/ / How to Sew a Convertible Cross Body Tote – Fat Quarter Friendly

How to Sew a Convertible Cross Body Tote – Fat Quarter Friendly

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I’m so excited about this amazing cross body bag… it’s my new favorite purse! My original sewing project idea was for a cross body tote only, but I usually carry my bags over one shoulder, so I made the strap convertible. I love the double- strap look! You don’t have to use clips like this or make the strap convertible… I’ll explain how to sew it both ways.

UPDATE: This blog post has been converted to an optional PDF that’s optimized for printing. Find it here. The blog post below is totally free to read, print, and sew! Just hit CTRL +P on your computer to print. The PDF download for $2 is totally optional.


There is an exterior zipper pocket, interior slip pockets, and a little interior d-ring for clipping your keys or anything else on to. Plus a magnetic snap. All of these features may be included in your tote or left off depending on your preference.

{Hey! This free pattern is included in my Ultimate List of Fast and Easy Tote Bags to Sew. Check it out.}


You could also very easily put the zipper pocket on the inside or the slip pockets on the outside. See how easy it will be to personalize your newest tote!

Are you ready to sew a Convertible Cross Body Tote??? Here we go!

You will need:

  • 1 fat quarter (18” x 20” piece of fabric) for the exterior and tabs

  • 1 fat quarter (18” x 20” piece of fabric) for the interior lining

  • 1 fat quarter (18” x 20” piece of fabric) for the pockets

  • 1/4 yard of Essex Linen (or other fabric for the top panels and straps

  • 1 yard of interfacing or fusible fleece (I used Pellon SF101 Shape-flex)

  • 1 zipper, 8” or longer

  • 1 magnetic snap

  • 3 D-rings (2 for the shoulder strap, 1 for interior ring to clip things on)

  • 1 or 2 swivel snap clips (for a convertible strap)


Cutting:

All measurements are height x width.

From the fabric for the exterior, cut:

  • 2 rectangles 9” x 13” *

  • 3 squares 4” x 4”

From the lining fabric, cut:

  • 2 rectangles 9” x 13” *

From the Essex Linen or coordinating fabric for the bag exterior and straps, cut:

  • 4 rectangles 4” x 13” (top panels)*

  • 1 strip 4” x fabric width (or 42” – strap)*

From the pocket fabric, cut:

  • 1 rectangle 11” x 13” (interior slip pocket)*

  • 1 rectangle 14” x 10” (exterior zipper pocket)

NOTE: you will soon notice that the upper panels are a little bit taller in the how-to pictures than on my finished tote. At the last minute before sewing the bag together, I decided to chop an inch off the top of the bag – and I liked the new look so much better. That made the zipper not centered top to bottom on my upper panel so I’ll tell you how to get my look and how to center it. But other than that, just follow my sewing instructions to get a fantastic tote!

Interfacing:

Apply interfacing to all of the pieces that have asterisks above: the exterior and lining print fabrics, the slip pocket, all 4 coordinating top panels, and the strap piece. If you are using fusible fleece, do not apply it to the slip pocket piece.


Sew the bag sides (inside and out):

To make boxed corners, measure and cut 1 1/2” squares from the bottom corners of the exterior and interior rectangles (not the upper panels).

Skip this step if you don’t want boxed corners.



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Sew a top panel piece to each of the 4 interior and exterior rectangles with a 1/2” seam allowance.

Press the seam allowance toward the top panel. Topstitch on the top panel 1/8” from the seam.


Make the Zippered Pocket:

1. At the top of the zipper pocket rectangle (on the wrong side), draw a horizontal line about 8” long 1” below the top edge. Draw another line 1/2” below it.

Then connect the two long lines with short vertical lines 1” from each edge. You should have a long skinny rectangle 1/2” tall and 8” long.


2. Pin the pocket piece to one of the bag side pieces (either interior or exterior, where ever you want the zipper pocket) right sides together.

If you want the zipper pocket located where mine is (see the top picture in this post), place the top of the pocket piece 3/4” from the top of the bag side piece. Place it 1 1/4” below the top of the bag side piece if you would like your zipper pocket centered top to bottom on the upper panel.


