I’ve been on a mission to DIY my own tote, particularly as fewer grocery stores are providing plastic bags here in Southern California. I always forget to bring a bag and and am kicking myself as I’m checking out and shoving as much stuff as I possibly can into my purse. I’m hoping that if I make my own, I’ll be more excited to use it and actually bring it to the store.
In the spirit of recycling and reducing waste, I went to Goodwill to source my fabric. Thinking about what would make the most durable fabric, I went straight to the denim section and searched for the most colorful fabrics in the largest size I could find to maximize yardage. From $2.99 – 6.99 a pair, this was an awesome deal.
Here’s what I ended up with:
- Yellow stretch denim (BIG BIRD’S PANTS!)
- White stretch denim
- Medium leather belt
The checkout clerk looked at me kinda crazy because these pants were obviously not going to fit me. I’d judge me too, but that didn’t stop me from buying them. I was going to have a super cute tote! In addition to my Goodwill haul, I also used:
- Optional: Rotary cutter and rotary cutting mat
- Rivet Kit
- Leather Hole Punch Tool
- Sewing machine (mine: Brother SC9500)
- Optional: Serger (mine:Singer 14CG754 ProFinish)
- Rubber Mallet
- Optional/As Needed: Pliers
Okay, to get started, I flipped the pants inside out and started taking them apart in the largest chunks possible. First, I cut the hem off the bottom, then up the sides of the pants along the seams to get 4 large panels of fabric from each pair of pants.
I didn’t specifically measure how large I was going to make this bag, I basically cut the largest strip I could out of one panel and cut the rest of the panels accordingly. I ended up cutting each piece 7.5″ wide and did not cut the length.
Next, I pulled out my serger. This is my newly acquired toy and I have been looking for anything and everything I can use this for. I LOVE IT. You could easily use a sewing machine for this, but I love the finished edge the serger creates, especially when sewing a bunch of panels together that won’t be covered up. Not ambitious enough to line the inside of the bag.
I have had my fair share of botched stitching, so I always, always, (almost) always do test stitching on scrap fabric. Whenever I don’t, that’s the exact moment my machine decides to freak out on me. Test stitch. So here’s proof that I did it…
Now that I know everything’s working fine, I’m ready to start stitching my strips of fabric together. I put the two right sides together, lined up the edges and fed the fabric through the machine. Look how pretty and clean it comes out! I’m so amused.
A, few panels later, I had one big piece of super cute yellow and white striped fabric.
Next, I folded last strip I sewed in half, then sewed along the edge. I did this to give the top edge of the bag a clean finished folded over edge which I repeated on the other side as well.
Next, I worked on sewing up the sides of the bag. I folded the fabric in half, and serged up one side. For the other side (with all the jagged edges from the pockets of the pants), I drew a line down the edge as far as I could before hitting the pockets and serged along that line. I couldn’t sew the pockets into the bag so that was the part I had to cut off.
Since this edge of the bag would be under “high stress” or high risk of tearing/thread breakage, I reinforced the serger stitching with my sewing machine. I back stitched 3 times at the edge to make extra sure this was going to hold. I put my bags through a lot of stress and I expect for this bag to hold a lot of stuff! Stitch forward, backward, forward, backward, forward, backward, forward.
Next up, I wanted to create a square bottom. Nothing is more annoying than a bag that can’t stand on its own. Leaving the bag inside out, I took a bottom corner of the bag that formed a triangle and folded it inward. To make sure I got an even fold, I measured the same distance inward on both edges. For this bag, I did 6″ and drew a sewing line with my pencil.
This is where I’d recommend you pin the fabric together, but I winged it. It worked, out but next time I do this, I’ll definitely use pins. Next, I cut approximately 1/2 from the sewing line to make it easier to feed through my serger. If you’re using sewing machine, don’t skip this step.
Next, I took the fabric to the serger and stitched along the pencil line. Then followed up with the sewing machine, back stitching 3 times at the start and end of the sewing line and reinforcing the serger stitches. Since will be the bottom of the bag, I wanted to be sure this would not fall apart later.
Now, that all the sewing is done, I trimmed all the extra thread hanging off the edges and flipped the bag right side out. Looking goo so far.
Now for my fancy leather straps. You can definitely do this by sewing straps with scrap fabric, but where’s the fun in that. I started by cutting off the buckle to the thrifted belt I got, then cut the strap in half. I used a medium sized belt because that’s all that was available at Goodwill. Apparently, nobody donates large sized belts.
Next, it was time to measure out the placement of the straps. I measured the midpoint of bag then moved outward an inch at a time until it looked about right. I stuck pins where I wanted the inside edge of the leather straps. I measured 0.5″ down from the edge of the bag and made a mark with my pencil. Next, i measured an inch outward and marked another dot. I repeated the same process on the other side of the bag.
Next, I made corresponding dots on the leather belt, one inch apart and 3/8″ down from the edge of the belt and repeated on the other 2 edges of the belt. The last edge of the belt was pointed and I made the holes 1/2″ apart and made corresponding markings on the bag.
Then I took my leather hole punch tool and punched a holes at all the markings on the bag and the leather belt using the 2.0 mm punch. This punch is amazing and has come in handy so many times.
Now to attach the straps to the bag. I bought a rivet kit which came with rivets in 2 colors (nickel and brass), a anvil (not that cartoon one you’re imagining), and setter. I used a rubber mallet to smash it all together. I thought a hammer might be too hard. You can probably use one, but I thought a mallet would work better so that’s what I used.
I poked the bottom of the rivet (the piece with the hole) and pushed it through the fabric from the inside of the bag outward. Then, I added the leather strap, right side (non rough side) up, and capped it off with the top of the rivet. It snaps shut to temporarily hold it together. I placed the bottom of the rivet down on the round anvil, and positioned the setter on top of the rivet and hammered/malleted down on it until the pieces came together.
I DIY, things go wrong and look here…things went wrong. My rivets went in all kinds of crooked. Its okay though. If you can put it together, you can pull it apart and try again. I used a pair of pliers and yanked the two pieces apart.
I reattached new (non-crooked) rivets and here’s the completed bag!