This tote started with a paper mock-up. I folded up a small sample out of standard letter size sheet and then scaled up its dimensions 3.44 times when cutting the fabric.
So, the pattern is basically a 16″ x 32″ rectangle of tight-weave burlap in brown. I used purple broadcloth for the lining and cut it one inch bigger all around.
Lay both burlap and lining together flat and pin or baste to keep together. Take about three yards of woven strap and lay this in an oval on top, just like a racetrack.
All will be folded up pretty much like a paper bag and sewn. But before you sew, add a long patch of fabric for outside pockets. You can cut a 6″ x 23″ long strip of burlap, bind finish the two short ends as those will be the pocket tops. Centre this under the oval of strap. Now it is time to sew up and down the strapping on each side, being sure to catch the pocket section and secure at top corners with cross box squares.
Flip the bag inside out and sew up the sides. The extra bit of broadcloth lining will be used to self-bind the seams. Pinch out the corners into triangles to make a flat bottom.
Then I used plastic cutting sheets, found wherever you buy kitchen gadgets, to make a stiff bottom. To finish the opening at top, fold over inside and use the extra broadcloth lining to bind and cover the raw burlap.
I like this with rugged fabric: twills, canvas, burlap, even some upholstery for the pretty weaves and textures. Being under 5′ 4″ I fashioned it as a shorter bag with short handles so it won’t drag along as I walk.
Notes on working with burlap: Sew up your cut pattern pieces as soon as you can. Too much manipulation of this loosely woven fabric leads to long strands being pulled from the cut edges, and then there is too little left to make a proper seam allowance. But that loose weave is also a great asset for handy embroiderers who can decorate the pocket patches with coloured yarn or just add their initials, tassels or buttons.