1. Create the pattern:
Draw a rectangle on a large sheet of paper, measuring 18 inches wide and 16 inches tall. This will be the main body of your tote bag. Then, draw two rectangles for the straps, each 1 inch wide and 25 inches long.
2. Cut the leather pieces:
Place the leather on the cutting mat, lay the pattern pieces on top, and use the rotary cutter or sharp scissors to carefully cut them out. You’ll need two main body pieces and two strap pieces. You can also sew a tote bag using one large piece of fabric folded in half, which will create the bottom seam for you and leave just the side seams to sew. In that case cut one large rectangular piece (just double the length, it needs to be 18″ x 32″)
3. Prepare the sewing machine:
Thread the sewing machine with heavy-duty polyester or nylon thread and install the leather sewing machine needle. As I said earlier, the best machine for sewing leather is a heavy-duty model that designed to handle thick materials with ease and precision. You can take a look at some of the leather sewing machines that I’d recommend.
4. Sew the side seams:
Place the two main body pieces together with the right sides facing each other. Use binder clips or pins to hold them in place, and sew along the two side edges using a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam.
5. Sew the bottom seam:
Keep the bag inside out, and sew along the bottom edge with a 1/2-inch seam allowance. Don’t forget to backstitch! You don’t need to do this step if you are sewing a bag from one piece of leather.
6. Box the corners:
To create a flat bottom for your tote bag, pinch the bottom corners so that the side seam and bottom seam (or fold) line up, forming a triangle. Measure 1.5 inches from the tip of the triangle and draw a line across it. Sew along the line and trim the excess leather, leaving a 1/4-inch seam allowance.
7. Prepare the straps:
Fold the long edges of each strap piece towards the center, overlapping them by about 1/8 inch. You can use leather adhesive to help hold the edges in place if needed. Sew along both long edges of each strap, about 1/8 inch from the edge.
8. Attach the straps:
Mark the strap placement on the right side of the bag, about 4 inches from each side seam. Use a leather hole punch to create holes at the strap ends, and attach them to the bag using the sewing machine. Be sure to sew a rectangle with an “X” in the middle to secure the straps properly.
9. Finishing touches:
Turn the bag right side out and smooth the seams. If you want, you can paint the edges of the leather with leather edge paint for a more polished look.
If you want to take a look at how the whole process looks like before you start working on your own tote bag, take a look at this video. The video is by Josue Leonardo, incredibly talented designer and leather craftsmen behind the Taza Leather brand.There is no voiceover and no instructions, but you’ll get a gorgeous display of how a simple and timeless leather tote bag is made: