How to add Leather Straps to a Handbag

How to add leather straps to a handmade bag

I designed my March Bag pattern a couple of years ago and I think that it’s still one of my favorites.  Recently Birch Organics Fabric sent me a bundle of their new line Grove Decor  to play with. I knew immediately that I wanted to make up a new handbag with it.

Birch Organic Fabrics

The Grove Decor line of fabrics is one of Birch’s Decor weight fabric lines. Let me tell you it’s yummy. It’s not stiff and unworkable at all. More like a light weight washed canvas.

Birch Organic Fabrics


It has a gorgeous drape and texture.  The weight of it is perfect for handbags.

How to add leather straps to a handmade bag



Normally when I make handbags I make the handles. This time I was feeling a bit lazy and wondered if I couldn’t just use leather instead.

So I took a little trip down to a local leather store and found these great belt blanks. They are long strips of leather meant to be used for stamping belts/bracelets etc.  One of them was only $8 and I was able to get both handles out of it!!

How to add leather straps to a handmade bag


Attaching the handles to the bag was easy. You just need a few tools, and if you’re a scrapbooker like me you probably already have what you need.

How to add leather straps to a handmade bag


Let me just say, I know there is a LOT more that I could do with those leather handles, including sealing them, stamping them and finishing the edges. I didn’t do any of those things, the idea was just a simple handle. The leather will change colors with time and use but I actually like that.

You’ll need:

  • Leather strap long enough to make 2 handles (look in the belt section of the leather store)
  • Awl or Cropadile to punch holes in the leather
  • Rivets the same size as the width of your leather strap
  • Hammer
  • Scraps of plastic canvas


Adding leather handles to a handbag


The first thing you’re going to need to do is reinforce the point that the handles attach to the purse. To do this I use plastic canvas.  If you are sewing the March Bag pattern, you will want to complete the entire bag but not make any handles. You will then skip the last step of hand stitching down the bag band lining.

adding leather handles to a handbag


After you have marked where you want the handles to go on the bag, slip the plastic canvas into the bag band lining and pin in place (It’s not sewn down yet so you can do this easily).

leather handbag handles


After you have cut your leather to the desired length (buy some scissors at the leather store to cut the straps, don’t ruin your good sewing scissors) punch 2 holes in the end of the strap. One at 1/2” up from the bottom and one 1” above that.

To punch the holes in the leather I used my cropadile (see, scrapbook supplies!) If you don’t have one of those you can get an inexpensive awl at the leather store to punch the holes.



Use the cropadile again and punch 2 holes in your handbag. You’ll punch through all the layers of fabric and the plastic canvas.

March Bag Pattern


Then line up the holes on the handbag with the holes on the straps and insert a rivet.  Using a hammer and the instructions on the package set your rivets.

That’s it!  So easy right? This is the first time I’ve used leather and I’m very excited to learn more about working with it. I’ll be sure to share with you what I find out as I go.

If you like this fabric you can pick it up at Fabric Worm it’s 10% off right now. You can find the pattern for the handbag here.


Disclosure: I was provided with product by Birch Fabrics to review and to make this project.

Melissa Mortenson is the author of the Polka Dot Chair blog which is in its 7th year of sharing fresh and creative ideas with readers. She is the author of “Project Teen, Handmade Gifts your Teen will Actually Love”. Her first fabric line “Derby Style” debuted in January 2015 through Riley Blake Designs. A mom of 3, she considers herself lucky to be living in Kentucky.

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  1. Rori Jensen says

    Thanks for the great idea of the leather handles. I have been wanting to add leather handles to some of my bags but I never thought of using my Cropadile to punch holes in both! I will have to try it.

  2. says

    This is fab! I just tried the leather strap thing for the first time and had some trouble with the rivets. I was only able to find 5/16″ at Michael’s, so I used those. I’m thinking I may just need to have my husband help me hammer them together, but I had the hardest time getting them to set. Is there a size you would recommend? Any particular sources? I have several belts I bought on clearance and am dying to make more! :)

    • says

      Hey Elena!
      I used the rivet set at Joann’s but I noticed at the leather store that they had a bunch. That’s where I went to get the belt for the handles… The guy that worked at my store was very helpful… I’d maybe ask them what the recommend. One thing I noticed is to use a smaller hammer instead of a big one, I don’t think it takes a lot of force to set them.

      So nice to meet you at the Sewing Summit!

  3. says

    Excellent blog! Do you have any hinnts for aspirring writers?
    I’m hoping to stzrt myy own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a
    paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed ..
    Any recommendations? Cheers!

  4. Christy says

    You might also try Chicago screws if having trouble with the rivets. Similar but removable if needed at a later date. They come in all kinds of tykes and made for applications like purses!


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