How to Upcycle an Old Tote Bag Into a Cute DIY Backpack

Marigood Suns
by Marigood Suns
17 Materials
2 Hours

If you’ve got an old tote bag or a new-to-you tote bag that needs a luxury upgrade, this DIY tote bag upcycle is perfect for you. You can customize this bag with any type of faux fur or metal chain to make it totally yours. This version takes the classic tote and turns it into a backpack for a modern chic look. Let’s get started making this beautiful DIY tote bag upcycle.

Tools and materials:

  • Tote bag - leather or vegan leather
  • Faux fur (about 12-inch x12-inch piece)
  • Leather hole punch
  • Eyelets/grommets
  • Velcro straps
  • Metal chain
  • Measuring tape
  • Chalk
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Glue gun/glue
  • Sewing needle
  • Sewing machine
  • Dental floss
  • Cotton wool
  • CD
  • Gold sharpie pen
Tote bag before the DIY

1. Prepare the tote bag

Check your bag straps to make sure they are long enough and can fit your back as a backpack.

Removing the straps from the bag

Remove the straps of your tote bag. Reserve them to the side.

Cutting off the decorative straps

If your tote bag has decorative straps on the body of the bag itself, remove them from the side that will lay on the back.

Measuring and marking holes

2. Make the holes

Measure and mark across every 2 inches along the top.

Using a leather punch to make the holes

Use the leather hole punch at these marks.

Making the holes bigger

Use a pencil or scissor to enlarge the hole to fit the grommet.

Inserting the grommets

Insert the grommet top on the front side.

Attaching the back parts of the grommets

Insert the back part of the grommet and push them to secure.

Adding grommets to the leather tote

Repeat for all the holes all across the top.

Measuring the fur flap

3. Make the fur flap

Measure and mark the center of the bag on the back side leaving about an inch on either side.

Making the fur lay in the right direction

Before marking the fur, make sure the fur lays in the right direction.

Cutting through the backing fabric

Then flip the fur over. Mark the back of the fur with your desired flap measurements. Cut only through the backing fabric and not the fur itself.

Cutting two pieces of fur

Cut two pieces to match. 

Pinning the fur pieces together

Lay the pieces with the fur touching each other. Push the fur inside. Pin in place. 

Sewing the three sides

Sew the 3 sides together using a zigzag stitch. Leave the flat top unsewn. Turn the fur flap right side out.

Turning a tote bag into a backpack

4. Make the backpack

Use the reserved straps and lay them on either side.

Gluing the straps on

Secure them with the hot glue on the top and bottom. You have just made a backpack.

Laying Velcro on the backpack straps

5. Finish the fur flap

Lay the rough side of the velcro tape in between the backpack straps just underneath the grommets. Hot glue into place.

Attaching Velcro to the fur flap

Pin the softer, smoother side of the velcro tape to one side at the top of the fur flap. Sew the tape into position.

Turning the flap so the fur is inside

Turn the flap so the fur is in the inside. Sew across the top with a zigzag stitch, leaving a 1 ½ inch space unsewn. Use this space to turn the flap right side out.

Topstitching the opening closed

Topstitch the opening closed.

Sticking the fur flap to the backpack

Place the velcro tapes together to secure the fur flap to the tote.

Inserting chain into the grommets

6. Insert the chain

Insert the chain starting from one of the grommets right at the center front. Work the chain around all the grommets, ending at the center.

Pulling on the chain to create a bucket bag effect

Pull on the chain to create a bucket effect.

Tote bag to backpack DIY

Use any leftover strap material to create a double loop to secure the chain. Measure the width of your chain. Fold in the strap in towards itself using the measurement. Glue the double loop in place.

Inserting chains into the loops

Once the glue dries, insert the chain into the loops. 

Making pompoms for the bag

7. Make the pompoms

Lay the faux fur right side down. Use a CD to trace two circles. Cut the circles out. Remember to only cut the top fabric.

Threading a needle with dental floss

Thread your needle with the dental floss.

Hand-sewing the pompom

Handsew the pompom around at the edge, pulling the floss as you sew.

Stuffing the pompom with cotton wool

Once it’s fairly rounded, stuff the hole with cotton wool. Fill it as much as you can. Pull on the floss to close and stitch it closed.

Attaching the pompoms

Once it’s secure, thread the floss through the chain holes and sew it to secure. Trim any excess dental floss. Repeat for the second pompom.

Fluffing the furs

Shake the pompoms to fluff the fur.

Using a gold sharpie to clean up the gold accents

8. Finish the bag

If your bag has gold accents and they are a bit dull, use a gold sharpie pen to brighten them up.

And you’re done!

DIY tote bag into backpack upcycle

DIY tote bag into backpack upcycle

You can wear the bag with the fur flap.

Bag without the fur flap

You can wear the bag without the fur flap. The choice is up to you! Let me know in the comments if I helped you learn how to upcycle and DIY a luxury tote bag.

Suggested materials:
  • Tote bag - leather or vegan leather
  • Faux fur (about 12-inch x12-inch piece)
  • Leather hole punch
See all materials

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