Leather Minimalist Tote Bag // Leather Hide Store Giveaway!

I recently jumped out of my shoes with gusto for the chance to work with the Leather Hide Store and a large piece of remnant upholstery leather. After I stopped hyperventilating and finished my happy-leather-dance, I settled on the remnant labeled B17–a supple, rich caramel hide with lots of depth and variation. When it arrived and I finished wallowing around on it (that happened), I decided it was just about the prettiest thing I’d ever wallowed around on. The only trouble was deciding on what to make! At first I was thinking I’d upholster these chairs with it, and then I was almost settled on making a gorgeous pouf ottoman. But then I remembered to listen to my heart, and it was reminding me how long I’ve pined for a leather bag I could carry around when I’m sans kids.  Also, I wanted to get the most out of my hide, so I could also make the chic new diaper bag I’ve been dreaming of (currently in the works), the tablet cover my husband wanted (finished and he loves it!), and various other things my heart was telling me I needed to make like a wrap clutch and dop kit. I’m planning on blogging them all, so bug me about them if I don’t. And hey! You can have your own gorgeous hide to wallow around in! The Leather Hide Store is super awesome and nice and is giving one of my cool readers $50 to their store, so keep reading to find out how to enter, which you should DEFINITELY do.

mad mim_minimalist leather tote bag_15There were lots of leather bags that I considered, but I landed on this minimalist tote by Renske Solkesz featured on Design Sponge, because it was simple yet completely amazing, and it was a free pattern to boot.   It was a thrilling project to sew, one of those times when every step is so pretty and pleasing and satisfying that you want to just throw it a party.  I had to make several modifications to make it work for leather, as well as add some additional features to suite my needs.  I added a zipper pocket on one side, and a patch pocket adorned with rivets on the other, and to me they really make the bag. The patch pocket especially has proved to be so handy for sliding in my phone and keys. To me the rivets and grommets make it look so polished and not-homemade, but don’t be fooled, this is super simple sewing.

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I love the way the angular tabs fits into each other; because of the body of the leather it doesn’t close by itself when the strap is pulled, but I like the way it looks up, so that’s not an issue for me.

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I likewise added a zipper pocket and patch pocket to the inside lining for chapstick, phone, whatever. Never can have enough pockets, can we?

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To read more about how make your own tote and enter the sweet giveaway, read on!

First of all, this pattern (found in the comments when you click on the pattern link) isn’t one where you print it out, tape it together and cut it out. It’s more of a guideline to draft your own.  Here are my measurement modifications. I shortened the length to 27″ because it looked a little long and skinny to me. And since it was all in centimeters, I drafted it in nice round inches just so it would be easier to measure out. Then, because this is leather and there won’t be any seam allowance along the top tabs, I cut a centimeter off the tabs, which results in there being a centimeter of seam allowance on the sides with the tabs (see my written notes on the pattern  and then the cut leather).

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I also cut out the corners that would be snipped off the boxed bottom, because it reduced bulk and made it easier to be precise. To do that I folded the bag in half, matching the top corners, then snipped 1″ up from the bottom folded edge, and 1″+1 centimeter out from the sides. At this stage I added the zipper pocket and patch pocket to the leather. My patch pocket measures 6.25″ X 6.5″ and is placed just under 2.75″ down from the straight top edge. Add your rivets here, I found my brass rivets at Tandy’s leather along with their tools, and I got mine too long so I had to trim them down just a bit with some wire cutters so they would fit nice and tight. mad mim_minimalist leather tote bag_05

For the zipper pouch I just made a zippered pocket, and then carefully cut a rectangle from the leather and placed my pocket underneath and top stitched, you must do to that before you sew the back of your pocket on so that it remains open.  Add a long pull tab, and just a bit of all purpose glue to secure the pull tab together with a small length of leather.  mad mim_minimalist leather tote bag_01For the lining you want only the top 2.5″ or so to be of a contrasting leather, and the rest a heavy weight linen or canvas.  Block your pattern about 2.5″ down and then make sure to add seam allowances on both sides. Sew the side seams of the top tabs right sides together, and then the side seams of the bag lining, leaving an opening for turning. Sew the boxed bottoms together
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Make sure to top stitch your side seams open, and then sew your turning hole closed. mad mim_minimalist leather tote bag_04Now sew the side seams of your leather main together, I found these clips and a bit of all purpose glue  (or rubber cement I’ve heard!) on the corners to be the ticket to perfectly matched seams and no sliding. 
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Top stitch the side seams open, this involves a lot of scrunching of the leather to fit the bag on your machine, you can do it!

mad mim_minimalist leather tote bag_08Then just sew those boxed corners up, and you’re almost done.
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Now slip your lining into the bag main, WRONG sides together, and carefully clip and glue the top tabs together matching as closely as you can.

