It all started with a suede skirt destined for the drycleaner, but fate had another destination in mind: the washing machine.
I won’t get too specific about whose fault it was (my husband’s) or the words that were blurted from my mouth (unprintable) or the emotions (utter disappointment) I felt when I pulled a gorgeous – yet ruined – skirt from the washer because they all happened about five years ago. But I will say that after the leather air-dried, I set it aside for use in future small quilting projects, and promptly forgot about it. That is until I had an idea for hacking Rose DeBoer’s Canvas Tote pattern found in Modern Patchwork Home.
I’ve made this pattern many times, always following the directions precisely (can I just say here that I have the prettiest reusable grocery totes?) but have always thought it would be cool to make one with a leather bottom and handles. But where do you buy leather without breaking the bank? Then I remembered my ruined skirt and knew this was my chance to give that hide not a second, but a third life.
Make a leather bottom
Rose’s original pattern calls for a single piece of canvas 20” x 33” for the outside. I knew that in order to make the leather base more prominent, It would need to be at least 8 1/2” x 20”. That was easy enough. I then cut (and stabilized) two fabric pieces 13” x 20” for the top portion of the tote. Easy-peasy.
The straps were another story. The original pattern calls for 100” of strapping that is made into a loop and wraps around the entire bag. In my opinion, the leather straps only needed to meet the leather bottom, so I shortened them and made two 40” straps that were positioned between the leather and canvas when they were sewn together. Just like in Rose’s original pattern, the straps also secure the sides of the pocket.
As you can see, I used Japanese fabrics from my scrap pile and fashioned a Boro-inspired quilted pocket on the outside of the tote. This feature makes the bag so much more appealing!
More leather for a mini project
I didn’t take a photo of the skirt before I started cutting, but I do have enough leather for another tote, plus enough scraps for lots of little design elements to add to other small quilted projects. I cut the flat seams from the skirt for a strap that wraps around a D-ring on one end and has a swivel clasp sewn to the other. This will hold my key ring or secure a coordinating pouch to hold small accessories.
Modern Patchwork Home is filled with lots of patterns that can incorporate fabrics from clothing or household items: remember, “reimagined” and “repurposed” are just a fancy way of saying “recycled”… and that’s a great thing! Try your hand at fashioning a pencil holder from a repurposed container and fabric scraps; make a pillow with fabric selvedges (and maybe toss in a few of your favorite garment labels); let your imagination be your guide!