Travel Patches on a Leather Tote Bag

Travel Patches on a Leather Tote Bag

Years ago and in a roundabout way, I received this VERY inexpensive and somewhat imperfect leather tote bag. It was perfectly functional and well-made. It simply used imperfect leather that the maker couldn’t use on a full-price bag.

tote bag made with damaged leather

Now, you know me, and can probably guess that I’m a fan of weathered leather for its vintage look. So, I certainly didn’t mind any scratches or creases. But the streaks of color (dye? Tanning agent?) were considered the imperfection and subsequent discount on the price.

imperfections on a leather tote bag

So, I decided that my super cheap tote bag was an upcycling candidate. And I would use this project as my inspiration– can you guess what I planned to do?

vintage travel patches

After getting such positive feedback from this post about using vintage patches, the travel patches seemed like the perfect craft supplies to pair up with my leather tote bag!

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Trying Out Leather Glue on the Tote Bag

First, I needed to decide which travel patches to showcase and how I wanted them arranged on the leather tote bag.

arranging the patches on a leather tote bag

Prior to this, I’d done some research about gluing things to leather. Of course, most articles and videos assumed I was gluing leather to leather- but there wasn’t much I could do about that.

Based on my limited research, I decided that leather glue, specifically this kind, was the best bet for my project.

the best leather glue for projects

However, it wasn’t going to be as basic as applying glue to the patches and slapping them on the bag. There’d be a touch more work involved.

Next, I temporarily fixed the patches to the leather bag with painter’s tape. And yes, the tape was going to damage the surface of the leather- but that was ok and actually helpful in this case.

attaching travel patches to tote bag with leather glue

Once the patches were taped, I carefully peeled off a patch one at a time and used a utility knife to score and scratch the leather’s surface. The leather needed to be roughed up in order for the glue to do its job…

scratching the surface of leather before using glue

After doing that for each taped patch area, I removed the tape, applied glue to the back of the patch and pressed it to the scored leather.

decorating a travel bag with patches

When all was said and done, I flipped the bag over, slid a couple of heavy books inside, and let the weight of the books help adhere the patches firmly in place.

Travel Patches on a Leather Tote Bag

And that was all there was to it! I let the bag sit upside down with the books weighing down the patches and drying glue overnight.

I ended up with a leather tote bag that winked and nodded at all the vintage suitcases I’ve admired over the years, covered in travel stickers.

tote bag that looks like a vintage suitcase

And while the patches don’t cover up and hide all the streaks on the leather, they are now the focal point and break up the leather surface so that you really don’t notice the streaks anymore.

covering a leather tote bag in travel patches

Which is exactly what I’d hoped they would do! Plus, it was a fun scavenger hunt (antiques shops, Etsy, eBay) to find travel patches that I had a connection to. Places I’m from, vacationed to, and hope to travel to in the future.

Time will tell if the leather glue holds firm, but I’ve got faith that it will. I hold Aleene’s glue products in high regard, so I don’t see why this one would be any different. Assuming I scored the leather enough for a well-textured surface..!

And if you enjoyed this upcycling idea for a leather tote bag, then you might also enjoy how I made this hip bag, as well.

Hip purse from a small leather handbag

And for a fun, mini twist on vintage luggage, check out these Christmas ornaments I made from Altoids tins, too!

Upcycling the mint tins into Christmas ornaments that look like vintage luggage as unique travel gifts

Craft on!


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leather travel bag that looks like vintage luggage

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Sarah Ramberg is the owner of Sadie Seasongoods, a website that celebrates all things secondhand. From upcycling ideas and thrifted decor to vintage-centric travel itineraries, Sadie Seasongoods is a one-stop shop for anyone who loves thrifting and approachable repurposing ideas. Sarah is also the author of “Crafting with Flannel” and has been featured in numerous media outlets and magazines.


  1. What a fabulous way to ramp up a plain tote! Love the vintage luggage look so this certainly is right up my alley!

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