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Sewing Project: Repurposed Tote Bag with Pocket

Repurposed bag with a pocket addedOne item there seems to be an endless supply of at second-hand stores is tote bags.  I love sewing and always want an excuse to use some leftover fabric and create a bag.  After seeing all of the used tote bags at second hand stores, I decided to take the time saving, easier route. I buy used tote bags!  The problem with most tote bags is the outside pocket usually has a name or design on it.  My solution?  Add a pocket to the outside and cover the logo or name.  To me, this is the ultimate in eco-friendly bags!

How to Re-Purpose a Bag

The outside of this bag used to say “Kimmee” on it.  It was embroidered onto the bag.  Cut a piece of fabric big enough to become a pocket and cover any names or logos.  Pin in place and stitch onto the outside of the bag.  I covered the name on the name by having the pocket extend upward, sort of a pocket lining.

Repurposed bag with a pocket addedThe next step was adding lining to the bag.  You could skip this step entirely but this was going to be a new piano bag and I’m all for creating excitement around piano lessons!  For this component, I just added lining that was the same dimensions of the bag.  The bottom is finished by squaring it off and then I stitched around the top.

Repurposed bag with a pocket added
Buttons add detail to this bag. Could they be any cuter?

Sometimes, prettying up something you’ve bought used comes down to the details.  This button is a sweet detail that makes the pocket sturdier.  I like to add buttons that add both interest and function.

Repurposed bag with a pocket addedThis pocket holds pencils and a notebook.

Repurposed bag with a pocket addedThis is one of our grocery bags, which used to have a large company logo on the outside of the bag.  This pocket is denim with a little bit of gingham fabric for the lining.  I turned over the top of the pocket to show the red and white fabric before I stitched the pocket into place.  Gingham fabric is always nice to add to your sewing projects.

Repurposed bag with a pocket addedThis pocket was added to a large canvas tote bag that we keep in our car with emergency essentials.

Repurposed bag with a pocket addedI added pockets to the inside and outside to cover up the monogrammed initials that don’t match any names in our family.  Lining up the pockets (both inside and outside) and stitching in place wasn’t easy.  Don’t look for me to do that again.  Sewers are capable of not making the same mistake twice!

Buying used tote bags, shoulder bags and canvas bags and adding pockets or lining is a great way to save money.  Turning something functional into something pretty for very little cost is always a goal of mine. I like it even better when I can use fabric that is leftover from another project.  Give it a try!  You can do it!

Be sure and clean your newly purchased bags before sewing.  Add a little white vinegar and baking soda to your wash to get them extra clean and smelling fresh before you tackle the project.

Have you noticed lots of cloth bags at second-hand stores? Do you like to add pockets?

Go Gingham related links:

A tray table with a slipcover – because tables need slipcovers, too
Pretty lanterns – perfect for a backyard or a wedding celebration
Using nature to decorate your home – frugal and fancy decorating
Ottoman slipcover hides shoes, socks and whatever else my kids stuff under there!
Green and frugal living – the sweet spot where green and frugal meet
Why I use an inside laundry line and not an outside laundry line

Other useful links:

My favorite spot to purchase used bags, items priced by the pound
Goodwill stores in the US, listed by state resource for all Goodwill stores
Fabric scraps can be donated here SCRAP in Portland

7 thoughts on “Sewing Project: Repurposed Tote Bag with Pocket

  1. Hey Sara! Great post…very good idea to re-purpose those totes. I see zillions of them at the thrift shops. Now I will look at them in a whole new way! Thanks.


    1. Thanks, Cheryl! There are zillions of tote bags around. Some are in really great condition, too. Buttons make a nice addition, too.


  2. Hi Sara,

    What beautiful items you create! I love these re-purposed tote bags and the fabulous sleeve wine bags. I find both projects very inspiring….


    1. The great thing is, you can practice and remove a pocket if it doesn’t work out. Seam rippers come in very handy! Thanks for leaving a comment, Karla!


  3. Great idea. I’ve done something similar using a pocket cut from an old pair of jeans (mainly out of laziness). Your idea is much more decorative. I’ll try this next time. I also just bought a thrift store bag for piano lessons..


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