In recent times, tote bags have become quite the functional accessory due to their simple versatility and ease of use. These tote bags can easily be personalized to represent who you are or be bought from several branded designers to make a fashionable statement while still being mindful of the environment. These bags can be dressed up or down depending on the event. Available in a wide range of sizes in a wearable material, a canvas bag can serve your needs for a wide variety of occasions. Read on to learn more about these bags, including how to make one of your own.
In recent times, tote bags have become quite the functional accessory due to their simple versatility and ease of use. These totes can easily be personalized to represent who you are or be bought from several branded designers to make a fashionable statement while still being mindful of the environment. These bags can be dressed up or down depending on the event. Available in a wide range of sizes in a wearable material, a canvas bag can serve your needs for a wide variety of occasions. Read on to learn more about the best tote bags, including how to make one of your own.
What is a Tote? – The Ultimate Guide to the Best Tote Bags
A tote is simply a large bag suitable for carrying (or toting) lots of stuff, that has a large opening on the top. A tote bag, in essence, is any bag of variable size that often lacks fasteners other than a pair of parallel handles on either side to hold the bag by. The main purpose of a tote bag is to serve as an easy carryall, especially during those busy days spent shopping or running errands. A canvas tote bag, however, is any tote made from the durable, fabric material woven out of cotton or linen. This material is also found on sails, tents, backpacks and other items. Canvas is also the very same material used by artists everywhere as the base for their medium.
The History of the Tote
Totes first came into creation in the 17th century, but the term “tote”, which means “to carry”, did not become common until the 1900s. Particularly in the United States, totes did not reach their height of popularity until 1944, when one of the major apparel companies released their iconic Boat Bag. Interestingly enough, the purpose of this original tote was to carry ice during outings and the bag itself has remained in production with little change in product design. The Boat Bag continues to be made from a durable canvas material, which has undoubtedly withstood the test of time.
Although this company has contributed a great deal to the popularity of the tote, it’s the American housewives of the 1950s who greatly ushered this bag into mainstream society. Totes became a staple accessory in the completion of errands and chores, which then led way to the totes becoming a fashion statement in the 1960s. This is when designers such as Bonnie Cashin took advantage of the practical design and turned it into something elegant. The bag also hit the intellectual society when the popular New York City bookstore, The Strand, adopted and re-introduced its own version of the classic tote. High-end totes are now commonly seen on runways across the world during every Fashion Week, which boasts another level of luxury than the classic and practical cloth tote bag.
Now, in the present day, these eco-friendly totes are available in a wide variety of colors and images. From subtle political expression to pop culture symbols, literally, anything can be printed on these bags. The flexible material also makes it possible to customize to suit your personal sense of fashion and needs.
What is a Tote Made of?
A tote is often made of cotton or linen, although hemp has also been a popular material historically. Many people confuse canvas itself to be a material, although the term actually refers to the style of the fabric’s weave and not the material of the fabric. For example, a tighter weave is called duck canvas. When it comes to the actual fabric materials, cotton is derived from the cotton plant. Another popular material is linen, which is derived from the flax plant. Hemp, which is not so common anymore, is derived from the cannabis plant.
Canvas fabrics have historically been used for sails, tents and painting. With a simple waterproof coating treatment, this fabric becomes impermeable in rain or shine. Canvas material is also exceptionally good for custom tote bags due to its flexibility. The material is lightweight and holds the ink from prints well without bleeding or flaking of the design.
Canvas materials are sourced from the environment naturally, making these materials the perfect choice for those who are environmentally conscious. The reusable nature of canvas tote bags further supports the ecosystem by reducing the production of wastes.
How are Totes Made?
It is fairly simple to learn how to make a tote. Here is a step-by-step guide to make one of your own: To get started, it is important to gather the appropriate tools from the beginning. The necessary equipment includes scissors, pins, a ruler, seam ripper, fabric chalk and a sewing machine and 1 meter of cloth.
- Step One: Cut out a 33” x 31” sheet from the fabric. Then, fold the piece of fabric in half so that the size is now 16 ½” x 15 ½”. Make sure the fold itself is oriented at the bottom.
- Step Two: Now, cut two 16” long straps out of the leftover fabric. These will serve as the handles of the bag. If desired, the fabric can be substituted with any other sturdy material as desired for the handles. However, try and keep the strips to an appropriate length.
- Step Three: Take the top, open edges of the folded fabric square and fold them down by an inch on both sides. Pin the sides down. Then, sew 0.5 mm from the edges while making sure to double stitch at the beginnings and ends to ensure sturdiness. Remove the pins. You have now completed the top fold stitches.
- Step Four: Now that the top and bottom of the bag have been secured, it is time to sew the sides shut. Pin the sides together so that the edges match evenly. Continue to sew 1 mm from the edge of the fabric.
- Step Five: The bottom of the bag can be given more volume by sewing across the now established corners, forming an effective gusset. Pinch the corners of the bag open (utilizing the 1 mm of free space of the edges) and secure them with pins. Then, sew about 3” across the corners on both bottom corners of the bag. You will end up with two corners that almost resemble dog-ears, giving the bottom of the bag more of a body.
- Step Six: Take the straps and measure 4” from both ends, such that each strap of the handle rests 4” from the closest edge. Line up the edges of the straps with the 1” folds sewn earlier at the tops of the bag. Then, pin each strap down, repeating for each side.
- Step Seven: The straps of the handles must be sewn with great care such that they remain intact even with the burden of weights. Start off by sewing around all four edges of the strap, forming a square out of the thread. Then, sew lines connecting the corners of the squares, such that the thread bisects to form an “X”. The finished product should look like a square with an “X” centered in the middle. Repeat this method with the remaining three straps.
- Step Eight: Cut off any loose strings and make sure all thread work is secure. Now, flip the bag inside out, revealing your new blank tote bag. The best part about this project is that you’re literally left with a blank canvas – making your imagination the only limit to the possibilities!
- Step Nine: Decorating your tote is the moment you get to unleash your personal style and expression. The best part about tote bag materials is that they hold ink easily, regardless of the method that the ink is transferred to the bag. Fabric markers work fine for this project as do iron on decals. This process can be avoided altogether with the selection of printed fabric for the project.
What are the popular weights of canvas material that is used in canvas totes?
Canvas material is available in 4 oz, 5 oz, 6 oz, 8 oz, 10 oz, 12 oz, 14 oz, 16 oz and 24 oz weights. The popular weights of the canvas material out of those options are the 6 oz for lower quality bags (also known as Cotton totes or Cotton sheeting totes) and 12 oz for durable canvas totes. The heavier weights are reserved for fashion totes.
What is the difference between 5 oz, 6 oz, 10 oz, 12 oz canvas material?
The differences in weights account for differences in the canvas material. The 5 oz material is thin but also the most popular option for cheap bags, such as those used for grocery shopping in order to prevent the wastage of plastic bags. The 6 oz material is indistinguishable from the 5 oz, so it is often better to opt for the cheaper 5 oz material if deciding between the two.
The 10 oz canvas material is reserved for high quality totes that are durable and last several years of use. This material looks even better with age, as it washes and wears well. The 12 oz canvas material is heavy duty and used to make more refined looking bags, encroaching into fashion beyond practicality and simplicity.
What is GMS for a Tote Bag and how is GMS calculated?
GMS means grams per meter squared. A gram is a unit of weight. A thousand grams equals one kilogram. Basically, it is another term to determine the weight of the fabric when the material ends up being a blend of two or more fabrics. The higher the GMS, the heavier the weight of the fabric.