Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Look Dad I made a leather bag!

Me, me, I made a bag!!!

My Dad gave me some red leather quite some time ago now. Definitely more than 10 years, but not sure when. He bought a leather hide from a local tannery in Devon to make an apron for his workshop for if he was welding or something like that and gave me the leftovers.

It had been folded and moved from place to place ever since that time with no purpose at all. I have tried to work with leather before, but this is really thick. It's the kind of thickness that is used for satchels, so completely unusable for clothing or trims.

It wasn't until I found the leather the other day that cogs started to turn and ideas started brewing. At first I was thinking very ambitiously and thought of making an Orla Kiely inspired animal shape and then I thought a house, but finally I thought that I should calm down and bring it down a notch. I hadn't the faintest idea about how to work with this thick leather, so was getting way ahead of myself.

After reading a post about a bag kit on Tillys blog I decided a simple shape was needed. I actually borrowed alot of ideas of construction from there too.

I have a satchel already that I used to use alot, so took my bag dimensions from there. I quickly plotted a template on illustrator and stuck it to the leather with double sided tape. I thought that this would be easier to cut around if they were stuck in place, although I wouldn't advise that on leather with a special finish to it.

I cut the pieces out with a metal ruler and a scalpel (the blade would carve into a plastic ruler)

I then took the pieces over to my sewing machine, removed the thread and punched holes along the edges to be stitched. My theory was to make the holes and then handstitch the bag together. I would never get a neat machine stitch on this and I would struggle to push the hand sewing needle through the leather, so this was my way of mimmicking the bag kit that Tilly used.

 I used some thread to hold the bag together at certain points and to check that it would fit together ok...

Then proceeded to handstitch. By the time I got to this first corner my hands were sore. The holes I punched were still too small and only made it marginally easier. The stitches also looked pretty messy having gone back over this line to fill in the gaps and make it look like a machine stitch, so I decided to brave it on the machine. It was not possible to machine stitch it all, as I couldn't persuade the leather to flex enough to fit under the foot, so I stitched most of the straight edges and hand stitched the corners.

Even though I was using a childs thick cardboard book and a cotton reel to help push the needle through, my fingers are still really sore. If anyone can offer any leather sewing tips I would be very interested.

 I got some bag hardware (is that the correct term?) from Merchant and Mills with my last order, as this had been on my mind for a while, so had fun attaching the bag handle. I couldn't cut a strap piece long enough from the leather I had left, so cut it in two pieces punched some corresponding holes and screwed them together with these chicago screws. I also used these to attach the handle to the bag. So satisfying and no dodgy stitching required.

The front flap was originally curved at the corners, but I decided this looked strange somehow and tried to give it an envelope look. It now kind of looks like the back of a normal bag! To fasten the flap down I used these screw-in Sam Browns. Don't you just love this stuff? I could get hooked on using these little screws.

I punched holes for all these little bits with my leather punch, which was just from some cheapo hardware store many years ago. The holes on the front flap to push over the 'Sam Browns' have a slight slit cut at the top to expand the hole over (if that makes sense)

In all honesty, this is not the best thing I've ever made, but it's usable (and I will use it) and it's made use of something I never thought would come out of the stash, so I'm happy! It actually looks ok and a bit vintage, but if you were a stickler for neat stitches then the finish on this might drive you round the bend.I did have more photos to offer you of dodgy stitching and also what it looked like before I changed the shape of the front flap, but I seem to have deleted these ahead of time, so you'll just need to take my word for it!

So, if after all that you are interested in making a bag yourself then I have uploaded my template for you.