Light to dark, yin to yang, night to day – they say opposites attract – that is at the core of this gorgeous two-tone tote. The striking contrast gives the project a modern look with a sleek simplicity to set off the real leather handles, a focal point of the bag.
We chose two polyester/cotton poplins for the tote’s exterior with a quilting cotton in a subtle coordinating print for the lining. Fusible foam panels in combination with standard fusible interfacing create and hold the shape of the bag. Why two layers?
With a super-smooth surface, such as what you have with poplin, you need to be extra careful about show-through. We adhered a layer of woven Pellon Shape Flex lightweight fusible interfacing to all the exterior panels and pockets to promote both smoothness and opacity. The Pellon Flex Foam is then layered on next to give the bag the structure to stand up on its own while maintaining a soft flexibility.
A free pattern download is offered below for our clever “wing pockets,” which extend slightly from each side with a pretty vertical crease. The unique angles are the perfect juxtaposition to the clean, straight lines of the rest of the bag.
We love the look a few touches of real leather can give a project. For this bag, we focused on the signature wide handles, which are riveted in place. There’s also a handy key hook inside the bag on a pretty leather lace.
We didn’t go hog wild with the leather accents. When something is a feature, it should be just that – a spotlight. If you use too much, it dilutes the effect. The straps are bold and their natural finish is a stunning texture against both colors of poplin. We chose a thicker strapping (3/16”). You can often find thinner options (1/8”), which could be a good alternative if you are brand new to riveting.
That said, as with all sewing techniques that involve the use of a hammer… don’t be afraid! We summarize the steps below, and also have a full step-by-step riveting tutorial you can review prior to starting.
The large front and back pockets are each secured with a heavy duty snap and the top has a magnetic snap closure.
Our Modern Two Tone Tote finishes at approximately 14” high x 14” wide x 3½” deep. The handle loops are formed from 25” lengths so the tote can be carried by hand or over the shoulder.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Edge Guide foot; optional but helpful for the precise finishing
- Walking or Even Feed foot; optional; we used the built-in AcuFeed™ Flex fabric feeding system on the Janome Skyline S7
- 100/16 Denim Needle; best for the tight weave of the poplin
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ¾ yard of 44″+ wide poly/cotton poplin or similar in a light solid color for the exterior
- ¾ yard of 44″+ wide poly/cotton poplin or similar in a dark solid color for the exterior
- 1 yard of 44″+ wide quilting weight cotton in a coordinating yet subtle print for the lining
- 2 yards of 20”+ wide lightweight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Shape Flex
- 1 yard of 20”+ wide one-sided fusible foam; we used Pellon Flex Foam
- EIGHT large double-cap rivets and appropriate setting tools; we used Tandy Leather’s Medium Rapid Rivets in Antique Nickel
- Hole Punch; optional, you can use an awl, but a punch is best when working with real leather; we used Tandy Leather’s Rotary Hole Punch
- ONE 55”x 1” leather strap – you want at least of 25” for each handle loop for errors and adjustments, we recommend a bit more than necessary; we used the 3/16” heavyweight natural leather strap – if you are brand new to working with rivets, you can opt for a slightly thinner 1/8” strap
- 1 yard of thin leather lacing for the interior key fob; we used Tandy Leather’s ⅛” Ecosoft Suede Lace in Beige
- ONE ¾” magnetic snap; we used a Dritz ¾” round magnetic snap
- TWO ⅝” heavy duty snaps; we used Dritz Heavy Duty Snaps in Gunmetal
- Snap Setting tools; we used Dritz Heavy Duty Snap Tools
- ½” D-Ring and Swivel Hook; we used the Dritz Small Swivel Hook & D-Ring in Gunmetal
- All-purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- Clips for holding the leather straps in position; we used Jumbo Wonder Clips
- Small hammer to set rivets and snaps; we recommend a soft leather mallet or a ball peen hammer
- Heavy metal, stone or wooden block to use as a hammering surface for setting the rivets and snaps; we like to use a small granite block
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- Download and print out the pattern sheet for the side pockets.
