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!