What Makes Or Breaks A Canvas Tote Bag?

by Abstra Styleon April 03, 2018

As is the case when shopping for any product, what should make the final decision easy is quality. However, sometimes the quality is disguised with a lot of extras. We call them bells and whistles. Sometimes those bells and whistles have little, if any function but they sure look pretty and well, that’s the distracting thing about bells and whistles.

For canvas tote bags, the quality you should be looking for is outlined in this short little checklist:


You should be able to tell right away if the construction of your tote bag is of good quality or not. The construction – or the manner in which it is manufactured – will be obvious once you start using the tote. Cheaply produced totes stand out for one reason. They don’t last. In fact, a cheaply made tote bag will have side panels and a bottom that either rips, tears or otherwise gets damaged. 

High-Quality Construction (Left) Vs Low-Quality Construction (Right)

Totes that are well constructed are designed and made with materials that can handle a bit of rough abuse. Sure, you still need to keep in mind that your tote is meant to be a carrying vessel of some kind, but with normal use, there should be little if any damage to the side panels or bottom.


The materials used in the construction of your tote are also very important. You want to have a tote that is strong and can withstand regular use. However, you do not want a tote that is so strong that it is difficult to use. There has to be a happy medium where strength enhances the function of the tote as opposed to hampering the function of the tote.

Cotton (Left) Vs Polyester (Right)

Examples include cotton, which is not quite as water resistant as polyester is. Cotton also gets dirty faster and will shrink after washing. Cotton will also wrinkle. In other words, a cotton tote will look cheap or worn out long before it is, but polyester won’t appear dirty or worn out.


One extremely important factor related to quality is the stitching and the thread used for it. Stitching is what holds all the parts of the tote together and is of particular note with the handles. If the stitching is random, poor and just overall sloppy, it will tell you a bit about the type of manufacturing process the tote went through.

Low-Quality Stitching, Weak Thread, Handles Attached To The Inside

Sloppy stitching is common in totes that are punched through an assembly line set up with little or no quality control checks along the way. Another telltale sign is the quality of the thread. Thin, weak and poor quality thread looks bad. It may be broken in places and frayed in others.

Seams may not be properly joined together when the thread and stitching are not good quality. This weakens the strength of your tote and can result in spills, dropped items and just overall embarrassing situations that could have been avoided with a tote that has a strong thread and uniform stitching.

The Handles

With a tote bag, you are going to likely use the handles the majority of the time you have the tote bag with you. If you are not carrying the tote by the handles, you may have it slung over your shoulder with the handles being used as support. The handles are a very important part of the tote.

Plus, the actual location where the handles are attached to the tote will tell you something about the quality of the rest of the tote. Here’s your clue: handles that are attached to the inside of the tote are far weaker than handles attached to the outside of the tote. It has to do with physics.

Handles attached to the outside of a tote are harder to break or tear. They are also part of the overall construction of that tote which means they can handle far more weight than ‘inside’ handles.

Print Matching

It is easy to get confused about the visual look of a tote bag. For totes that have a pretty or interesting or stunning design, what you see online is not always what you get. It’s very easy to post mockups online that will look tremendous, but once you get the product in your hands, it doesn’t quite look the same.

Digital Mockup (Left), Poor Quality Printing (Middle), High-Quality Printing (Right)

Photos are particularly a problem when the print matching quality is not quite up to snuff. That’s the kind of tote that has a blurry or messy looking photo. Dots don’t line up, colors and shadows don’t connect properly, and before you know it, you have a tote that looks like the printing was supervised by someone who had their eyes closed during the entire process. Good quality print matching is the complete another side of the coin.

Did You Learn Anything Here?

There are simply five key things to look at when determining the quality of a tote bag. Construction, materials, stitching/thread, handles and print matching. If you find a tote bag that clears all of these requirements and is also affordable, then you will know that it is a tote bag you will get a lot of use out of with little or no problems.

Ready to find your favorite style tote? Check out Abstra tote collection to find the perfect design for the ideal tote bag!


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