Beach days will be here before we know it (Memorial Day is the end of this month), so today I’m sharing a DIY market tote / beach bag that you can make for less than $20!
It’s big, sturdy, and will fit anything you need for a beach trip or a quick trip to the farmers market. I’ve recently been keeping this one in my trunk, so I can use it at the grocery store too. Bonus! This tote would be a great gift for Mother’s Day.
The first thing you’re going to need to make your own DIY tote is a set of rag placemats. I found mine in-store and on sale at World Market for $5 each, but there are lots of great resources online for the same type of placemats. For example, I found a natural color rag placemat set (of 6) from Amazon after I had already bought mine. Kinda wish I would have found these first – they’re the exact same ones I used, except in cream (which gives you much more color options for dyeing).
Anyway, now that we’ve talked placemats, here’s the full list of materials for this project…
Materials Needed for Sewn Beach Bag DIY / Market Tote
- 3-4 rag placemats*
- seam ripper
- sewing machine
- ruler/measuring tape
* Number of placemats depends on how you prefer to construct the sides and bottom of the bag.
How to Make a Sewn Beach Bag / Market Tote
1. Begin by opening the seams on any outer edges of the placemats so that all of the material is laid completely flat. In our case the edges were a more neutral color and different material, so we used those sections to construct the side walls and bottom of the bag.
Attach two of the placemats together by sewing the short ends together to form a tube of sorts. Backstitch at the beginning and the end of each side.
2. Determine how large you want the sides of the bag to be. In our case, the sides when sewn measured 4 inches and it was obvious where those sides should be because of the varying materials on the placemat. But if you’re using a different kind of placemat, you can determine the width you’d like for the sides on your own.
3. To make the bottom of the bag, open the seams of another placemat (or two if needed). Cut and measure the length and width needed for the bottom, plus an extra 1/2 inch for seam allowance on width and length. You’ll want the finished width of the bottom to be the exact same finished width as the sides (which in our case is 4 inches). And the finished length will need to be the exact measurements of the length of the tube you constructed in step #1. In our case the measurement for length when finished was 16 inches.
4. Turn the bag right side out and push out any tucked corners to create a structured shape for the bag.
5. To add handles, use leftover placemat materials to create long strips and braid a strap thick enough to hold the weight of whatever you plan to carry around in the bag. The finished measurement for the braid we used to create each handle was 11 inches (that’s for each handle separately). And we attached the handle ends with the sewing machine, approximately two inches apart from each other, in the center of the bag. Backstitch at the beginning and end of each side.
You want the handle to be really secure, so it doesn’t unravel. So feel free to go over it with the sewing machine as many times as necessary.
Take it further: When the bag was finished, I realized I wasn’t happy with the color, so I decided to dye the entire bag. To dye the bag, follow these instructions: how to dye pretty much anything.
Because it’s a large bag and the material we used was pretty thick, it took a while to rinse the dye out from the bag under running water. And I let it sit outside for several hours in the sun to dry completely before using. You can also wash and dry in your washer and dryer at home if desired (just use the delicate cycle).
‘After’ photography Amelia Lawrence // Sewing Emma Spear
P.S. If you follow along on IG stories, and remember when I asked your advice for what dye option to choose, it was for this project. This was the winning color! Thanks to all that voted.
Think you’ll give this DIY a try for summer trips?