My carpet tote bag is the result of my never-ending desire to make bags with unusual materials. It's also, the result from impulse buying… I was looking for some materials that I could use instead of leather, and I was practicing my usual “whatever catches my eye” technique. This is something I do often, I tell the shop assistant “don't mind me, I will know what I want when I see it”.
Normally, I would go home and sit down to sketch out a few ideas, drape it in the dummy and settle for one design. Then I'd stick with it until it is done.
However, I have never worked with this material before and the point of this exercise is to come up with a bag that can be replicated in leather.
The simple reason is that I still lack a bit of confidence to cut the leather and sew it. You get only one chance. That's it! I'm sure many of you have felt like this at one time or another, anxious about cutting a beautiful fabric or piece of leather.
What would be the best way to gain confidence?
My answer is coming up with a few special projects that you can experiment with before diving into the leather.
So here I present to you my carpet tote bag, YES! you read right, I am using a type of flooring. This carpet has a felt like-appearance and it does not ravel which makes it perfect for pretending it is leather. For those of you who are fond of recycling and have an old low pile carpet or mat, you might want to try and turn it into a few bags.
It has a pocket in the outside which is nine inches wide and deep enough for an iPad.
It has the possibility of being worn as a crossbody messenger.
Or, as a handheld tote bag.
WARNING: the following project is an experiment. I am playing with shape, proportion, material and finish. Consider this my muslin.
My source of inspiration was a trip to the Old Muttrah Souq in Muscat, Oman in 2016.
This carpet tote bag is wide enough to carry a large tablet or a laptop. It has a detachable pocket for your phone, wallet or sunglasses which is not included on this tutorial but will be added on a later date.
Materials For Your Carpet Tote Bag
- One yard of flooring material felted, cotton or wool, Scuba fabric, PVC, leather or vinyl
- Rayon thread or leather thread
- Glue for PVC or leather depending on what you are using
- One wide tape zipper (1 3/8″ or 1.7cm) x 9″ (23cm)
- Four rivets
- Two press snaps
- One and a half to two yards of silver or gold chain or make your own straps
- Two lobster claws
- Snap press tool
- Size 16 or jeans needle
- Teflon foot (for sewing leather or vinyl)
- Zipper foot
- Walking foot (optional)
- Speedy Stitcher, industrial machine (optional) or a home sewing machine capable of sewing thick material.
- Rotary cutter with a small blade or craft knife
- Metal ruler
- Cutting mat
- Tailor's chalk or erasable ink pen
- Felt 2mm to 4mm felted flooring material
Use the latest version of Adobe Reader, this is the only program you will need and we are not asking you to download any other program nor pay for additional programs.
Print the pattern for the carpet tote bag on Actual Size and in a Landscape format.
The pattern will only show you the front side of the carpet tote bag. To make the back of the tote all you need to do is to flip the pattern right side up to make a mirror image. The best procedure would be to use a chalk and trace the pattern directly onto the material and cut using a craft knife.
You know you have done it well when the pattern looks like the picture below.
Sewing Instructions For The Carpet Tote Bag
The tote bag is not lined, but there is a pocket and you cannot see the lining from the inside.
There is a way to make pockets in unlined coats and trousers and we will be using this technique to make the outside pocket.
The use of a walking foot is highly recommended if your machine cannot handle the thickness of the material you're using.
I will try to use my speedy stitcher, as an exercise to teach myself to make straight stitches.
We will start attaching the zipper and the inner pocket, then we will apply all the hardware and finally assemble the carpet tote bag.
Length 24″ (61cm) x Width 14″ (35.7cm)
Cut the rectangles using the pieces provided in the pattern.
With the print material right side up, place the zipper with the head on the left side aligned with the top of the rectangle. Sew the zipper at 1/4″.
The carpet material will be facing right side up. Place the lining fabric under the zipper and on top of the carpet material, sew at 1/4″. Topstitch to lay the zipper flat and to avoid the lining getting cut on the zipper.
Zigzag around the side and lower edges to prevent the lining from ravel. Use your serger if you have one.
Use double-sided tape or glue to place the zipper on the opening.
If you are using glue, let the glue dry for about 20 minutes to avoid your needle getting a residue that will make your stitching uneven.
Topstitch from one side to the top, then to the other side.
Open the zipper and topstitch the bottom part of the zipper. You will know it is right when you open the zipper you see the outer material and can insert your hand into the pocket.
We are now going to attach all the necessary hardware. There are going to be two snaps above the zipper and four rivets to either side of the zipper. The rivets are to attach a strip of material that I will attach a removable strap and be able to make this carpet tote bag a crossbody messenger bag. There will be enough room to carry my laptop.
Cut two rectangles 2.5″ (6.4cm) X 1.5″(4cm).
Fold 3/8″(1cm) and sew in the middle. Fold the other 3/8″(1cm) and sew in the middle. Attach this strip of fabric with the rivets.
Apply glue to the handles and sew 1/8″ from the edge both in the outer and inner oval.