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Don’t forget to trim the corners from your seam allowances to reduce bulk! Once you have the main and lining aligned, carefully stitch an 1/8″ from the raw edges.

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You’re on the home stretch now. Make a strap by cutting two lengths of leather measuring 1/2″ X 43″ (shorter or longer to your preferences), and then sandwhich right sides together and top stitch around all sides.
mad mim_minimalist leather tote bag_07Now for the cream. Add grommets to the center of your tabs. In her pattern she calls for eyelets, but I found grommets to be much more sturdy and suited for leather. I found the large half inch grommets along with the tools at Lowe’s. Be more careful than I was! I smashed my finger and gave myself a blood blister…
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And lastly add some rivets to secure the straps, two should do it. mad mim_minimalist leather tote bag_13  mad mim_minimalist leather tote bag_18

Oh, how I love this little bag, it’s just what my heart was telling me I needed! I still have TONS of leather left from my remnant, and I’m super pumped to finish my other planned projects. I’m going to swimming in posh leather goods by the time I’m through!

And for as  you friends, what would you do with some delicious upholstery leather??

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It’s pretty cool how those little things (grommets, rivets) totally bring the bag up. This looks so professional (and beautiful)!


I know, right?? It’s like such a little kick for the whole look. It was my first time using both, and I was really stoked how easy it is!

Katherine C

Truly beautiful!!! Very professional. You did a great job! I love leather but never considered sewing with it…until now. Thanks for the great post!

Jessie Gridley

I am actually in the process of creating my ideal little weekender bag with some scraps from an old thrifted leather coat but I love the idea of a chic carry-all as well and have been scouting for one recently. That’s probably where I would put my upholstery leather to use as well 🙂


That bag is so classy! I’ve been meaning to see how my “new” Bernina tackles leather, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Your stitches look beautiful. Bang up job!


Gorgeous. And wih lovely stitching. So often diy leather projects have wonky stiching, but you nailed it! Well done!


Looks so good! I wish I had the time to try all the great projects I see all the time, but with four kids 6 and under, things are just a wee bit nuts! And I’m a little afraid to try sewing leather on my basic cheapo Kenmore sewing machine.

On a side note, it’s so good to see a post from you!!! 🙂

On another side note, I think in the tutorial, for the strap, you meant sandwich the wrong sides of the straps and topstitch, not the right sides?


DOOOOOOOD. i love this so much!! don’t remember seeing it on design*sponge but wow, it is so cool in leather with all that hardware you did. you’re awesome. and thanks for the giveaway!!

Marci Milus

Beautiful bag! I’d start with Kindle and iPad covers then try a bag similar to yours. I’ve never had a good leather bag and could certainly use one. Thanks for sharing!


I’m so glad you updated. It reminds me of how amazing you are and made me feel close to you again.


Ah Mary, you’re the best. I miss you, we all do! Not a book club has gone by that we haven’t mourned your absence 🙂 hope CA is treating you right!


Beautiful job and I’m REALLY impressed of your top stitching ability on the regular machine! I would LOVE to make a bag if I won my own hide. Exciting. Thanks for sharing!

Rebecca Pelletier

Love this!! Would love to win so I could try thirds out for myself! 🙂 🙂

Beth Stephenson

What type of thread and needles do you need to sew on leather? The purse is beautiful and inspiring. I can’t wait to see the other projects.

Clais Antonia Vieira

Obrigado pelas explicações, mesmo não sabendo a lingua, dá para entender, achei linda.


Love the bag! Did I miss the materials list? I saw the one on the original site, but it is in cm plus, you made changes…pockets, zippers, etc.


Material yardage would still be the same, maybe add 1/4 yard to what they listed. I do t think I added a material list since it wasn’t my tutorial, I just detailed the modifications I made. Sorry that’s not more helpful!


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