3. Sew all the way around the rectangle that you drew on the back of the zipper pocket rectangle. Backstitch at the starting point.


4. Using small sharp scissors, cut a line down the middle of the sewn rectangle, ending about 1/4” from either edge. Clip to the corners. Be careful not to cut the stitching.



5. Turn the pocket piece through to the back of the bag exterior piece. Press gently from both sides.


6. You could pin the zipper to the opening in the bag side, but I like to use a handy notion called Wondertape. It is like double sided tape for sewing. Apply Wondertape to both zipper tapes and remove the paper.


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Center the zipper under the opening and press with your fingers to secure (or pin). Make sure the slider is visible in the opening. 🙂


7. Topstitch around the zipper opening, 1/8” from the edge. If you are inserting a metal zipper like I did, see my Tips for Working with Metal Zippers.


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Trim away the extra zipper tapes about 1/4” from the sewing.



8. Fold up the pocket piece and pin around the top and sides.

Stitch the pocket top and sides with a 1/4” or 1/2” seam allowance.


Make the Slip Pocket:

1. Fold the slip pocket piece with the 13” long edges right sides together. Sew along the top edge with a 1/2” seam allowance.

Turn the pocket tube right side out and press.


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2. Place the pocket piece on top of a bag interior piece about 1/2” below the upper panel.

Stitch close to the bottom edge to secure.

Baste along the sides within the 1/2” seam allowance, if desired.
 


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3. Mark and sew a dividing line to create two pockets.




Install the Magnetic Snap:

1. On an interior side piece, make a mark at the center of the upper panel 1 1/2” from the top edge. Use the metal disk that came with the magnetic snap to mark the slit lines on either side of your center mark.

2, To stabilize the snap, cut two circles of quilt batting, fleece, or felt about the size of a silver dollar. Make slit marks on the stabilizer circles also.

Use a seam ripper or small scissors to cut small slits on all the slit marks.

3. From the right side, insert the snap prongs through the slits. On the back side, place the stabilizer circle over the prongs, and then the metal disk. Bend the prongs outward.


4. Insert the other half of the magnetic snap into the other lining piece in the same way.



Make the D-ring Tabs:

!. Press the tab pieces in half, and then press the edges to the center. Fold in half again and press.



2. Topstitch close to the long edges.

3. Wrap each tap through a D-ring and stitch the ends together.


Make at least 2 D-ring tabs for the strap. Sew one more if you would like one on the interior.


4. Center 2 D-ring tabs on the upper panel of one of the exterior pieces.

If you would like a D-ring on the interior of the bag, center one on the upper panel of a bag interior piece.


Sewing the Tote Together:

1. Pin the bag exterior pieces together along the side and bottom edges. Stitch with a 1/2” seam allowance. Press the seams open.



2. To box the corners, flatten each corner and center the side and bottom seams. Pin and stitch with a 1/2” seam allowance. Sew both corners.

 


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3. Sew the lining in the same manner as the bag exterior, except leave a 6” opening in the bottom. Press the seams open and box the corners.


4. Turn the bag exterior right side out and place the bag lining over it so that right sides are together. Pin all around the top edge.


5. Sew around the top edge with a 1/2” seam allowance.

Turn the bag right side out through the opening in the lining.


6. Pin and stitch the opening in the lining closed.


7. Press the bag and topstitch around the top edge.

Sewing the Shoulder Strap:

1. Press and topstitch the 4” x 42” strap piece the same way as the tab pieces.

For a permanent strap (not convertible), wrap each strap end through a D-ring on the bag exterior, tucking in the raw edges, and stitch to secure.




2. For a removable and convertible strap, sew swivel snap clips to the strap ends:

Wrap each end through a clip, tuck the raw edges under, and sew two rows of stitching to secure.

Tip: if it is hard to sew next to the swivel snap clip, try using your sewing machine’s zipper foot to let you sew closer.


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To make a cross-body strap, simply hook one clip on a D-ring on either side of the bag.

To make a purse-length strap, hook one clip on a D-ring, slip the other clip through the D-ring on the opposite side of the bag, and then snap it on the same side as the first clip.


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Enjoy your new tote bag! And be sure to let me know what you think in the comments.

