Making a pretty tote bag with a rice sack is easy and can make a wonderful gift too. They are great to use for shopping if made correctly, jute is much more durable than plastic. Also, it is prettier.
I used a rice sack for this because all the measurements were already done for me. You can always use a cut of jute instead if you do not wish to use a rice sack or don’t have one at home.
How to choose the right lining for jute
I always use pure cotton because jute is a pure material. Still you can use a polyester mixed fabric.
Remember to buy a light weight material because it is a bag and you want to make it as lightweight as possible.
I like pastel colours these days, so I chose a lilac striped cloth to line this bag. Alternatively, you can use any autumn colour as a contrast. Dark brown, burgundy, navy blue, and dark purple would also be an amazing contrast with jute.
For decorating you can use many, many different embellishments. Lace and crochet lace can be a lovely compliment on jute, so you can really use whatever you feel like.
How to cut your material and what you will need
So here is what you will need:
- sewing machine (you don’t need to adjust a thicker needle for jute)
- 1 1/2 yards of jute or one 10 kg and one 5 kg bag of rice
- 1 1/2 yards of cotton cloth
- matching cotton thread with the your fabric of choice
- some ribbon, 1/2 yard (optional)
- a sharp scissor
- some sewing chalk
- a measuring tape
Firstly iron your jute with a hot iron (trust me a warm iron will have no effect) . Cut the jute at a length of 97 cm/38 inches and width 42 cm/16 inch. Keep all the remaining jute for the straps.
If you use a rice sack, you will have to open the seams on both sides of your bag and iron it out with a hot iron.
Cut out the cotton cloth at the same length and two inches extra in width. This is for the overlap that is visible on the outside of the bag. Again keep the remaining cloth for the straps and bow.
The grey feet in the image above is that of my curious cat who was understandably annoyed because she hadn’t been fed yet.
The cotton cloth’s length should be 97 cm/38 inches, and the width should be 102 cm/40 inches.
Now fold your material and iron it so that all the corners meet. Sew the width and length of the jute and do the same for the cotton cloth. Look at the images for reference (sew on the two sides where the measuring tape is placed), but make sure that one side’s width is not sown.
You should now have two bags with an un-hemmed open side.
Now set the jute bag on your table and fold both the edges on the sewn sides. Look at the images for more help. Make sure that they are the same measurements and mark with sewing chalk.
Now sew the corners, as shown in the image and replicate the same method and measurement for the cotton bag. Here I did 5 inches but you could do a 4 1/2 inch measurement instead. Make sure to sew four to five times on these corners as they could unravel with the weight of any and all groceries. The more you sew the stronger the bag will be.
Cut off the extra cloth on the corners for both bags and leave at least half an inch of cloth from the seam.
Put the jute bag into the cotton bag and sew the edges, leaving about 6 inches unsewn (make sure to turn the cotton bag inside out and the jute bag too. When you look into the bag, you should see the seam, and on the outside, you should see the seam of the cotton bag as well). This way, when you turn it inside out, both the seams will be on the inside.
Turn the bag inside out through the un-sewn hole and hem the hole with the invisible stitch (also know as the hem stitch).
Now there should be an even, two-inch border on the outside of your jute bag.
Time to make your straps. I made long straps because I like to put the straps over my shoulder, but you can make them any length you prefer.
How to cut the fabric for the straps
Here are the measurements for the straps:
- cut out two strips of jute 4 cm/1 1/2 inches wide and 69 cm/27 inches in length
- Now cut out a strip of your cotton cloth at the same length and 4 inches in width
How to sew the straps
After you have cut the jute and cloth into strips, pin the cloth in place as shown below. This makes it infinitely easier to sew the straps with your machine. Iron the straps and before you sew them with your sewing machine. Sew it on both sides so that the jute straps stay in place.
When the sewing is complete iron out your straps as this will make it easier for putting them on the bag.
Once you have done this for both your straps, set your bag on a table. Measure 4 inches from either side. Make a marking with your chalk. Now place your strap on the inside of the mark and sew a small straight line. Use a sewing pin to keep your straps in place below the line you will sew on as this will save you from repeatedly measuring the right spot. Always make chalk markings after all measurements and don’t worry chalk washes off easily.
After this, turn the strap on top of the sewing to hide the attachment. Now sew a square and an “x” to make your straps secure. I had to sew at least three times around and twice on the ‘x’ to make the joint as secure as possible. Try to stay on the line and sew on top of it repeatedly for a neater finish.
Congratulations you have a completed your bag!
Iron your bag to even out any possible creases, first inside then the outside.
How to make the bow (optional)
In all honesty, I made the bow as a decoration. Instead, you can buy an iron-on motif of your own choosing or use a cloth stamp for dressing up your bag.
For the bow, cut a 9inch by 9inch square out of your cotton cloth. Fold and iron the fabric to form a rectangle. Sew it around the edge leaving just enough space to turn it inside out.
Use the opening to turn the bow inside out and hem the edge. Now fold the centre of the bow and sew two or three stitches to keep it in place.
The bow is just an accessory so that you can dress it up according to your preferences. I used a navy blue ribbon for a bit of colour and contrast. Tie a simple bow out of the ribbon and place it on top of the fabric bow. Take another small length of ribbon and tie the ribbon bow on the fabric bow. You can also sew the ribbon bow on the fabric bow.
When you are satisfied with the final product sew it onto the centre, side or wherever want it to be on your bag. And you’ll have your finished bag ready to go.
In conclusion, I’ve shown you how you can easily upcycle your old rice sacks into a cute, strong, durable shopping tote bag, or create one from scratch with jute. Give it a go and you’ll have something you can happily take along for your next shopping trip, finely crafted by your very own hands.
If you have any questions, please comment below and I will be happy to answer. Furthermore, if there’s something that seems unclear, please ask away, and I’ll clarify. We live to serve. 😉