Buy or DIY | Leather Tote Bag Tutorial

I am SO exited about this new sewing series that my amazing blog buddy, Caroline of Sew Caroline, and I are starting! Every other month, Caroline and I are each going to share an item that we’d love to buy from a store and then also share a DIY on how to make it. That way, you can either buy or DIY!

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

I’ve been seriously in love with the leather Madewell Transport Tote for a while now. It a gorgeous leather bag with an interior pocket that I think is the perfect size. I really wanted it in the English Saddle color with my initials monogrammed in gold. However, Santa didn’t bring it for me and Andy wasn’t thrilled with the idea of me spending $170 on a tote bag. So, instead of buying it, I decided that I would DIY it!

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Lucky for me, I already had this amazing distressed metallic leather hide on hand that I picked up from Tandy’s Leather Factory for $38 (hint, check out the ‘odd lots’ table in person at the stores!) and I thought it would make for a fun DIY version of the Madewell Tote Bag. Now, I know that gold leather may not be everyones favorite, but you can easily DIY this bag in any color of leather you like!

Psst – if this leather looks familiar, it’s because I used some of it to make my leather business card holder. In fact, I still have quite a bit of this leather left, so it will probably continue to make appearances on the blog.

So, if you are as excited about this bag as I am and would rather buy it, you can buy it online here!

Or, if you want to DIY it, I’m sharing all the details below!

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.comMadewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Ready to DIY? Let’s get started!

Materials

Instructions

One: Set up the sewing machine with the leather needle, heavy duty thread, and a slightly longer stitch length. I used a stitch length of 3 throughout this project.

Two: Cut the leather as follows:

  • Cut two 18 1/2 inches wide by 17 inches tall. These will be the front and back pieces of the bag.
  • Cut two 22 1/2 inches long by 3/4 inches tall. Cut a point at each end starting 1 inch from the end. These will be the straps.
  • Cut one 7 inches wide by 14 inches tall. This will be the interior pocket.

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Three: Lay a piece of the leather bag out so that it’s 18.5 inches across and 17 inches tall. Using some Wonder Tape, tape the strap 2 inches down from the top at 6 1/4 inches and 12 1/4 inches. Make sure the strap isn’t twisted.

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Four: Sew the strap to the bag by stitching two boxes on each end. Pull the ends of the thread to the back and knot.

Five: Repeat for the second strap and back of the bag.

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Six: (This step is optional, but I found it helpful with getting the pocket to lay flat.) Using the V gouge, lightly gouge the leather 7.5 inches down from the top.

Seven: Fold the pocket so the back of the pocket is 1 inch taller than the front. The gouged line should be at the fold.

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Eight: With a 1/4 inch seam allowance, stitch the sides of the pocket. Pull the threads to the back and knot.

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Nine: 1 1/2 inches from the top of the pocket, mark at the center of the pocket where the button stud should go.

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Ten: Punch a hole in the back of the pocket and the front of the pocket, making sure the holes line up. Make sure to use the right size punch for the size button stud that is being used.

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Eleven: Cut a very small slit at the bottom of the hole in the front of the pocket. This will allow the button stud to fit through the hole.

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Twelve: Attach the button stud by screwing the stud into the back side of the pocket

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Thirteen: Using some Wonder Tape, tape the top of the pocket to the inside of one of the bag pieces just below the straps.

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Fourteen: Sew the pocket to the bag piece by top stitching along the top of the pocket with a quarter inch seam allowance. Pull the threads to the wrong side of the leather and knot.

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Fifteen: Place some Wonder Tape along the side of the bag on the front side and overlap the second bag piece by 1 inch. Both sides of the bag should be right side up.

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Sixteen: Sew the front and the back of the bag together with 2 lines of stitches. Pull the threads to the back and knot.

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Seventeen: Repeat steps 15 and 16 for the other side of the bag. Now the bag should be a loop.

Eighteen: Sew the bottom of the bag together with a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Fold the seam open and finger press.

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Nineteen: To make a 6 inch gusset, line up the side seam and the bottom seam of the bag and draw a line 6 inches across. Sew along this line and pull the threads to the back and knot. Trim the corner to 1/2 inch. Repeat for the other side.

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Twenty: Attach bias tape over the gussets on the inside of the bag. Unfortunately, my sewing machine couldn’t sew through the bulk of overlapping seams, so I ended up gluing the bias tape on with some leather glue.

And that’s it! Now you have a handmade leather bag that is pretty darn close to the Madewell Transport Tote!

