DIY Tote Bag: Add a Pop of Color with Two-Sided Fabric Handles

Hey Everyone! I’m Betz White and I’m excited to be here!

I have three bag-making classes on CreativeLive that will boost your bag making confidence and teach you what you need to know to make great looking bags inside and out!

You can make this beautiful bag with tips from Betz White!

I’d like to share an easy way to customize your tote bag’s exterior add an extra pop of color to your bag’s handles.

In this example, I’ve used a grey cotton linen as the outer handle with a fun pop of orange quilting cotton for the inside.

This accent matches the lining of the bag as well as other details so they all tie in with each other. I also used rectangular rings to attach the handles, which adds a nice professional look and a bit of shine.

You can make this beautiful bag with tips from Betz White!

To get started, you’ll need 4 rectangular rings, mine have an interior measurement of 1¼”. Next you’ll cut 2 outer handles (grey) and 2 inner handles (orange). These measure 1¾” wide and 27” long.

Of course, you can customize the dimensions but your width should be the opening width of the ring plus ½” for seam allowances. You’ll also need 4 outer strap loops and 4 inner strap loops, measuring 1¾” x 2” each.

Interface the wrong sides of all handles and strap loops with a lightweight woven cotton interfacing, such as Pellon SF101.

Simple supplies for making awesome handles for your tote bag!

Place a set of strap loops, right sides together (one grey, one orange) and sew the longer sides with a ¼” seam allowance.

Turn right side out and press, then topstitch about 1/8” from each edge. Repeat for the other 3 strap loops.

The little things add up to one beautiful bag with tips from Betz White!

Next, place a set of handles right sides together (one grey, one orange), and sew one long seam with ¼” seam allowance.

Press the seam allowances open and ¼” hem at one end. Pressing this seam now, before the other side is sewn will give you a crisper seam and a straighter handle when it’s turned right side out later!

Pro tips for getting great seam on the CreativeLive blog:

With right sides still facing, sew the other long handle seam and across the un-hemmed end.

Trim the seam allowance corners off at a 45 degree angle. To press the long seam open, I’ve used a wooden paint stir stick from the hardware store. Just slide it in to the open end of the handle “tube” and use it as a mini ironing board to press the seam open. This helps prevent pressing a crease down the middle of your handle.

Check out this life-saving sewing tip from Betz White on the CreativeLive blog!

Now you’re ready to turn your handle right side out.

Use a turning tool, such as a chopstick, poke the sewn end into the tube and gradually push it out of the open end.

Once it’s all the way turned, use the end of the chopstick to work out the corners as best you can. Give the handle a good pressing then topstitch the entire perimeter about 1/8” from the edge.

You might like to match your top thread with one side of the handle and the bobbin thread with the other side. Repeat these steps, sewing turning and pressing, to make the second handle.

Simple tools for making awesome bags...

Insert the one end of the handle through a rectangular ring, folding back about 1½” towards the inner side and pin.

Topstitch through both layers, across the handle as close to the ring as possible. You might find that installing a zipper foot on your machine will allow you to get closer.

Stitch a second row across the end of the handle. Thread the strap loop through the ring and sew the ends together at 1/8”.

Repeat this for the other end of the handle as well as the second handle and strap loops.

DIY tote bag tutorial from Betz White!

Now you’re ready to attach the handles to your bag!

Pin, then machine baste (meaning use a long stitch length to temporarily hold layers) the strap loops to the top edge of your bag exterior. I’ve placed mine about 5 ½” apart, centered. You’ll want the inside of your handles to be facing outward.

To assemble your bag, the strap loops will be sandwiched between the exterior bag and the lining of the bag when they are seamed together.

You can make this beautiful bag with tips from Betz White!

Handles and hardware are just some of the many ways to add color and interest to your bags! Check out my class on custom exteriors to learn more.

Looking for another bag making adventure? Check out my post on working with leather handles and adding rivets.

Are you ready to start selling your craft projects?

Download our free PDF: Etsy 101: A Guide to Getting Started! This comprehensive collection of notes, worksheets, and slides from Marlo Miyashiro’s class, Etsy 101: Launch Your Handmade Shop gives you the tips and insights you need to launch a successful Etsy shop!

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Betz is the bestselling author of Warm Fuzzies, the go-to book on recycled felting. Visit Betz at and look for her newest book, Present Perfect, 25 Gifts to Sew and Bestow.