This tea towl origami bag sewing tutorial is simple and can be customized to any holiday, season, or event! Perfect for a quick project!
There are people who carry a different purse to complement each outfit, or just because it’s Wednesday and they feel like changing things up. And then there are people like me, who carry the same bag day in and day out till the poor thing just wears out.
Lately I’ve been carrying a plaid flannel and faux leather tote, which looked nice and cozy throughout fall and winter. But spring has come and gone and now we’re into the summer months, and that plaid flannel bag just looks silly when it’s 90 degrees outside and I’m wearing shorts and a tank top. Time for a new summer bag!
This origami bag is perfect for the summer months! Slouchy and casual, it pairs nicely with a summer outfit.
Plus it’s quick to sew which is good for when the kids are home and your sewing time gets crunched between trips to the pool and making lunches and refereeing fights. I’ve got a tutorial for you below.
The origami bag gets its name because it’s made from a long strip of fabric that you fold up and around to create the bag shape. Most people use yardage for this, but I used a couple of tea towels instead.
I was having a hard time finding just the right fabric in my stash, and when I saw these towels at Target I knew they were exactly the print I wanted to use for my bag.
And when I thought about it, I realized just how perfect tea towels are for making origami bags. First of all, there’s no need to line the bag because the towel edges are already finished. That’s a huge time savings – and cost saving, too! My towels were just $3 each. BOOM.
And as a bonus – my towels had handy hanging loops sewn on the back (at the center, not the corner). Those loops ended up being just inside the front of bag, and are perfect to hang sunglasses or a keychain. BOOM BOOM.
A typical tea towel is 18” x 28”, which works out pretty perfectly to create the size fabric you need to make the origami bag. If your tea towels are a slightly different size, that should be okay. When sewn together, you’ll just need to end up with a strip of fabric that’s 3x long as it is wide.
2 tea towels – 18” x 28” (If your dimensions vary slightly, that’s okay so long as the length will be 3x their width after they’re sewn together.)
Scrap of leather or vinyl – 3” x 6.5”
Temporary marking pen
How to make a tea towel origami bag:
Sew your towel along the bottom edge, RST with a 1” seam allowance.
You should now have a long piece of fabric that is 18” x 54”.
If you’re using towels with dimensions OTHER than 18” x 28”, you may need to adjust your seam allowance. When sewn together, the two towels should be 3 times as long as they are wide.
Press the seam open and stitch the seam allowances down close to the edge.
Turn the piece over so it is RIGHT side up.
Fold the bottom left corner all the way up to the top.
Fold the top right corner all the way down to the bottom. The resulting shape will be a parallelogram. (Remember when you said you’d never use high school geometry in your adult life? Your teacher is laughing now.)
Now, imagine a diagonal line through that center portion of your parallelogram. Being careful not to let the layers shift, fold your piece along that diagonal line.
Now you’ve got the basic shape of your bag!
Pin the fabric together at the diagonal line indicated, with the hemmed edges aligned. Be sure to pin just though the pieces on the front.
Turn the bag over and repeat on the other side.
Shift the bag around so you can get to one of the seams you just pinned. Stitch with a ½” seam allowance (or just past the hem on your towel).
The hemmed edges of the towel will give a clean finish, but for an even cleaner finish, stitch the seam allowances together close to the edge.
While you’ve got this seam accessible, let’s go ahead and box the corners.
Make a mark along the folded edge (bag bottom) 2” from the corner. Make another marker on the side seam 2” down from the corner. Remember to measure from the stitch line, not the edge of the fabric. Use an erasable marking pen to connect the two dots, creating a diagonal line across the corner of the bag.
Fold the corner down so the tip meets the line you just drew.
Fold the edge over again so the folded edge comes just past the line you drew. Stitch down to secure, sewing all the way across the bag corner.
Your corner is boxed, and you’ve got a clean finish on the seam.
Repeat with the remaining pinned seam. (Sew the side seam, stitch the seam allowances together, box the corner.)
Turn the bag right side out.
Now for the handle. Take your leather and fold it in half lengthwise, WRONG SIDES TOGETHER. Stitch down the side with a ¼” seam allowance, creating a tube.
For best results when sewing on leather (or faux leather), use a leather needle and either a Teflon presser foot or a walking foot. If you don’t have a Teflon presser foot, you can cover the bottom of your presser foot with tape. This will keep the faux leather from sticking to the bottom of the presser foot.
Also keep in mind that pins create permanent holes in leather, so use fabric clips instead of pins.
Trim the seam allowance to 1/8”. I like to use a rotary cutter for this step so my edges are nice and straight.
Pull one of the two pointed ends (straps) of the bag through the leather tube. It will be a tight squeeze and you may need to use a large safety pin or bodkin to pull it through. Pull the tube far enough down that there’s a good inch or so of the fabric sticking out.
Lap the fabric end that’s peeking out of the tube over the other pointed end.
Stitch across several times so it’s good and secure.
Slide the leather tube over so it covers the place where you sewed those ends together.
Your bag is done!
If you like this origami bag tutorial then you will love these tutorials from Anne as well: