DIY Closet: Make Your Own Totes (& Clothes!)

I’ve been on a massive DIY spree lately. Binge watching Project Runway tends to do that to me. I tend to look at things other people do and say “Yeah, I can totally do that.” Whether I have the experience or not is irrelevant; I’m going to make a freaking evening gown. So, I hauled myself off to Mood (if you’re a Project Runway viewer, you know the entire deal- tons of designer fabric in several enormous rooms). Took the obligatory photo of Swatch, the dog, and busted out my sewing machine at home.

Before buying the fabric, I made sure to practice a little bit to get used to the feel of the machine. I practiced some straight stitches and watched way too many Youtube videos. I also made a tote bag just to make sure I could sew pieces of fabric together. To give you a brief background: I’ve sewn a little bit before as a part-time hobby, but not complete garments that looked cohesive and neat. This was my first foray into perfect seams.

I picked up some print fabric from Theory and a dress pattern- again, this is the first time I used a commercial pattern. It was an interesting exercise, and for the most part my first dress came out pretty good. It’s a high-low hemline. The only thing I need to redo is the neckline, which I can’t get the hang of for some odd reason.

My next dress was a pattern-less column gown from Weekend Designer blog (I went with a plain black viscose fabric from Rag & Bone). If you’re looking to try your hand at some sewing projects, I’d highly recommend his website. He lays everything out in a very easy to understand manner. It just takes enormous amounts of patience if you’re new to the sewing game.

In the midst of all this, I also made a few random tops and skirts for practice out of muslin fabric (including a top that totally doesn’t fit me but reminisces of Rosie Assoulin’s off the shoulder top with draped bell sleeves). It’s what you’d pick up as a beginner sewer looking to try new things since it’s the most inexpensive fabric you’ll get per yard. My point is, if you want to try your hand at learning to sew, do it! It took me a week to complete all the described projects, which includes learning about everything via Youtube videos.

Excuse all the phone selfies for now. I’ll be updating with camera images come Wednesday since my new SD card is supposed to arrive then. I left my other one in our upstate house. 🙁

The Process:

Column Dress (link to instructions on how to make your own):

High-Low Pattern Dress (From Vogue Very Easy Patterns Series):


DIY Tote Bag (adapted from here):


Materials Needed:

-1/2 yard of sturdy fabric

-1.5 yards cotton webbing (for handles- or you can make your own by folding two strips of fabric together and serging the sides)

-Sewing machine, scissors, ruler



  1. Measure and cut two 16″x 20″ rectangles. (Fold the fabric in half, pin it in place so it doesn’t slide, and cut out the traced rectangle for two pieces.)
  2. If making your own handles, determine the length you want handles to be by measuring around shoulder to the top of where you want your tote to start. Add an inch to the measurement and cut two long rectangles, length being the measurement you took and width being 3 inches. Fold the long strips lengthwise, iron along the folded seam and serge all around. If you don’t have a serger, use the following technique: Here). If using webbing, cut into two 23 inch long pieces.
  3. Pin the handles to the top edge of each rectangle. If the fabric has a “right” side, make sure the wrong sides are facing each other. Pin the handles so they face down (the top edge will be hemmed to the inside, flipping the handles upward).
  4. Serge the handles in place.
  5. Fold the top edges over to the wrong side 2″ and iron the seam down. You can pin the fold in place before sewing a straight stitch across the bottom. Add another straight stitch an inch above the first. Repeat with the other fabric piece.
  6. Pin the two sides of the tote together, right sides of fabric facing each other. Stitch around the three non-handle sides. Flip it over. You’re done!
Nataliya Ogle


Nataliya Ogle likes making sure others live to their full potential. She publishes articles on her primary website and works as a freelance writer for other women's interest sites. Her physical body is in New York but her presence can almost always be found online. The internet is her first love.


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