The Convertible Tote Bag – Fits A 13″ MacBook Pro

convertible tote bag

This convertible tote bag turns into a backpack and a cross body bag.  I have been thinking about a convertible tote bag that can answer some of the needs I have when I travel and because I just got a new computer.

I only change my equipment when things don't work, so for me to replace a computer that still works something had to have gone horribly wrong.  My daughter and her new friend were doing homework at the kitchen table and had borrowed my computer when an elbow knocked down a glass of water and spilled over my computer.  My daughter's friends apologized and I was left with no computer.

If you have been following this blog for a few years, or at least since I started 5 years ago, you would know by now that I like transformable clothing, to use unusual materials, recycle and reuse, and make things reversible.

Here is a pattern that follows that trend and I think you will like because is very practical.  It has two zipper pockets inside which are sewn in a different way than the other bags I have shared with you so have a close look at the construction.  The use of the flex foam creates the need to make a variation of a patch pocket that is very easy to make.

It has a flap with a magnetic closure to avoid unwelcome fingers going in.

convertible tote bag

You can use a large ring and hook the chain straps for extra protection.

convertible tote bag

convertible tote bag

convertible tote bag

Large adjustable straps let you use this bag as a backpack and the four round rings turn the convertible tote bag into a crossbody bag or a  shopping tote bag.



Sewing Level:   Advanced Intermediate

Ideally, who would have made one or more of the following so you are familiar with my instructions.

The small backpack

The reversible tote bag

The Helsinki antipickpocket bag

If you have not please wait for the video to come out otherwise this will make your head in.

Fabric Suggestions From

How To Print And Download Your Convertible Tote Bag Pattern

Please use Adobe Reader, print in landscape mode and do not scale.

Pattern Download

We're going to continue to use the new Payhip webstore to distribute our patterns. As most readers know, Craftsy is changing a lot and they have stopped designers like us from publishing new patterns on their site, so we've had to move to another service.

Our patterns are still free, but now you now have the option of making a small contribution if you like our work! We'd really appreciate it and it will help is keep going with new and fun designs like this. Even a dollar or two really goes a long way.

Thanks so much in advance for helping us out.  You can use any credit card and you don't need a Paypal account, although you can use one if you have one.

Get Pattern HERE

Pattern Layout

convertible tote bag

Cutting And Preparing The Fabric

The following instructions are for quilting cotton, although I suggest using a stronger fabric mostly for the durability of the convertible tote bag.

My fabric is a mixture of linen and cotton, which is a little stronger than quilting cotton but I admit I could have used a stronger fabric. However, I think I would have had to use my industrial machine to manage all the layers.

Cut the Flexy Foam and the lining using the pattern.  Fuse the flexy foam to the main fabric then cut the fabric.  This is to avoid the fabric moving and losing its shape.

Note:  The 22″ metal handle bags and the straps are not included in this tutorial.  I will show you how to make them in a separate tutorial.

Step One:  Making The Inner Pocket

  • Cut two rectangles that are 9 1/2″ X 22″. (Pockets)
  • Two strips of fabric 6″ X 1  1/2″. (zipper tabs)

We need to make zipper tabs before we make the pocket.  This step is not necessary, but a very elegant detail that makes your pocket look professionally made.

We will be using the strip (6″ X 1  1/2″) of fabric shown here below the zipper.

convertible tote bag

Fold the smaller strip in half print side out and pin on both sides of the zipper.

convertible tote bag

Pin the tabs on either side of the zipper avoiding the metal stoppers.

convertible tote bag

Trim the tabs as wide as the zippers.

convertible tote bag

Print side up, place the zipper right side down. The zipper head should be facing the print.  Sew very close to the zipper teeth using a zipper foot.  Don't worry about the tabs being bigger than the pocket sides.

convertible tote bag

Flip the zipper right side up and topstitch.   Bring the end of the fabric and alight with the edge of the zipper tape.

convertible tote bag

convertible tote bag

Sew once again very close to the zipper teeth.

convertible tote bag

Open the zipper halfway, then fold the pocket above the zipper about 3/4″ to one inch.  Sew the sides at 3/8″, then zigzag.  The part that you have folded over the zipper will be the top of the pocket when you sew it to the lining.

convertible tote bag

convertible tote bag

Turn the pocket right side out through the zipper.  Iron.

convertible tote bag

Now you can sew on the lining as a patch pocket.  Place the pocket 2″ from the top edge of the lining.  

