A while back I bought this giant shopping tote that I’m willing to bet you’ve seen before. Why? Because it’s from ban.do, it’s color blocked, and it’s only $9! So, it is pretty much calling all of our names from sun up to sun down. Right?
I mean, when I saw that it was less than ten bucks, it basically flew itself to the register for checkout. Admittedly, I wasn’t super into the nylon handles, but that was the ONLY drawback. So, I brought it home and got to thinking about how to change up the handles to make it perfect (for me anyway). And in the end, decided to go with short leather straps.
I bought the leather on Amazon because I’m lazy and don’t want to have to drive 30 minutes to the nearest craft store. But you can purchase a similar strap locally as well.
This 3/4 inch vegetable tanned leather is the exact one I bought (brace yourself, it’s a horrible photo, but the leather is great in person, I promise). The full length was under $13 and I used less than half of it for the straps (about $5 worth), which brings the total cost of this DIY to $14!
– tote bag
– 3/4 inch wide leather strap
– seam ripper
– upholstery thread
– size 18/110 sewing machine needle (jean & denim)
– heavy duty or industrial sewing machine (capable of sewing leather)
Quick Notes: If you plan to carry heavy items regularly, then you’ll likely want to use cowhide straps for extra strength. Thick leather can be harder to sew, though. So, depending on how thick your leather is, it can take a bit of horsepower to get through it.
The type of sewing machine that you would need to use depends on the thickness of your leather. We used a Bernina 5 Series sewing machine and it was able to get through the leather. But, before beginning, be sure to test your sewing machine on a scrap piece of the leather to see how it goes.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started…
1. Using the seam ripper, remove the nylon handles from the tote.
2. Measure and cut the length of leather strap desired.
3. Sew the handles in place. Back-tack several stitches at the beginning and end of all seams. This is important so that the stitches do not unravel.
Also, we sewed three parallel lines to attach each handle as a design element. Alternatively, you can sew a rectangle or an X, both of which are often used. Just be sure that the top and bottom of your stitch design are symmetrical so as to not cause uneven strain on the stitches, which may cause a stitch to break.
This would be a fun project to try with one of the extra tote bags you have lying around the house (if you’re like me, you have a huge pile of them). And it’s a great way to replace broken bag straps too, if one of your favorite bags has kicked the bucket in the handle department.
Sewing by Linda Jednaszewski
Concept, styling and photography by Brittni Mehlhoff
Think you’ll give this DIY a try? What other ways have you upcycled a basic tote?