DIYdiy projects

diy project: renske’s minimalist tote bag

by Kate Pruitt

A talented seamstress with a mission, Renske Solkesz decided to create her own wardrobe after finding herself frustrated with high fashion prices. When we saw her chic and modern wardrobe creations, we asked if she’d be willing to create and share a fun accessory tutorial with us. I’m super excited about what she’s come up with: an amazing self-closing utilitarian tote!

I’m a huge fan of the graphic contrast and the leather and rivet details. Like her fashion designs, this tote is made from inexpensive materials, yet looks totally luxe. I’m halfway out the door to the fabric store already! You can see the other pieces she’s created on her blog, The Dress is Made. Thanks for sharing, Renske! — Kate

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

When I designed this bag, I wanted to integrate the grip/straps in a more functional way with the rest of the bag. I experimented with different methods of holding and closing the bag, which resulted in a bag that closes automatically when you pick it up. I just created a clever way to connect the leather strap to the bag.

A friend of mine called it a “yin yang bag,” which is pretty accurate, I think. The graphic use of white and dark brown fabric is not only an aesthetic choice; the dark-colored bottom makes stains less visible. — Renske


  • White cotton canvas (30 x 82 cm; that includes the seam allowance)
  • Dark brown fabric (or another color if you prefer that) for the lining (30 x 82 cm)
  • Dark brown fabric (30 x 18 cm)
  • Leather strap for the handle (12-mm wide, 70-cm long)
  • 4 small rivets to connect the leather handle to the bag
  • 2 large eyelets with a hole diameter of 14 mm (if you can find larger ones, you can use a broader strap, too)


  • Hammer
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Chalk
  • Measuring tape
  • Iron
  • Pattern template


1. First, cut two large pieces of fabric according to the pattern.

2. Pin the small piece of dark fabric to the white canvas. Make sure it’s exactly in the middle, because this will form the dark bottom once the bag is finished. I used the iron to create a sharp straight fold in the edge of the brown fabric before pinning it to the white fabric.

3. Sew together.

4. Fold the lining (the large piece of dark brown fabric) in two and stitch the side edges together. Don’t forget to leave a small part somewhere halfway unstitched. You will need this hole later on.

5. You now have a very flat bag. To create volume, you need to give the bag sides by stitching the lower corners together. To do this, open the bag and place the two side seams on top of each other. You will create a triangular fold, with the two corners now forming two triangles on top of each other.

6. Mark where you want the seams with the chalk and stitch each corner.

7. Repeat these steps with the white fabric. Make sure to turn the pretty side (the one that will become the outside) inside. When the bag is finished, all seams will be invisible between the lining and the outside. That’s the point of using a lining, apart from the pretty contrast when the bag is finished.

8. Put the lining inside the outer fabric. Make sure that the good sides, the ones that will eventually be visible, are positioned against each other. I kept the white canvas just as I had when sewing it and turned the brown lining inside-out before putting it in the white part. If you did it right, you will see the seems of the white canvas on the outside. The brown lining is inside it, with the seams visible when you look into the bag.

9. Stitch the edges together around the bag.

10. Now the really fun part: Pull out the lining and look for the hole you left open in one of the side seams. Through this hole you can pull the whole bag inside out until it is completely reversed and all of the seems have become invisible. Use the iron again to flatten the edges and the side seams. The sewing part is done!

11. The last step is to add the eyelets and connect the strap to the bag. Eyelets and rivets usually come with some tools to make the right holes in the fabric and to keep their form when hammering them into place. Add one eyelet to either side of the bag, in the middle of each flap.

12. Stick the leather strap through one of the eyelets and connect it with two rivets to the opposing side of the bag. Do the same with the other end of the strap.



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  • Awesome tutorial for a lovely tote! I HAD to make it when I saw in on Pinterest. I found some canvas and dark fabric at hobby lobby. I also found the leather strap there too( it was near the jewelry section though). I tired using the grommets/eyelets from Joann’s but i just couldn’t get them to work, but luckily someone here suggested to use some from HomeDepot and guess what?… they worked like a charm! Since i bought silver rivets at Joann’s, I ended up sanding the tops and it had this nice gold color underneath which luckily match with everything! I will definitely be making a couple more for a few friends and family! :)

  • I am having a hard time finding the rivets and eyelets in a color I like. There only seems to be the cheap looking gold and silver variety available at stores like Joann ‘s and Michaels. Any suggestions? I would love to find antique brass without having to order them online. Can’t wait to make this bag!

  • Kristen – I bought my eyelets and rivets at Tandy Leather. They have many different colors & sizes. I also bought the strap there. Hope it helps!

  • I dont quite understand the attaching of the strap to the opposite side of the opening with the rivets. When the bag is open, doesnt the strap lay across the opening on each side of the top? Are you able to get large things, like an ipad, into the bag with the straps blocking the opening, or is the strap long enough that this is not a problem? Does anyone understand what I am asking? :) I wish someone had a picture of the bag open at the top so I can see if I am picturing this correctly. Thanks! :)

  • Wow, this bag is great! I suck at sewing so I got my mom to help me, although she’s not much of a sewer herself, but we whipped this up this afternoon and it looks so cute! We added a phone pocket to the inside lining, but overall it was super easy and looks so nice when done. Thanks for the tutorial!
    Perfect for a DIY-only secret santa between me and my girlfriends.

