A while back, Ashley posted about sewing with leather and it reminded me that my local Abakhan often has "lucky dip" type bags of leather scraps that I thought I could play around with. I had ideas of making something small like a coin purse. Fast forward to me standing in Abakhan, rummaging through the large remnant bin of big leather pieces where I found a rather lovely piece of silver/white snakeskin leather that measured just over 1m by 1m. Remnants there are sold by weight and there was a sale on at the time so I ended up paying pennies over £10 for it.
For my pattern, I chose Hot Patterns La Rue Messenger bag as it seemed like quite a simple shape, with enough going on to make for a nice interesting bag. The bag is designed to be carried on the shoulder with the large cut-outs as handles, or the cut-outs can be folded over and the bag carried across the body with the additional long skinny strap. There's also a decorative tassel.
The pattern version I had was a free download from years back. There were written instructions but no illustrations, which I found a bit tough at times. I'm not sure if the paid-for version which you can get through the Hot Patterns shop is exactly the same? I would have preferred some pictures, particularly of the internal pockets. In the end, I sewed one zippered internal pocket (below) but missed out the additional phone pocket as I figured I wouldn't use it anyway.
My lining fabric was a grey quilting cotton. It is partly visible from the outside of the bag, especially around the handles, so I wanted to choose something that toned well with the leather and didn't detract from it. The handle cut-outs are bound with lining fabric. This was the most fiddly bit and I'm not entirely happy with how it is lying inside the bag. I might just sew some lace over the seam to hide it!
My essential tips and tools for working with leather:
Leather needle - I was surprised that my modern Brother could sew through 3 layers of leather pretty well. It refused to do any more than that. But the right needle was essential.
Walking foot or teflon foot - I mostly used my walking foot to manage the thick layers. For this design, I was usually sewing the fabric wrong sides together so the shiny right side of the fabric didn't come into contact with the needle plate or the machine foot.
Stitch length - Set your stitch length longer than usual. Small stitches act like perforations through the leather, weakening the seam.
Glue - You can't press your seam allowances flat so instead glue them flat. It means the actual sewing process can go quite slowly as you sew, glue, then wait for the glue to dry before you can move on. But it works.
Quilting clips - You can't really pin leather as it will leave permanent holes. I used quilting clips to hold pieces together. They were also useful to hold the fabric in place when I was gluing seam allowances flat.
Bag making supplies came from U-handbag - I used these 1/2" swivel bolt snaps and some D-rings to attach the long handle and tassel. And I may have bought a few more bits than I needed so I can make more bags in future! I think I have Hot Patterns Nairobi bag pattern around here somewhere...