IMPORTANT: This pattern is ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on the page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale
- Cut out the pattern piece along the solid line.
- From the dark poplin for the exterior (the Charcoal in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 15″ wide x 18″ high rectangle for the back exterior
ONE 15” wide x 9” high rectangle for the back exterior pocket
TWO 15” wide x 4½” high rectangles for the base
ONE 12” wide x 7” high rectangle for the interior pocket
Using the side pocket pattern, cut TWO
- From the light poplin for the exterior (the Ivory in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 15″ wide x 18″ high rectangle for the front exterior
ONE 15” wide x 9” high rectangle for the front exterior pocket
TWO 4½” wide x 18” high rectangles for the side panels
ONE 2” x 2” square for the D-Ring loop
- From the fabric for the lining (the Gray Matters in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 36″ wide x 12″ high rectangle for the main panel
TWO 15” wide x 9” high rectangles for the exterior pocket linings
ONE 12” wide x 7” high rectangle for the interior pocket lining
Using the side pocket pattern, cut TWO
- From the fusible foam, cut the following:
TWO 14″ x 14″ squares for the exterior panels
ONE 14” x 3½” rectangle for the base
TWO 14” x 3½” rectangles for the sides
- From the lightweight interfacing, cut the following:
TWO 15” x 18” rectangles for the exterior panels
TWO 4½” x 18” rectangles for the sides
ONE 4½” x 15” rectangle for the base
TWO 14” x 8” rectangles for the exterior pockets
ONE 11” x 6” rectangle for the interior pocket
ONE 35” x 12” rectangle for the main lining panel
Using the pattern, but cutting along the dotted seam line, cut TWO
- From the leather strap, cut TWO 25” lengths.
- From the leather lacing, cut ONE 24” length.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Collect all the lightweight interfacing and foam pieces and match them up to their appropriate fabric panel. Of course, the interfacing and foam are adhered to the wrong side of the fabric panels.
- On the exterior panels, the side panels, and the one base panel, the interfacing and the fabric should be flush on all sides.
- On all the pocket panels, the interfacing should be centered so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all sides.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- For the fusible foam, on the exterior and side panels, the foam should be centered so it sits ½” up from the bottom raw edge of the fabric panel and ½” in from each side raw edge. On the base panel, the foam should be centered so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the foam on all sides.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place. The photo below shows the fusing of the base panel.
Prepare the pockets
- Place each of the four exterior pocket panels (front, back, and both sides) right sides together with a matching lining panel. Pin along the top raw edges only.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along the top edge of each pocket.
- On each, press the seam allowance flat, then fold the exterior and lining so they are wrong sides together with the seam straight along the top edge.
- On the front and back pockets, run a single line of horizontal topstitching 1¼” down from the top finished edge. Use a slightly lengthened stitch, and re-thread as necessary to insure you have thread to best match each exterior fabric in the top and to best match the lining fabric in the bobbin.
- On the side pockets, edgestitch right along the top finished edge. We switched to our Janome Edge Guide foot.
- Fold each side pocket in half vertically and press well to set a strong center vertical crease line.
- For the interior pocket, place the lining and exterior panels right sides together. Pin around all sides, leaving a 3-4” opening along the bottom for turning.
- Re-thread the machine if necessary with thread to best match the lining in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch around all four sides. Remember to pivot at each corner and to lock your seam at either side of the 3-4” opening.
- Clip the corners and press open the seam allowance. Turn right side out through the opening. Using a long, blunt tool, gently push out all the corners so they are sharp. A chopstick, knitting needle or point turner works well for this. Press flat, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Edgestitch across the upper edge, matching the look of the side pockets.
- Set aside the interior pocket.
Place the exterior pockets, adding the front and back snaps
- Find the four exterior panels, which should have foam panels already fused in place.
- Place a side pocket right side up on the right side of each side panel, aligning the sides and bottom raw edges of both pieces. Pin in place along the sides and bottom. This will allow the pockets to bow out at the center along the crease line, as designed — pretty!
- Baste in place along the sides and bottom, staying very close to the raw edges.
