teacher Christmas Gifts—a Fold-Up Tote Tutorial


This is the first year my little boy has been in school, and since I’m having a baby soon (eta 1 week, hopefully!), I decided to get a head start on all homemade Christmas gifts.  I wanted to do something kind of small for his teachers since he has three of them, and I found this fold-up bag tutorial on Pinterest from zaaberry.blogspot.com.

I thought it was really cute and a good way to use up some spare fabric I had lying around.  However, I decide to make a couple changes.  First, I wanted my bag to be lined.  It didn’t seem like it would be very sturdy if it weren’t, so I added a lining and interfacing for the outer layer of the bag.  I also made the straps slightly longer so it would be easier to throw it over a shoulder.  I topstitched in a couple of spots as well to make things hold up better.  If you want to make a bag with the modifications, I would recommend reading the original tutorial first and then reading the directions for my changes below.

Overall, I think they came out quite nicely.  The three teal ones are for his teachers, and the other two are for my adoptive college students at church.  I could definitely see myself keeping one of these rolled up in my car for quick trips to Aldi or the farmer’s market or library when I never seem to have a spare bag.  With the extra layer of interfacing and lining, I think they would hold a good amount of weight, too.



Cut your fabrics as follows:

Focus Fabric: 

  • 15×10” panels (cut 2)
  • straps:  cut a piece of fabric 4” x width of fabric.  Trim off selvages and then cut this long strip in half- – you should have about 21 inches or so for each strap

Lining Fabric: 

  • 15×6” panels (cut 2)
  • lining:  15×29.5” panel

Fusible Interfacing: 

  • 15×15.5” (cut 2)
  • 2” strips the length of your fabric straps (around 21”)—cut 2 strips

Thin elastic:  8” piece.  Note that I increased the length from the original tutorial.  The extra length is needed to accommodate the extra bulk from the lining and interfacing.

***All seams are 1/2” unless otherwise noted.



Sew one focus and one accent panel together using a 1/4” seam to make the back outside panel of the bag.   On next set, fold elastic in half and pin to the center of one of the panels.  Sew focus and accent fabrics together in same manner you did for the back panel.  Press seam toward the top accent fabric and top stitch.  Fuse interfacing to wrong sides of the panels.  Sew side and bottom seams of outer panels, right sides of fabric together.  Add button.  You can do this later if necessary, but I find it easier to sew now so you don’t have to worry about the knot showing later.



Sew side seams of lining, leaving a 3-4” opening for turning later.



Straps:  Iron the fusible interfacing strip in the middle of the fabric straps.  It helps to lay fabric face down, lay your interfacing on top of your fabric (fusible side on wrong side of strap fabric) and then once it’s lined up, lay a pressing cloth over it all before ironing.  If you iron directly n the interfacing, it will melt.  Fuse the interfacing to the straps in this manner, and then iron straps in half, fold in sides to meet in the middle and iron again, so it’s now folded up into fourths.  Top stitch along each side of each strap to hold in place.


PIn straps to the main part of the bag, three inches from each side seam on both panels.  Make sure your straps aren’t twisted here.  Place the whole outer bag into the lining, line up top edges of bag and lining, and pin.  Sew a half inch seam around the whole top of the bag.  Pull the outer bag through the opening you left in your lining for turning.  Sew the opening closed either by hand or machine.  I used a very narrow seam by machine for efficiency.  It won’t really be seen in the side lining anyway.  Pull lining inside bag and press.  I then topstitched around the very top of the bag to hold the lining in place and make my top nice and neat.


You’re finished!  To fold up bag, fold in thirds lengthwise, and then roll until you can loop your elastic around your button.


  1. Thanks so much for this! I am making these for teacher gifts too :) I love that the straps are longer on your version and the bag lined as I do not have an overlocker (serger). I used interfacing on the first one I made but have to admit that I didn’t bother with subsequent ones as they seem to sturdy enough (perhaps the fabric choice?). Only question I have is that I can’t see in your instructions where you sew the bottom seam of the outer bag? I do it when I sew the side seams (or later if I forget!) but I just wondered if you could clarify this.

    • Yes, I do it when I sew the side seams, too. I just sew all the way around the bag (except the top) all at once. I do the same for the lining, except I leave an opening for turning in that part. I agree– I think they’d be fine without the interfacing in the bag body. The interfacing also makes the bag bulkier, so in retrospect, I probably should have tried one without it as well. If I make them in the future, I’ll give that a try. Hope the teachers you’re giving them to like them!

      • Couldn’t you just use fusible interfacing to fuse both front & back together, You would have to iron and stitch the seams 1st and then after it’s fused you can sew the 3 sides together.

        • Tara Hines says:

          You probably could, but I think the construction I did makes it more secure. There’s more than one way to do almost everything, though– just use the method you think is best!

  2. I have been teaching my granddaughter to sew and your instructions are very good. I have printed it out and she can follow them to make her teacher gifts if she so chooses. BTW I stayed home with all 6 of my kidlets and now they are all grown with families of their own, I don’t regret a day being at home with them. Sometimes I think women forget and throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak. Enjoy your son.

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