Spring is finally here and that meant I needed a new tote bag to schlep my shoes and magazines around in. The black leather tote I made a few months ago served me well this past fall and winter, but I was craving something new. My caveats: a bag that was unstructured, lightweight, and combined fabric and leather. The Bottega Veneta bag, above, was perfect! (Except for the $750 price tag; yikes.)
For the fabric part of my knock-off bag I used an off-white, coated linen from Marc Jacobs, which, sadly, is all gone. For the leather portion I used a black washable leather that is very soft and easy to sew. Plus, washable! (Dmitry, our leather department manager, sewed little britches out of this washable leather for his toddler son. How cute is that.)
Sewing a tote bag is pretty straightforward. Determine the size you want and make a quick muslin first just to make sure you've gotten the proportions right. (I always tend to screw up a bit when I factor in the depth.) My bag measures 15 inches tall by 15 inches wide by 4.5 inches deep, with a 10 inch handle drop.
I constructed the coated linen part of the bag first, then I made the leather "bottom" which I fitted and then stitched onto the linen bag. I used a pinking rotary blade to mimic the Bottega Veneta bag's serrated leather edge. If you look inside my bag all you see is the uncoated linen, which makes it look like I lined the bag.
For the top edge of the bag, where the handles are attached, I simply pressed and turned a 2-inch facing, twice. Like the real BV bag, I didn't even bother to stitch the edge of the facing in place. I took the bag and the handles to Star Snaps down the block from Mood NYC at 262 W 38th St, #202, and for $12 had twelve studs put in place to anchor the handles.
That's all there was to making this tote. I love it soooooooo much and carry it to work every day. If you're thinking of making your own similar tote, our two stores have coated fabrics to choose from, plus I found this coated linen online (but order a swatch first as I'm not personally familiar with this particular fabric). We have a large selection of faux leathers online as well.
Have you made a tote bag that you just love? Tell us about it here!