Happy sewing,


Check out these other Fast & Easy Cross Body Bag Patterns available on my blog for free!

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Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂

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58 Comments

  1. Carol Kussart says:

    I want to make this bag! Cute and practical AND I really like the way you made the strap convertible because I don’t usually carry my bags as cross-body bags either. Thanks!!

  2. Laura Kammarmeyer says:

    Love this tutorial…thanks so much . Just reading through it I’m confused about where to place zipper pocket 1/4 or 3/4 doesn’t seem like it will be placed correctly.

    1. Hi Laura,
      Thanks for noticing my typo. Place the top edge of the pocket piece 3/4” or 1 1/4” below the top edge of the bag piece. Keep in mind that the zipper will be another inch below that.

      Caroline

  3. Sarah Jasinski says:

    Love this- especially with the convertible handle! This series is giving me a fun to-make list! Thank you for all your hard work.

  4. Adorable! Can’t wait to try it.

  5. This is the first time I have looked at a bag tutorial and it has made sense! I am so excited to make this bag!!!

  6. Thank you for this tutorial! I love all the great photos, looking forward to making this tote.

  7. What is the size of this bag? you don’t list the dimensions.

    1. Teresa Johnson says:

      I’m looking for that information too.

  8. I love this bag! It’s so nice of you to write up a tutorial for us. I know how much work that is, so thank you, Caroline! I hope you don’t mind if I highlight it on my blog with a link to you.

  9. Hiya, love this tutorial – I have never made anything like this before. I appreciated the clear step by step instructions. I struggled at the end with attaching the strap as the fabric was really thick for my machine- any advice for this would be great. Big thankyous x

    1. I have also had issues with sewing the fabric at the swivel clip or D-ring (total of 12 layers of fabric plus fusible, if you fused it). I just came across this tutorial to help with bag handles. I’m not sure if it will work as well for the straps on this bag, but it hopefully would reduce bulk enough to allow more machines to handle that step.

      Use the same length strip as posted above, then assemble as mentioned in this post. This will encourage use of lightweight fusible to start, but we will end with finished edges, tuck the fusible fleece at the last minute, then turn right side out to topstitch the edges. If I am reading it right, we would not need the extra fold when we sew on the swivel clip or D-Ring. This will help eliminate bulk!
      https://sewfearless.com/2012/03/19/sewing-the-handle/

  10. Thank you for showing a method for using the same strap for a crossbody and shoulder strap simply by looping the strap through the D-ring or hooking to it. Seems simple, but this is the first time I have seen it offered in bag patterns.

    This looks like a great bag! Thank you for the tutorial!

  11. Kathy Guenther says:

    Just finished mine, but used an adjustable strap. Love it.

  12. This project turned out very professional looking. The Pellon Shape-flex gave it just the right amount of crispness. I had never tried inserting a magnetic snap before. I have to say your instructions made a lot more sense than the package instructions did. Thank you for writing such a clear tutorial.

  13. Love the bag. Thank you very much. Made mine already and it looks great. Your tutorial is easy to follow

  14. Shannon Egan says:

    I made this pattern and it’s the best pattern I’ve ever followed. My final project is fantastic!

  15. Laura Kuhn says:

    I love this pattern and am excited to try it. I didn’t see any overall size listing though. Does your purse organizer fit in it? I want to make that too!

    1. Hi Laura,
      Unfortunately, the purse organizer would not fit in the Cross Body Tote. It is just a bit bigger at the base.

      Caroline

  16. What are the finished dimensions of the bag?

  17. Hi Caroline,
    I tried this bag past weekend and I am really happy with the outcome. I followed your instructions to dot. I just didn’t use fat quarters, I used left over fabrics, but the bag turned out awesome. i wanted to share the pictures but not sure as how to do.. Thank you!

  18. Lol been seeing this tote bag and even pinned it for ages.and i just notice that i made a bag without any pattern that looks like this (though the plain fabric is at the bottom and top part)..maybe the design kind of stock in my brain

  19. Kristen Parker says:

    I just finished this purse yesterday. Modified it a bit by making it a zip close at the top instead of snap, but overall, best design and perfect size. Love it. Wish I could post a pic.

