Water Tote, a free pattern to help the environment for World Embroidery Day

World Embroidery Day is coming up on 30 July and, as in previous years, I’ve come up with a free embroidery design to encourage and celebrate hand stitching. The difference is that this year’s free pattern will hopefully also help the environment, in particular our oceans.


We’ve all seen National Geographic’s iconic plastic bag iceberg cover and read about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and Dutch inventor Boyan Slat’s ambitious sea-cleaning system called Wilson. Plastic has captured the public imagination, with plastic drinking straws rapidly being banned around the world and single-use plastic alternatives such as beeswax food wraps becoming more widely available.

Grocery stores remain problematic, filled with plastic packaging, a lot of which many consumers feel is unnecessary. But with plastic-free stores such as Nude Foods and The Refillery opening up around the globe and public pressure on the rise, big retailers are already following suit and will hopefully also start to increase their investment in the science behind more eco-friendly packaging options because, ultimately, plastic has to be reduced at the source.

One way to encourage this as consumers is to reduce demand wherever possible and an easy start is plastic shopping bags. While many grocery buyers have gotten on board by bringing their own canvas shoppers, there are still far too many plastic or plastic-coated bags bearing the names of clothing and other brands being toted around malls and shopping centres. They’re ostensibly made of thicker recyclable plastic, but no plastic is always better and so I’ve come up with a tote bag design that folds up small and won’t weigh you down when shopping.


The idea behind Water Tote is to make one or two (or more) fabric bags to use when shopping for clothes, toiletries, stationery and the like. Basically, items that don’t spill, drip or leave crumbs and aren’t generally as heavy as groceries. If enough of us decline a plastic or plastic-coated bag at checkout, perhaps retailers will stop offering them altogether or come up with a more environmentally friendly option. It’s a small step that will hopefully lead to bigger change.


Water Tote is made from lightweight cotton fabric and embellished with embroidered water droplets to remind you why you’re making the effort. You can up your environmental cred by using hemp or linen fabric – even better, upcycle old bed linen, use fabric handed down from your grandmother or embroider a tote you already own. And if you make a few, you can stash them in various places so you always have one to hand or dish them out to family and friends.

The PDF pattern includes instructions for the embroidery as well as how to sew the tote bag, and is available to download for free. And if you need help with the stitches, you’ll find written and illustrated instructions for all the stitches used in the water droplet design in 120 Embroidery Stitches. You can read more about the day dedicated to embroidery on the Täcklebo Embroidery Academy website. Happy #WorldEmbroideryDay.