- Mark the front and back pocket panels for the top half of their snaps. This mark should be centered side to side across the panel and also centered within the pocket’s faux top hem.
- Cut a hole at your marked point through all the layers on both pocket panels. We used our Tandy Hole Punch to create a very clean cut.
- Insert the cap of the top half of the snap from front to back.
- The post should clear the layers at the back.
- Place the back of the snap into position over the post and, using the proper setting tools, hammer to adhere the two parts.
NOTE: If you are brand new to setting snaps, follow package directions or take a look at our full tutorial on setting metal snaps.
- Place each pocket into position on the exterior panels: light on light and dark on dark. The sides and bottom of the pocket should be flush with the sides and bottom of the main panel. Pin in place along the sides and across the bottom.
- Baste in place along the sides and across the bottom, staying very close to the raw edge.
- With the pockets basted in position, mark the position for the remaining half of each snap, using the top half of the snap as your guide.
- Insert the bottom half of the snap. The main difference from how you set the top half is that the post is inserted back to front.
- Set the two pieces in the same manner as above.
Insert the magnetic snap
- Mark the position for the top magnetic snap on the right side of each exterior panel (front and back). Each half should be centered side to side, 2” down the top raw edge of the panel. It is not really critical which half goes on which panel.
- Use the snap’s washer to mark the position and cut lines.
- Carefully slice open along your marks.
- Insert the snap from the right side…
- … through to the back. You are working well above the foam, so your prongs are inserted through just the fabric and interfacing.
- Slip the washer into position and secure by flattening the prongs.
- Repeat to set the opposite half on the remaining exterior panel.
NOTE: If you are brand new to using magnetic snaps, check out our full, step-by-step tutorial prior to starting.
Form the panels into a box
- Place the side panels right sides together with the front panel. Pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance stitch each seam. You are stitching right along the edge of the foam panel. We switched to our built-in AcuFeed™ fabric feeding system to form the panels and base into a box. If you don’t have a built-in system, consider using a Walking or Even Feed foot.
- Repeat to pin the remaining raw edges of the side panels right sides together at either side of the back panel, forming a tube.
- Using a ½” seam allowance stitch the two remaining side seams.
- Find the exterior base panel with the foam fused in place.
- At each corner, mark ½” from each direction, forming a little box.
- Insert the base into the tube, matching the marked corner boxes to the four side seams of the tube itself. The base panel is right sides together with the exterior tube. It’s a little like setting a lid upside down into a box.
- Starting at one corner of the fusible foam, and using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along the front side. Stop the seam at the opposite corner of the foam. In other words, your seam is starting and stopping ½” in from the edge of the base panel.
- Remove, re-set, and repeat to stitch along the back.
- Remove again and pin each short side into place. Clip into the corners at a depth of about ⅜”. This frees up the seam allowance so you can more easily flatten and pin the seam.
- Re-set and stitch each short side, starting and stopping at each corner just as you did along the front and back.
NOTE: If you are new to inserting a base panel, check out our step-by-step tutorial: How to Insert a Rectangular Base into a Tube.
- Press open the seam allowances as best you can and turn the exterior bag right side out.
- Press down the top raw edge ½” all around.
Create the lining with its pocket
- Find the main lining panel, which should have its interfacing panel fused in place.
- Fold the panel right sides together, aligning the 12” sides. Pin together.
- Stitch together, using a ½” seam allowance, forming a tube.
- Press open the seam allowance.
- Turn the tube right side out and rotate so the seam is centered, i.e. not along one side.
- Find the interior pocket. Place the pocket right side up on the lining panel over the centered seam. The top of the pocket (the top has the edgestitching) should sit 2” down from the top raw edge of the lining panel) and the vertical center of the pocket should be aligned with the lining’s seam.
- Pin the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Using a fabric pen or pencil, draw a vertical line through the exact center of the pocket. Remember, this drawn line should follow the lining’s seam line.
NOTE: Any time you are working on the right side of your fabric, make sure your marking tool is one that will easily wipe away or will vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
- Turn the lining tube wrong side out again so you can more easily maneuver just one layer under the presser foot.
