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Button Bag

Inspired by the basic brown paper bag, these small totes are made of canvas or linen.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, May 2003


  • 12-by-24-inch piece and 3-by-24-inch strip of canvas or linen

  • 3-by-24-inch strip of fusible webbing

  • Pinking shears

  • Sewing machine

  • 24 inches cotton webbing, for handles

  • Needle and thread

  • 100 or more buttons per side, depending on placement and button size


  1. Attach canvas strip to one edge of large canvas piece by sandwiching fusible webbing in between and ironing.

  2. Trim the top edge with pinking shears.

  3. With right sides facing, fold fabric in half lengthwise, and sew sides together, leaving a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Pink edges, and iron seam open, creating a canvas tube. (This and subsequent images have been enlarged for clarity.)

  4. Shift seam toward center so that it falls 2 inches from one side. Stitch bottom edge, leaving a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Turn bag right side out.

  5. To create facing triangles on the bottom of the bag, put one hand inside to hold the bag open, and with the other hand, push the bottom seam inward to start to form a roughly rectangular floor. Then grab the outside corner closest to the side seam, pinch it flat, and fold it toward the center. The triangular point that's formed with this motion has the corner as its tip and the side seam as half the length of its base. Repeat with the other corner, folding it toward the center and matching the first triangle in size.

  6. Tack the corners down by hand or machine to secure the triangular folds, sewing along two sides, as shown. In the sides of the tote, create folds by hand to mimic those of a paper bag. Iron them in place.

  7. Cut two 12-inch pieces of cotton webbing for handles. Sew the handles to the inside of the bag, set in 1 1/2 inches from the outside edges and 1 inch from the top. On one or both sides of bag, arrange buttons in desired color and pattern. Dab each with fabric glue; sew onto fabric with needle and thread.

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