Super Tote Pattern Mod: Convertible Backpack Tote

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

When it comes to handbags, I'm like an old lady with her orthopedic shoes. Comfort reigns supreme. I have an irrational fear of going on a day trip and being saddled with a bag that has the properties of a futon: starts out comfy and slowly turns into a painful nightmare.

Crossbody handbags are my go-to style because I like being able to keep my hands free, but they're only comfortable up to a certain weight or time duration. For heavier loads and longer outings, I usually carry a backpack style bag. So, why not both?

With the wheels now turning in my head, I started making sketches for a convertible crossbody/backpack design. As I sat down to work out the measurements and pattern pieces, I stopped. It looked kinda familiar. Kinda like...Noodlehead's Super Tote!

I realized that the body of the tote would be a perfect starting point. So I scraped my sketch in favor of a few simple modifications.

First change was the interfacings/stabilizers. Instead of Noodlehead's combination of Pellon SF101 and Craft Fuse 808 (or canvas), I used the Craft Fuse 808 with Annie's Soft & Stable. I learned about this material from Sew Sweetness and Tula Pink at Quilt Market and ordered it on Amazon. For the front pocket, I skipped the S&S, but did fully line the interior.

Instead of quilting cotton, I used Echino cotton/linen blend canvas for the bag exterior, which gives some additional structure. I pieced the front pocket using a combination of cotton/linen canvas scraps and regular quilting cotton. I can't resist scrappy bags!

And now for the big changes! I left off the tote bag handles in favor of a detachable, adjustable strap. Using my Fossil bag as a model, I added an O-ring to the bottom of the bag which allows the bag to convert to a backpack. To give it a more backpack-like appearance, I also added a flap with a snap closure.

For the strap, I just reused the strap from my old Fossil bag (mainly because Ho-Ann's doesn't carry the right size hardware). If you don't have a long adjustable, detachable strap, making one is actually very easy.

These changes give the bag such a dramatically different look with surprising little hassle.

You will need all of the materials outlined in the Super Tote Pattern

-Fabric for handles
-One of the interfacing options (use 808 for a stiffer bag or SF101 for a more flexible one)

  • Additional .5 yard of chosen interfacing
  • 1 Yard - Annie's Soft and Stable. (I had LOTS leftover, but I think 
  • 2 - 12.5" wide x 10.5" tall pieces of fabric for flap exterior and interior
  • 1 - Heavy duty snap (I used size 24 Dritz snaps)
  • 1/3 Yard - 1" wide cotton webbing for short handle
  • 1 - 12" x 3.5" piece of fabric for short handle
  • 2 - 1.25" wide D-rings
  • 1 - Large O-ring that your swivel claps can pass through
  • 1 - 5" x 10" piece of linen, home dec, or canvas fabric for D/O ring loops
If you are making your own adjustable, detachable strap:
  • 2 Yards - 1.25" wide cotton webbing for long strap
  • 1 - 1.25" wide slide buckle (width should accommodate your webbing)
  • 2 - Swivel claps with 1.25" eyes
Cut all your pattern pieces out of your fabric. Cut duplicates of all the exterior pieces from your interfacing and S&S. I skipped the S&S on the exterior front pocket.

For the D-ring and O-ring loops, cut a 5" x 10" piece of fabric. Fold the piece in half vertically, then fold both edges in to meet the center. Press. Stitch a few rows of topstitching, then cut into two 3" tall pieces and one 4" piece.

Thread the loops through the rings, folding the loop in half, and stitch a narrow rectangle to keep them in place as illustrated below.

To make the flap, I cut two pieces of fabric measuring 12.5" wide x 10.5" tall. I used Echino for the exterior and more of the brown linen for the interior. I fused the 808 to both pieces and sandwiched a layer of S&S between them. I marked a corner radius with a water soluble pen by tracing around a roll of washi tape.

With RST, stitch around the sides and bottom of the flap with a .5" seam, and clip the corners with scissors. Flip the flap right side out and press that baby flat! Topstitch around the edges of the flap and baste the open end shut.

With right side up, align your D-ring pieces on the flap as pictured above and baste in place.

To make the handle, cover a 12" piece of 1" wide cotton webbing with fabric. I added four rows of topstitching for strength.

Mark the center of your exterior back piece on both the top and bottom edge. Mark 1.25" from the center on either side along the top edge. This is where you will position your handle. Baste the handle in place. Center the O-ring piece along the bottom edge and baste in place as well.

Lay your exterior back piece on your work surface, right side up. Place your flap on top, exterior side down. Center the flap and align the raw edges of the two pieces. Baste in place.

Assemble the shell of your bag according to Noodlehead's original instructions, taking care to tuck your O-ring loop inside as you stitch the gusset to the back.

Assemble your lining with the recessed zipper. The original pattern says to leave a 3-4" hole in the bottom of your lining to turn your bag. Due to the added bulk of the S&S and the flap, you'll want to make that gap a lot bigger. I left the majority of the bottom unsewn on one side.

Now it's time to assemble the finished bag. Stick the finished shell inside your lining as described in the original pattern. Make sure your flap is tucked down within the lining as well before stitching around the top of the bag. Once you've finished that, turn the bag right side out. Tuck the lining into the shell and press well. Topstitch around the top of the bag, continuing just below the seam that connects the flap to the body.

Position your snap as desired and install the male piece to to the flap and the female piece to the front exterior pocket. I used the kind that you install with a hammer and setting tool. Tip: do the hammer whacking on the floor (put down a piece of cardboard to protect your floor first). It'll make the process much easier and quieter.

If you are making your own detachable strap, follow this tutorial. You'll want the maximum length to be longer than a typical strap because you need it to form two backpack straps. My finished strap measures 54" long (not including the hardware) when fully extended. Remember to cut your strap longer than the desired finished length to account for the folded portions.

And that's that! It sounds like a lot of information, but it's really just adding a few loops and a flap.


  1. Freaking awesome! I love my super tote, but it's kinda big and heavy to carry on my shoulder. I'll probably steal this idea at some point.

    1. I spent one day of Quilt Market with Stephanie who was lugging a Super Tote. After watching her comfort level rapidly degrade, I knew I'd never be able to carry a tote all day!

  2. dude you're so freaking talented!

  3. Thanks for this how-to/tute! I love the convertible purses, having made one ages ago, but swore never again (the pattern was faulty. . .). Now you've convinced me: I need one.