Ikea Tote + Sewing with Leather


A few weeks ago I attended a blogger event at Ikea in Draper. They wanted to collaborate with bloggers, show off their new PS collection and brag about being completely solar powered. I’m already in a love affair with Ikea, so all those things made me love them even more.

At the event, they challenged us to find something in the store to work into a DIY. I wasn’t planning on participating until I found this pillow case in the As Is section. I love this print and the tooth of the fabric, but it doesn’t match my house.

I’ve been mulling over the idea of making a leather tote for years now, so this case was screaming to be a leather-bottomed tote.

The tote took about 5+ hours to complete because I took my time and did things right the first time. Leather is a bit tricky to work with, so here are a couple of tips to help if you’re thinking about working with leather any time soon:

  • use a leather needle – they are made for puncturing through the material
  • use a walking foot – they keep the leather from slipping
  • use bulldog clips instead of pins for keeping pattern pieces in place
  • use the widest stitch length possible
  • sew once, and only once – once you puncture the leather, you can’t un-puncture it!
  • go slowly
  • iron your seams – cover the leather with a cotton cloth and iron at the hottest steamiest setting

The pillow already had a zipper set in, so I worked around that. It’s super roomy, so this tote could easily work as my diaper bag, but transition effortlessly into a weekend tote.

I added lots of pockets for compartmentalizing my stuff and the kids’ stuff. I used a charcoal grey canvass for the lining instead of the typical black. It looks clean, but it’s not so dark in there that you can’t find your black pen (a dilemma of mine all the time).

Doing the leather bottom and handles wasn’t as hard as I thought. It helped to have a walking foot, leather needle and kick-trash sewing machine. This project is evidence of how much I love my new sewing machine.

I can’t help but check out the As-Is (Chris and I call it AZEEZ) every time we’re at Ikea, and we always find great items for DIY projects: my tabletop for fabric storage, our poang chair for our music room and now this tote. We were at Ikea this weekend looking for a couch and I found lots of great ready-made panels perfect for wall art there, too.

Outfit Details:

  • top: Walmart
  • necklace: handmade
  • jeggings: PacSun + refashioned
  • shoes: from Sarah
  • tote: Ikea + refashioned

This post is not sponsored by Ikea, but the materials were given to me by Ikea.

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  1. Jennifer says:

    That tote is gorgeous. Can’t believe you made it!

  2. Allison says:

    I love that bag! What a great refashion.

  3. mandie says:

    LOVE. Ok, for sure I’m making my way over to your pretty new house. I NEED to visit Ikea. And have you help me make a leather tote, as it’s been on my to-do list longer than anything else.
    Oh, & cuz I want to see you & kiss your babies. :)

  4. You are so awesome – this is perfect!

  5. I love it! & IKEA :) You did such a great job on it. Someday I will have the guts to make one too!

  6. Tara O says:

    So pretty! I second the fact that leather is incredibly tricky. I’ve only sewn leather by hand because I know my machine will not be happy. Using a walking foot never occurred to me. I’ll have to remember that tip!

  7. The as-is section is the first place I check at ikea, great find! And the tote looks so good!

  8. oh it looks great! the as-is section is my favorite section to check at ikea

  9. phil says:

    i like … euhhh … no … i love !!!!!!!!! :-)

  10. Roobeedoo says:

    This is fab! There is no IKEA within 200 miles of me, so I checked ebay and was delighted to find the same cushion cover on there for half price – woo hoo! I am absolutely going to follow your lead and make one of these as my first adventure with leather!

  11. ira lee says:

    i love this! id be in lots of trouble if i lived close to an ikea!!! lol

  12. Kiersten says:

    Hey! I’m doing that exact same thing today!! I sewed a tote bag to use for school, but am thinking it needs a bit more substance to the bottom– so I am using an old leather skirt– do you think a denim needle would work?

  13. Jennifer says:

    this looks awesome, i saw this at ikea the other day – i loved how you transformed the pillow case!

  14. Jen says:

    It looks amazing, love it! Great job, as always : )

  15. Emily says:

    I LOVE it!!! Great leather tips too!!! Did I miss the post about your new machine?

  16. Melissa says:

    How awesome, Kiersten! The leather needle is even bigger and sharper than a denim needle. The points are very different shapes, so I’d be inclined to go out and get a leather needle. But, it wouldn’t hurt to try out the denim on a few scraps. Good luck!

  17. samarahuel says:

    Did you just say “kick-trash?” That is so cute and thank you for keeping it clean on here. It is a breath of fresh air.

  18. Love how you took something so simple and made it so amazingly fresh and awesome. Need to suck it up and try to make something already. But still…I’ll pin it for now (smile)

  19. Tristan B. says:

    Such a great DIY, it looks SO pro!

  20. […] (above) IKEA Pillow to DIY Tote Hack from Melissa of I Still Love […]

  21. anna says:

    Just beautiful! Have a great 2013!

  22. […] Ikea Hack – Leather Tote: I love a good re-fashion and this tote is darling, made from a pillowcase! And Melissa made that necklace she’s wearing here: DIY Fringe Leather Necklace. […]

  23. MJ says:

    I just went to Ikea and bough a pretty summery pillowcase especially with this in mind!

  24. […] 81. Ikea Tote with Leather – I Still Love You […]

  25. Anonymous says:

    Where do you get your leather?

  26. Comet says:

    You can even WASH leather—go to ONE GOOD THING A DAY WITH JILLEE for DIY’s and to see how her nice bag came out.

    But DO use a leather needle! IT will do the job right and as stated–there is NO going back on this! Also–a tip–if you want to embellish or bead leather–use that needle with NO thread to make even holes to thread thru—ie embroidery or metallic thread; thread that you add a bead to and then go back thru either the same hole or the next one–OR to space out hand sewn closure if you want to pad out or stuff leather.

    One good place to get leather to up-cycle is the SALVATION ARMY. Look for a womens LONG trench type coat for the most for your money. These tend to sell for only a few bucks for some reason—maybe they don’t want them hanging there all forlorn. These usually have a “Half Price” day so check then. Make sure it is REAL leather–some faux stuff is a pretty good copy but won’t work the same. Check the label! Make sure it does NOT smell! These are usually made of panels so you can find flat areas to work with.

    Also a great place to find real leather belts–and don’t forget your local thrifts! I rarely spend more than a dollar for a real leather belt at one of these. Single gloves can also be a source for a small soft project. And of course old bags! I have even seen worn out out of fashion leather boots scrapped out!

  27. Harini says:

    cute tote.. Do u have this tutorial to make this tote pls. Tnks, Harini

  28. Terri says:

    Hi, love your bag! What type of sewing machine do you sew your leather projects on?
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Melissa says:

      I use the BabyLock Elizabeth. I’ve had it for 6 years now and it’s a dream. Works fantastically with leather, felt, denim, rayons, silks, all the tricky fabrics!

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