I recently realized I was in need of another tote. I mean, can a girl ever really have too many tote bags?? I needed something that would fit my computer easily, plus a few other essentials for heading out to a coffee shop or on a road trip. But I wanted something sturdy enough (and cute enough!) that I could even carry it with me on everyday outings. I found a scrap of leather large enough that I could make a leather bottom tote bag, and I love how it turned out!
I designed this tote with a few specific features in mind, but you can easily customize it to your needs. Here’s what I wanted: sturdy fabric, wide straps, lined inside with one small and one large inner pocket, leather tabs on the straps, and long enough that it would fit my computer comfortably.
The bag came together quickly and easily (I cut the fabric out one afternoon and sporadically sewed it over the next two afternoons, because #momlife). I can already see this becoming one of my favorite tote bags!
Here’s what you need:
- denim or other sturdy fabric (I recommend that your denim not be very heavy)
- lining fabric (I used quilting cotton)
- leather scraps (you could also use fake leather or suede)
- sewing machine (serger optional), scissors, etc.
- I highly recommend a leather needle
Cut your fabric pieces:
pockets: 17in x 18in (1), 13in x 5.5in (1)
inner lining: 19in x 14in (2)
outer fabric: 19in x 14in (2)
leather for bottom: 6in x 14in (2)
leather for tabs: 2in x 3.5in (4)
straps: 26in x 7.5in
1. Sew the pockets: you can choose the size that fits your needs (I made my smaller pocket so that it would easily fit my phone and maybe a few other small items). Fold them in half, right sides together. Sew the two sides and the bottom, leaving an opening at the bottom to turn them.
2. Turn the pockets right side out. Press the seams and press the opening closed. Pin the pockets in your desired location on the lining – the folded edge should be on the top. Topstitch the three edges, attaching the pocket to the lining. (Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of your sewing!) Repeat with the second pocket on the second lining piece.
3. Cut the straps – If you want narrower straps, cut them smaller than 7.5in wide. Fold the straps in half, right sides together (you should have a long narrow strip). Sew the raw edges of only the long side together.
4. Turn the strap right side out. The seam should be in the center of the back of the strap – press this seam open so that it lays flat. Press the whole strap down and topstitch the long ends together. This is an optional step, but will help keep your straps from twisting, especially if they are wider straps like mine.
5. Take the two lining pieces and sew them right sides together. Sew three sides together, leaving the top open.
6. Pin and clip the straps and leather tabs in place on the outer lining (note that ONE strap goes on ONE side of the bag – be sure your strap doesn’t get twisted as you lay it in place). Pin the strap in place. DO NOT pin the leather (this will leave permanent holes in your leather). Clip them to the strap. I like these clips (affiliate link), but if you don’t have them, you could use binder clips. My strap ended about halfway down the leather tab.
I recommend pressing the top edge of the denim down 1/2in at this point. You will open it back up later, but this helps you with you strap placement. **You should test out the length of your strap at this point to see if it’s in the most comfortable spot.**
7. Carefully topstitch the leather tabs on top of the strap. I recommend using a leather needle and lengthening your stitch a little. Go slowly so that your leather tabs don’t shift out of place. Repeat for all four tabs.
**If you prefer not to have leather tabs, you could attach your straps like I did in this tote tutorial.
8. Clip the larger leather pieces to the bottom of the tote (the bottom of my tote fabric lined up with the bottom of the leather). Carefully topstitch the leather to the denim. Repeat for the second piece.
9. Place both denim pieces right sides together (make sure you unfold the top before you sew!) – make sure the straps are carefully tucked inside, out of the way of where you will be sewing. Sew the two sides and the bottom together – leave the top open. I used my serger, but my serger does not like leather, so I went back over all that with a tight zig zag stitch.
10. Fold down and press the top of both the lining and the denim 1/2in.
11. Turn the denim layer right side out. Use a chopstick or something similar to poke the corners out as much as you can.
12. Keep the lining fabric inside out. Put the lining inside the denim. Pin together.
13. Topstitch all around the top of the bag. You can also sew the straps down as you topstitch. I didn’t do this at first, but I went back and added it, because I found that when I put my computer inside the bag, the top edge flopped down. I didn’t like how that looked, so this was a good fix.
Now you have a brand new, sturdy tote to take around with you!
I really love how this turned out, and it is the perfect size for exactly what I needed!
Isn’t this the perfect tote bag for taking to the coffee shop on a Saturday morning to read?? Hmm, I think I need to make that happen soon…
I really love the combo of leather/denim/graphic print lining! There are so many fabric combination possibilities, too! What fabrics would you use to make this tote??
Happy sewing, friends!