DIYdiy projectsmatt pierce

diy project: leather lunch tote

by Matt

I don’t bring my lunch to work as often as I should. And by that, I mean never. What if I had a cool lunch tote? It might not help, but at the very least, it’s a fun project to practice your hand sewing and to make something interesting. Whether you need a lunch tote or not, this is a project you can modify for your own totable needs. Enjoy! — Matt

See the full how-to after the jump!

Before starting, print out the template on your printer using the “tile” function and tape it together to 100% scale. The one shown in the pic was an earlier version before I decided to cut the flaps separately. You can cut this from one piece of leather, but there’s more waste with the voids than with making separate flaps. If you modify this for your own project, maybe it’s smart to use one piece? That’s where this experiment can get really fun.


  • 6–7 oz. weight stiff leather
  • heavy waxed thread



  • leather punches — #5 and #00
  • leather sewing needles
  • contact cement
  • rotary knife
  • ruler
  • stitching spacer
  • downloadable template



1. Cut your leather pieces and trim any frayed edges to a smooth cut. I’m using leather that is 6 to 7 oz. thick, and you’ll need something stiff to provide strength for the handle. If you want to use thinner leather, try cutting an additional handle from the template and sew those two pieces together for more stiffness.

2. Take each of your interior flaps and prepare to mark your sewing holes. Using your stitching spacer and a ruler or straight edge, mark your holes. Use a stitching spacer with a large void, as we’ll be using thick thread, and a long stitch works best.

3. Glue the flaps aiming inward to your main piece with contact cement. Use only a strip under where the stitching will go so your pieces stay aligned when punching holes and sewing.

4. Once the glued pieces have set up, you can start punching holes for sewing. I’m using a punch, but you can use an awl instead. (See previous instructions for sewing with an awl on my passport post.) Punch holes according to the spacing marks through both pieces of glued leather. While you’re at it, pinch the handle-receiver end together and also the flap ends and punch some sewing holes through both layers there, too. You can freehand them, but try to maintain the stitch spacing you’ve been using.

5. The final step is to hand-sew your pieces with two needles and thick waxed thread. Using the two-needle method and backstitching on your ends will give you a sturdy, long-lasting seam. Again, there are more in-depth stitching lessons on my passport post.

Suggested For You


  • I take my lunch all the time and I definitely wouldn’t want to use leather. Inevitably, things spill no matter how careful you are but would be super cute with a really heavy canvas – and no animals involved.

  • Saw this on your desk and was wondering if this was the next DS project, so cool! Wish I could stitch things as beautifully as you do, sigh… I’ll keep trying!

  • I absolutely adore beautiful handmade leather goods and this one is awesome. Too bad I don’t have any of these supplies!

  • Thinking perhaps I could use an old vintage leather coat that I have which recently got a tear at the back to create this and give it a new life as a lunch tote.
    Such a great idea!

  • Coolest lunchbox for adults ever. And it looks relatively easy to make… just need to buy all the tools. :)


  • I love this. I love that I don’t need to find an industrial sewing machine to make it. I think my boyfriend will love it for his birthday coming up. Is there any problem with stuff falling out the sides? Or does the stiffness of the leather keep it all together?

  • Love this. Wish I could get it in a kit with pre-punched holes and pre-cut pieces for easy fixing.

  • I have been looking around for a cool lunch bag for my husband, harder to find than I thought they’d be. This is exactly what I wanted. Thanks for sharing!

  • Any suggestions for sourcing the leather? Most of the suppliers I’ve found who carry leather heavy enough only sell it by the hide. I suppose one can always find more uses…. Also, are the sides secure enough? It seems that once the leather is a little more “broken-in,” they might become too soft. Any clever ideas for fixing this problem? Great post! Would love more ideas for projects for my mister!

  • I love originality, this will fit me well, because it looks like a purse not a lunch bag. That’s for the template.

    • Lorraine – Feel free! If you follow us on Pinterest, you’ll see we’re pinning lots of our projects, peeks, and favorite products as well. We’ve already pinned this one if you’d like to repin, or you can pin it yourself. Thanks for asking!

  • I am thinking this could work with a nice 100% wool felt. Somebody with a lot of body to it…you could put a cardboard insert in the bottom to keep it flat. While it’s easier to find 100% wool felt in various colors, I usually only find little squares (Purl Soho or Judith M Millinery come to mind). If you’re good at dying wool, you could get an amazing color. Neon orange or green come to mind. Hello Kool-Aid? Btw, Vogue Fabrics has cream colored 100% wool felt by the yard. Not cheap, but it could work for a project like this.

  • This is professional looking lunchbox. You made it look so simple to make. Thanks for sharing! Have been planning to make a scrapbook album with a lather cover, got some ideas with this DIY.

    Annabella Merlin

  • This is beautiful – I am going to give this a try. I see you guys are in PDX! Me too – do you have a recommendation for a leather supplier / tools supplier in the area? (I’m also planning on making a bullwhip…)

  • @Susan: Tandy Leather Supply over on Sandy Blvd in N Portland (they’re online too! http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com) I go there for all my tools and supplies, though I usually only work with faux leather now. Also Oregon Leather Co, downtown. They have a ton of Western/motorcycle-related design tools, + shoe-making supply!

  • My son had a sheath made for a large knife and the craftsaman used a treatment that hardened the leather to the knife’s shape. It must be available somewhere and would only need to be used on the bottom of the tote to give it some support – or perhaps a liner piece like the fabric reusable shopping bags?

  • What are the dimensions of this? It’s so cool but I don’t see how big I should make it (or is that up to me and what I want to use it for?)

  • Seems like you could use a piece of felted wool sweater material to upcycle this project?