DIY Clip On Tote Bag Handles {free tutorial}


These purse handles are so easy to sew that after you read my tutorial you are going to do a palm-forehead slap and say of course!

About a year ago I wrote a sewing tutorial for this fast and easy patchwork bag, but I didn’t show how to make the handles and many of you have written to me asking about them. 

So when Lecien Fabrics asked me to sew up something in their new Retro 30’s Child Smile collection, I decided a patchwork tote would be perfect for those adorable tiny prints, and it was high time to write a sewing tutorial for these sweet clip on bag handles.


  • As you can see, I installed large grommets (or eyelets) in both of my patchwork bags where I attached the clips. You could also use short tabs with D-rings with handles like these. I did something like that on my Convertible Cross Body Tote.

  • The Cotton + Steel bag (way above) has regular 1” swivel snap clips on the straps and the gray straps above have large claw clips. I don’t know where to find those exact clips anymore, but I found similar ones on Amazon.

  • Typical purse and bag handles range from 16” – 28” in length, but one of the fantastic things about sewing your own stuff is that you can make it just how you want it. Make sure you measure the clips that you will be using and take their length into account for your finished handle length.

  • All of my clips have an opening for a 1” wide strap. So if your clip has a different sized opening you will have to adjust your strap width accordingly.


  • Cut 2 strips of fabric 4” tall x desired strap length + 4″.

Highly recommended – apply fusible interfacing to the back of your strap pieces. I used Pellon SF101 fusible woven interfacing.

Press the straps bias tape style: Fold and press in half. Open and press the long edges almost to the center. Then fold in half again and press.

Topstitch along both long edges.

Make sure you are already using a heavy duty needle, and here is how you will make sewing through lots of layers easy. 

Slide a swivel snap clip onto a strap and fold the end over by 1/2”. Instead of pressing, pound it a few times with a hammer. Weird, I know, but it works.

Fold the strap over another 1” over the clasp. Pound it again in the area where you will be sewing.

Sew in a rectangle to secure the end of the strap and hide the raw ends. Switch to a zipper foot if that helps you sew closer to the clip. Since I’m using a straight stitch foot, I could get pretty close to the clip and I didn’t need to switch.

Sew a swivel snap clip to the other end of the strap and if you like it that way, you are done!

However, I kept going…

If you want the narrower, folded-strap look, pinch the strap in half about 1 1/2” from one end.

With the strap folded in half, start sewing right on top of the previous topstitching. Make sure you backstitch.

Sew until you are 1 1/2” from the clip at the other end of the strap.

And that’s it… Have fun sewing handles for lots of bags! I pinned lots of purse and tote bag ideas for you in my Sewing Purses and Totes Pinterest board.


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  1. Now I know! These don’t seem hard at all. The bag is adorable. I can’t wait to make one!

  2. Wow–those straps look great! Thanks for the tutorial!

  3. This looks very simple, however it looks like you are sewing with an industrial machine…I’m not sure if many domestic machines have the punch power to go deep enough to catch the bobbin thread after piercing through 8 layers plus interfacing. Have you also tried this with a home machine as well?

    1. Hi Geni,
      My straight stitch Juki TL-2010Q is not an industrial sewing machine, but it is a heavy duty one, to be sure. That said, any decent quality machine should be able to handle this many layers. My nearly antique Bernina 1530 can, as well as my daughter’s Hello Kitty Janome. Make sure you are using a heavy duty needle, like a 100/16.

      Thanks for checking!


  4. What a brilliant idea ! Here in the UK there has been much fuss in recent years about having to pay for plastic carrier bags.I’d rather have a sturdy fabric bag and love making them to my own designs for their specific purpose. I love this idea of using eyelets and clip on handles, genius!

  5. What a great way to sew bag handles . I’m always looking for a different handle.

  6. Great tut. Thanks. Love making bags and these straps are neat

  7. Gracias, era justo lo que necesitaba ahora, muy bien explicado!!!! Muchas, muchas gracias, lo ame!!!!

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