DIY pillowcase tote: Put your spring things in this easy-to-make bag

Do you love a good tote? We love a good tote. And this DIY pillowcase tote bag is our new favorite for shopping trips, book clubs, and trips to the farmers market. If you’ve got a few pillowcases and scarves (or an addiction to thrift stores), you’re a quick sewing sesh away from your own cute bag. Try one tonight!

Woman's arm holding green DIY pillowcase tote with fellow roses inside. |

How to make a DIY Pillowcase Tote

You can whip one up on a sewing machine, but we love the hand-stitched look of these, with running stitches for decoration and backstitches for strength.

Supplies for the Reusable Tote Bag: pillowcases, fabric scraps, scarf, embroidery floss, pins and needles, scissors, iron |


  • Pillowcase (we used a standard size, but any size will work)
  • Long, skinny scarf or fabric scraps
  • Embroidery floss and needle (or sewing machine)
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Iron
  • Optional: Ruler and tailor’s chalk

Cutting the pillowcase top off to make a tote bag |

How to cut and prep your pillowcase tote

Start by turning the pillowcase inside out.

Cut off about a third of the pillowcase from the open end. (You can make your tote whatever size you like—ours is about 14″ deep.)

Ironing the hem of a pillowcase to keep it in place |

Fold the cut side down about an inch, and press it flat.

Pro tip

Want a tidier hem? Fold it over and press it one more time. Just make sure you leave an extra inch when you cut the top off the pillowcase.

Cutting a square off the corner on the bottom of the pillowcase |

Cut a 2″ x 2″ square from each of the bottom corners (the closed end).

Cutting a square off the corner on the bottom of the pillowcase |

How to sew up your tote

Use a running stitch in a contrasting thread to hem the top edge.

Pro tip

To make your hem super-straight, use tailor’s chalk and a ruler to mark it about a quarter-inch down from the edge of the pillowcase.

Using a running stitch to hem the top of the pillowcase |

Sewing a running stitch on the top hem of a green pillowcase |

To create a flat base for your tote, open up the cut corners at the bottom off the pillowcase and line the seams up with each other, as shown below. Pin the opening shut, and sew it closed with a backstitch. Repeat on both sides.

Pro tip

If you think you’ll carry anything kinda heavy in your tote, backstitch two parallel rows and use smaller stitches.

Folding the corner of a pillowcase and sewing it shut with a running stitch makes a flat bottom for your tote bag |

To create a handle using a scarf:

  • Fold the scarf in half end to end, and cut it at the fold.
  • If your scarf is more than a few inches wide, fold it in half side to side.
  • Fold the cut edge in about an inch, and press it flat (if needed).
  • Center the folded end over one inside top seam of the pillowcase, as shown below, and attach it using a backstitch.
  • Repeat with the other piece of the scarf.

To create a handle using fabric scraps:

  • Cut four long, narrow strips of fabric about 3″ wide and 36″ long.
  • Place two of the strips together, right sides facing out, and sew them together with a running stitch about a quarter-inch inside the edge. (You can mark the fabric with a ruler and tailor’s chalk for super-straight stitches.)
  • Repeat with the other two strips of fabric.
  • For aesthetically pleasing frayed edges, use a pin to tease a couple of threads at a time away from the weave of the fabric, and gently pull the threads away.
  • Center one end of one completed strip over the top seam of one side of the pillowcase. You can attach it inside or outside using a backstitch.

To complete your tote, tie the ends of the scarf or fabric strips in a knot or bow.

Sewing a striped scarf onto a pillowcase to make a tote bag handle |

Pro tip

For a more secure handle, stitch it to the bag with two or three parallel rows. Or sew a box a little smaller than the area where the scarf overlaps the pillowcase, and sew an X inside the box.

Two pillowcase tote bags hanging on a peg wall |


More easy tote bag ideas: 

See? Easy. And practical. And endlessly adaptable. Show us yours by tagging @think.make.share on Instagram.


Leave a Comment

  1. 9.26.20 | Reply
    Lula B wrote:

    What a wonderful idea! I have a few stray pillowcases and scarfs from over the years. This is a great way to make them in to something and free up some space. Also instead of gift bags and tissue paper, I can use these lovely pillowcase totes as packaging. Reuse and reduce, I’m loving all of this. Thanks for the diy. Of any wait to try it.

  2. 11.17.20 | Reply
    Linda wrote:

    Wow! such an amazing article. I will definitely use this above tote bag idea.

  3. 3.2.21 | Reply

    I just want to thank you for sharing your information and your site or blog this is simple. Thanks for sharing.