Intro To Sewing: Custom Canvas & Leather Tote Bag + Machine 101 | Skillshare Projects

Ellie Lum

Sewing Instructor, Bag Maker, Klum House



Intro To Sewing: Custom Canvas & Leather Tote Bag + Machine 101




This class is designed to make sewing fun & easy - no prior sewing experience necessary! During this intro to sewing class you will learn the in’s & out’s of your sewing machine and complete a custom tote bag in class to take home with you! We will go over machine basics such as threading the machine & bobbin (as well as trouble-shooting), cutting fabric, essential sewing tools, and how to make & use a simple pattern. You will learn how to operate your sewing machine with confidence while you make a custom tote bag. You will walk away with your very own tote bag that YOU MADE from start-to-finish with confidence.

Skills Learned

- How to properly thread your sewing machine

- How to wind a bobbin

- Understand machine tension

- Trouble-shooting machine problems

- Using various presser feet

- Changing the needle

- Sewing with heavyweight fabrics such as 12 oz duck canvas

- Metal hardware attachment

- French seams

- Sewing through multiple layers of thick fabric

- Pockets

- Attaching a base layer for reinforcement

- Bag construction

Link to Trailer


CLASS PROJECT DESCRIPTION (What students will make in the class)

By the end of this class you will have finished a custom tote bag project. You will have the choice to customize the straps, shape, size, pocket features, and fabric choices for this versatile tote bag project. If there’s one bag you’ll want to use, it’s this stylish + rugged versatile take on the classic market tote. Need an everyday bag with the capacity to carry your essentials plus more around town? Or a rugged tote built to withstand being loaded down with a laptop & school books? Or a fancy tote that compliments a date outfit, but has the capacity to carry all your layers on these chilly Fall evenings? Whatever you need, to carry, this tote is a versatile and essential accessory for any lifestyle. Your tote will be a combination of canvas, denim, and/or cotton fabrics as well as adding leather handles with metal brads.

Project Features

- Dimensions 11.5" H x 13.5" W x 5" D (or custom dimensions)

- Materials: canvas and cotton fabrics, leather, denim, linen, etc.

- Custom Straps:

Real leather straps attached with strong metal brads


Make you're own straps with heavy-weight material

- Flat square base ideal for carrying books and groceries

- Features four external pockets

- Open top that’s easy to throw stuff in

- Extra reinforced base layer

- Internal zipper pocket


Video Outline:


  • Video 1:
    • Introduction and/or Trailer
      • Who am I? What do I do?
        • Hi, my name is Ellie Lum, I am a maker who specializes in the art & craft of utilitarian and rugged sewing.
        • As a business owner of almost 20 years in a craftsman-based business, R.E. Load Bags, I have honed my skills as a leader and teacher, instructing those who worked with me how to master the craft of industrial sewing. For the past few years I’ve been teaching sewing through my DIY Workshop and handmade goods brand, Klum House. If you are looking to deepen your sewing knowledge, I offer sewing instruction in Portland, OR as a private lesson or in groups.
      • Why I love what I do?
        • I love making and sewing and sharing my skills with people, because it is really satisfying to see what you can create with your own two hands. I also love the spark of excitement and boost of empowerment that students get from making something from start-to-finish with their own two hands. I love facilitating that discovery process, as I see students transform their self-confidence and really believe in themselves to make their creations a reality.
        • I love sewing because it requires not only creativity, but also satisfies my analytical side. Sewing is a bounded creative act. There is a certain step-by-step process that you have to follow in order to make the project functional (or complete the project). Learning how to sew is learning not only how to recognize the correct order to sew things in, but also to develop the correct handling techniques to control your fabric at the machine. I really enjoy explaining to people how the sewing machine works and how it was designed to be used. I feel that
      • What will this class cover?
        • This class is designed to make learning how to sew fun & easy while creating a beautiful functional project that you can use in your everyday life. This class is a great fit for beginner sewers who are just getting to know their machines, because the machine basics portion of the class really introduces you to the ins & outs of your sewing machine. This class is also great for the experienced sewer who want to learn bag-making techniques while completing a cute & functional project!
        • You don’t have to have any prior sewing experience to take this class. This class assumes no prior sewing experience. You don’t even have to have ever touched a sewing machine before.


      • What will students do for the class project?
        • Students will learn the ins & outs of their sewing machine during the machine basics portion of class. You will learn how to thread your machine properly & wind the bobbin properly. We will also go over the importance of thread tension and machine timing. In the custom tote bag portion of class, you will learn how to customize a tote bag design by adding certain features and choosing the types of straps you want to use, as well as the amount and type of pockets you want to add. You will also learn how to draft & cut a simple pattern. You will learn how to make a tote bag from start-to-finish. You will learn how to do french seams, work with heavier-weight fabrics, and how to use an edge-stitch presser foot. You will also learn how to make a zipper pocket. Lastly, you will learn how to use quick-set brads to attach leather handles. We will also go over how to sew leather on your machine.
      • Why take the class?
      • What is the class structure?
  • Video 2:
    • Planning Your Project and/or Overview
  • Video 3:
    • Assembling the equipment, tools & materials needed for class



  • Video 1:
    • Overview of sewing machine
  • Video 2:
    • Setting the machine up for sewing
      • Threading the machine, winding a bobbin
  • Video 3:
    • Specific sewing techniques & tools used in making the tote bag project



  • Video 1:
    • Design Lab
      • 3 design considerations: Aesthetics, Use/Functionality, Level of skill/Scope of Project
  • Video 2:
    • Cutting & Prepping (assembling tools, setting up workspace?)
  • Video 3:
    • Ironing (pressing)
    • Sewing double-turn hem on outside pockets, attaching pockets to main body of bag, attaching base to bag
  • Video 4:
    • Constructing inside zipper pocket
  • Video 5 (skip if using leather handles attached with brads):
    • Sewing handles (skip if using leather handles)
    • Setting in handles to bag
  • Video 6:
    • Setting in inside pocket by sewing top facing down.
    • Attaching magnetic snap
    • Setting in key holder
  • Video 7:
    • Sewing side seams together using a french seam
    • Sewing dimension into base of bag
  • Video 8:
    • Attaching leather handles with brads



  • Shots of what you put in your bag.
  • Photos of bags made with this project
  • Techniques you learned
  • Where to shop for materials?
  • Future classes you can take



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