How To Turn A Tote Bag Into A Pet Tote

By Maya Marin

Got an extra tote bag and some basic sewing skills? Excellent! You've got what it takes to upcycle that boring old tote into a pet carrier.

DIY pet carrier out of a tote bag.
credit: Maya Marin

This easy hack, based on this project from HGTV, features a comfy fleece lining that's removable, allowing you to conveniently throw it in the wash. We've even got a (mostly) no-sew option if you want to keep the needle-and-thread work to a minimum. Ready? Let's get started!

Things You'll Need

A sturdy, squared/flat-bottom tote bag large enough for your pet
2-way stretch fleece (enough to cover the interior of your tote)
Machine washable hook and loop tape (with fabric adhesive)
Seam ripper
Basic sewing supplies
Clothes iron
Fabric glue or no-sew hemming tape (for mostly-no-sew option)

Make Head Opening

Step 1

On the front side seam of the tote (the side that will face forward when you're carrying the tote over your shoulder) measure approximately 4 - 5 inches down the side seam from the top edge. The measurement here depends on how large of a head opening your pet will need.

Measuring tote bag to create head opening for pet carrier DIY.
credit: Maya Marin

Use your seam ripper to undo the side seam from the point you measured to the top of your tote. If there is a bias binding at the top edge of this tote (like the one shown here), simply snip it with scissors to open up the seam.

Using seam ripper to create head opening in tote bag for pet carrier DIY.
credit: Maya Marin
Using seam ripper to create head opening in tote bag for pet carrier DIY.
credit: Maya Marin

Step 2

Now, secure the side seam at the point where you began to rip it apart, using a needle and thread. Sew over the existing stitches several times to prevent the rest of the side seam from coming undone. Or, you can also choose to sew over the entire side seam by machine or hand to reinforce it.

Securing side seam for DIY pet carrier.
credit: Maya Marin

Step 3

Fold down one of the flaps from the opened side seam toward the inside of the bag (as shown below) and pin down. Repeat with the other flap so that the two are symmetrical.

Creating head opening for pet carrier DIY.
credit: Maya Marin

Iron down the flaps to set the creases.

Creating head opening for pet carrier DIY.
credit: Maya Marin

Step 4

The next step is to hem the edges of the head opening. To do this, cut off the excess fabric at the flaps, leaving approximately 3/4 inch of fabric from the crease you've just ironed (see below).

Creating head opening for pet carrier DIY.
credit: Maya Marin

Create a by folding the unfinished edge underneath twice. Iron, then pin in place.

Creating head opening for pet carrier DIY.
credit: Maya Marin
Creating head opening for pet carrier DIY.
credit: Maya Marin

Repeat for the other side of the head opening. Now, sew along the new hemlines to secure. (For the no-sew option, see tip below.)

Creating head opening for pet carrier DIY.
credit: Maya Marin

Your head opening is done!

Creating head opening for pet carrier DIY.
credit: Maya Marin

TIP: For the no-sew option, apply fabric glue underneath the hem folds to finish the edges of your head opening. Alternatively, you can use iron-on hemming tape to finish the edges.

Make Removable Fleece Liner

Step 1

Fold your fleece in half with the folded edge at the bottom and the direction of stretch going up and down.

Fleece fabric for DIY pet carrier liner.
credit: Maya Marin

Flatten out your tote bag on top of the fleece so that the tote's sides and squared bottom are flattened outward, not inward (see image below). Align the very bottom of the flattened tote with the fleece fold line.

Measuring fleece fabric for DIY pet carrier liner.
credit: Maya Marin

Cut your fleece into a rectangular shape, using the widest and longest points of your flattened tote as guides for your rectangle's width and length, adding a seam allowance on the left and right sides. Note that the top right corner of the rectangle will be cut, following the diagonal line created by the head opening (see below).

Cutting fleece fabric for DIY pet carrier liner.
credit: Maya Marin

Step 2

Lift tote from fabric and seam the left and right sides of your fleece liner together using a zig-zag stitch (see below) to .

Sewing fleece fabric for DIY pet carrier liner.
credit: Maya Marin

TIP: For the no-sew option, use fabric glue to seam the sides. You will not be squaring the bottom of your liner, so skip to section three: Attach Hook & Loop Tape.

Step 3

Once your side seams are sewn, turn the liner inside out. Flatten out one of the bottom corners so that the seam is running down the center (see below) of the flattened corner. If you've flattened the corner and the seam is running down the side of your corner instead of the center, you've done it incorrectly. You want to ensure that it looks like this:

Sewing fleece fabric for DIY pet carrier liner.
credit: Maya Marin

Now, you're going to create a squared bottom on your liner to match the squared bottom of your tote bag. To do this, sew a straight line (again, using zig-zag stitch) across the flattened corner of the liner. But first, you'll need to know what length this line should be — that is, you'll need to find out the depth of your tote bag so your lining can match it. To do this, measure one of the squared seams at the bottom corner of your tote (see below).

Measuring the depth of tote bag for DIY pet carrier.
Measure one of the seams at the bottom corner to find out the tote bag's depth.
credit: Maya Marin

The length of the line you sew should match the width of the seam you measured above. When you're done sewing the straight line (of matching width/depth) across the flattened corner, it should look like this.

Sewing fleece fabric for DIY pet carrier liner.
Ensure that the line you sew across the corner matches the depth measurement of the tote bag.
credit: Maya Marin

Invert the liner to reveal your first squared corner!

Sewing fleece fabric for DIY pet carrier liner.
credit: Maya Marin

Repeat this step with the other corner to give your liner a squared bottom.

Attach Hook And Loop Tape

Step 1

Take either your hook tape or loop tape and attach a strip all around the outer top edges of your liner. Even if the tape has an adhesive backing, we highly recommend you sew the tape onto the liner to ensure that it's completely secure.

TIP: For the no-sew option, purchase hook and loop tape with strong, permanent fabric adhesive. Or, you can forgo a liner altogether and simply place a comfy blanket inside the bag whenever you take your little buddy on the go.

Attaching hook and loop tape on fleece liner for DIY pet carrier.
credit: Maya Marin

Step 2

Now, attach hook or loop tape (whichever one you didn't use for the liner, of course!) to the inner top edges of the tote bag, making sure that they align with the tape you applied to the liner. Again, sewing it on is highly recommended.

Attaching hook and loop tape on fleece liner for DIY pet carrier.
credit: Maya Marin

Step 3

Finally, insert your liner into your tote — and you're done.

Inserting liner into DIY pet carrier.
credit: Maya Marin

Voila! A one-of-a-kind pet carrier for your one-of-a-kind fur baby.

DIY pet carrier out of a tote bag.
credit: Maya Marin
DIY pet carrier out of a tote bag.
credit: Maya Marin
DIY pet carrier out of a tote bag.
credit: Maya Marin