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!


Quilted Camera Bag (that’s actually a diaper bag!)

A couple months ago, I shared this Quilted Camera Bag (affiliate link) that I posted over at Melly Sews as part of the Blank Slate Sewing Team. My mom-purse was starting to fall apart, and I needed a new diaper bag. Then I realized that if I left out the camera padding, this pattern would be perfect!

Quilted Camera Bag that's actually a diaper bagI can’t even tell you how much I love this pattern. Well, maybe I can… it’s amazing. In the few months I’ve been using it, I’ve gotten more compliments on it than anything I’ve ever made.


In true Melissa form, the pattern is incredibly well done. The instructions are very clear. The pattern is a bit complicated (it’s rated intermediate to advanced, and I’d say that’s accurate), but if you’re a fairly experienced or even adventurous seamstress, I think you could tackle it. Just give yourself a lot of time, as there are a lot of pieces and steps. I also recommend using these Wonder Clips (affiliate link) to keep the many layers in place.


The finishes on the bag are incredibly professional. Melissa guides you through everything, so even if you haven’t made bag this complicated before (which I haven’t!) you shouldn’t have a problem.

The pattern comes with two zipper pockets – one larger outside and one smaller inside. I ended up putting both of them inside the bag, because I decided I’d use it much more that way.

The strap in the pattern is designed to be adjustable, but I prefer them to be a fixed length, so I took about eight inches off and left off the slider.


The length is absolutely perfect – it hits me at the right spot, and I can still wear it across my body (great for those times when you need to hold three hands at a time across a busy street).


The pattern includes padding to surround your camera pieces and laptop, so if you’d like to use this pattern as a diaper bag or purse, just skip those steps (including all the velcro). The bag is nice and roomy, so there’s plenty of room for diapers, wipes, snacks, toys, or whatever else you might need.


The front pockets are perfect for my sunglasses and my phone wallet. Though if I had to re-do it, I’d use magnetic snaps for these pockets as well, just so I can access the pockets faster while wrangling the kids.


I used one of my decorative stitches for the first time to quilt the top flap, and I LOVE how it turned out. It adds a super fun detail to the bag!


The lining fabric is Cotton + Steel (which I adore) and the outer fabric is a fabulous table cloth that I found on clearance at Target that ended up not fitting our table.


I’m so happy with my bag. And the bright fabric added some sunshine to our gloomy winter days and feels so springy now that warm weather has arrived!

DIY Diaper Bag

You can find the Quilted Camera Bag HERE in the Blank Slates Pattern shop.

Make your own diaper bag

Rosette Clutch

Recently I participated in a super fun handmade gift swap.DSCF7198I whipped up a little clutch for my partner, because really, can you ever have too many?


The linen rosettes are my favorite part. [warning: baby hands like rosettes too!]


Cute little interior pocket, for cards and whatnot. I put some lace, fun pink elastic, and fabric inside and sent it along to its lovely new owner [who happens to be the mama of girls, so she’ll probably appreciate the lace and pink elastic a little bit more than me!]


I totally wanted to keep it. So maybe there will be more rosette clutch sewing in my future…

P.S. Who else is doing some major last minute gift making?? My machine has been buzzing non-stop all week, and I have at least one more present left. Or three.

Mama’s Got a Brand New Bag

With the arrival of baby number three, I knew I needed a new purse.  I’m not a big fan of diaper bags, so I like to try to carry a large purse that has everything I need for me and for my littles.  (You can see my first purse attempt from last year here – not bad for my first time making a purse, but I was in need of an upgrade)

This purse is quite big as far as purses go, but it will definitely hold everything I need to take my three kiddos out with me. [Not that I have done that on my own yet… that’s crazy talk.  I haven’t even been on my own in the house for more than a couple hours!]

Not surprisingly, both of these fabrics were snagged from the remnant’s section at JoAnn’s.  I am a remnant addict.  I feel badly walking up to the counter with an armful of remnants, knowing they have to key in all the numbers by hand.  But I just can’t pass up those good deals!

Inside the purse, I made two smaller pockets on one side, for my phone, iPod, lip gloss, and other small items.  The other side has a larger pocket that is usually stuffed with granola bars, pacis, hand sanitizer, and a slew of other random things.

I can’t make a purse without pockets for sippy cups.  This time around, I decided to use some felted wool (upcycled from an old sweater) for the pockets.  This helps keep any condensation away from the rest of the items in the purse, plus keeps the cups a little insulated.  The wool I used is also stretchy, so there is no need for elastic.

See how much stuff I can shove in this purse?  And really, I probably carry more than this.  I tend to be Mary Poppins with the random things that I can find in my bag.  I once emptied my purse and found 13 granola bars.  No joke.

I didn’t use a pattern, and hopefully I’ll be able to recreate it, because I’m really happy with how it turned out.  These little pleats on each side just might be my favorite part.

I’m slowly figuring out this whole mothering three children thing, but I haven’t figured out how to work some sewing in quite yet.  And I think I may be close to developing a little twitch from sewing withdrawl.

In the meantime, though, this little face is melting my heart and helping to keep that twitch at bay:

photo by Elle Photography

You can see a few more pictures of Emmett on the Elle Photography blog.  [And p.s. if you happen to be in the Southeastern Wisconsin/Chicago area and need a photog, Courtney is amazing]

Here’s where I’m linking up!

The Clutch That Nearly Killed Me

My dear friend is turning thirty, so I decided to finally try to make the gathered clutch from Anna at Noodlehead.

I have seen this clutch many times, floating around the bloggy world.  So many women have made it, so I figured I could handle it.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I had such a hard time with it!  I don’t know if my brain was just a little mushy from caring for my sick kiddos, but I stared at that tutorial forEVER, trying to understand how I was supposed to sew on that zipper.

But I finally got it!

Once I figured it out, I had one of those “duh!” moments.  It definitely should not have taken me so long to figure it out.

I used the same fabric to make the pockets on the inside as I did for the band on the outside.  The outer fabric is a yummy linen that I snagged from the remnants section at JoAnn’s (plus, I had a 20% off coupon, so I got a killer deal!).

I think she’ll love it.
And if she doesn’t, I’ll use it!

Now that I’ve made one, I think making more will be super easy.  Christmas presents, anyone??

Linking up to:

Show and Tell Green

The Mother of all Purses

When I was pregnant with my youngest, I realized that my current purse was no longer going to cut it.  I hate carrying around a diaper bag and a purse, so with two kids in diapers (because potty training was definitely not happening before baby number two came along), I needed a solution.  Rather than spend my time searching for the perfect purse, I decided to attempt to make my own.

It ended up much bigger than I had thought it would be.  But since I tend to sew like I cook (no pattern, no recipe…), I can’t say I’m too surprised.

I used three coordinating fabrics from Joann’s (with my coupon, I only spent $25 and bought way too much fabric – I see a matching diaper changing pad in my future…)

Inside, I made four large pockets (they are large enough to hold a wipes container) and two elastic cup-holders, that are the perfect size for sippy cups. *Note to self: take pictures of purses before using and becoming incredibly disorganized!

Overall, I’m really happy with how it turned out – not too shabby for my first attempt at a diaper bag purse Mary Poppins bag that can literally hold everything you’ll need for the next three days.