Every creative process starts with imagination made material using a simple pen and paper.
Picture an Italian leather handbag and simply draw it to the best of your abilities. It is said that constructing a bag from scratch is similar to building a house - you need a foundation, windows, doors, walls, dormers, and a roof frame to complete the entire structure. However, before you start combining methods to get the result you envisioned, first, you must think through the crafting process one step at a time.
For instance, sewing a pocket into the lining right after the bag is finished is a no-go. Just like building Lego models, there is a certain order of things to the craft.
Ask yourself: Do I want the seams at the center of the ends or on the corners?
The latter choice allows an end pouch to be sewn onto the end before everything is modeled together, whereas the former can be done only after assembly. The more complicated the sewing process is, the more likely something wrong will happen with the bag - so trace your steps carefully before commencing work.
Making leather bags
Step 1: The right materials
There are varieties of sources to learn crafting techniques, including manuals, online tutorials, and good old-fashioned apprenticeship. Still, however you choose to hone your skills, your first order of business should be finding a good quality vegetable tanned leather at about 2mm (5oz) thick. Cut carefully measured templates out of card or paper and apply them on your hide for some precision cutting.
Step 2: Carving with tools
Once your leather pieces are ready, it is time to carve an image onto them. As mentioned before, it is always good to have all your visual ideas on a paper before you physically do anything to the hide. Use a mist spray bottle or a wet sponge to dampen the leather you plan to tool your design onto. With utensils, such as a stylus or biro, you can carefully trace the outlines of your drawings, which are later cut out with a swivel knife to bring out your custom manual design. Remember folks, tooling is easy to learn but hard to master, so keep on practicing until your hands have that surgical precision.
Step 3: Coloring
First, test your dye on some scrap pieces you’ve got lying around. There are different application methods to choose from so a little trial and error can help you determine your further steps without having to rethink your strategy. Heavy applications will not just saturate and darken the leather but it can also leave streak marks, which you do not want unless your design says otherwise. Cotton rags for lighter application will, however, give you much more control with your colors, especially if you aim to two-tone your leather. Also, brush-coloring certain parts of your designs with acrylic paint can make your leather accessories pop out with style. And when the color is all dry, apply finish to make the leather colorfast and resistant to water.
Step 4: Lining
There are many fabrics to choose from, depending on your tastes and budget, but we believe the “pig split” material is ideal if you decide to line the inside of your bag. Not only does it have that elegant suede feel and comes in a variety of colors, but it is also incredibly tough. Use contact adhesive to line the pieces together and lace or stitch them so that the bag stays fastened and secured.
Step 5: The straps
Finally, no piece, such as leather tote or messenger bag, would be complete without straps to grab hold of. They can be sewn onto the sides of a buckle or gusset and secured using rivets. As for the belt, it is not a necessary part of the leather bag but it definitely gives allure and style to the piece.
With some dedicated reading and practice, you will be able to create intricate leather designs in no time. Remember, it all starts from your imagination but it takes skilled hands to make such ideas into reality. Visit online tutorials, learn from the greats, and get busy on your sewing machine. And if you need inspiration, check out our extensive leatherwork collection and feel free to contact us if you need any help or hints with improving your craft.