Totes & Bags – Adding Pizzazz!

Are you a tote or bag maker? Today I’m gonna show you some quick tips for adding some pizzazz to your finished totes. What we’re sharing can also work on any purchased bags you have, not just ones you crafted! Ready to start? Let’s go! Adding a zipper pull is probably the easiest way to jazz up a bag. What can you use as a pull? Oh…we’ll get to that! Be sure and check out my nails…they look awesome! I usually break one just before taking photos…or smash my finger…

Tools & Supplies:

You don’t really need anything, tool-wise, different from what you probably already own. I made jewelry in a past life so I still have tools (and beads, more beads, maybe some more…I might have a problem…) that are basically smaller versions of household tools. You can use household tools they’re just a bit large and clunky. If you’re just going to bling up a bag or two, no need to buy tools. If you find you like how easy, inexpensive and sooo simple it is to do that you want to jazz up lots of bags then maybe spring for a small pair or two of jewelers pliers. You can get them at just about any big-box craft store that sells jewelry findings (that’s what they call the parts and pieces). Two pair would be ideal.

jewelry findings
Jewelry Findings!

You might need some special parts – jewelry findings. There are various ways you can attach zipper pulls but I find that rings are generally the best. Rings come in two versions – split rings and jump rings. Split rings are tiny versions of key rings, generally two circles of wire and you “scoot” whatever you are attaching along the wire circle. Jump rings are one circle of wire which you open, attach your items and close. Two pair of pliers are handy for this task! I prefer split rings for attaching zipper pulls because they hold up better as you tug and pull during usage.

jewelry findings

Split Rings vs. Jump Rings

Here’s a little tip for opening/closing jump rings…open them side to side, not along the circle. If you bend them open side to side you can easily reclose them to retain their circle shape. If you open them along the circle you can never get them back to a circle shape!

Opening Jump Rings
Opening Jump Rings-don’t do the left, do the right!
two pliers
2 Pliers Are Better Than 1!

Whatever findings you choose to use, you can pick up a variety pack of sizes/colors for a couple of dollars. So…now we know how to attach…let’s learn what to attach!

Adding On:

If you can stick a hole in it to attach, you can make it into a zipper pull! I love to use charms and other “found” items as pulls. There’s a great company online that has all kinds of really cool charms and doo-dads. Solid Oak Online.  Click on their name to check ’em out. In full disclosure, they did send me some stuff for free to try out. I can assure you that I will be ordering from them again in the future. Moosette also wandered by when I was checking out their website. She pushed me out of the way and started her own list…sigh… Poke around and you can find some really cool things. Here’s what I started with…

Solid Oak Online

I found some neat sewing charms and arrows with pearls in the Steampunk section, variegated silk ribbon with metal label charms in the Brianna section and a really cool sugar skull (that’s two sided!) in the Thaneeya section.  If sparkly stuff is more your style, they have plenty of that…seriously, poke around.

First up, a tote make-over…

tote makeovertote makeover

These two totes have lace zippers on the pockets. These zippers come with a decent zipper pull but it just seems a little small to me for this size bag. We don’t need any findings for these two. I simply (and oh so gently…) pried open the zipper just enough to remove the existing pull and replace with a new one. Gently cinch it back up and all done. I can keep the old pulls for another project too. The green bag got the arrow with pearl and the purple bag got some scissors. You can find the pattern for this bag right here.


Next up is a little bag that my friend Judy made for me. I had this button pull attached which came with it’s own hook type of attachment. The hook is a little wide for the small opening in the zipper tab so it’s always getting stuck and twisted. I could replace the hook with a split ring but I think this thimble charm goes much better with the fabric on the bag.

Here’s the cute sugar skulls on another bag. This charm is two sided which makes it perfect for a zipper pull. It also comes with a lobster claw attachment so it’s really easy to install! Seriously, it took less than a minute.


This is a purchased leather bag that I use as my briefcase. It has a leather tab on the zipper. Nice but boring. I cut off the tab and there was a wide loop which allowed me to attach all kinds of stuff! Oops…looks like I need to mend a seam there too…


I put two arrows, one on each side and a spool in the middle. The spool sits on top and is super handy to grab and zip. The arrows dangle down for some zing. Oh look, that seam got fixed!

Next came the silk ribbon and this metal label charm. You simply slide the metal label onto the ribbon. What to do with this one…


I thought about attaching it to the outer pocket of this bag with a half bow on either side. That would show off this beautiful silk ribbon but it didn’t really excite me.

I ended up just tying a pretty bow on the handle and attaching the label to one leg of the bow. A knot on each end of the legs keeps the label on and keeps the ribbon from fraying. Perfect.

Your Turn:

As you can see it is really easy to add a little something extra to the totes and bags you make…or the ones you purchase! Each of these took just a couple of minutes to do. It actually took much longer to photograph and write this than to do the actual jazzing up! The examples I’ve shared today would not cost a lot either. If you wanted to up your game a bit and go for some fancier bling that is certainly possible…but it still won’t cost a whole lot!

Something spooky this way comes…

Thanks to Solid Oak Online for letting me play with some of their products. They were all solidly made (guess that should have been obvious from their name…) no cheap junk at this shop. I know they will last for quite some time. There was one more piece in my package. I have a plan for this spider web but that will have to wait for a future post about adding some bling to my quilts! So…how do you dress up your totes and bags?

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