If you want to make a leather bag, first you need to choose your leather. Vegetable tanned is our preferred type of leather but there are others to choose from, such as chrome tanned leather. When making a handbag, you need a pattern. Start by placing the pattern on top of the leather. You can either trace around the pattern using an awl to get the shape on the surface, but for a beginner, it is usually easier to tape the pattern on the leather using masking tape. Then, as long as the pattern has the stitching holes marked on it, punch those onto the leather through the paper pattern using a pricking iron. This is a fork-like tool that is used for this purpose. Depending on what style of bag you are making, you might need to mark the position of magnets, rivets, etc. through the pattern.
Next, you will have to cut the pattern pieces out. For this you will need a steel ruler and a knife. Usually a simple box cutter (Stanley knife) will work well. Always be careful that the knife does not slip and cut into your work. After you have cut the bag pieces from the leather, you can start constructing your bag. You will need some leather glue to attach the pieces together as this will keep them nice and steady when you are stitching. In order to stitch the bag, you will need two needles if you are saddle stitching the bag by hand. There are different types of threads that you can use to make your bag. Buying a ready-waxed thread is the easiest, however if yours isn’t waxed, you can use beeswax to give a coating of wax. When you are making a handbag using leather, the most important thing is to be consistent with how you stitch. And always remember to tighten the thread with the same amount of strength to have an even stitch line.
After you have stitched the bag together, you can finish the edges. Of course, if you are going for a more rugged look, you can leave the edges raw, but finishing them will give your handbag a more professional look and it will also protect the edges. Finishing the edges of a leather bag consists of three steps; bevelling, sanding and burnishing. To bevel the edges, you will need a tool called an edge beveller. This tool has a small groove at the tip which you use to cut the sharpness from a leather edge to create a chamfer. You should then sand the edges for a smoother finish. You can use a sanding block or sand paper which you can find in hardware stores. You can experiment with different grit. Once this has been done, you will need to burnish the edges. Moisten the edges with either a bit of water or a burnishing agent, such as Gum Tragacanth. Once moistened, rub along the edge using a wooden edge slicker to create a smooth and glossy finish.
Learning how to make leather bags is a fun process. It might seem like a lot of work at first but once you get the hang of it, it will be very enjoyable. At first it might take you three or four days to complete a bag, depending on its size, but later on you can even make a bag in a day! Overtime and with practice, you will get faster with the stitching and with all the other steps of making the bag.