  20. Linda Zimmer says:

    I happened to have this very fabric that I purchased from Craftsy when I saw this pattern. I enjoyed making it because it sewed up so beautifully and looked so professional. I liked the way the straps adjusted better than using the slides. I gave it to my daughter, but now, I think I want to make another. This bag would made excellent gifts. Per Kristen’s suggestion, I think I might try making a zipper close or one with a tab close. I really like and appreciate your patterns. I learn something from each project.

  21. I’d love to know the size of the D-ring that allows a 1" swivel to go through it. Did you use a bigger D-rings?

    1. I was using regular 1” D-rings. Make sure you check that the swivel clips you want to use fit through the D-rings before you start. You cold also use rectangular rings or O-rings instead. 🙂

  22. I don’t sew. My Home Economics teacher, Mrs. H, in 7th grade told me to take another class after the first sewing project….now some 25 years later, wow time flies, I wanted to try making a bag and I did it!!! This pattern is so easy, I love that you give dimensions and I didn’t have to print off a pattern. My first bag turned out wonderful, I was too impatient to wait until I had the snap so I figured out how to do a button hole(you tube is a much better instructor than Mrs. H). Thank you for taking the time and effort with your blog. I wish I could post a picture but that will be a lesson for another day.

  23. Anne Marie says:

    I just started on this lovely bag but have problems cutting out the parts for the pockets. I have a fat quarter but the only way to cut the pieces is by cutting the one piece 10”x14” instead of 14”x10” but that makes the fabric turn at a different angle than the other pocket piece. It doesn’t look that way with your pocket pieces. If the width of the pieces in total are 25” and the width of the fabric is 20” then something doesn’t add up. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Hi Anne Marie! You aren’t doing anything wrong. One of the pieces will have to be turned. You will need a extra fabric if you are trying to preserve directionality.

  24. Judi G
    Thank you for the pattern and instructions. They are so easy to follow and the pictures are clear and helpful. I have been looking for a bag that I could use cork fabric with and this pattern is perfect.

  25. Found this tutorial on Pinterest. I sew for fun and have had no formal lessons. Many of the ideas incorporated in this bag truly intimidated me but I decided to go for it! The tutorial was so clear and easy to follow and my final product looks like something you’d find at Target or TJMaxx! Even my husband was impressed and he rarely comments on my sewing projects!

  26. Thank you so much for this pattern — I can’t believe it, but I did it! My second bag ever, first just a tote. Now I’m hooked — I’m off to buy supplies to make more! The only thing I’ll change construction-wise is adding interfacing to the D-ring tabs — they are a little floppy for my taste without interfacing in them. I made this with quilters cotton but think it would be better with a heavier weight canvas, which it looks like you used. That said, I love it, and feel so accomplished! The convertible strap is great, and I love the look of the doubled strap — really adds extra pizzazz! Your instructions were so clear — thank you again! You’ve made a bag-maker out of me!

  27. Caroline,
    Found your site a few weeks ago and I just love all of your projects! Made this bag for a dear friend and she sqealed with excitement when I gave it to her. She told me last week that she is getting compliments on it every where she goes, so now I will have to make one for myself soon. Just realized that you and I are almost neighbors – I live in Orlando! Keep these fantastic sewing ideas coming! You always choose the best fabrics! Pam

  28. I loved this pattern. My tote came out really cute!

  29. I love this pattern! I have made this bag multiple times. I also have added more pockets and a zipper to the top to personalize it to my needs. Thank you Caroline for a great pattern with really easy to follow directions.

  30. Susan Gaboriault says:

    What a great pattern! I made this with home decorator fabric on the outside, which I laminated with iron on vinyl. I also laminated the lining, which eliminated the need for any other stabilizer. Because of the bulk, it was a bit of a challenge to turn it right side out with only 6", but I managed. I did notice that the side tabs with the D rings are a bit stiff because they are also laminated, so I will either skip the laminate on those in the future, or use a lighter weight fabric. I’m not sure I like how the side tabs that hold the D rings stick out a bit to the sides, so I may decide to attach them vertically on the outside of the side seams, rather than encase them within the seams. I also used Heavy Duty Poly Strapping for the strap, rather than regular fabric. Overall, I am really pleased with the results, and can’t wait to try with other fabrics. Thanks so much for sharing!