Note: I attempted to use my speedy stitcher but found that my stitches were absolutely ugly. So I ripped the stitches out and discovered these large holes that are hard to disguise and weakened the material.
Both are problems I will encounter if I use leather, so how to fix this? My solution was to cut two handles and sew them at the same time which means I will have three layers to sew. Now for sure, my machine will never be able to handle this.
Double side interfacing for patchwork could work wonders here, however, I do not have any at hand.
Sew the gusset at 1/8″. Use your pattern to find where to mark/pin the center of the gusset.
My material allows me to use pins but if you are using vinyl or leather this is not going to be possible, use quilting clips or cloth pins instead.
The final step is to make the strap. Cut the material the length you require. Mark the middle of the strap. I did not do this and it was hard to get the side even. Use glue to bring the sides to the middle then sew the sides down.
Thread the strap through the lobster claw, fold about an inch and attach a rivet to secure.
Material: I like working with the felted carpet material, it is strong enough to hold the shape without the need of any reinforcement. However, without the use of an industrial machine, I doubt that a regular sewing machine can handle sewing two layers together. Use only the materials suggested at the beginning of the post.
Shape and Proportion: I am in love with both shape and proportion of this pattern but because of the size and print of the bag I would use it wearing a dress with no print or a monochromatic outfit. I would also add a couple of pockets and a removable zipper pouch as in this bag RFID fabric made with and a Marimekko print.
I found when wearing it across the body if my computer was inside, it felt like the strips held by the rivets could be moved about an inch lower.
Finish: I am going to have to give myself an F on the finish. I found that my stitching using the speedy stitcher was very uneven and sometimes crooked. It is very difficult to make the stitches look more professional even though I used a hole puncher except on the straps. I still need to figure out how to make my stitches look good. Got any hints for me?
If you are wondering what are the snaps for, that is where I will attach a small crossbody wallet that I will be able to remove and use somewhere else.
Until next time! Happy sewing!
Thanks going to try it out, I have a manual machine
Mayra, I’m not sure what you meant by “I used a hole puncher” but I think what would help you get a better looking straight line of stitching would be to use a stitching chisel like one of these, especially if you plan on sewing this in leather. If you use one with multiple prongs, you will be able to make the holes faster and start the next punch in the holes you already made and have them come out straighter but you would need a single or double one for going around handle, too. As for the stitching itself, the second link might be helpful to watch. https://www.tandyleather.com/en/product/craftool-fine-diamond-chisel-2-5-mm
Thank you, Mary, I have these but the material became weak when I used it, but will definitely use them when making this tote in leather. Thank you for the link to the video very useful. I am still learning to stitch leather not as easy as it seams.
I think a marine vinyl would work well for this project and could be used with a regular (not industrial) sewing machine. I have a HV Designer Epic and it can sew through 2 layers of marine vinyl with a midweight stabilizer when I make key fobs. I’m going to check it out. Thank you for the pattern and tutorial!
It is my pleasure Cynthia! Enjoy! If you have Instagram use #soseweasy I will sure to see your bag! Always curious about someone else’s choice of materials and colours.
bravo. Merci pour ce tuto
Bonjour Josy! C’est mon plaisir de partager avec vous.
This project reminds me of a dress I bought and love it in the 70 era.
It was not as stiff as a carpet, but thicker of velour. The coloring of the dress was as your purse, but a different design. See, time just past and comes back with a different twist.
Indeed it does, I think an a-line short dress and white boots would be just the thing! 70’s the most fun era to get dress IMO!
That’s one CRAZY bag – and I mean that in the BEST way! It takes me back to my teenage years in the ’60’s and I love it. And please don’t give yourself an F for finish…it looks good and I’m sure it will be quite durable. I’ve sewn for 60 years and I would grade you a B for ‘Best Effort’.
I don’t know what type of sewing machine you have but I know most modern machines won’t handle that material very well. However, if you chose to, you could pick up a restored vintage machine like a Singer 15 or a Kenmore model 95. They can sew through a couple layers of belt leather like it was butter. They are beasts and would easily handle projects like this bag. You probably could make that entire bag on one of them, and they’re also great for decor and upholstery projects.
On the off-chance that you’re interested, you might like to look at the website for http://www.stagecoachroadsewing.com. They know everything about vintage machines and could recommend the best one(s) for this sort of project. I’ve learned a lot from them. They’re happy to provide advice if you email them. In addition to my modern machines I have several gorgeous vintage babies and love them all.
Please, keep making patterns and sharing ideas – they’re just wonderful!
Thank you Suzzane, I was using the Stitching owl and I need to keep the stitch straight otherwise it looks odd. Thank you for the website I will check them out. Sadly, I don’t live in the USA and buying from them would cost me a lot of money on shipping and taxes, but what a great resource they are!
I love this unusual bag! I have a piece of leather I’ve been agonizing over for ages – this looks like the perfect project! And btw, I absolutely love the top on the model! Any chance there’s a pattern for that, too?