I only sew on where the pins are but you can sew the whole pocket down if you want. I am sewing mine on a piece of satin polyester fabric.

convertible tote bag

Step Two: Making The Tabs

All tabs are made the same way.  You will need three tabs for the 1 1/2″ D-ring and four tabs for the round rings.  

Fold the rectangles following the fold lines in your pattern.

Finger press the rectangle and make a crease.

convertible tote bag

Use the crease to bring each side to the center.

convertible tote bag

Fold back both side and stitch on the open side.  Loop the D-ring and stitch the tabs using a zipper foot to get as close to the ring as possible.

convertible tote bag

This is the same instructions to make the other tabs.  You will need to make four.

convertible tote bag

Step Three: Making The Flap Without A Large Ring (with option is below)

Fuse the Flex Foam to the wrong side of the fabric.

convertible tote bag

Flip the fabric to the print side and place the thinner side (male) of one of the magnetic snaps.

convertible tote bag

Fold the fabric print side facing each other and sew on three sides leaving one side open.  You will turn the flap using this side.  Iron and shape the corners using the point of a pencil.  I forgot to draw the magnetic snap but you should be able to see the wrong side of it on the flexy foam.

convertible tote bag

Making The Flap With A Large Ring

Add the magnetic snap as above, marked on your pattern.

convertible tote bag

Place the Large ring with the tab centered in the middle. Place the other side of the flap print facing down and sew on three sides.  Do not sew on the opposite side of the ring. Trim the tab and shape the corners with a pencil, iron.

convertible tote bag

Step Four: Sewing The Hardware To The Outer Fabric

convertible tote bag

Cut two pieces of the webbing strap 12″ in length.   Sew two of the D-ring to each end on one of the straps.

convertible tote bag

convertible tote bag

On the other webbing strap, we will top stitch the following elements.  The last D-ring, and the backpack handle.

We will be sewing the last D-ring in the middle of the strap on one side and on top sew the handle of the backpack.

Follow the pattern for the correct placement of the straps D-rings and handle.  PLACE THE FLAP YOU HAVE MADE PREVIOUSLY, 5/8″ under the handle.  Sew around the webbing about 1/8″ from the edge.

convertible tote bag

Sewing The Outer Layer And Lining

Sew both the putter layer and the lining the same way. Sew the sides print sides facing each other at 3/8″.

convertible tote bag

Then sew the corners.

convertible tote bag

The following is a small trick to make the bag stand up and give a shape as if you had sewed a separate piece at the bottom when in fact you have not done it.

Fold the bag from one corner to the next and stitch no more than 1/4″.  Repeat on the other side. This step is crucial on the shaping of the bag especially when we add the snaps on the side.

convertible tote bag

Before you insert the lining you need to place the female side of the magnetic snap in the middle of the bag.  This is to be used in conjunction with the flap.

convertible tote bag

On the outside of the bag pin, the O-Rings facing down with the tabs to the top edge of the bag.  Make sure you leave enough space to be able to use the zipper foot to be able to attach the gusset with the zipper on the next step.  This step is what allows the convertible tote bag into a shopping bag.

convertible tote bag

Add the magnetic snaps.  These snaps allow the convertible tote bag to be used as a crossbody bag.

convertible tote bag

Insert the lining inside the bag and using a large zigzag sew the edge to attach both layers. You can use clips but I prefer to use the zigzag to avoid the layers and tabs moving around, this also gives me the opportunity to make sure both layers are the same sizes.  So when I sew the gusset with the zipper there are no surprises.

