Leather Bottom Tote Bag Tutorial

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!


Great Big Leather Tote from Sewing to Sell

My blogging bud Virginia from Gingercake Patterns just wrote a book called Sewing to Sell, and it’s about exactly that… helping you to launch or improve your handmade business. I took a look at this book, and I made one of the projects to share with you.
Great Big Leather ToteI was super impressed as I went through this book. Virginia has covered pretty much everything from A to Z in regards to starting a handmade business. Not only that, she has included 16 projects that you can make and sell at craft fairs or in your own shop.

dsc_1818I made the Great Big Tote, but I put my own spin on it. The basic look is the same, but I decided to use leather, and I didn’t have enough to make it as “great big” as the project in the book. So I made a Medium Big Tote. ;)


The Great Big Tote from the Sewing to Sell book by Virginia Lindsay

The projects in the book also include tips for sewing a bunch of them at once and for highlighting your product to sell. If you need a few more tried and true handmade goods to add to your inventory, you have a wide variety to choose from a few different categories: useful items, best use of materials, and great sellers. There are projects for kids, babies, women, or the home, covering a range of customers.

dsc_1817Even though I don’t have any plans to sell my handmade goods, there are so many great tips in this book, about photography, finding your personal style, even having the right sewing equipment. I learned a lot, and plan on going through the book again to glean some more of Virginia’s wisdom. :)


Plus, Sewing to Sell covers the business side of selling handmade, which is an invaluable resource. You basically have everything you need in this one book!

11060_FrontCover_FullSizeI think one of my favorite parts of the book, though, are the interviews with bloggers/handmade shop owners. I love reading through the experiences of others and hearing what has or hasn’t worked for them.


I love how this tote worked with the leather, and you know my love for bags, big and small. All of the projects in this book are perfect to customize to your own style. The book is available in hard copy or as an e-book, and I get to give away a hard copy of this book to one of my lucky readers! Yay!!


 Click here to enter the giveaway!

(open to US residents only, sorry!)


Make sure you check out all the other fantastic bloggers on the book review tour!

Disclosure: I received an e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

DIY Leather Notebook Cover [and a leather giveaway!]

Awhile back, I was contacted by the Leather Hide Store, asking if I wanted to sew something with their leather. After taking a peek at their website, I got pretty excited. So. Many. Options. I settled on Dark Copper Mountain Saddle, and they sent me a remnant. And when I say remnant, I actually mean a super ginormous piece of leather.

You guys, this leather is ahMAYzing. Seriously, the smell…. ahhhhh. SO fantastic. It arrived right before Christmas, so I decided to make a notebook cover for my brother [who is now a lawyer, so obviously needs fancy-pants leather notebook covers] and liked it so much that I made one for my husband too. Did I say husband? I meant me. Sorry, honey.

DIY Leather Notebook Cover // if only they would nap


  • leather [the amount you need will depend upon how big your notebook is]
  • sewing machine/thread/scissors
  • Wonder Clips or binder clips

*I didn’t use any fancy supplies – just my regular machine and a fresh needle. You may find a roller foot
or a leather needle helpful [affiliate links]… I didn’t have either of those on hand, but had no problems.

You may also find it helpful to make a mock-up of your cover out of felt. I got this tip from Jodi, and I used the felt to decide how big my leather pieces should be, without wasting any leather in the process.

1. Lay your notebook out flat and cut around it, leaving about an inch of seam allowance around the entire notebook. This will give you one long rectangular piece of leather. You can curve your corners or leave them square.

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2. Cut two pieces of leather that will be the inner pockets. These should be about two-thirds as long as your notebook , with the same one inch of seam allowance all around [as you can see in the picture above] Use your long leather piece as a guide, so the leather pieces match up and are the same size.

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3. Place the leather pieces right sides together, with one pocket piece on each side. Do not pin the leather together. Use binder clips or Wonder Clips [affiliate link – but I seriously love these things] to keep the pieces together.
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4. Slowly sew only along wrong side of both pocket pieces – you’ll sew in a U shape and stop when you reach the end of the pocket piece [do not sew where there is only one layer of leather]. Sew with a 1/4in. seam allowance and trim the seam allowance a bit when you’re done. But don’t trim too close to your stitches! Leave more seam allowance than I did in the picture above.

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5. Now carefully turn your notebook cover right side out. Press the corners out gently. Clip all around the edges, including the center, folding over the one layer of leather. Then topstitch slowly around the entire notebook cover and trim your loose threads.

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When you’re finished, you’ll have a notebook cover that looks super professional and also smells really, really good. :)

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Don’t be afraid to sew with leather! Just remember to go slowly. Lengthening your stitch may also help. Also, the leather from the Leather Hide Store sews like butter. Well, better than butter, because what kind of crazy person tries to sew with butter….

For more leather-sewing tips and project ideas, check out this Pinterest board full of
leather inspiration and DIY tutorials!

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You can also use your notebook cover to carry a tablet or e-reader, protecting it from scratches. Slip a small notebook in the other side if you’re like me and need to do all your list-writing on actual paper.

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Obviously I’ll be using mine at the coffee shop… or in my house pretending I’m at the coffee shop and hoping someone doesn’t spill my coffee all over my fabulous leather.

Leather Hide Store is giving away a $50 gift certificate to one of my lucky readers. The giveaway is open until 8pm CST 1/19.

 Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for $50 to the Leather Hide Store!

Disclosure: Leather Hide Store gave me leather for this project, but all opinions about the leather are my own.