A few days ago I went to a nearby fabric store to buy a zipper for a skirt I’m working on, and accidentally wound up with a leather tote bag later that evening!
Which reminds me a bit of this comic by Drew Mokris:
Whoops, I made a leather bag! (But not with chopsticks.)
I am totally stoked about this bag for a bunch of reasons:
- It was SO EASY to make. (I referred to various tutorials including these ones by Sew Be It and Sew Bon.) It took just a few hours including some hand-stitching to reinforce the seams.
- I had been inexplicably using big, ugly, reusable grocery bags to schlep my shoes, lunch, etc. to and from work and this is the perfect, more upscale alternative.
- It was CHEAP! Total cost for materials was $22 plus tax for a leather bag. I found a good-sized piece of dove-grey leather for $20 and two strips of teal blue leather for 50 cents each. Leather sewing needles cost $2. (All purchased at Designer Fabrics on Queen Street West in Toronto.)
- I’m feeling excited to make more….I can experiment with colour blocking depending on the size and colour of leather pieces available, and I think this would make a great Christmas present for my girlfriends.
Here are some tips for sewing leather that I found helpful:
- Use leather sewing machine needles
- No need to back-stitch at the beginning or end of seams. Just leave long threads, use a hand-sewing needle to pull the threads through an existing stitch-hole to the inside of the bag, and tie the threads off. (I honestly don’t know why back-stitching is frowned upon; it’s just something I read in various blogs, none of which said why…so maybe I’m just perpetuating a myth here. If you’re in the know on these things, please advise!)
- Don’t pin leather, as pins will leave permanent holes. Use paperclips or clothes pegs. Some folks recommend using double-sided tape but this sounds like a terrible idea — it’s already hard enough for the needle to get through the leather without adding a layer of stickiness to the mix.
- Don’t iron the leather. To get your seams to lie flat, use a rubber mallet to hammer the seam flat. You can then use leather glue to stick down the seam allowances if you wish. (I didn’t bother sticking down my seam allowances, but I can see where this might bother some sewists.)
- You may need to ease off the pressure of your presser foot if you find it is sticking to the leather. Some people recommend using a Teflon foot, or putting some Teflon plumbing tape on the bottom of the presser foot to allow it to glide more smoothly over the leather. I didn’t have any problems with the presser foot sticking, luckily.
- Some sewing machines cannot handle sewing over thick layers of leather (the bottom side seams of a tote bag are particularly tricky where there are 4 layers to sew). My machine did it, but I turned the wheel by hand instead of using the foot pedal, went *very* slowly, and lifted the presser foot a bit as needed. I still had some skipped stitches, so I reinforced these seams by hand-sewing into the existing holes left by the sewing machine.
In the photo above you can see that the straps are single layer, which allows the wrong side of the leather to show. On some DIY tutorials I read, they recommended sewing 2 layers together to form the straps before attaching them to the bag. I didn’t do this because I was worried about piling up too many layers of leather, but in retrospect it probably wouldn’t have been a problem. However I really don’t mind the two-tone look of the straps and they seem quite sturdy.
And speaking of whoops I knitted a scarf, I’m wearing the Medusa Loop Scarf I knitted last year. It’s a huge loop with smaller loops branching off here and there. It’s a fun accessory and a quick knit. I’m afraid you can’t really see what it’s all about in this photo but you can check out the awesome photos and get the pattern on the Medusa Loop Scarf pattern page on Ravelry.
Thanks for stopping by!