Sewing Techniques–Two Ways to Make a Gusset

For quick sewing satisfaction, nothing beats the basic tote. Like having an open tortilla, you can  add as much or as little as you like-and come up with a winner every time.

Either method will give you
a perfect gusset every time!
METHOD ONE — Cut First
Cut a square from the corner.
Sew side seams and across bottom.
Match seam allowances. Stitch.
METHOD TWO — Sew First
Stitch sides and across bottom.
Open seam allowances and
side seam to bottom seam.
Draw a line perpendicular to
the seam. Stitch on the line.
Stitch and trim.

Adding gussets to the bottom of the tote make it even more versatile for carrying books, groceries, or supplies to your next sewing workshop!

Here are two different ways to make a gusset.  

Method One: Cut First

Layer your rectangles right sides together. At each of the bottom corners, mark out a square. The size of the square will determine the depth of the gusset.

With a ½" seam allowance, a 1" square will create a 1" gusset, a 2" square yields a 3" gusset. In general, an inch or so works well.

Love math? Here's how it works. Add up both sides of the square and subtract 1.  So a 3" square will yield a 5" gusset 3+3 = 6 – 1 = 5.

Right sides together, sew both side seams and the bottom seam. Open the seam allowances. Fold so that the side seam is aligned with the bottom seam. Stitch with a ½" seam allowance.  

Method Two: Sew First

Again, start by layering your rectangles. This time do not cut the corner squares. Stitch down one side, across the bottom, and up the second side–pivoting at the corners.

At the bottom corner, open the seam allowances and fold so that the side seam is aligned with the bottom seam. Draw a line perpendicular to the seam an inch from the point. Trim off the corner ½" from the seam. If you want a larger gusset, stitch further from the point.

A great feature of the basic tote is that you can focus on a single, larger piece of fabric—and really make an artistic statement. There are wonderful prints and plaids to choose from, or if you're interested in creating your own fabric artwork, check out Val Holmes′ new book Print with Collage & Stitch. She discusses several methods of using fabric ink on cloth and also methods for embroidering your finished work.


I've made my share of canvas totes, but I'm curious: what's the most fabulous fabric you've ever used for a practical project? Let us know on the SewDaily blog.

Happy creating!

Assistant editor
Stitch magazine

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Fitting & Alterations

5 thoughts on “Sewing Techniques–Two Ways to Make a Gusset

  1. Thanks so much for this. I had to take a bag apart to figure out how to do the way you first described……The second way sounds much easier and I’ll try that the next time!

  2. Good information! I do have a question: Will making the gussets cause the bottom of the bag to be slightly more narrow at the bottom, giving the bag a flared shape? If so, how could I keep the bag square?

  3. When I first learned how to make gussets, it was by cutting out the little square. I do find the “sew & trim” method” easier almost all the time.
    Deb–The bag should not flare at all with the gussets–it gives the tote the same “look” as the bottom of a paper grocery bag. Let me know how your project turns out!

  4. My simple gusset installation works like this:

    For a shopper with a single piece of fabric that will have two side seams:

    Fold fabric in half so the two side seams are ready to be stitched. Before stitching the sides, fold the bottom up by about an inch and a half. This will give you a three inch gusset. Pin at the side seams, so that when you sew the side seams the gusset will be stitched simultaneously. If you use a french seam, there will be an attractive triangular detail when the bag is turned right side out.

    If your shopper will have one side seam and a bottom seam, prepare the side seam first. Before you stitch the bottom seam, fold the two sides in by an inch and a half, pin at the bottom seam, then sew the bottom seam.

    If you look at plastic grocery bags, this is exactly how their gussets are made, except that the plastic is welded as opposed to stitched.

  5. Thanks for the detailed info. I have got to try this! I’ve never done it this way, but it surely sounds easy. Always fun to find out new ways to get things done.