The Complete Guide to Canvas Tote Bags, Including the Best Canvas Tote Bags for Every Occasion

Canvas tote bags have a relatively simple design, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they are a simple accessory. They are extremely versatile, which means there are likely a lot of things you don’t know about tote bags!

Not only are bags made out of different canvas materials, there are different types of tote bags, you can find personalized canvas tote bags, and with different designs, you can use your bags for more than just carrying groceries from the grocery store.

Have you ever wondered about the origins of these popular bags? Or maybe you’ve wondered exactly how you should care for your tote bag so it lasts as long as possible? This guide is for you!

Continue reading to learn everything there is to know about canvas tote bags, including how to choose the best tote bags for you.

What is a Canvas Tote Bag?

A tote bag is a bag that is constructed to carry items. They feature a large opening at the top with large loop handles for easy transport. Most bags don't include any types of fasteners or hardware, although you can find some canvas tote bags with a zipper. Instead, totes rely on stitching for their construction and design.

Unlike other bags that are designed strictly for fashion, or plastic bags that are designed for convenience, tote bags are designed for durability. They can be used to carry a wide variety of items with the expectation that the bag will be reused again and again.

The popularity of tote bags means designers and manufacturers make bags out of any kind of material you can imagine. Some are made out of plastic, like the popular Ikea bag that is made out of polypropylene. Some are made out of recycled materials, like plastic bottles. Fashion houses create totes out of high-quality materials, like leather. However, the most popular bags are made out of canvas because this material is lightweight, sturdy, and it is easy to customize.

black and white store window with purses

A Brief History of Canvas Tote Bags

As one of the simplest bag designs, it should come as no surprise that tote bags have a long history that begins in the 17th century. However, these types of bags weren't labeled with their modern name until the 1900s. They began to be referred to as "tote" bags because it's a synonym for "carry."

The popularity of the tote bag increased dramatically with L.L. Bean's ice bag that was released in 1944. As its name implies, it was constructed to carry ice. It wasn’t long before users, especially housewives, discovered that the bags were good for more than just toting around ice. They ushered these bags into mainstream society by using them to carry all kinds of items from place to place.

By the 1960s, tote bags became a fashion accessory, with big-name designers, like Bonnie Cashin, who later worked for Coach, creating custom printed canvas tote bags in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Tote bags can still be found on the runway, but they are becoming synonymous with eco-friendly living. Bags are being made out of innovative recycled materials, natural materials, and they can be reused again and again, unlike plastic bags that are thrown away after one use.

Types of Canvas Tote Bags

Although the general construction of canvas tote bags is the same, their appearance can vary widely. For example, large canvas tote bags are popular because they can carry just about anything. In general, a bag is considered large if it is at least 22"W x 15"H x 8"D. Medium bags are around 16"W x 15"H x 5"D, while small bags are around 12"W x 13"H x 4"D. Although these are general sizes, bags are being created in a wide variety of sizes and dimensions. You can even order a custom size if you can’t find one to suit your needs!

The bags themselves can vary in size, but so do the handles. You can find large handles on small bags, small handles on large bags, and everything in between. The standard handle length is around 21". Large handles are recommended if you want to carry the bag on your shoulder, while small handles are recommended for handheld bags. Some totes come with long detachable straps so they can be worn across the shoulder like a messenger bag.

The size of the bag and its straps are important considerations, but you should also look carefully at the weight of the canvas material when shopping for a bag. Weights can vary from 4 ounces all the way up to 24 ounces. The lower the weight, the less durable the bag. For example, 4-ounce bags are good for carrying lightweight items, like paper, while 12-ounce bags are a better choice for heavy or sharp items.

You may also find bags that are ranked based on grams instead of ounces. Grams per meters squared, or GMS, works the same way ounces do. The higher the GMS, the heavier the canvas, and the more durable the bag.

Where to Purchase Canvas Tote Bags in Bulk

Because canvas tote bags are so popular, they can be purchased from a wide variety of retailers. From high-end totes from expensive fashion houses to inexpensive totes you can pick up at the grocery store, there’s no shortage of places you can purchase bags.

Buying canvas tote bags in bulk can be a little bit more difficult. An online bag manufacturer, like BagzDepot, is a good place to start because you can find a wide variety of bags to choose from that can be purchased in large quantities. You may also be able to find a screen printing company near you that offers canvas tote bags wholesale, but your choices may be more limited compared to an online retailer, as they often have less in-stock choices.

beach tote bags sun sea print designs

When to Use a Canvas Tote Bag

A tote bag can be used for just about anything! That’s especially the case today when there are so many different choices.

Just a few occasions you may find it useful and convenient to use a canvas tote bag include:

  • Trade Shows: Canvas tote bags make great giveaway items, especially at large trade shows, because they provide attendees with a bag to carry all their handouts. Plus, they will walk around the convention center with the logo or brand name on the outside of the bag, providing companies with excellent brand exposure!
  • Weddings and Parties: They make great party favors, especially for weddings and family reunions because they can be personalized.
  • Grocery Stores: Arguably the most popular use for canvas tote bags is at the grocery store. They are an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags.
  • Running Errands: Not only are canvas tote bags great for the grocery store, they're great for a wide variety of errands.
  • Work and School: Unlike purses that are often too small for large items, like laptops, and backpacks that can be bulky, a canvas bag can be just right for school and work items.
  • Outings: From going to the beach to a picnic lunch in the park, canvas tote bags are great because they can hold blankets, towels, water bottles, and much more.

How you’re planning on using your tote bags can be a great way to help you choose which ones to buy. For example, if you’re looking for bags to take to the grocery store, plain canvas tote bags are a good choice. If you want your tote to hold your laptop, you should look for heavy duty canvas tote bags.

How to Care For Your Canvas Tote Bags

One of the best things about canvas tote bags is the fact that they can really take a beating. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t require at least a little bit of care in order to ensure they look their best and continue to function for years to come.

Every bag is different when it comes to washing. Look at the tag on the inside of the bag for washing instructions. In general, all custom canvas tote bags that feature prints, paint, embroidery, or other decorations should be hand washed. A quick wash in the sink with a mild detergent and a toothbrush will get out most stains and spots.

When you're done washing your bag, lay it flat or hang it up to dry. Throwing it in the dryer may cause the bag to shrink or the images to fade.

Some bags come waterproof, which makes them much easier to clean! You can also take a regular canvas tote bag and make it waterproof yourself.

For more instructions on how to wax your canvas bag, click here.

Make Your Own Custom Canvas Tote Bags

Because canvas bags are simply constructed, they are relatively easy to make yourself! With a pair of scissors, pins, a ruler, a seam ripper, fabric chalk, a sewing machine, and your fabric of choice, you can whip up a bag in any shape or size.

For more detailed instructions on how to make your own custom canvas tote bags, click here.

You don’t have to make your own tote bag from scratch in order to get a custom bag. You can order a bag online and have it digitally printed with any design you choose. You can also decorate your own bag by hand!

A few ideas for creating personalized canvas tote bags include:

  • Iron on custom shapes and images. Patches can be ironed onto your bag too!
  • Embroidery looks stunning on a canvas bag. Create a design of your own, or purchase the threads of pre-made design.
  • Painting a tote bag is easy! Just make sure you use dedicated fabric paint.
  • Canvas tote bags can be bedazzled with sewn-on gems, beads, and crystals.

Let BagzDepot help you create custom canvas tote bags just for you! It doesn’t matter what kind of bag you’re looking for or what you’re going to use it for, you can bet we have the perfect product for you!

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Written by Bagz Depot — October 09, 2019

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