How to Make a Dish Towel Tote Bag, With Rodarte


Laura and Kate Mulleavy show us how to turn kitchen towels and costume jewelry into a carry-all.

By Vanessa Friedman

Illustrations by Samantha Hahn

Dish towels have never seemed so important or ubiquitous as they have during these weeks of lockdown. But they are even more multipurpose than you might expect, or so say Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte. The sisters are known for their imagination and ability to find beauty in unexpected places.

“We are all stuck at home, but even if you are just hauling laundry from one room to another, it makes you feel better to be able to put stuff away in something that cheers you up,” Laura Mulleavy said. “We have so many dish towels around and are always in need of reusable totes that we can also use as storage.”

So they decided to make one out of a dish towel and some costume jewelry. Here’s how you can, too.

Your tool kit:

One cotton or linen dish towel, approximately 20 by 27 inches. Ideally striped (it will make the project easier), but any pattern will do.

Two costume jewelry necklaces, like the plastic beaded kind that are handed out at Mardi Gras, or one chain-link plastic necklace.

One thick ribbon

Sewing machine with cotton-poly thread or, if you are sewing by hand, a tapestry needle and embroidery thread.

Straightedge ruler



Fold your chosen dish towel in half so that the inside is on the outside.


Create a bottom. At the fold, measure two inches on each side, vertically. Mark and draw a line from one dot to the other. Then flatten the lower part of the folded towel so that it makes a T-shape perpendicular to the body, four inches across. This will become the “bottom” of the tote.


Sew each side of the flattened part together with a straight stitch half an inch from each edge so that the sides of the T are closed. This will form a V-shaped notch at the bottom of the towel. If looked at from the side, it will resemble a Y.


Sew each side together with a straight stitch, vertically from the bottom of the V to the upper end of the folded towel. Invert the bag and press the bottom open to make a floor.


Make the sides. Measure a quarter of an inch from each side seam and straight stitch vertically from the top around the bottom and up the other side to create a soft rectangular side that will turn the sac into a box shape.


Fold each necklace in half.


Cut a ribbon in four pieces, each piece four inches long. Loop each ribbon through each of the four ends in the two lengths of necklace, bringing the ends of the ribbon together.


Measure to the center of the upper, open rim of the bag. Then measure three and a half inches from there in either direction and mark those spots. That is where the loops, or the two ends of the handles, will go.


Secure the loops to the bag at two stitch points, the upper one one-eighth of an inch from the top edge of the bag, the lower one one-eighth of an inch from the bottom of the loop ribbon.


Put bag over your arm and go!

Photograph via Rodarte

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