag here:

Meredith Amand made a simple kids tote bag out of an ill-fitting kids t-shirt (the cat tote photo above).

Me and My Inklings went for a t-shirt tote bag with a lining fabric to make it more robust. You can find the tutorial here.

Finally Skip to My Lou jazzed up her take on an upcycled t-shirt bag with some tie dying. Find out how to do it here.

Tote Bag Decoration Ideas

Lastly here are a few great ideas for upcycling an existing tote bag to make it more your own.

If you have a reusable shopping bag or just a plain tote bag you can try these ideas: add ruffles like Sum of their Stories; add a monogram like Sweet Makes Three; add decoupage and scrap fabric like Mod Podge Rocks.

The Sweet Makes Three tutorial also includes a free tote bag pattern.

Free Tote Bag Patterns you can adapt using Upcycled Materials

Do you want to come back and try one of these ideas later? Pin it!

diy tote bag ideas for beginners

If you are looking for more ways to use up scrap fabric, fabric remnants or even old clothing check out these posts:

17 Brilliant Ideas for Upycling Your Scrap Fabric

14 Ways to Upcycle Fabric Scraps as Gifts for Kids

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