Step Five: Sewing The Zipper

The zipper is sewn as the Helsinki bag.  If you have a hard time with zippers or have pain in your fingers I suggest the use of a large nylon zipper such as the one used in jackets.  I am using a metal zipper that I have sprayed in gold.

convertible tote bag

Place the gusset print side down facing the right side of the zipper.  Sew using your zipper foot.

convertible tote bag

convertible tote bag

Topstitch on both side of the zipper to avoid the fabric getting caught.

convertible tote bag

Sew the sides of the zipper at 3/8″.

Open the zipper, and pin the gusset print side down facing the print of the bag.

convertible tote bag

Sew the top at 3/8″ using your zipper foot to avoid touching the snaps with the normal foot. Turn the gusset in and iron, then topstitch.

convertible tote bag

I have placed another snap in the middle of the bag because when it is used as a backpack you will find that you cannot close the zipper.

I like puzzles and frankly, sometimes I land in hot water with some of the readers because my explanations are not easy to follow.

Do let me know in the comment section below if there is a need more clarification.

I have to admit the 22″ chain handles are a little too short for the proportion of this convertible tote bag I will be changing them to a 24″ handles.  I prefer to use this bag as a backpack and am thinking to make it in leather next time.  I could add an open pocket for my phone and another for my glasses.  What would you change in this convertible tote bag?

How to Make a Single Adjustable Strap for a Bag

I've made a separate tutorial on how to make the adjustable strap for this or other similar bags.  Please check it out at the link below.


This is Gwen Thompson's take on this pattern, please note the exquisite use of a color palette and two different materials.

Need another Tote bag that offers you more options? Try the reversible tote one in vinyl and fabric. One of my favorites used in a commercial Here.

recycling old placemats

convertible tote bag

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51 Responses to The Convertible Tote Bag – Fits A 13″ MacBook Pro

  1. Andria says:

    I’ve made several bags up to this point including your small backpack. This tutorial is so confusing, the pattern pieces aren’t labeled properly and lots of steps have been left out. It’s been more than a year since I asked about the video and there still isn’t one. When can we expect a video for this bag?

    • Mayra Cecilia says:

      Hi Andria, it takes over 72 hours to shoot a video and UD 450 to have it eddited. I lost my editing person. Do you know anyone who can take the job?

  2. Wynn says:

    How big is the Convertible Tote Bag Backpack? I couldn’t see finished measurements anywhere.
    By the way, I’m in Australia, and it seems the interfacing can be bought at Spotlight and is called “Shape To Create Foam Plus Iron On Cream 90 cm” I’m hoping that is the same as the “one side Fusible Flex-Foam Stabilizer (Pellon FF78F1)” we don’t seem to call it Pellon here. Just thought I’d share that.Love your fabric too.
    But anyway, my question is about the finished measurements, please.

  3. Pat says:

    Can I use cotton duck to make this bag?

  4. Kathy says:

    Love, love, love the fabric you used! It’s beautiful!

  5. Is there a tutorial for the convertible tote bag? I downloaded the pattern, but there are no instructions. Thanks

    • Mayra Cecilia says:

      What do you mean? you are making the comment under the tutorial. Where did you make the download from?

  6. Sharon Lutz says:

    I purchased the ultimate credit card wallet, however I did not find the time right away to make it. Now I can not find the tutorial for it.

    • Mayra Cecilia says:

      Hi Sharon, the pattern is not a free pattern and therefore will always have the instructions attached to it. Check the link again it should be there. If you can not find me please send me your Paypal receipt and I will send you a copy of it.

  7. Cockeyed Jo says:

    Aren’t you concerned about the possibility of the magnets erasing your hard drive over time?

  8. Jill says:

    It’s perfect and beautiful thanks for great ideas and on top of all that with all the hard times it’s free y’all are truly the best thanks again

  9. Hnr says:

    excellent pattern, thank you very much for sharing!
    is there a video tutorial? it could be useful
    Thank you! BR

  10. Andria says:

    Is there a video for this bag?

  11. Andria says:

    You mention to wait for the video, when can we expect this?

