Sunday, 16 February 2014

Oilcloth tote tutorial

After my post about ‘not fearing the vinyl’ I thought I’d show you how easy it is to make something using ‘the dreaded beast’ !!!!

The oilcloth I used for the bag was an impulse buy. We were in our local haberdashery shop looking for some vinyl to make ‘Wizzy’s bag and I stumbled across it. I had no idea what I was going to make with it. We had no need for a table cover and given the size of the pattern, I couldn’t make anything small out of it (decapitated teddies on a make-up bag just doesn’t do it for me !!!). That didn’t matter. I still had to have it.

When I finally decided to make something, a large tote bag, I took some photos of the process so I’ve put together a tutorial on how to make a tote bag using oilcloth. Unfortunately I forgot to take some photos towards the end of the make – sorry about that  – hopefully you’ll still be able to follow what’s going on. If not just pop a query in the comments box, drop me an email, and I’ll do my best to explain.

Please be gentle with me as this is my first tutorial......

The size of the bag is approx 15 inch (h) x 12 inch (w) x 4 inch (d) with 12 inch (h) x 1 inch (w) handles.

A seam allowance of ¼ inch has been included to everything except the handles. I found it easier to mark in pen a ¼ inch seam allowance line on the back of the oilcloth.

When stitching the oilcloth you’ll need to use a slightly longer stitch length than you would normally use, and please don’t backstitch/oversew as this weakens the oilcloth. Instead leave a long thread at the beginning and end of your stitching then knot to secure.

You’ll need:
Oilcloth – I bought a metre length and used about half
Lining fabric
Thread for main and lining fabric

For the front and back:
Cut two 17 inch (h) x 12 ½ inch (w) pieces from the oilcloth
Cut two 16 7/8 inch (h) x 12 ¼ inch (w) pieces from the lining

For the sides:
Cut four 17 inch (h) x 2 ½ inch (w) pieces from the oilcloth
Cut four 16 7/8 inch (h) x 2 3/8 inch (w) pieces from the lining

For the base:
Cut one 4 ½ inch (h) x 12 ½ inch (w) piece from the oilcloth
Cut one 4 ¼ inch (h) x 12 ¼ inch (w) piece from the lining

For the handles:

Cut two 13 inch x 4 inch pieces from the oilcloth

For the lining base:
Cut two 4 1/8 inch (h) x 12 ¾ inch (w) pieces from the lining
Cut one 3 1/2 inch (h) x 11 7/8 inch (w) from strong cardboard

Start with the sides pieces.

With right sides together take two main side pieces and secure them in place (I used clothes pegs but you can use paper clips).

Sew the two pieces together, stopping at the pen line you’d drawn earlier and leave a long thread so it can be secured with a knot later. Repeat with the other side.

Finger press the side seams open.

With the right side of the side seams facing sew two lines of stitching 1/8 inch either side of the centre join.

This is what the wrong side will look like, with the seams secured down.

Attach the side seams to front and back of the bag. Again use clips to secure it.

Finger press open the seams as before.

Turn over the bag so the wrong sides of the side seams and front/back are touching. Finger press the side seams to create a fold. 

With right sides facing edge stitch a 1/8 inch seam down the length of the bag. Continue until all the sides have been stitched.

The bag will now start to look ‘box’ like.

Attach the base to the bottom of the bag.

Like before, turn over the bag so the wrong sides of the base and front/back are touching. Finger press the seams to create a fold then edge stitch a 1/8 inch seam along the base of the bag. I found it easier to stitch the two long ends first. Don’t secure the thread ends with a knot, thread them through to the wrong side then secure with a couple of stitches in the seam allowance.

Take the handles and draw a line down the centre length wise. Fold the two edges meeting at the pen line.

Next fold the handle in half completely hiding the edges.

Stitch a 1/8 inch seam along both edges of the handles.

Sadly this is where the photos end. Hopefully you’ll understand what I mean....

Make the lining as per the oilcloth but omit to edge stitch the 1/8 inch seams. Press open the seams as you would normally.

Turn the lining inside out so the wrong side is facing you and place it into the bag (both the wrong sides of the bag and lining will now be touching), matching up the seams.

Finger press a ¼ inch hem all around the top of the bag then fold down 1 inch to make a band in the lining. Stitch down the band as close to the edge as possible then add a line of edge stitching around the top of the bag.

Attach the handles to however wide you would like them to be – mine are three inches apart.

Confession time.... You may have spotted in the main photo that there doesn’t appear to be any stitches on the front of the bag holding the handles in place. I didn’t want any showing so attached the handles before folding down the band.

Finally make the lining base. With right sides together stitch along the two long sides and one short side. Press the three seams then turn so the right side of the base is facing. Insert the cardboard, turn under a hem, then hand stitch the seam closed.

There you have it, an oilcloth tote bag. Happy sewing.....

Have a great week.


Gertie xx

PS why not pop over to Handmade Monday to see what other fellow craft bloggers have been up to.


  1. A fabulous tutorial Gertie, thanks for sharing and I can understand why you had to have that fabric - its far too cute to leave behind.

  2. Brilliant tutorial Gertie, many thanks for sharing it with us. Your bag looks great - not sure I can produce one as good as that, but will try. Hope you have a good week.

    1. I'm sure your bag will be stunning. Good luck xx

  3. Thanks for the tutorial. I am being very careful not to let my daughter see your teddybear tote, as she would so want one.

    1. I've still got some oilcloth left if you would like to make one for your daughter xx

  4. Wow round of applause that was brilliant. Really easy to follow step by step. And I love the teddy oilcloth. Can't wait for the next one.
    Ali xx

  5. Oh Gertie, it's beautiful! What a great job you did of sewing it together. Thanks for the tutorial!

  6. what a fantastic bag! I love that fabric and your tutorial is so informative, thank you very much for sharing your skills! x

  7. Great to see the many photos alongside the step by step instructions. Love the oilcloth you used. It's easy to see why it was an impulse buy. :))

  8. Thank you so much for taking the time to do that most excellent tutorial. It always helps with lots of step by step photos rather than written instructions. Like the red lining just finishes it off so nicely.

  9. Hi Gertie, I saw your link over at Handmade Harbour and popped over. I'm so glad I did, what a fantastic tutorial!

  10. Your bag looks fab - I still feel nervous of sewing with oilcloth though so it's great to read how you approached it. xx