Back in January when I went to Alt, I ended up carrying this leather tote around a lot. Which is why today I’m sharing this tote tutorial. You see, that leather tote, though I love it for library books and laptop carrying, led to some embarrassing situations, where I felt like I spent most of the conference digging through my bag and causing awkward silences with people I had just met. Because whatever I needed – a card, a media kit, my phone, gum – it was never close at hand. So the day I was supposed to be packing for SNAP, I decided to sew this tote. The good news? It worked great to keep me organized, and since I was able to sew it and still catch my flight, you know it’s something you can make quickly.
The picture above is how I carried it around SNAP – business cards and phone in open pockets at the top, media kits in the bottom, iPad for note taking and a notebook in case I needed to give notes to someone else.
Want to make your own? You’ll need about 3/4 yard of lining fabric and 1/2 yard of the main fabric. Unless you decide to make yours bigger, which you could totally do. Here’s what I cut (measurements in inches); you’ll also need about 1 1/2 yards of cotton cording for the straps.
To start, take two pocket pieces and sew them together along one long end. Then turn right side out and press. Topstitch the sewn end if desired. Repeat with the other two pocket pieces.
Place each pocket piece on an outside piece, lining up side and bottom edges. Stitch along the red line to dived the pocket into two. On the reverse side of the bag I divided the pockets so that one was 2/3 of the width and the other was 1/3 instead of 1/2 and 1/2 as shown below.
Take the two inside pocket pieces and put them right sides together then sew the long edges. Turn this right side out and press.
Place the pocket on one of the lining pieces and sew across the bottom, then sew lines to divide it into 3 pockets.
I also added an inside zipper pocket to hold personal stuff. Place the zipper pocket right sides together with the other lining piece, about 1″ from the top edge. Sew a rectangle 8 1/2″ long by 3/8″ wide about 1″ down from the edge of the pocket. Cut through both layers of fabric down the center of the rectangle, cutting Y shapes into the corners.
Turn the pocket to the wrong side of the lining, revealing the hole for the zipper and press.
Position the zipper centered in the hole. You can use a couple pieces of transparent tape to hold it in place.
On the right side, topstitch around the zipper to secure it.
Fold the rest of the pocket up, then sew around the three raw edges to complete the pocket
Sew the two outside pieces of the bag right sides together, pockets and all.
Repeat with the lining, but leave a hole in the bottom for turning.
Fold the corners of the bag, matching the bottom seam with the center seam. about 1 1/2″ in from the corner point, stitch straight across. Repeat with the other corner and with the lining corners.
This is what the bag looks like once the corners are stitched.
Make the straps by folding the leather around cotton cording, and sewing with a piping foot, getting the needle as close to the cording as possible. For more help, see this post.
Turn the bag right side out. Pin the straps to the outside of the bag. Make sure to pin within the seam allowance so that the pin marks won’t show in the finished bag.
Place the lining wrong side out over the bag, matching seams and sandwiching the straps. Match the raw edges and stitch around the top of the bag.
Use the hole in the lining to turn the bag. Stitch the hole shut using a blindstitch. Push the lining into the bag.
Topstitch around the top of the bag.
You’re done! I carried this bag not only to the conference, but also all around California when we were on vacation and now it heads to the pool with me on a regular basis. I think I need to make more of these…or maybe just a similar lining to add to my leather tote.
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