From bottom to top: bags and totes

Making bags and totes is lots of fun and giving them a professional finish is easy as pie. The bags not only have height and width, but many also have depth, giving you room to store items inside. But to get that depth, you need to create some shape in the bottom part of the bag.

Photo courtesy of | Project Instructions

Some bags have corners, others have separately sewn bottom sections called gussets, while still others are formed with darts. But whatever your choice, it's these details that give depth to your bag. Other bags, like clutches, pouches, and foldable versions, may not have depth, so with a flat construction, what you can fit inside is limited.

There are several ways to create professional looking corners on bags, so let's take a look at the process. Remember that the same shaping is applied to both the exterior of the bag and the lining of the bag.

Boxed Corners

Boxed corners allow a bag to have a flat bottom so it can stand upright on its own, and they can be wide or narrow, depending on the shape of the bag desired.

Tote bag with boxed corners

The easiest way to create boxed corners is to sew the side and bottom seams of the bag together, then fold the side seam directly over the bottom seam and pin, matching the seams exactly. If the bag does not have a center bottom seam, mark the center before construction.

Figure 1

With the seams lined up, measure the seam allowance at half the desired depth of the bag and draw a line. Using a right angle, draw a line across the corner exactly perpendicular to the seam and stitch over it. Cut the seam allowance to ¼”.

*The boxed corner structure can also be positioned on the outside of the bag and held in place with buttons or rivets. To do this, simply sew the side and bottom seams of a bag, turn it right side out, and gently pull over the corners to get a pointed point. Fold the corner into a triangle and match the point with the side seam of the outer bag; shape to form the framed corner. Anchor the triangular fold in place with sewn buttons or follow the manufacturer's instructions to add rivets to hold the tip in place.

Riveted corners on a bag
Rivets hold this outer boxed corner in place. Photo courtesy of

Some bag designs feature a cut-out corner, making boxing corners almost foolproof. The square cut out of the bottom corners of the bag is half the depth of the bag. Similar to the first corner method, sew the side and bottom seams of the bag, then fold them directly over each other and sew over the cut edges.

Arrowed corners

For softer, less structured bags, consider finishing the bottom of the bag with clips, instead of the sharp corners of previous methods. The bag design may come with darts already shown, or you can add them yourself by drawing a narrow triangle in the center of each corner of the bag, making the point at a 45° angle to the center of the bag. Fold the outer bag right sides together and sew the dart along the seam line, narrowing it until it is empty at the inside point. {photo 5} Press the front and back corner clips in opposite directions to reduce the thickness of the fabric fold inside. On very bulky fabrics, trim the dart fold seam allowances to ¼” after sewing the darts and press them to flatten them. Line up the dart lines as you sew the bag forward.

Simplicity 9563
Simplicity 9563


Gussets are parts added to the bag for shaping. This may be a long strip that extends from the top edge of the bag to the other top edge, or sometimes gussets extend to create handles.

McCall's 8307
McCall's 8307

Some gussets fit only the bottom of a bag, creating a completely flat base, while others fit over the side of a bag, creating a deeper bag, more like a tote. Other gussets run around the bag, combined with a zipper to create an even depth all around. {tag: Studio Kat Flight Bag}

Studio Kat Flight Bag
Studio Kat Flight Bag

~Linda Griepentrog is the owner of G Wiz Creative Services and she writes, edits, and designs for businesses in the sewing, crafting, and quilting industries. Additionally, she accompanies fabric shopping tours in Hong Kong. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband Keith and three dogs, Yohnuh, Abby and Lizzie. Contact her at .

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