DIY Canvas Tote Revamp!

canvas tote

I’ve had a lot of people requesting some simple handmade gift ideas lately. I guess it IS getting to be that time of year when we start thinking about gifting. Although I’m not personally ready to “go there” yet (I’m in denial basically)….I have been seeing some cute things that I think would make great gifts so I thought I would share one of them today.

I eyed this over at Say Yes To Hoboken and immediately fell in love with the idea! I’ve always loved cute totes for….well….toting stuff, and I love, LOVE how this one simple idea of adding leather handles¬†takes an ordinary canvas tote to a whole new level.

printed canvas tote bag

It really couldn’t be any more simple.

You’ll need:

printed canvas tote bag

Applying the graphic:

  • Print out desired graphic from your computer onto printer transfer paper. (This one can be found at
  • Iron your canvas bag so it’s nice and smooth.
  • Apply graphic according to directions.

NOTE: I did this 3 separate times and each time it didn’t quite transfer completely onto the canvas. I’m assuming that’s just the way it work on canvas since it’s a somewhat rough surface. I actually LIKE the way it turned out. Looks kinda vintage. :-) But just wanted to make you aware of this.

printed canvas tote bag

Applying the handles:

  • First cut off the handles of your canvas tote bag.
  • Cut the ends off your belt and then cut it in half.
  • Poke, gouge, rip, burn, stab, whatever it takes….a hole through the canvas and the leather where you want to attach. This was probably the hardest part for me. But between an exacto knife, a seam ripper and a pair of scissors…I was finally able to make a hole through the canvas and the leather big enough to accomodate the rivet. (I’m sure there’s some tool out there that makes this MUCH easier…but I don’t know about it.)

printed canvas tote bag


Now, at this point, there are two ways you can go.

Liz at Say Yes To Hoboken simply used rivets and hammered them in.

*I*, however, searched high and low for said rivets and couldn’t find any. So, I did the next best thing and purchased a rivet tool at our local hardware store (for about $16) and used it instead. Although it worked just fine…some rivets (which Liz apparently got from her local fabric store…I wish I had a local fabric store) and a hammer would have been much cheaper and easier.

Anyway…either way you go…attach the handles and you’re done!

Cute, huh? I bet you would pay a pretty penny for something like this in a retail store. I estimate it cost $2 to 3 dollars to make!

printed canvas tote bag

This one I made for me.


printed canvas tote bag

This one I made for my daughter Britta.

(Can anyone guess the BBC television show she is quite fond of?)


printed canvas tote bag

And this one I made for my daughter-in-law Kaitlyn. :-)


More Simple Handmade Gift Ideas to come…..stay tuned!


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  1. Trish says

    OH, LOVE this idea!! The totes I have in mind for Christmas need jazzing up, and the leather handles will fit the bill :-) TY

  2. Farrah says

    I’d not heard of a crop-a-dile, but I just used a cordless drill to put a couple of new holes in a belt last week. Just put a piece of scrap wood underneath, one quick zip with the drill gets the job done!

  3. sadiejoy says

    In the horse world there is a hand tool, called a leather punch, that cuts holes in leather, fabric and such. And there are Chicago screws- 2 pieces that screw together. They look very nice/finished without any clinching or pounding.

  4. says

    I see someone already led you to a Crop-a-dile. They are a great tool to have. I use mine for so many things. They punch holes like cutting through butter! Love the leather handles on this!

  5. JaNita says

    If someone doesn’t want to get a Crop -a-dile then all one would need is a pair of pliers, nail, and heat. I use to do this to my dog collars when I needed a new hole, or when a belt needed a new hole. I had a dogs that were over 150 pounds so I had to buy horse harnesses for them. Well they had to be made to fit the dog so I obviously had to figure out a way to put a hole in and keep the material from fraying. Most times when you try and do stuff to leather or man made leather it will tear or be very weak around where the hole is. The best thing to do is seal it.

    You first want to secure your belt somewhere so it won’t slip around and will have room under where you want the hole to be. Next you want to take a nail the size of the hole you want, maybe try to find one a tiny bit smaller. Take hold of it with the pliers down by where the head of the nail is, you will need the tip. Heat the nail up till it is very hot. Then simply poke the belt where you need. In and out don’t doddle, you want this to be fast and clean. Makes a perfect hole and it also seals it so it won’t rip or tear later.

    Might be a little red neck yet it does a really good job. My ex use to own a shop with all sorts of tools. I put the nail in a vice and heated it up with a butane torch and slipped the material through. The good thing is you can do this with pretty much any material, except ones that will catch fire quickly such as cotton. It works wonders for synthetic material like the non-leather dog collars, like the bright colorful ones.