  31. Just made my first one of these. I am so very pleased and have had quite a few compliments in just the few days I’ve been carrying it. Even hubby said how nice it was, that in itself is incredible!! 🙂 I didn’t have a whole lot of experience, just grocery totes, simple things like that, but the clarity of the instructions made it a joy, a real joy, to work on this. Only trouble I had was the darn thickness of the straps, my little machine didn’t like it even with leather needles, so I just did it by hand, no big deal. 🙂 I think the next one I make I might not run the
    interfacing/fusible all the way to the ends of the straps that may make it easier.
    Thank you very much for the hard work putting this tutorial together for us, it is much appreciated.

  32. Hi, I was wondering where you found your fantastic fabric for this project! Having a hard time finding something similar. Thanks!

  33. Hi,

    I love this pattern – I have made several for myself. Easy to follow instructions and stitches out beautifully. I get many compliments and I have had several family members ask me to make one for them. I do craft fairs a few times a year with other of my handmade items. May I sell these purses as well?

  34. Becci Hammond says:

    My friends and I do a secret santa but the items must be crafted, I have just finished making this bag out of Harry Potter fat quarters and MY GOODNEDS it’s incredible, if I say so myself. Thank you so much for this pattern; it’s brill! Definitely be making another for myself shortly.

  35. Christine Scott says:

    Are the measurements for cutting the pocket fabric correct? (1) 11" x 13" and (1) 14" x 10". How do you get two rectangles that size from a fat quarter (18" x 20")?

    1. Those are the measurements that I used, so my FQ must have been 21” wide. You could use two different fabrics if that doesn’t work for you. 🙂

  36. Thank you! This pattern is fab!! I have made myself and my mum a bag each, and my sister will have one for her birthday in November. I moved the d rings for the straps to the top instead, but I love it so much xx

  37. I made this bag last month (April 2020) and it was a really great experience! Your directions were spot on and so easy to follow. I had everything needed at home to make it except for the hardware, which I ordered from an Etsy shop. I’m looking forward to making several more!

  38. I will be making this with outdoor cushion fabric for the exterior. Do I still need to use interfacing on the exterior? The fabric is pretty stiff. I’m using twill for the top and cotton for the inside. Thank you for any help you can give!

  39. Nancy Taplin says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial; it was so clear and easy to follow. I made mine with a fixed length strap which I sewed in when I joined the outer and the lining. I am really pleased with it, it looks fantastic!

  40. Thank you! This pattern is fab!!Thank you so much for this pattern; it’s brill! Definitely be making another for myself shortly.I love this pattern Yay! I hope you make many more bag. This makes me so happy to read! This looks like a great bag! Thank you for the tutorial Thanks for sharing. Visit: https://just-zipit.com/

  41. Thank you! Thank you so much for this tutorial; This pattern is fab. I do craft fairs a few times a year with other of my handmade items.I am really pleased with the results, and can’t wait to try with other fabrics. Thanks so much for sharing! Visit: https://just-zipit.com/

  42. I just completed my first bag & it turned out fabulous! Thank you so much for the pattern & tutorial. However, I did have an issue with the zipper pocket because I used fleece interfacing which made it very difficult to turn the pocket to the other side.

  43. Thank you so much for this pattern and the very detailed instructions with photos. I haven’t sewn in years, but your process was so easy to follow. I now have a one-of-a-kind bag to give to my friend for Christmas. I know she will love it (and I hope she will forgive my wonky stitching). I’m already excited to make another one for myself. This has made me really excited about going on a sewing journey!

  44. What a great pattern for a convertible bag. I like cross body bags most of the time but do like shoulder style. My current bag doesn’t have the option. And the zipper and pocket options are well written.

    Thanks.

  45. I enjoyed making this bag and really like the finished project! The only issue from the pattern that I found was that upon completing the project and filling the purse with items, the bag hung strangely. I was able to fix this by moving the handle to the top of the bag, rather than the sides. I did have other difficulties, but that was due to me, not the pattern. 🙂
    I have been enjoying getting the SewCanShe emails and seeing all the cute projects! Thank you!

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