DIY polka dot handbag step by step pattern

I’ve got to say I’m more than a bit pleased with the polka dot leather bag and matching pouch I made last week. It’s going to make a nice gift for someone special – but first I thought I’d share my process, including a pattern with step by step instructions.

I haven’t sewn anything for a while. My vintage Bernina has been stowed away in her case for waaay too long.  So it was great to get her back out on the table, rattling away like a happy maraca.


It’s probably about time to put her in for proper shop repair job. I’ve managed to jam the hand wheel release – so when I wind up a bobbin the whole machine sews along. But in the mean time she does the job.

Reclaimed leather is a beautiful thing

Sometimes gifts just drop in your lap. When a friend says they have some leather off cuts from a couch they had repaired. Quality leather, still in the shape of an arm chair, sitting around, waiting to be shaped – you don’t turn that down.

reclaimed leather

Ahhh, the potential of a freshly unpicked slab of leather!

I knew I wanted to sew something with a cotton contrast. Maybe with some cotton I’ve had printed recently.

Collecting ideas and inspiration

So I started doing some research online, looking for some simple ideas for a satchel or a tote.

I pinned some patterns and shapes I liked on Pinterest, you can follow my board below for some of your own inspiration.

Totes are simple and still look really good. Just fold a long piece of leather, sew some corners and handles and tada! You have a tote for all seasons. You don’t even have to hem the edges of the leather.

Satchels are more complicated, with pockets and buckles and what not.

As I’m not hugely skilled at sewing leather, and I wasn’t even sure at this point that my Bernina could handle this sort of material, (I didn’t want to stuff too many layers into my machine and cause a jam) I decided to make a tote style handbag.

Start with some tests.

I started sewing some test, adjusting stitch length and tension. Luckily my machine could handle 4 pieces of leather, so I knew I could make the box style corners to give the base some shape.

I also found out that pinning wasn’t an option so the leather slipping could make it tricky. The other important thing is that when you’ve sewn leather once and the surface is punctured, unpicking leaves nasty holes. So it’s important to get it right first time.

A simple tote style handbag with contrast lining and trim.

Rather than use my printed fabric for the prototype I hunted around in my ever growing bags of offcuts and found a swaddle of polka dot cotton left over from another project, polka dots and soft brown leather – the perfect combination.

I didn’t really plan to make the polka dot cuff part at all. It just sort of evolved. But I’m kind of into it.

Here is a step by step guide to making your own polka dot & leather handbag:

You can also download the PDF pattern to save for future reference.


Feel free to pin or share the pattern. And let me know what improvements you’d make. I’ve not made many patterns before so I may have confused some of the terminology. I’m sure there are better ways to describe the process but these were the first descriptions that came to mind.

It is very small – probably suitable for a child. You can always scale up the dimensions to make an adult sized bag. In fact that’s what I might just do next weekend.

sewing pattern handbag
handbag pattern



The finished product.

If you followed the instructions – and if I have been successful in describing them correctly – you should have something that looks like a cute little tote/handbag. It is very little-  it might not look it in the pictures bit it’s probably too little for a full grown adult person.

handmade handbag

I made the little pouch using the same box corner process as before. Make 2 of the same sized pieces out of leather and cotton. The cotton has to be 1cm longer so you have room to turn back the raw edge.

polka dot handbag handmade

You can still see the staple marks from it’s previous couch covering life.

handamade leather bag and pouch

Let me know what to you think! I’m sure this won’t be my last pattern, I’m starting to get the hang of it I think.


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