Leather bag making 101
Do you want to start making your own leather handbags and accessories? Read on!
Here we will discuss the most important steps, tips and tricks to get you started on your bag making journey. If you are a complete beginner, we suggest that you first learn all the basics, from materials to tools. Then, start by purchasing a bag pattern online and learn how to make classic styles. Once you have these mastered, you can move on to making your own patterns and being more experimental.
First, learn about leather. If you are making a leather bag, you should invest in good quality leather. We use vegetable tanned leather in all of our handbag tutorials as it really has a luxurious feel to it and the quality is good enough to last a lifetime. You can alternatively use chrome tanned leather which is usually cheaper. Handbags that are sold in most high-street shops will have used the cheapest type of leather, either chrome tanned or bonded leather which is basically leather scraps that are bonded together and embossed to have a leather-like appearance and texture. Bags made with this leather usually do not last very long.
Second, you’ll need the right tools to make leather bags. As a beginner, you can start with cheaper tools. High-end leather craft tools are expensive but if you are just dipping your toes in the water, start with low-end tools and upgrade later. Many websites sell leather craft tools kits that have all the basics all in one. Some of the most important tools you will need for bag making is an awl, a cutting mat, a knife or a box cutter, a steel ruler, pricking irons and of course, waxed thread and two needles to saddle stitch by hand.
You will most likely need some kind of hardware for your handbags too. What I found challenging when I was starting out was finding bag hardware that has a good quality finish but also ones where the finishes match. Buying silver D-rings from one place and silver rivets from another does not guarantee that the finishes will match! If you can find a shop that supplies bag hardware, perhaps a leather craft store, we’d recommend going in to see the hardware with your own eyes. Failing that, try to buy everything you need for one bag from the same web shop. You can also contact the seller to make sure that the different hardware pieces have the same finish.
Next, sign up to an online bag making course! You can find many bag patterns being sold online but a lot of them do not come with detailed instructions and you will have to figure out things for yourself. Purchasing an all-inclusive online course is great if you are new to bag making as you will not only get a handbag pattern but also detailed instructions, a tools list, information on types of leather and access to a ‘how to make’ video.
Things you will need to take into consideration when making a leather bag is to know how to trace a pattern, how to cut leather, how to punch stitching holes on the leather and how to finish the edges to a professional standard. You won’t need a sewing machine to make a handbag as you can stitch by hand using a method called saddle stitching. You will need to blunt-tip needles and the needles sort of criss-cross. It is not by any means difficult to stitch leather, but it will require some practice to have a neat stitch-line.