Reader Tutorial: DIY Tote with Leather Straps

Welcome to Reader Tutorial week here at Sew Sweetness! Each day this week will feature a wonderful step-by-step sewing tutorial from one of my readers. Today’s guest post is from Gabi at Bee Inspired. Gabi has other sewing, crafting, and cooking tutorials over on her site, so hop on over and check it out!! Thanks Gabi!


Hi my name is Gabi and I blog over at

I am thrilled to be guest blogging here at Sew Sweetness.
If you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comments box and I will check in to answer them, or you can come on over to my blog and find me there.

              DIY tote bag with leather straps

What you will need:
outer fabric 1/2 – 3/4 yard (beige)
pocket fabric 1/2 yard (stripes)
lining fabric 1/2 – 3/4 yard (polka dots, seen later in tut)
Light weight fusible interfacing 1/2 yard
Terrycloth/fleece or medium weight stabilizer 1/2- 3/4 yard
A sew on snap button
1 x button
2 x leather straps 
Cut out the following pieces of fabric: (leave a 1cm/0.4″ allowance for all parts cut, and you may want to letter the parts of fabric as you cut them out.)
Tip: When cutting the fabric (Parts C,D,E,G,H and I) use a cup (or round object of choice)if you want rounded corners.
From both the outer fabric and stabilizer:
2 pieces: 13cm x 26.4cm (A: side pieces) (5.1″ x 10.4″)
1 piece: 13cm x 48.2cm (B: bottom piece) (5.1″ x 19″)
2 pieces: 38cm x 31.4cm(C: front and D: back) bottom corners rounded. (15″ x 12.4″) 
From both the pocket fabric and fusible interfacing:
2 pieces: 38cm(width) x 42cm(height) (E: pocket fabric ) All corners rounded. (15″ x 16.5″)
From the lining fabric:
1 piece: 13cm x 101cm (F: side and bottom piece) (5.1″ x 39.8″)
2 pieces: 38cm x 31.4cm (G: front and H: back) Bottom corners rounded. (15″ x 12.4″)
For the flap (where the button attaches) from both the outer fabric and fusible interfacing:
2 pieces: 10.5cm x 17cm (I: flap) Top corners rounded. (4.1″ x 6.7″)
Iron the fusible interfacing onto the flap and pocket fabrics (parts E and I) and pin the stabilizer to the backs of the outer fabrics (parts A, B, C and D)

For the outer part of the bag:

Pin the side pieces(A) to either side of the bottom piece(B).
Sew in place, turn it over and top stitch the fabric. Do this with both side pieces (A).
Attach any labels/ribbons/embroidery that you choose, to the front side of one of the pockets (with attached fusible interfacing, Part E).
Next take the pocket (E) fold it in half and iron it flat.
Pin the pockets(E) to the right side of both the front(C) and back(D) pieces of your outer fabric.

Measure where the center of the pockets are and topstitch down the middle.
At this point I sew around the outer edge of the fabric (about 1/2cm/0.2″ from the edge to make sure that all the layers stay in place. (you can just baste it if that suites you better.)
Pin the side and bottom piece (A and B), that you sewed earlier, to the front outer fabric (C). Lining up the edges, right sides facing each other.
Make sure that you line up the center of the pocket (E) with the center of the bottom part of A and B.
And sew it in place.
Do the same with the back piece (D).
This is what it looks like, turned right side out. If the sides are too long trim them so that they are level with the front and back of the bag. (I gave a large allowance on the sides, just in case, and it was totally unnecessary – so if you just cut according to the pattern sizes given this won’t happen to you 😉
Now for the lining:

Pin the side and bottom piece (F) to the front part(G) of the lining fabric.
(Make sure to center it.)
Line up the edges and sew it in place.
Leave a sizable gap so that you can turn the bag right side out later.
Then pin the back piece (H) and sew it in place.
Putting it all together:

Turn the outer part of the bag inside out. Turn the lining right side out and place it in the outer part of the bag. (so right sides should be facing each other and you should only see the wrong side of each fabric.Line up the edges and pin it in place
Sew along the edge and trim any unwanted seam edges. (I promise my cutting got straighter than this picture seems to imply. 😉
Then turn the bag right side out and sew closed the gap in the lining.
Pin the edges so that the lining can’t be seen on the outside of the bag.
 Top stitch all the way around.
Now for the flap.(Piece I)

 (If you like round edges remember to round the front edges when cutting the pieces.)
Make a mark where you want to attach the sew on snap button and button, on either side of the right sides of both pieces (I did mine about 5cm/2″ from the top, including seam allowance)
And sew on the snap button and button to the respective sides. (As you can see in the photo, if you are like me and need to unpick things a few times then, a little ironing might be necessary 😉
Place right sides facing each other and sew around the edges, leaving a gap at the bottom. Trim the edges.
The pictures below don’t show the button and snap button because I might have forgotten about the button the first time round (this happens when you are trying to watch Downton Abbey while sewing) – but luckily there are wonderful things such as seam rippers 🙂
Turn it inside out and fold in the edges.
Before attaching the flap to the bag, make a mark where you want to attach the other side of the snap button, on the front of the bag (4cm/1.6″ from the top, excluding seam allowance) and sew it in place.
Pin the flap to the back of the bag (make sure its in the middle – I usually just fasten the snap button at the front to make sure it is centered) and then sew it at the back.
(Don’t look too closely at that sewing above – my sewing machine that I use is super old, and in need of a service so there were a few tension issues.) 
Now your bag should look like this:
Finally attach your leather straps to the width that suites you best. Mine are 24cm/9.4″ apart. (This generally requires hand stitching and some patience)
And TA DA!! For the final step: stand back and marvel at what you have made.

Have fun sewing.



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