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.



Suggested For You


  • Love, love, love this bag! I think it just jumped to the top of my must-make list. It’s even ahead of the things I’ve bought patterns for. Can’t wait to try it!

  • Love the bag!! I’m going to have to try this design… although I might have to add some interior pockets. Nicely done!

  • this is FABULOUS and I plan on making it as soon as I figure out how to use our sewing machine. One (possibly very dumb) question from a sewing neophyte: the post mentions a pattern to follow….am I missing it?

  • love this, and will file away for a someday project. i’ll admit it though, if i could just purchase one from renske i would :)

  • Vicki – You can do it! I began sewing my own clothes last year, and while no project is perfect, each one gets better. I had some sewing experience from when I was a kid (i.e. knew how to thread a sewing machine), but have really just taught myself. The chain fabric stores put patterns on sale for dollars, you can get fabric online (or the Garment District in NYC, which I make tripes to a few times a year), and a refurbished sewing machine can be found for around $100. The only downside: it can be an obsessive and consuming hobby!

  • Thanks you so much for all the compliments! And I would love to see results when you decide on making it. Feel free to mail me pictures, I’m very curious.

  • Does anyone know of any good resources for leather straps like these? I’ve been looking for good bag straps/handles for years.

  • I looooooove this!! But I feel silly too – am I missing where the pattern is?! Eeeep I can’t want to start working on this!!

  • Darling! Would the leather strap be available at JoAnn’s or other fabric stores or is this a specialty item? Thanks!

  • I have the same question as Katrina – where does one get leather straps? Thanks!

  • Hi Everyone!

    The pattern has been added to the materials list. Click on the link to download the pdf. I plan to make this bag in the very near future as well. Good luck!

  • D*S never, ever lets me down with the abundance of inspirational people to look towards when starting my own creative journey…thanks Kate!

  • yay! I’m also like that now: just making my own clothes because designer stuff is too expensive. Though Ebay is great too :D

  • Ah! I love this so much!
    My sewing machine better get ready for another project.
    Thank you, Renske and D*S!

  • fyi—I went to Renske’s blog and it is actually called “The Dress I Made”.

  • What a great looking tote! Can’t wait to make one for myself! Just wondering, where would you find the leather straps and eyelets from? I have a local Joann Fabrics but their website shows only pink leather straps available. Thank you.

  • Yeah, the sewing part I am not going to be able to wrap by head around, but the bag, oh that bag! It is so lovely! Does she have an Etsy shop? She should totally sell these!

  • hi– i don’t wear leather. any sense of another material that would work with this pattern, or do you think that the leather is essential to it working? thanks

    • jb

      the strap is the only leather part, right? you can totally swap that out for something else. there are some great faux leathers and faux suedes at m&j trimming in nyc (and online). you could use cording too though.


  • I love this bag too, I went out yesterday to buy fabric to make one of my own. I was thinking about trying to find a second hand leather belt to use for the strap? We’ll see how it works.

  • Great tote.
    Too bad I can’t sew, and I don’t even knowanyone with a sewing machine!

  • For leather straps I salvage old, broken down handbags from the thrift store–leather is the way to go, it’ll last the longest. For new straps, look on Etsy for replacement straps to Coach bags etc., you will find many types that are new and ready to use.

  • What a GREAT tutorial. You have me convinced that I could actually make one of these. I guess I’ll have to blow the dust off the Singer and give it a try!

  • I love this bag. I have some fantastic graphics that I designed specifically for bags, but I haven’t yet decided on a bag pattern. Hope you don’t mind if I try one of my designs on your pattern. I’ll send you a photo! Thanks for much for sharing. This is a fantastic idea!

  • I’ve been thinking of getting a sewing machine lately, although I didn’t have any particular projects in mind. This definitely makes it seem worth the investment. I could make tons of these in different colors. Great job, D*S, and thank you for sharing, Renske!

  • i’ve already bought fabric for the project. but i’m curious as to what color rivets and eyelets renske used? also, are the rivets punched through all layers of fabric and the leather?

  • @Emma
    Yes, as the straps are attached in the last step, the rivets go through the leather strap, the outside fabric and the lining. I used dark bronze colored rivets, but you’re totally free to chose whatever color you like.

  • I think you could get some nice leather reins from a saddlery shop – or find someone who is getting rid of their old ones – the leather would be nice and soft and malleable. They might be a bit wide, but you could just use bigger rivets. What about shortening a leather dog leash? Maybe a shoe cobbler would have access to leather straps.

  • Forgot to say – I think this bag is great!!! Thanks for sharing instructions and the pattern. It is on my To Do list, for sure.

  • Went and bought the fabric, so excited! One question, though: when you’re sewing on the bottom part to the bag (step 2-3) do you have to pin the seams or anything? Or do you just sew it on straight? I’m sorry, I’m sure this is a silly question, but thanks for the help!

