Unfortunately, the bag is really flimsy and just a very simple sewn up rectangle. I prefer totes with a squared off bottom, so that it's easier to load things like apples from the farmers market, or library books, or my nieces iceskates and extra socks into it. Fortunately... I own a sewing machine. ;-) So here's how to reinforce & otherwise spiff up a cheap giveaway tote. It took me about 40 minutes to do this. None of the sewing is super complicated, so it's not a bad project for beginning seamstresses.
By the way, I noticed that the bag had a tag in it noting it was made with Fair Trade cotton. Kudos Topshop!
First off, I had coincidently stopped in a Joyce Trim at W 38th & 6th Ave early that morning, and bought some nice blue trim with the general idea of using them as totebag handles someday. They turned out to be exactly the right width to cover this tote's handles. I love when something wonderful like that happens! So I had my handle reinforcement ready, and I just needed to get something for a lining. There was some brown striped homedec weight cotton in my stash left over from a christmas present, so I used that.
Put the totebag down flat on top of the lining fabric. You'll want to cut around it, adding seam allowances as you go. I use a rotary cutter with a guide arm to do this. It's exactly the same as adding seam allowances on a BWOF pattern.
Stitch the side seams and the bottom seam of the lining fabric together to get a basic tote shape. Iron the seam open.
Next, mark a line about 3 inches up from the bottom of your tote- on the inside- using chalk. Mark both sides. You'll use this to box out the bottom of the bag. You want to do the same thing to the lining.
Box out your two corners on the totebag and on the lining. If you don't know how to do this, it's the same way that the corners are squared off in the box bag tutorial over here. Essentially you fold out a corner triangle and stitch straight across the chalk line you marked. This gives the bag a square bottom when you flip it back right side out.
Now sew your trim over the handles. This isn't strictly necessary, but it makes the bag look nice and gives it a bit more strength to hold heavy library books. I just folded the ends underneath and stitched across them to hold them under. If you were going to sew some ribbon around the top edge as decoration, you could leave the raw edges exposed and cover them with ribbon.
Next, position your liner inside the bag. With this method the tops of the lining are exposed- I used a selvage edge on one side, and zigzagged over the raw edge on the other side. Pin the bags together with the top edges lined up. Use extra pins near the handles, since the fabric might shift there where it's bulky. Make sure you match up your side seams.
Now stitch along the top edge to hold the liner to the bag. I used a decorative stitch on my machine, but you could use just a straight stitch or anything else. If you want to, now you can also embellish the bag-- stitch on a ribbon around the top opening, or anything else!
Notice that when I boxed out the bottom, it hid the last 3 inches of the sides on the new bottom. That hides the "Topshop/Broadway & Broome" text and so now my side says "Everybody Loves" instead. I kind of like it that way. ;-)
Here's my new totebag!