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Tutorial: Attaching Leather Straps To Your Tote by Polka Dot Chair

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 Here is an exciting tutorial for anybody wanting a little instruction on attaching leather straps to a tote bag, or any bag really.  The leather handles provide durability, strength, and good looks to boot! We’re thrilled that Melissa, from The Polka Dot Chair, put together this fabulous tutorial on the subject!


Hello! My name is Melissa Mortenson, I’m the girl behind the Polka Dot Chair Blog. I’ve also designed a line of handbag patterns that I sell in my shop, Fourteen May. I designed my March Bag pattern a couple of years ago and I think that it’s still one of my favorites. Recently Birch Organics Fabric sent me a bundle of their new line Grove Decor to play with. I knew immediately that I wanted to make up a new handbag with it.
Birch Organic Fabrics

The Grove Decor line of fabrics is one of Birch’s Decor weight fabric lines. Let me tell you it’s yummy. It’s not stiff and unworkable at all. More like a light weight washed canvas.

Birch Organic Fabrics
It has a gorgeous drape and texture. The weight of it is perfect for handbags.
March Bag with Leather Handles

Normally when I make handbags I make the handles. This time I was feeling a bit lazy and wondered if I couldn’t just use leather instead.

So I took a little trip down to a local leather store and found these great belt blanks. They are long strips of leather meant to be used for stamping belts/bracelets etc. One of them was only $8 and I was able to get both handles out of it!!

March Bag Pattern

Attaching the handles to the bag was easy. You just need a few tools, and if you’re a scrapbooker like me you probably already have what you need.

Purse with large outer pocket

Let me just say, I know there is a LOT more that I could do with those leather handles, including sealing them, stamping them and finishing the edges. I didn’t do any of those things, the idea was just a simple handle. The leather will change colors with time and use but I actually like that.

You’ll need:

  • Leather strap long enough to make 2 handles (look in the belt section of the leather store)
  • Awl or Cropadile to punch holes in the leather
  • Rivets the same size as the width of your leather strap
  • Hammer
  • Scraps of plastic canvas
Adding leather handles to a handbag

The first thing you’re going to need to do is reinforce the point that the handles attach to the purse. To do this I use plastic canvas. If you are sewing the March Bag pattern, you will want to complete the entire bag but not make any handles. You will then skip the last step of hand stitching down the bag band lining.

adding leather handles to a handbag

After you have marked where you want the handles to go on the bag, slip the plastic canvas into the bag band lining and pin in place (It’s not sewn down yet so you can do this easily).

leather handbag handles

After you have cut your leather to the desired length (buy some scissors at the leather store to cut the straps, don’t ruin your good sewing scissors) punch 2 holes in the end of the strap. One at 1/2” up from the bottom and one 1” above that.

To punch the holes in the leather I used my cropadile (see, scrapbook supplies!) If you don’t have one of those you can get an inexpensive awl at the leather store to punch the holes.


Use the cropadile again and punch 2 holes in your handbag. You’ll punch through all the layers of fabric and the plastic canvas.

March Bag Pattern

Then line up the holes on the handbag with the holes on the straps and insert a rivet. Using a hammer and the instructions on the package set your rivets.

That’s it! So easy right? This is the first time I’ve used leather and I’m very excited to learn more about working with it. I’ll be sure to share with you what I find out as I go.
You can find the pattern for the handbag here.

Disclosure: I was provided with product by Birch Fabrics to review and to make this project.

Thank you for sharing with us!  We love the look of our canvas with some leather handles!  Are there any sewers out there who’d love to try sewing with leather?

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