- Re-thread the machine if necessary with thread to best match the exterior in the top and to best match the lining in the bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- Stitch along the drawn center guide line, dividing the one pocket panel into two sections.
- Insert the remaining base panel (the one without foam) into the open bottom of the lining tube in the same manner as you used above for the exterior base panel. Fold, mark, measure, and stitch each long side first. Then, pin the short ends.
- Open up the corners with a small clip…
- … and stitch across both ends.
Assemble the exterior and lining with the D-Ring in place
- With the lining still wrong side out, slip it inside the exterior, which should be right side out. The two layers should now be wrong sides together. Push the lining all the way down and align the two base panels.
- The lining will not reach all the way up to the top edge of the foam. This is okay.
- Fold the top of the exterior bag down into the inside of the bag. Remember, the very top raw edge of the bag should have already been folded under ½”. This second fold should go right along the top edge of the foam and should cover the top raw edge of the lining. It will be approximately 2¾” – 3”. Pin in place, measuring as you go to make sure the folded amount is the same all around so the top of the bag is nice and even.
- Find the little 2” square. Fold it in half to set a center crease.
- Unfold so the crease line is visible. Fold in each raw edge so they meet in the middle at the crease. Re-fold along the original fold. Re-thread the machine if necessary with thread to match the tab in both the top and bobbin. Edgestitch along the folded sides.
NOTE: If using a Walking foot or built-in feeding system, you may want to switch back to your standard presser foot for the edgestitching.
- Slip the tab through the D-Ring. Align the raw ends of the tab.
- Slip the raw ends of the tab under the facing along the front of the bag. We positioned ours 2½” in from the side at the right front. Pin the tab securely in place.
- Thread the machine with thread to best match the exterior front and sides fabric in the top and bobbin (the Ivory in our sample). Lengthen the stitch. We switched back to our AcuFeed™ fabric feeding system.
- Starting at the side seam, stitch with the matching thread 2½” down from the top finished edge of the bag. You are stitching across the first side panel, across the front panel, then across the second side panel. Go slowly and carefully; this seam will be quite visible.
- Stop, lock your seam, and re-thread with thread to match the back exterior panel in the top and bobbin (the Charcoal in our sample). Finish the topstitching across the back panel, being careful to keep your same seam distance.
NOTE: Our Janome machines have excellent markings across the throat plate as well as along the neck of the machine, so deep seams are never a problem to align. If you do not have such clever markings, you may want to consider drawing in a guide line to follow with a fabric pen or pencil or even with a simple line of pins, removing the pins as you stitch.
Attach the handles
- Find the two lengths of leather strap.
- At each end of each handle strap, mark on the wrong side for your strap for the rivet placement. The lower rivet is ½” up from the raw end; the upper rivet is 1” up from the raw end.
- Using the hole punch, make a clean hole at each of the eight marked points.
- Loop the handle and clip it into position on the bag. The strap will have a very slight natural angle. At the top of the bag, the handle loop should be centered with 5” between in the inside edges. At the very bottom, this width will be slightly wider.
- Clip the handle in place, then insert straight pins through the rivet holes to mark the position for the matching rivet holes that will need to be cut into the bag itself.
- Remove the handle, and again using the hole punch, make a clean hole in the top of the bag through all the layers at each marked point.
- Re-align the handle into position so the rivet holes match up from the handle to the bag. Clip to secure.
- Insert each rivet into position.
- Set each rivet to secure. If you are brand new to setting rivets, it’s easier than you might think, and we have a great step-by-step tutorial. Bonus… you get to hit something with a hammer. Always a good stress-reliever at the end of a project!
- Repeat to add two rivets to the bottom of each handle loop.
- If you are struggling with measurements. You could first clip a tape measurer into position across the top of the bag.
- Use it to accurately place your handle loop.
Attach leather lacing to finish
- Find the swivel hook and the length of leather lacing.
- Fold the lacing in half. Insert the loop at the mid-point through the ring of the swivel hook then feed through the raw ends. This is similar to how you might attach a price tag or gift tag.
- Insert the raw ends through the D-Ring and tie them into a pretty overhand knot.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild