Canvas and Leather Market Tote




About: I'm a network / data center architect working in RTP, NC. In my copious free time, I tinker with micro controllers and woodworking figuring one day I'll somehow put them together. Also enjoy wilderness campi...

I do some leathercrafting. Mostly small stuff and hand stitched. I recently started to learn how to sew with a machine. Little things but I've wanted to make a canvas and leather project for quite some time now. I figured it was never going to sew itself so here it is. This is a handy and durable market tote that can be carried by anyone. I mean it's green and brown so that's pretty manly if you need it to be ;) This bag is not lined as it's just meant to be for groceries or produce or whatever. Plus I was more interested in the leather/canvas combo for this project.

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Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Get all your pieces parts and tools together and prepare to create.

Materials needed:

  • 3oz Leather
  • Canvas
  • Rotary cutter
  • Leather needle for sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Cutting mat
  • Ruler
  • Leather dye
  • Rivets and rivet tools
  • Contact cement
  • Sewing machine

Step 2: Cut Main Bag Parts (Leather and Canvas)

This tote will be approximately 16" wide and 11" tall (depending on seam allowances). Start by cutting a piece of leather 18" x 13". This will bring the leather up the side 3.5" and allow for a 6" width at the bottom. Once cut, you'll need to dye it. I used this antique gel dye from Tandy. It's easy to apply and cleans up with soap and water. I had already cut and dyed the leather before I started taking pictures. You can see the dye from the underside of the leather.

We need 2 canvas pieces at 18" x 9". They will get sewn to each side of the leather to make the main bag "panel" with a total size of 18" x 31" (accounting for seam allowances).

You will also need to cut and dye 2 leather strips 2" x 25" for the handles.

Step 3: Wind Bobbin

Almost ready to start sewing. Pick a coordinating thread and load up the bobbin and thread your machine. I used an "outdoor" thread which is a bit heavier than "regular" thread.

Step 4: Test Your Stitch Tension

When working with different materials, it's always a good idea to test with a scrap piece. Here I had a scrap of leather from a different project and an offcut of the duck fabric. It's also a good idea to increase the stitch length when sewing leather. I increased my length to 3mm.

Step 5: Assemble the Big Panel

Put the "right sides" together and clip. I used these cool Clover WonderClips but a binder clip will work as well. Just don't use pins because it will leave permanent holes in the leather. No need to back stitch since the ends will be encapsulated in the side seams. Note: In sewing, "right sides" simply means the good side or in this case, the outside of the bag. Some fabric has a right and wrong side. I can't see that this duck fabric is any different on one side vs the other.

Sew leaving a 3/8" seam allowance. Once you have sewn seam, flip the canvas over so and sew a top stitch this will flatten the seam and cover the raw edge of the canvas. Do this on both sides of the leather piece.

Step 6: Sew the Sides and Cut the Corners

Make sure right sides are together, line up the edges and clip together. Sew down each side leaving a 3/8" seam allowance. When you're done cut the bottom corners off. I failed to take a picture of this step though. Measure in 3" from the stitch line on the side and up 3" from the bottom. If you measure from the side and not the stitch line, you're square won't be a will be a rectangle...heh. Your pieces will look like the ones in the picture.

Step 7: Sew the Boxed Corners and Flip

This step will give the bag a flat bottom. Line up the side seam with the middle of the bottom. You should have a slight crease that you can use as a guide. Get it all clipped and sew across leaving about 1/4" seam allowance. The smaller seam will cut down on the bulk. Do this on both corners.

FLIP YOUR BAG!! This is the fun part. Turn the bag right side out and admire what you've done to this point. It's starting to look like something with purpose now

Step 8: Top Stitch the Side Seam and Glue Inside Seam

Iron the side seams flat on the inside and top stitch almost down to the leather. This will help keep the seam flat and the top stitch is a nice detail. Use contact cement to glue the leather part flat. The glue is optional but I think it gives it a nice look.

Step 9: Hem the Top

Again, I didn't get the in process pictures. Roll the top down about 3/8" and iron flat. Roll it over again encapsulating the raw edge and iron flat. I ran 2 top stitches around but you could get by with one. It's looking pretty good. Also note the side seam top stitching here.

Step 10: Handles

Grab your 2"x25" leather strips. Fold the ends together and clip at about a 30 degree angle. I used the angle on the cutting mat for this. Make a mark 2" from each end and fold/clip together for sewing. Starting at the 2" mark sew each handle leaving a 1/4" seam allowance. Don't forget to STOP at the other 2" mark.

Measure in 5 1/2" from each side seam and make a mark. This will be the center of the handle. Use contact cement again to temporarily hold the handles in place for sewing. Once you sew the handles down, install the rivets on each side.

That's it! You're done! Now go buy some produce or something ;)

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    7 Discussions


    2 years ago

    What a great job. Congrats. I'm new to sewing leather. Is this leather a certain "kind" of leather? My mind was boggled looking at the different types on Tandy's website. Any suggestions please?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks! The leather selection can be daunting for sure. I'm lucky and have a store somewhat close to me. It's nice to be able to hold the hides to get a feel for what 4oz leather actually feels like. I just put my calipers on some left over from this project and it measures .05"/ 1.3mm it was labeled 4-5oz. I've made wallets out of this weight as well. I usually get full sides when I find them on sale. I just saw that they currently have a special on double shoulder 4-5oz for $89.00 regular $120. That'd be a decent start.

    Here's a good chart for leather thicknesses.

    Hope this helps.


    2 years ago

    thanks, just what I was looking for


    2 years ago

    This is a great idea and obviously, you did a beautiful job ! What type of sewing machine did you use - it looks like a home model but the materials are pretty thick. Thanks.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks for the comment. The machine is a Janome 7330 (magnolia). It handles it pretty good if you go slow at the thicker areas.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks! It was a lot of fun to make.