Kapakahi Tote Bag: Tutorial + Pics!

I am so excited to have a real, legit tutorial with pics on this blog.  It is about time!!! I derp around with DIY stuff all the time but due to my sloppiness and lack of camera toting, the tutorials never seem to make it to the blog. But when Carrie offered this tutorial I squealed at my email inbox because I love her blog and her fashion posts (yes, I actually do read fashion posts despite my inability to ever post any!!) and Carrie always has positive advice for a negative nancy like me.  So that's why I love her.  Go check her out at her blog and you will start to love her too.  Also, I am thinking of making this bag but instead of buying decorated fabric, painting my own design with fabric paint!! Thoughts? 

Kapakahi Tote Bag Tutorial


"Kapakahi" is a Hawaiian word that can mean askew, crooked, or lopsided. I've affectionately named my tote this because while cutting out the lining, I realized I didn't have enough fabric to make both linings the same! This is a lightweight, surprisingly sturdy bag that can be a fun way to repurpose a pretty pillowcase.

I used this tutorial as a springboard for my ideas. My changes/additions:

• I added a lining in two different fabrics • I added an iPhone pocket and key loop • I didn't sew the handles together, but finished each one so they could be knotted together. This tutorial is written for someone with basic sewing knowledge.

You will need: • one pillowcase • two fabrics for the lining (make sure each piece is at least 35 inches by 25 inches) • thread to match • sewing machine • washable marker/pencil • tape measure • seam ripper • ruler • dinner plate, pot lid, or large circular object to make curve

1. Wash and iron your pillowcase and two lining fabrics.

2. Fold your pillowcase in half the long way, putting the fold to the right and the opening at the top.

3. Along the long open side (left side in the photo), measure 16 inches from the bottom and make a mark.

4. Along the folded side, measure 15 inches from the bottom and make a mark.

5.Along the top edge (opening), measure 3 and seven-eighth inches in from each side and make a mark. You should now have 4 marks on your pillowcase.

6. Use a ruler to draw straight lines down from your marks along the top edges. Keep the distance between the straight lines even (the distance between mine measured 2.5 inches, but yours might vary). Stop when you get to the point where you need to draw a curved line to connect the handles to your sides.

7. Grab a dinner plate or something large and circular, like a pot lid or container. Use that to make a nice curve between your straight line and side mark. Repeat on the other side.

8. Before we cut out your tote bag, we need to use a seam ripper to take out the opening's hem to get more fabric for the straps.

9. Iron the top of the pillowcase to get rid of the crease. Then use your ruler to extend the strap lines onto the fabric.

10. It's time to cut out your bag! Because you'll be cutting through layers of fabric, it's a good idea to pin your fabric near your cut lines so it doesn't shift too much.

11. Cut carefully along your lines. If you open up your pillowcase, it should look like a tank top. Put leftover pieces aside for later use.

12. Get one of your lining fabrics and fold it in half the long way, with the fold to the right. Fold your pillowcase neatly and lay it along the fold.

13. Use your tape measure and pencil to add a seam allowance of 0.5 inch to the left side of the bag. (The photo shows that I added five-eighths of an inch, but half an inch should be more than enough.) Trace around the rest of the bag without adding a seam allowance.

14. Pin your lining material to prevent slippage, then cut.

Fold your second fabric the long way, with the fold to your right. Match up your first lining's fold with the fold on the fabric, pin, and cut.

15. You now should have 3 pieces: your pillowcase, lining #1, and lining #2.

16. To add an optional pocket: Take one of your pillowcase scraps (you can pick out the hem if you want to get the most out of your fabric, or leave it as is). Measure out a rectangle of about 5.5 inches by 6 inches. (I made my pocket to fit my iPhone - change the dimensions to suit you). Fold the long way and press.

17. With the material right side down, fold the raw edges in 0.5 inch and press.

18. Open up a side and fold the raw edge in to meet the press line, then fold it over and pin. Do this on all sides.

19. With the pocket right side down, stitch close to the folded edge of your pocket.

20. Lay one of your linings right side up. Measure about 3 inches down from the exact center (follow the fold line). Match up the pocket's center fold line and pin the pocket for stitching, right side up. 21. Stitch the pocket in place. I just followed the stitching on the pocket, but next time I will probably just sew as close to the edge as possible. *Because pockets get so much use, reinforce your stitching by going over it again, and don't forget to backstitch at the beginning and end.

22. To add an optional key loop: Take the pillowcase scrap you cut your pocket from and cut out a 2 inch by 3 inch rectangle. Fold in half the long way, right sides together, and stitch. Turn it right side out. 21. Fold the strip so the seam is in the center and press. Fold the strip so the raw edges match.

22. Sewing the lining: Lay one lining right side up. Take your second lining and lay it right side down on top of the first. Pin the sides and bottom, matching the center fold and edges. Sandwich your folded key loop between the linings, about 3 to 5 inches down from one of the sides, and pin. It should be facing in, not out. See this tutorial for a visual. Sew using a 0.5-inch seam allowance. DO NOT sew the handles or curves that connect the handles to the sides. To strengthen your bottom seam, you might want to stitch along the bottom again.

23. To box the seams (optional), see this tutorial. I measured 1.5 inches down from the point, resulting in a 3-inch wide boxed seam. This size actually works out well if you want to use your bag to carry your laptop. Box both bottom corners of your lining. Do the same on your pillowcase, working with the pillowcase turned inside out.

24. Turn your pillowcase right side out. Take your pillowcase and tuck it into your lining, which is wrong side out (the same way it looked when you stitched the sides). It's as if you are placing one bag in another. The right sides of the fabrics should be facing each other. Match up center folds, handles, and all edges as carefully as possible. On one side, between the handles, leave a gap of at least 5 or 6 inches that you will not be sewing up. This gives you an opening so you can turn your bag right side out!

25. Sew your bag closed with a 0.5-inch seam allowance. Clip your curves.

26. Turn your bag inside out, using the gap you left.

27. Whoo! We're almost done! Use a chopstick or something similar to make sure the handle ends are turned out completely. Pin all along the top edges of the bag and handles. For the gap, turn in the edges and pin so no raw edges are exposed.

28. Top stitch along the entire upper edge and all the handles.

29. Tie your bag handles together and enjoy your beautiful new bag!

I'm new at writing tutorials, so please let me know whether you have questions or I have managed to utterly confuse you. Please shoot me a message at petalbypetal11 (at) gmail (dot) com and I will be happy to help! :)


  1. So cute! This would be a good size for my gym bag! I keep using my grocery bags and it seems gross to put my dirty shoes in the same bag I put apples in. =/

    1. Maybe I am just tired but that made me crack up.
      Everybody needs a cute gym bag!!! Dude that is like a quarter of the motivation to even go to the gym for me. :D

  2. Great job on your bag! I just started taking sewing classes, after saying, "why not go to the experts," and I'm so excited about now being able to use my machine. It opens up so many creative doors now knowing how to operate a sewing machine. And a bag has been on my list for some time.