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Handmade Beach Bag




Make this tote to carry towels, sunscreen, and other beach or pool essentials. Use leftover fabric, and the bag will coordinate neatly with your waterside seating.


  1. Step 1

    Using fabric shears, cut two 27-by-20-inch rectangles from lightweight canvas fabric. On both rectangles, double-hem one long side 1/4 inch; leave the other long sides unhemmed.

  2. Step 2

    Cut two 27-by-13-inch rectangles from a vintage tablecloth (or any printed fabric). Fold all four long sides under 1/4 inch, and press with an iron.

  3. Step 3

    Place one canvas rectangle right side up, with the long, unhemmed edge closest to you. Lay a printed-fabric rectangle on top of the canvas, right side up. Line up the left and right edges and leave a 2-inch border between the hemmed top of the canvas and the top of the printed fabric. Sew through both layers along pressed-under lengths of printed fabric, 1/8 inch from edges. Repeat with other canvas and fabric.

  4. Step 4

    To form handles, cut two 56-by-5 1/2-inch pieces of canvas. Fold strips in half lengthwise; iron to crease. Unfold fabric, and make 2 more folds, bringing the left and right edges to the center crease, pressing as you go. Refold the fabric along the center crease so the strip is 1/4 its original width. Stitch along both sides of the strips 1/4-inch from edges.

  5. Step 5

    To attach handles, form strips into arcs and center them on the fabric so that their bottoms align with the unhemmed bottom edge of canvas, 8 inches in from bottom corners; pin in place. Sew the handles to the fabric by stitching over the existing seams on the handles; start at one end of the strip and sew until you reach the edge of the printed fabric. Turn corner, and continue sewing down the opposite edge. Repeat on the opposite end, and on other half of bag.

  6. Step 6

    Place the 2 sides of the bag right sides together. Sew the sides and bottom of the bag together, leaving a 1/2-inch seam allowance. With pinking shears, trim seam allowance (to prevent the fabric from fraying).

  7. Step 7

    Turn right side out. To create a rectangular base, measure and mark 6 1/2 inches in from each corner on the bottom. Fold the corners inward so that their tips meet the marked points on the seam, and stitch. Press all seams flat with an iron.

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Reviews (16)

  • LadyJames 15 Sep, 2013

    Like someone said, this is a canvas bag with a decorative fabric sewn to it. Step 3 is where you are sewing your 'pretty' fabric rectangles to your canvas rectangles. By this point, you have hemmed one edge of your canvas; this is the top edge of the bag. With your canvas rectangle right side up, place your pretty fabric (right side up also) on top, 2 inches from the hemmed canvas edge (this forms the canvas 'strip' edge you see in the photo). Then you sew the pretty fabric to the canvas.

  • bmanila 15 Jul, 2012

    Can anyone help me understand better these instructions? in STEP 3 it says: "sew through both layers along pressed-under lengths of printed fabric, 1/8 in from edges. repeat with with other canvas."
    ...what does that mean? and how do i put them together so i can go then to STEP 4 and form handles????

    please i need your help !! thanks to anyone.

  • emgarden 10 Dec, 2011

    Let's have an 'Improve These Instructions' contest! Here's my entry.
    The Base: With bag wrong-side-out, find the point on bottom seam that is 1 1/2 " from the strap edge and 6 1/2" from one corner. From this point, draw a chalk line on the bag, parallel to the strap. Now hold bag w/ side seam facing you. Push side seam down atop bottom seam. Flatten. Fold corner-point up to make a triangle, the base of which is along the chalk line. Stitch along fold. Tack point to side seam. Now do other side.

  • emgarden 10 Dec, 2011

    This would be easier to grasp if only the tote in the pic were more like the tote described here. Where's the print fabric placed 2" below the hemmed edge? I see only the same canvas print, + straps, + strap edging at hem!

  • zmagen 3 Jan, 2011

    canvas beach bags

  • winterbeach 8 Jul, 2008

    Finally, something that is vintage Martha and quite beautiful. I had no trouble following the instructions. I do agree with the previous comment posted that step by step photos, especially for those who have difficulty with the printed instructions, would be most beneficial. At last, a return to quntessential MS. I'm gonna make four bags, one for my sister, my cousin, my mother and my aunt all of whom are having a yaya week at the beach in a swank lodge in Nova Scotia.

  • picolina 6 Jul, 2008

    can you write it also in spanish? thank you

  • ebocage 5 Jul, 2008

    Here is the link to the article on how to make the sling chair: chair

    Have Fun!

  • HopeBoz 2 Jun, 2008

    Looks like a great project. Is there instructions for the "beachside seating"?

  • lhegs 22 Apr, 2008

    I need to revise my post, sorry. I forgot there were TWO rectangles. So the circumference would be 54" (minus seam allowances) and there will be TWO side seams. Wow, this is huge!

  • lhegs 22 Apr, 2008

    I need to revise my post, sorry. I forgot there were TWO rectangles. So the circumference would be 54" (minus seam allowances) and there will be TWO side seams. Wow, this is huge!

  • lhegs 22 Apr, 2008

    I think I get this.
    It is basically a canvas tote wrapped with decorative fabric. You hem the top of the canvas and then put the pretty fabric over it leaving a 2" border of canvas at the top and about 5" of canvas at the bottom. The pretty fabric is sewn to the canvas on the long edges where it was folded over and is reinforced when the handles are sewn on. The 27" is the circumference of the bag. Only the bottom and one side will have a seam. The flat bottom will be solid canvas.

  • Rubynurse 22 Apr, 2008

    Most of the ideas are good, BUT there never seems to be enough instruction.
    I have been sewing for many years and sometimes I look at the project and still can't understand what it is they want you do.
    Sure would be nice if someone reviewed them prior to posting them .

  • quiltnana 22 Apr, 2008

    Another great idea! A bit challenging, but worth the try.

  • squeeky_peaches_com 28 Feb, 2008

    I too think it is difficult, as i am a beginner.

  • yoopergal13 5 Feb, 2008

    I know how to sew... but the directions on this project are very difficult to understand... maybe a visual direction would help? It would be very hard for a beginner to try this project.