  • I just tried to make it and must have done something wrong. When I put the lining inside the bag to put it all together, the tabs on top don’t match up. I’ve been over the pattern and instructions trying to figure out where I went wrong. Has anyone else had this problem?

    • Before I sewed the liner sides together, I made sure it was folded so that the tabs would line up with outside layer if it were put inside the outside layer. So the sewed edges will eventually be together.

  • I love this design! Where did you find the snaps for the leather? That’s the only part I’m stuck on! Thanks:)

  • @Jen – the pattern calls for rivets and not snaps for the leather straps. You can find them at most fabric stores or at Tandy Leather online. I’ve also been able to find saddle straps at Tandy which work perfectly with this handbag. Hope this helps!

  • Found this page and went to the store to buy everything I need straight away. :-) Hope I will be ready for my mom’s birthday.

  • I love this bag! I made it last weekend and it came out amazing! I ended up using fabric for outdoor furniture for the lining and bottom of the bag, and used whisper vinyl for the strap instead of leather to keep the cost low. Its beautiful! Thanks for the great pattern!

  • I got as far as inserting the lining…. I’m thinking the main fabric and the lining should be cut wrong sides together?? 9:00 at night trying to figure out why my tabs don’t line up…flipping fabric over….thinking I’m too tired to be doing this now,,,, but it’s so cute! (Am I right, wrong sides together???)

  • This bag looks fantastic could you please tell me where I get the pattern template from regards Veronica

  • Hi! I tried twice, but always same result. If I do it according to your tutorial, the edges of the lining are visible. Do not know what I did wrong. If putting the lining into the outer fabric and sew it together, then turn, the lining is visible with the wrong site… *help*

    • Cut the 2 fabrics with wrong sides together. If there doesn’t seem to be a wrong side of the fabric, mark the sides that are on the inside of the fabrics if they are together with the tabs lined up. Sew the edges of the liner together (with a gap for the end near the top) with the right side facing in. Make corners. Sew the edges of the outside together with the right side facing in. Make corners. Turn the liner inside out so the seams are on the inside of the bag, put into the outside layer (seams on outside). Sew top edge together, turn inside out through hole in liner. Et voila!

  • I want to lengthen the leather strap so this tote could become a cross-body bag. That will be so awesome.
    But I can’t download the pattern template. Help?

  • I’m so glad you put this in your DIY picnic round up. I love the shape and the interesting design of this bag. I’ll definitely be giving this a try. Thanks!

  • Hi!
    First of all: sorry for my bad english!
    I was so excited to make this bag because it looked so easy and beautiful.
    But there are a few things that are not so easy.
    The bag is also smaller than I thought.
    1: Be careful that you don’t mix up the sides because of the lobes.
    2: Because I couldn’t afford large eyelets I bought curtain-eyelets 4 cm. I thought that would be better but now the bag is coming through the hole. Also it it not so good looking like your bag because of the big holes.
    3: The bag crunches because it is only fixed at two points. Maybe you should reinforce the textile.
    If you like I can send you some pictures.

  • Where did anyone get their eyelets from? I am in NZ and struggling to find any! Only ones I can find are bronze and max size 8mm..

  • I just finished this bag in yellow and black/white zig-zag fabric. I can send a picture if you like! I also made the mistake of sewing the lining backwards. When you stitch the sides together, the tabs of the should be opposite of the outer portion. My fix? Instead of redoing the liner, I just have it French seams so the raw edge couldn’t be seen from either side

  • My sons’ girlfriend found this pattern and asked me to show her how to make it. I followed the pattern almost exactly, except I made my own handles out of canvas. She wanted the handles shorter, plus I used industrial snaps to attach the handles. The bottom colored portion of the bag was made a bit longer too, although I used the same colors as you have. This was a fun and easy bag to make. Thank you so much for the tutorial. I’ve posted our bag along with a link to this page. :)

  • Carmen – what width did you make your straps? I was thinking about making a canvas strap too, but was concerned it wouldn’t slide as easily as leather. I also thought a thin canvas strap might look weird and/or cut into my shoulder. Can you add a photo of yours?

  • Just wondering how you up close up the small hole in the lining after you turn the bag inside-out through it?

  • Hi,
    This is a wonderful pattern. I like many others added a few things like pockets to the lining, but the way the bag closes is so very clever. I love this design. Next up, I want to adapt this into a backpack. Thank you for sharing this pattern.

  • Hello,
    Great pattern. I really enjoyed making it. Until I made it to step 8. This really should be mentioned earlier in the process. Perhaps step 6.5?

  • Hi – great pattern – I have a question about the first step (Pin the small piece of dark fabric to the white canvas. Make sure it’s exactly in the middle, because this will form the dark bottom once the bag is finished. I used the iron to create a sharp straight fold in the edge of the brown fabric before pinning it to the white fabric.). Does that mean apply it to the right side of the white canvas? I can see how the side edges get hidden in the side seams of the bag, but how about the long edges – do they need to be finished somehow, or stitched down to the white canvas? Thanks very much!

    • Yes. Pin it to the right side and fold over the long edges. Step 3 is sew together and this refers to the contrast bottom piece. It’s not clear from the instructions but if you look at the picture closely you can see that’s what she did.

  • This bag is exactly what I’m looking for! I’m so excited to get started. One question- do you think it would be possible to sew a divider piece into the lining fabric to make two sections instead of just one big one? I want to figure out the best place within the sewing process to get that inserted.

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