  • And by pin the seams, I mean the long part of the rectangle, the part that will be exposed once you turn everything inside out.

  • Great tutorial and I just couldn’t wait to make it. whipped it up yesterday afternoon with some minor changes though and totally love it…hope you get the pictures that I’ve sent you.

  • In the light of day, reread the instructions and realized it was, in fact, a silly question. Great tutorial, thanks!

  • @Dewey, A question is never silly! Yep, in step 3 you sew the dark brown fabric along the long sides of the rectangle to the white canvas.

  • @Runa, I haven’t gotten your pictures, are you sure you’ve got the right address? Please send them again, I’m really curious

  • The only thing I’ve been a little stumped on is when you sew the lining and the bag together inside out. Both pieces are presewn and you are just sewing the top edges together? Maybe I’m missing something but my seems are getting all lumpy where the sides meet the tops.

  • This is a GREAT design! I just prototyped my first one, made some changes right away and sighted some I will make next time. I used denim from some old jeans for the outside and a black flower-print for the lining. A back pocket from the jeans made a great cell-phone pocket inside the bag. I top-stitched around the top edge to ensure a totally flat edge. Next one I may shorten the bag overall and add a pocket to the outside. <3 it!

  • This bag is fantastic! I can’t wait to create it on the weekend! Fantastic! I love all these little projects, they might come in handy for some hand crafted christmas pressies!

  • Tip: Found 1/2″ grommet kit at the local home depot for under $8 after a fruitless search at the notions shop. The cutter tool included is useless on fabric (might work better on the plastic tarping that it is intended for) so I just used it to mark my spot and then made the hole with scissors, no problem. For the strap I used a strip of the same denim that I made the bag out of with the raw edges folded in on and stitched around. Because I couldn’t find snap rivets in the same color, I just sewed the strap down along the top edge of the bag, then tacked buttons covered in the contrasting fabric to hold the ends of the strap down. Looks fab!! Again, can’t thank you enough for sharing!

  • I’ve fallen in love with this bag! I don’t feel I could make the bag and am wondering if the website that you mentioned still carries it?

  • Wonderful tutorial, and I L-O-V-E the bag! I’m going to make one for my boss for Christmas! Thank you!

  • I think that I finally found the leather that I want on Etsy, but I’m still at a loss for the rivets. What tools do I need to attach them? All of the ‘rivets’ I’ve found at Joann’s and Hobby Lobby are actually snaps. And they only come in gold or silver. I have three of these bags made, but no straps on them yet. Can anyone help??

  • @Melinda, if you like you can send me pictures (info@renskesolkesz.com), I plan to post them on my blog this week!

  • Love this bag…I purchased canvas fabric for the white part, but do you have to use canvas for the dark fabric part or can you use other types of fabric? Suggestions?

  • What a wonderful project! Just made one as a Christmas gift, can’t wait to make another;) Thanks!

  • I’m almost set to make this project (after scouring the internet, craft shops, diy stores!) I’m using large tarpaulin eyelets and painting them using black enamel paint, and getting the shoe repair guy to fix in the rivets. Obsessive, me?

  • I have made several now and want to expand on the design; a divider, perhaps secured by velcro could make a wine carrier, pockets sewn in advance in the liner could become tool carriers or include a zipper a secure pocket

  • I Love this bag — it is so wonderful. One question — I have a bad back and try never to carry anything that can’t be carried as a backpack. Could you help with some ideas on how to make a backpack tote that is similar to this marvelous bag? Thanks so much!

  • Thank you for this! It is such a nice bag. *off to dust off the old sewing machine*

  • I’ve executed the first of seven of these that I’m making for my bridesmaids–it was mostly perfect, but I have a problem with the lining bunching at the base of the flaps. When I sew the liner and exterior together the seam is smooth, but when I reverse the liner bunches up. Any ideas about what I can do differently?

  • Mary,
    Try ‘clipping’ the seam allowance after you sew the liner and exterior together. Because the fabric doesn’t stretch around a curve, it’ll end up pulling and bunching. Cut perpendicular to your seam, but be sure not to cut through your thread.
    Hope that makes sense, and helps.

  • I cannot figure out how to print this to scale. Can anyone offer help? When I print the pattern it comes out on one sheet of paper.

  • Hi there.
    Gorgeous bag.
    Was woundering if handbags with rivots on the straps last longer. Or would it be better to sew them on? My straps wear the fastest.
    I carry everything but the kitchen sink.

    Would love to receive your answer in my e- mail.

  • If I use Faux leather for my handles, and secure with rivots, will they last longer?
    Or should I sew them on?

    Thanks so much for any advice.

  • Hey Everyone!

    First off, I would like to tell everyone that I am a beginner when it comes to sewing. I saw this bag and fell in love with it and knew that I had to give this bag a whirl. I went to the local JoAnn’s and I could not find canvas fabric so the lady told me to use Denim fabric. I was confused when she said this but I went over to the section where it was at and I realized that Denim comes in all different colors (not just blue jean). I opted for black and grey. Next, I could not find a leather strap anywhere. I decided I would just buy an old belt from a goodwill or salvation army or even a Tj Maxx.