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Madewell Inspired Leather Tote Bag Sewing Tutorial at Sewbon.com

Tote Bag: Handmade (Similar) // Blouse: Anthropologie // Jeans: Anthropologie // Necklace: Discontinued JCrew (Similar) // Belt: JCrew

Don’t forget to head over to Sew Caroline and see the amazing Anthropologie inspired fox tee she DIY’d! You definitely won’t want to miss it!

Sew Caroline Fox Tee Sewing Tutorial

Buy or DIY | A Sewing Series By Sew Caroline and Sewbon

Photo Credit | Laura Murray Photography

  • http://www.acolourfulcanvas.blogspot.com/ Sue @ A Colourful Canvas

    Erin, this is a brilliant idea! And your execution of the post is top notch too! Thanks for all the tips on sewing with leather. This could very well be one of my next projects!

    • http://www.sewbon.com/ Erin

      Aw, thanks so much Sue! I’ve been obsessed with all your Project Sewn posts – you are so talented! I would LOVE to see your version if you make a leather tote! :)

  • Merrick

    I’m DYYYYYYING over the creativity here. Love this new series that you’re doing. Cannot WAIT to see what else you guys come up with!! xo

    • http://www.sewbon.com/ Erin

      I’m so glad you like it! I’ve got to start brainstorming my next one here soon… ;)

  • Cindy Sundet, DDS

    You are amazing Erin! You have the Midas touch! I wish we lived closer together so that we could share our hard sewing assets. Keep up the great work. Your photographer apprentice, Andy is taking some great photos as well.
    I can see you will need another new sewing machine soon as I the smoke is wafting over the states all the way to MN! love Cindy

    • http://www.sewbon.com/ Erin

      Aww, thanks Cindy!! :)

  • http://www.thehomeyowl.blogspot.com/ Stacia

    My mom had a leather tote like this while I was growing up and it was always so convenient, fitting everything we needed but still looking cute. I don’t exactly have the money to buy the original, but I love the DIY tutorial!

    • http://www.sewbon.com/ Erin

      I’m so glad you like the DIY! :)

  • http://www.CharmingDoodle.com/ Elisa Clark

    What a great bag!

    • http://www.sewbon.com/ Erin

      Thanks, Elisa!! :)

  • Jess Abbott

    still love this tote :)

    • http://www.sewbon.com/ Erin

      Thanks Jess! :)

  • Sew Charleston

    Great bag! I’ve never sewn with leather before, but this makes me want to give it a try! Thanks for sharing!

    • http://www.sewbon.com/ Erin

      Oooh, you should! I would love to see what you come up with! I know it would be amazing!

  • Camber Ellingson

    Erin, thank you for the fun tote tutorial!! My 1st full leather project (minus handle making) ! Your instructions & pics were great (pictures are always helpful for me)!! Thank you so much.

    • http://www.sewbon.com/ Erin

      Hooray! I’m so glad you liked the tutorial! I would LOVE to see your version sometime! :)

      • Camber Ellingson

        Whelp… Here it is. It’s my work tote for now. I’m seeing how long it will hold up. My handles may need to be reinforced (due to my poor sewing skills and all the stuff I carry around)! Hoping to make another one for my sis. Thank you again.
        On another note: I saw via Instagram you have an Elna900. Will you ever do a review on this? I mean after you’ve had it for awhile!! Cheers & thanks again.

        • http://www.sewbon.com/ Erin

          That looks awesome!!! Thanks so much for sharing!!! :)

          Yes! I’m totally planning on doing a review of the Elna 900. It just came in this weekend so I’m hoping to get it all set up this week! I also have the Elna 660 and need to write that one up too as I’ve been using it since February. So far, I’ve been really impressed with Elna.

  • Susan C

    Great bag! Could I just clarify that on steps 15 & 16 the bag is sewn right sides together? I was a little confused by the “both rides sides are up” direction. I know this is just me. Thanks Susan

    • http://www.sewbon.com/ Erin

      No problem! :) Both sides of the bag should be right sides up, so that it’s right side to wrong side. Lay the first piece down, right side up, and then place the second piece on top, also right side up, where the edges are overlapping. It kinda just makes a giant loop of leather. :)

  • Yile

    omg i love the colour of your tote bag sosososo much!! tons better than the madewell tote!!!! <3 so much love!

    • http://www.sewbon.com/ Erin

      Yay! I’m so glad you like it!!

  • Karla Ortiz

    where did you get the leather?

    • http://www.sewbon.com/ Erin

      Hi Karla! I got it at my local Tandy’s Leather Factory. It was on their odd lots table in the back – my favorite section to find awesome, fun leather!