Felt Tote Bag

Martha and crafter Jen Hopwood demonstrate an inventive technique for embellishing plain canvas bags with felt accessories.

Felt Tote Bag

Source: The Martha Stewart Show, September 2008


These unique tote bags are made with a traditional Hungarian reverse-applique technique -- you'll be stylish carrying around these fabulous bags, which are perfect for holding anything and everything.


  • Canvas tote bag

  • Seam ripper or small thread scissors

  • Plain white paper

  • Pins

  • Permanent marker

  • Wool felt in two colors -- enough to cover entire design

  • Machine-sewing thread in same color as top layer of felt

  • Sewing machine with quilting foot, free-motion foot, or clear foot

  • Sharp scissors or applique scissors

  • Scratch paper and pencil


  1. Turn the canvas bag inside out. Snip or seam-rip the side seams of the bag, and open the bag into one long rectangle.

  2. Write your name, draw your design, or print words on a piece of paper. Cursive lettering is pretty and quick to sew because it is connected, but is more difficult to cut away because of the curves and loops. Printing is far easier to cut away because of the angles, but you have to stop and start your sewing on each letter.

  3. Use a pin to make holes along the lines in your line drawing every 1/8 inch or so.

  4. Flip the drawing over onto the bag's inside so that your writing is centered on the bag.

  5. Use a marker to trace or tamp along the pattern, so that the ink gets through the holes and leaves a mark on the canvas. Your name or drawing will be a mirror image of your original drawing.

  6. Cut enough felt for each layer to cover the entire design. If your design fills an 8.5-by-11-inch piece of paper, cut the felt to the same size as the paper.

  7. Layer the felt, in the order you prefer the colors, on the outside front of the bag. The felt should align with the dots on the bag's inside. Pin the felt in place from the design (canvas) side.

  8. Thread your sewing machine with thread that is the same color as the top layer of felt on the bag.

  9. Place the bag, design (canvas) side up (with felt underneath) on the machine. Free-motion sew all three layers together along the dotted line. When you take it off the machine and turn it over, you should be able to see the design sewn into the felt.

  10. Cut only the top layer of felt along the thread line, leaving just about 1/8 inch on either side.

  11. Cut the bottom layer of felt along the border of the top layer of felt, leaving approximately 1/8 inch of the bottom layer of felt visible.

  12. Stitch up the sides of the bag once again. For added strength, serge or use a zigzag stitch to finish the seams.


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