    There were a couple parts that I had troubles with:
    First was step 2. I did not understand how to attach the bottom piece of fabric to the bag. (I ended up figuring out a way. I am not sure if it is the same way as told in the directions or not and I couldn’t tell by looking at the photo.
    The next step that I had troubles with was step 8. I tried to do what was said in the directions but I could not sew with the correct sides facing each other. The flaps wouldn’t line up. I had to do it the other way so that in the end the lining has the side where you have sewn.

    Like I said I am pretty much brand new to sewing. If there is anywhere someone can clear up those steps it would be extremely helpful. I have plenty of fabric and supplies left to make a couple more bags and I would even like to try out a couple new measurements. My bag overall ended up being 40 x 29 cm.

    Thank you so much for making such a lovely bag!

  • Hi Chelsea, I just whipped up this bag today with some fabric I had laying around the house so I thought I would pop in and offer some help :)

    Step 2 is just top stitching. You fold over the edges (so you have a clean line) then top stitch the fabric “patch” to the center of the bag.

    For Step 8, you probably made the same mistake I did – except I caught it while I was pinning :) Fortunately, my lining fabric was fully reversible, so it wasn’t an issue – i just flipped it over and pinned the opposite way.

    When you’re cutting fabric for a project like this, you don’t want two identical pieces, you want two mirror images. If your fabric is reversible, just make sure to match the pieces up before you start your sewing to ensure you have things flipped the right way. If it’s not, then make sure to cut one piece with the right side up and one piece with the wrong side up. That will ensure that everything ends up “right” in the end :)

  • I really want to make this but I can’t seem to print the instructions. Every time I try it closes down. Can anyone help?

  • Does anyone know if the bag will suffer if I make the strap shorter than she calls for? I prefer a shorter drop length handle for bags like this, but I’m wondering if shortening will limit how easily the bag opens (in other words, does it have to be this long to allow for opening the bag when you set it down?). Anyone know?

  • I had a fun time making this bag it was pretty simple, so it made it more fun! I’ll Probably use it for traveling and putting my iMac and iPad in. Thank you!

  • Hi!

    For the strap I think I am going to buy a leather saddle string. A quick Google search comes up with a few options. (Specifically a .5in width which is close to what the tutorial calls for.)

    Just an idea for those searching for a strap source.

    Excited to give this bag a try!! It’s lovely.

  • The pattern link just leads to another page that reloads everytime you click the link. Nothing downloads… So where and how to dowload the pattern? Would really like to make this cool bag!

  • I can’t access the pattern either :( I’m using Chrome and I also tried Safari and I tried it on my husband’s computer. I already bought all my supplies! halp!

  • I’ll make it tonight (baby in bed=mom at work).
    Will use piping, zippered pockets and recycled strap.
    Thanks for the fab tute!

  • Love it. It has been on my to do list for over a year, and now i’ve done it.
    I had to wait a month for supplies to come frome China (bought on etsy, couldn’t find them in Italy)
    It is the best bag i’ve done so far.
    London map fabric, faux leather bottom, key strap, piping, a ton of pockets, used a recycled belt for the strap. Will add a matching wallet and publish both on my blog.
    Thanks again…and again…and again…!!!!

  • I made this bag months ago and am getting tons of demands to make and sell them! Since this pattern was available to the public, would it be legal to produce and sell these?

  • To answer your question, @Sara Mulloy, the pattern pdf specifically states that it is for non-commercial use only, which means that you can’t make and sell them, the pattern is only for personal use. What I usually offer to do if I have a friend or two who is interested in a project I made is to offer a swap of skills and services, i.e. I’ll make you a bag if you cook me a meal, or knit me a scarf, or help me weed my garden, etc! Money is fleeting but beautiful things are forever, and if you have friends who can create beautiful things for you they are worth more than anything.

  • Lovely and minimalist bag! I found a stripy navy blue thick fabric in my scrap box, dark blue jeans for the bottom and i have tons of big leather straps. may be the bottom bit would be nice in a dark leather. I have to find those rivet and eyelets though. Im thinking it could be made bigger to fit a macbook, or even more horizontal. I’ll try your sizes first to see if i can do it properly before doing any changes :) thanks for sharing!!

  • I top stitched the top rim of the bag. I think it gives it a nice finished edge.

  • 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! :)

  • Hello, I wonder if you could advise on the possibility of making this bag with leather? Thanks!

  • 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!

  • Wow! Beautiful bag, I love the unusual shape and the nice touch of leather. Pity that I’m so hopeless at sewing :(

  • I just finished sewing the body of the bag, and I was wondering where you got your leather strap from?

  • 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?

  • when i click on the link for the pattern it is unable to show up- is anyone able to send it? thanks!

  • 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.