Bags,  Breast Cancer Awareness,  Gift Ideas

Cancer Fighting Tote Bag Tutorial

Cancer Fighting Tote Bag Tutorial

As promised, here is the first of several tutorials to go with our Pink Ribbon Thread Sets that 10% of the proceeds will go to National Breast Cancer Foundation. This a cancer fighting tote bag can be filled with thoughtful things for someone who is going through Chemotherapy treatments.


If you happen to be unfamiliar with chemo, it generally works like this. The person with cancer has to go to a room full of chairs that are all equipped with IV’s. They get hooked up to an IV and their particular “cocktail” of drugs is given through the IV. This usually takes several hours and the person may have to go several times a week, for many weeks. This translates into lots and lots of hours just sitting, waiting, watching this drug drip into your body. The same drug that is causing you to lose your hair. The same drug that is making you feel sick and tired everyday; but the drug that will most likely save your life. A cancer patient has a great deal of time to sit around and think. That may be good, but it may not. So inside this bag, I will suggest some things that may help to get their mind off the gravity of the situation.

Special Note: If you don’t want to make the bag, you can use a ready made bag or tote. I will give you an option for that later.



First, cut out your pieces: Cut a 12″ x 17″ piece for the pocket, a 4″ x WOF (Width of Fabric)strip for the handle, a 6-1/2″ x WOF  strip for the bottom insert and 24″ x WOF  for the bag itself. Take the pocket piece, turn 1/4″ under along the 2 long sides, about 1″ for the bottom of the pocket, and 1-1/2″ under at the top – twice. Press these seams so they will stay put. Sew the bottom and top seams down.

fighting like a girl

Next, position the embroidery where you want it on the pocket. I hooped the fabric with Sulky Tear-Easy under it for the embroidery. I used a Sulky Prewound bobbin in grey in the bobbin and the Pink Ribbon Rayon Thread set for the design. Follow the color sequence sheet that comes with the design when you download it for color changes.

Cancer fighting bag 2

Then, take the 24″ x WOF piece and fold it in half, wrong sides together, matching the two short ends. Measure up 3″ from the bottom fold and mark. Center the pocket and topstitch the bottom and sides. I used Sulky KK 2000 to hold the pocket in place. The KK 2000 will dissipate when I iron the bag, but then I know the pocket won’t shift when I sew. Turn the bag so right sides are together and sew the two sides together using a 5/8″ seam allowance.

cancer fighting bag 3

Fold the top edge down about 1-1/2″ and press, then fold again and press. Topstitch along the bottom edge of the fold.

cancer fighting bag 6

Now it’s time to box the bottom. With the bag still turned inside out, pull the front from the back until a triangle forms in the bottom corner. Lay the bag down so the side seam is centered in the triangle.

cancer fighting bag 5

Next, use a ruler to measure up 3″ from the point, and draw a line across. Pin the triangle and sew on this line. After sewing, cut the point off, leaving 1/2″ seam allowance and serge the edge. Repeat this on the other side.

bag handle

The bag is almost done! Turn it right side out and set aside.  (Yes, I opened this strip back up to show you this step better!) Time to make the handle. Cut a 1-3/4″ strip of Sulky Fuse ‘n Stitch the length of the 4″ strip of fabric that you cut for the handle. Iron the Fuse ‘n Stitch down in the center on the wrong side of the fabric.

Photo Oct 06, 3 05 31 PM

Then, press the two edges around the Fuse ‘n Stitch so they overlap slightly in the middle. You don’t need to turn any of the raw edges under because they will be covered by the Grosgrain ribbon. Stitch down the center.

Cancer Fighting bag 1

Use Sulky KK 2000 to place the ribbon onto the handle then topstitch down both sides of the ribbon. Audition your handle with the bag and decide the length you want it to be. Add 6″ and cut off the rest.

handle 2

Fold the handle up 1-1/2″ and clip or pin it at the top, centered on the side seam.

handle 1

Finally, sew the handle in place. Do the same on the other side.

handle 3

Congrats! Your bag is done!


If you are giving this bag to someone who is about to start chemo, I have some suggestions for things to go in this bag. These are based on my own experience with my friend and input from others who have made this journey.

The front pocket of the bag is perfect for putting in a tablet, small laptop computer or e-reader. Chemo rooms are usually very cold so a blanket (you could monogram it), scarf, snuggly socks and even gloves are good to have. I also suggest a pretty journal and pen. With all that time to sit and think, it may be helpful to write down some thoughts. You may want to write a letter to your friend in the front of the journal. A small pillow, snacks and a book (make it a funny, light read!) are also great additions.

If you can think of more items that would be good in the bag, please let me know in the comments.

Breast Cancer can be a long and scary journey. The most important thing is to be there for your friend. Remember that she is still the same person; she is not her cancer. For more information on Breast Cancer, prevention and early detection, please check out National Breast Cancer Foundation’s website.

NBCF logo

Happy Sewing!

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  • Kris Reindl

    Instead of using cardboard in the bottom to stabilize the bag, get some of the plastic canvas sheets and cut to fit. The plastic canvas would be a little sturdier.

  • Karen Roop

    Thank you for this cute bag pattern, my cousin is going through Chemo now and I made her a quilt, would like to make the bag to put the quilt in. You are correct with all the things to put in the bag, went through this a couple of years ago and anything you do to keep up the persons spirits is a blessing!

  • Diane Harris

    I love this idea. I would include a copy of a magazine, especially something of interest to your friend. Love the idea shared earlier for notecards and stamps. How about some photos of their family members, especially grandchildren. I know I would love that. Thanks for the tutorial!

  • Deb

    Thank you for the designs, instructions for the tote. I would include some audio books maybe by Wayne Dyer, very inspirational.

  • marilynkrzus

    Kelly, I made a cancer tote bag for my sister, who went through chemo for breast cancer. I made a blanket, two-sided, embroidered with Sulky embroidery threads. I appliqued roses of all different colors on the front. I embroidered one applique rose so that the top was open; I stuck little jokes and notes about strength in there for her to read during chemo. The other side of the fleece blanket was a sort of Mondrian-style design. Along with the blanket and tote, I included an anti-cancer cookbook, some ginger drops (help sooth an upset system), a lanyard on the inside attached to the inside zipper pocket with a flashlight attached so she could find everything on the black-lined inside of the bag, a novel, a book of puzzles, gum, listerine strips and wisps to clean teeth.

  • Karen Poole

    Thank you for this! My daughter just had her last chemo session this past week, we are celebrating and praying this is the start of remission. She’s had a rough few years having dealt with all the symptoms, having her tumor hiding on the scans and being diagnosed as something else, then two major surgeries, iron infusion IV’s and finally chemo! I love the fight like a girl saying, girls are pretty good fighters!

  • Sharon

    I’d love to make this for a friend who is going through chemo right now. However, the link for the embroidery design brings me to a blank page. ;(

  • Kathleen Carls

    Some other things in addition to what has already been mentioned that my niece put in a bag for me three years ago – Pink Tic-Tacs, Pink lip balm (Eos), Kleenex pack, small purse to hold insurance card, Drivers license, credit card, & a little cash for snacks. She also put in some stuff for at home – bath puff (pink, of course), moisturizer lotion, Pink Ribbon bracelet & key chain. I am now almost 3 years cancer-free!