I do have this pattern somewhere in my library, it is perfect for summer, no bra yet supportive. Will look for it and share…soon!
Thank you Mayra!
I love that you show us more than just the pretty, polished finished pieces. We don’t always get the results we want the first time out, but we learn so much from every attempt. I’ve played with place mats and flannel backed vinyl table cloths to make totes & reusable grocery bags before but never thought about this type of carpeting. I know my machine can’t handle the thickness but I’ll bet my Mom’s old Singer 201 can. Thank you for inspiring us to try new & different materials.
Thank you Donna, experimentation is fun, sadly I went back for more and the shop ran out of it. I was going to sew it on my Industrial machine and combine it with leather. Guess I am going to have to find an alternative material with some texture. I used a stitching owl. Love the little gadget but I am yet to master it.
I’ve never heard of a stitching owl. what is it?
Sorry Kathy my spelling is uppalling I mean AWL i wrote about it here https://so-sew-easy.com/speedy-stitcher-sewing-awl/
I appreciate you trying different kinds of fabrics. I work for an interior design company and get all the leftover pieces and discontinued samples. I now have so many marvelous fabrics, but of course very few are quilting cotton.
I’ve made several bags, (btw, your patterns are the best, and most easily understood) I’m always looking for new ways to use them. This bag looks very appealing, thanks!
You are a lucky girl, Karen, what a lovely way to use what would otherwise end up in the dump and it costs you nothing and thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading the blog I am if anything happy to inspire you.
Looks better folded over!
I love this pattern, here’s a pic of my attempt. I used black and grey leatherette. Not sure where to get carpet material here!
I am not quite happy with my handles so I am waiting to get more leatherette and I might just glue them and top stitch the top bits.
The pieces to attach the long strap were a bit bulky for my machine and kept moving so I will have to revisit them too!
Overall a great bag though!! Can’t wait to wear it out!
Let me know when you get more material. yes, the handles are not easy, and it does get bulky on the straps. You will have to use rivets to attach the handle.
I think this is a great concept, I loved the ring shaped handles on your carpet fabric and need a new bag so I accepted the challenge. The only suitable material I had on hand was a rather outdated and probably inexpensive leather jacket which made for a soft messenger style bag which I wanted but I still am able to use the full tote size when needed. One alteration I made was to shorten the overall length by 3cm just to fit across the jacket width but I like this altered size and the way the ring handle features when the top is folded down. I reversed the ring handles inside and out so that the darker suede contrasts against the leather outside and inside the leather handle contrasts against the suede. Thank you for sharing this experiment and I will let you know how I go with some scuba fabric when I purchase some.
We have a first winner! Hi Lee, that looks fantastic! Thanks for all the feedback. Glad you could repurpose the jacket. Good example of finding sewing materials you already have. Please do let us know how you go with the scuba fabric. What pattern can I send to you?
Well my daughter has surprised me by requesting the date night wristlet so I would be most appreciative to have this pattern to make for her – wonder if the last piece of leather could be utilized there too hmmm – again great tote pattern, I am eager to play with it more
Fantastic choice! I’ll email you the pattern for the Date Night Wristlet: https://so-sew-easy.com/easy-date-night-wristlet-pattern/
This keeps showing up in my pattern library on Craftsy as the Small Crossbody Wallet pattern even though it shows up in the cart as the Carpet Tote Bag.
I have a huge stash of upholstery vinyl.. it wouldn’t be a flashy as this print but maybe if I do a machine embroidery design on it first. This definitely has my creative brain running. I know my machines can handle two layers of the vinyl, but if all else fails I have a antique treadle machine that runs and can handle it.
Love to see your treadle machine:)
I have been working on prototypes for a leather cell phone bag for 3 weeks. I found that making the bag in fabric in advance doesn’t help. Mainly because the big deal with leather is dealing with the bulk. I have several different weights, types and finishes of leather, each with its own challenges. I now have a working pattern, but yes I have wasted leather. However I have learned a lot and I believe the cost was worth it.
As for getting straight top stitches, I have found the key is to sew slowly. I sometimes even hand wheel the stitching over the bulky areas to make sure I don’t lose control of the stitching. Like you said, you can rip it out but it leaves holes and weakens the leather.
Your leather cell phone pouch looks beautiful. Can you share the technique and pattern. And your experience while making it.
If I was making this with leather I would like to try stitching it by hand using 2 needles it will take longer as I would have to stitch it by hand
I am inquiring where you bought your carpet ? I love the pattern!
Hi Marlene, I bought it at one of the shops in Independencia street in Santiago, Chile. Not sure if that helps you. You can find this type at any upholstery car and marine supply. Hope that helps:)
What a fantastic pattern on that fabric or I guess I should say carpet! I think your project came out pretty good for an experiment. I think I may take you up on your challenge for a free pattern. Stay tuned. It will take me a couple days to pull this together but I’ll share my work with you.
Bring it on girl! Can wait to see your carpet tote bag:)