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Add Ruffles to a Plain Tote Bag

 How to Make a Ruffled Tote Bag

I saw the cutest tote bag with fabric ruffles on it… I knew my daughter, aka “The Han”, would love it! Then I saw the price tag… I know a lot of people who would gladly pay $8.00 for this adorable bag, but I wasn’t going to do it. You see, I got my start as a seamstress. I’ve been sewing – literally – for years. I’ve made tons of things like clothing, an ATV cover, quilts, slipcovers, auto upholstery, a generator cover, etc. You name it, I’ve probably sewn it or something like it! So it is really hard for me to spend money on something I know I can whip out with materials I already have! Let me show you how to make a ruffled tote bag…

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I described the bag to The Han and asked her if she still had some of her plain canvas tote bags left. Luckily, she had one and she picked out fabrics for the ruffles from her own stash. She has been a budding fashionista for years – see her Hello Kitty flats here!


  • Plain Canvas Tote Bag
  • Assorted Cotton Fabrics ( We used five different prints)
  • Sewing Machine & Thread
  • Scissors & Pins
  • Water-Soluble Marking Pen or Marking Pencil
  • Pin Back & Tacky Glue

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If the fabrics are new, start by washing and drying the pieces. I didn’t find it necessary to pre-wash the canvas bag but if can be done if need be. I decided to tear the ruffle pieces into strips about 3″ wide. Tearing the cotton fabric leaves a really cute ragged edge without looking sloppy! (The edges can be serged or hemmed, if desired)

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I used the ruffler attachment for my sewing machine to make the ruffles. Easy-peasy!! If a ruffler attachment is not available, the ruffles can be created by sewing a basting stitch, either by hand or machine. (For instructions on making ruffles without a ruffler, see the last few steps of this post!)

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Once the ruffles were finished, I used a marking pencil to draw lines on the bag.

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I pinned the first ruffle on the line and used a straight stitch on the sewing machine.

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This process was repeated for the remaining ruffles.

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The Han wanted a pocket on the other side of the bag so I cut a piece of fabric for her and pressed the raw edges to the inside. I then stitched the pocket to the other side of the bag. I made another seam on the pocket to hold a pen or pencil.

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I took a scrap of one of the ruffle fabrics and created a flower to sew on the ruffled side of the bag. In this step, the ruffle for the flower will be created without the ruffler. To do this, set the sewing machine for a long basting stitch and stitch down the center of the strip for the entire length. Do not use a back stitch to secure the beginning or end stitches.

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To gather the fabric, pull the top thread and let the fabric gather. Wrap this piece of thread around a pin to secure it.

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Pull the same thread at the opposite end and gather the entire piece. Do not gather it too tight. Wrap the piece of thread around another pin to secure it.

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Set the machine back to a regular stitch and sew over the gathers down the middle of the piece. This will help secure the gathers.

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To make the flower, start by folding the gathered piece of fabric in half widthwise, and roll the fabric in a coil.

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At the same time with a needle and thread, stitch the back side of the fold to itself to secure the coil.

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Using the tacky glue, apply a line of glue to the back of the flower and set the pin back in place.

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Attach the flower to the bag as desired.


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Anyway, we were thrilled with the results! So cute and virtually free because we already had all of the materials we needed! What do you think? Any questions about how to make a ruffled tote bag? Leave a comment below!

6 comments… add one
  • Grandma
    May 10, 2012, 9:39 pm Reply

    Love it and the “Han” who is showing it off!!! Thank you!

    • admin
      May 10, 2012, 9:42 pm Reply

      Thanks so much! She looks so darn cute modeling her bag!

  • Marie
    May 22, 2012, 10:44 pm Reply

    Such a cute bag! I would gladly pay $8 for it considering it’s so darn adorable…..and I can’t sew. Lol.

    • admin
      May 23, 2012, 7:39 am Reply

      Lol! I can see that point!

  • G-Dawg
    January 15, 2013, 1:56 am Reply

    I have seen so many of these cute bags, but yours is so cute and the best tut out there… Then the idea of the pocket on the backside !?! Only one thing to say – Genius :) Seriously, great tutorial, hope to see more from you.

    • CherTexter
      January 15, 2013, 12:38 pm Reply

      Thank you so much!! Stop by again any time!!

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