  12. Anne says:

    Thank you for sharing your wonderfully creative pattern and expertise. I’ve got the pattern all assembled and am now visualizing the construction. I have a question about attaching the zipper gusset. It looks as though it would leave the raw edge of that seam exposed- is that correct? I think if I made the lining 1/2” taller, I could fold that top edge under, then add the lining after the gusset has been attached, to cover that raw edge. Also, is the underside of the gusset unlined? If you were able to add a photo of the top of the bag, zipped up, I think many of us would appreciate it!

    • Mayra Cecilia says:

      Hi Anne, there is a way to sew this bag that the zipper would not be unlined using the zipper opening, this is an advance technique that requires a few more pattern pieces and a video, too complicated to go over it on a written tutorial. Once you attach the gusset and top stitch the top you will find that the raw edge will disappear but the sipper will remain unlined. If you machine can handle it you can line the zipper if you want. However, I found this is not aesthetically necessary.

  13. Yvonne says:

    I love this one. Thank you so much…

  14. Pauline says:

    Waiting for the tutorial for the straps before I even think of starting on this one!

  15. Roxanne LaChance says:

    I downloaded this pattern, but it won’t open. Can you help?

  16. Gwen says:

    When is the tutorial for the straps and how they work going to come out?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      HI Gwen, First of all, I wanted to say thank you for your contribution, It will come out tomorrow.

  17. Gwen says:

    Well, then I guess we need to see the back so we can see where the straps are attached. Thanks.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Indeed, Gwen, it is coming out as soon as it passes through the editing process, as you may not know I am not an English speaker and make a lot of grammar mistakes.

  18. Susan N. Stover says:

    Where do you buy your zippers and hardware?

  19. Gwen Thompson says:

    Could we get pictures of the for t of the bag, please.

  20. Barb Peters says:

    Thank you for making so many free–I can make gifts for grandkids without throwing off our extremely tight, didn’t-plan-well-for-“retirement” budget!

  21. Bobbie Parsons says:

    Thank you for this lovely pattern

  22. Karen Burney says:

    I entered an amount in the box above but it reverted to $0.00 when I downloaded the pattern. Am I missing something in the process? Thank you for all the wonderful patterns you share!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      It is my pleasure. If you click download before changing the amount it will take always 0.

  23. Deborah Evans says:

    Is there a way to print the instructions? I generally have to read and re-read and read again to be able to understand the concept and make it right. Thanks.

    • Gwen says:

      This is not a pattern for a beginner. You also need to know a lot about sewing and have to do a lot of “reading between the lines”. There are a lot of steps left out in the directions. You are never sure where the straps are going because that is not shown, the back is not shown. When you are done, you have to wait for the strap instructions. I had to do a lot of figuring it out on my own.

      • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

        Indeed, Gwen, this pattern is for someone already familiar with my Intermediate patterns. It is for Confident or Advanced Intermediate, as stated in the blog there are many beginners pattern on this site, this is not one of them.

  24. Anne R says:

    Love the style of this bag and the fabric you used is gorgeous!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Thank you! you can purchase the same through Cotton and Steel website. I left the link above in the list if supplies.

  25. Debbie Charlick says:

    This looks fascinating. The hooks and chain are also missing from the material list. Will the video show how the straps and chains are attached for the backpack option? My head isn’t figuring it out from the pictures.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Thanks, Deby, I purposely left that out because I will make a separate tutorial. I am planning to share many bags this year that will be using this type of strap, and I don’t want to repeat myself. Coming out next week.

  26. Carol Berger says:

    Did you use the same fabric as the outside for the lining?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Nope, I used a gold satin polyester fabric. I bought a roll of it so I keep using the same lining. You can see it in most of the bags I am sharing with you.

  27. Laura Ferreyra says:

    I just downloaded the Convertible Tote Bag. I just noticed that there is no mention in the materials needed as to how much fabric for the lining. Is it the same as the outer fabric?

    • So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Laura, good catch. Thanks for letting me know. You’ll need about 1 yard of lining fabric. I’ve updated both the post and the pattern now. Thanks again and happy sewing!

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