Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Upscaled Leather Bag

I just finished the leather bag that was inspired when a customer came in and showed me her beautiful bag she ‘upscaled’ from an old leather jacket. She didn’t like the way it looked so she took it apart and we redid it so she was a little happier with it. One of the things we learned; the less bulk you have the better the machine will go through all the layers of leather.

So, with that in mind, I tore into my leather jacket – taking out all the lining and interfacing.

I wanted to utilize the large pockets in the front of the jacket. In order to do that I had to overlap the front middle sections, even doing that made the bag a little wider than I would have liked, but at least I have the pockets. Since the front of the bag was wide, I ended up having to piece sections of the back of the jacket together to make the back of the bag wide enough.

I then sewed the bottom of the bag together and added a magnetic snap as a closure. I would have preferred a zipper, but being I wasn’t sure how this was going to go together I decided not to make it too complicated.

Next I tackled the lining; if any of you have taken my Totebag class you’ll know that I like pockets. I used some scraps of the leather to make a pocket on the inside of the bag.

I still wasn’t happy with the width of the bag so after adding the closure I took in each side of the bag by making a pleat. I’m a little happier with the size of the bag now.

I then made the straps using the sleeves of the jacket. I cut 3” strips of fabric for the straps and sewed them together. This is where the machine got a little testy with me. I had to sew the straps together and then sew the straps to the doubled-over top of the bag; which is 4-6 layers of leather. It took some coaxing of the machine (and a few needles) to get over the seam humps.

Tips for sewing with leather:

1. Use a leather needle. These needles are thicker and meant for sewing through layers of leather (though maybe not 6-8 layers).

2. Really think about how the project will go together. Once you sew through leather you will have a permanent hole.

3. Use a seam ripper to take out seams. Leather tears.

4. Never pin the leather (see #2 above). Instead use paper clips, paper binders or even clothes-line clips. All of these can be found at the dollar store.

5. Go slow. I broke fewer needles by going slowly over the bulky parts. When the machine just couldn’t do it, I raised the needle and pushed the fabric forward to a spot the machine would go through. Plus, if you are going fast and break a needle you do not want the needle fragments flying and hitting you in the face or worse - the eyes! 

Here is the bag! I am happy with it – and will be using it as a computer tote. I will definitely be making more in fact, I still have a pink suede jacket and a red leather jacket. The pink jacket will be a clutch purse, I’m still pondering what to make with the red jacket. Any suggestions?

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