Thursday, April 5, 2012

Crafts - Market Tote

It seemed like a natural progression to start making a bag out of leather. I've made a lot of smaller accessories for some time now, but never anything as big as a bag. Mostly due to the fact that I don't own a working leather sewing machine and only sew by hand, which means, that besides cutting the leather and constructing the bag, I would also have to make a couple of thousands stitches by hand - one at the time. As you probably can imagine this is a rather time consuming project. 
However it seemed like a perfect opportunity when a friend of mine came by some time ago and started talking about the need of a "big leather bag", which I turned into "huge leather tote" in my head. As I finally had a couple of days off, I jumped at the opportunity and made that "huge leather tote", that she requested.

There is nothing revolutionary about the design, and that was never the intention. However I think I managed to add some details, that makes the bag stand apart. First of all it's completely hand sewn and besides that the handles are folded and sewn together and it's not just riveted unto the bag, but both sewn and riveted and it has an internal pocket, which is left open for easy access.

As I have tried to illustrate with these pictures, it can contain quite a lot of stuff, and will definitely hold enough stuff for a weekend trip. It was constructed as a one piece construction for durability and simplicity.

The interior is very simple. One pocket without any closing mechanism for easy access.

I couldn't resist the urge to put my name on bag. As you can't punch the football leather, I had to put in a small tag of the same vegetable tanned leather as used on the handles.

As this was a bag intended for a very special person I wanted to monogram it. I decided to use some mil-spec brass stencils, that I had bought from the US some time ago, but never really used before. Of course it's rather reminiscent of naval stencils on marine army wear, but it makes sense in this case, if you happen to know my friend, so I really like this personal detail.

Stitching came out quite nicely. I used a braided nylon thread from Barbour Coats. The thread was only glazed, so I waxed the thread myself using beeswax and paraffin. A rather nice, but also time-consuming, procedure. Unfortunately I can really tell that I need to work on my edge coating skills.

The handles caused some cussing, as it really took some effort to get them right, but in the end they are also, what I like the most about the bag.
There is no padding/backing added to them, but they are made of a 3/4 mm thick vegetable tanned leather, so if they were to collapse a bit, that wouldn't matter. I wanted them to soften with wear making them more comfortable. To add to the comfort I rounded all edges and burnished them with beeswax.

For extra durability I decided to secure the handles using both rivets and stitching.

From experience I know, that solid copper rivets age really well and on top of that they go really well with natural vegetable tanned leather. Perfect combination.

Burnished edges

All the copper rivets were backed using the same leather as the body.

I just can't enough of that grain and from working with this leather I've been thinking about finding some nice pebble grain leather, like the one that a lot of shoemakers use. But I'm yet to find a good source for it.

Most of all I can't wait to see the bag in some time. I put a lot of effort into to this bag and without sounding  like a big cliché I also managed to put in some blood, sweat and tears. I really hope, that it wears well and that it will give the owner a lot of pleasure in the years to come.


  1. Found your blog through denimhunters article. Good stuff here! Very nice tote bag you've made. I like that simple design with nice details! Greetings from Finland!

  2. Hi Patrik and welcome all the way from Finland.

    I'm glad my scheme of making other bloggers link to my blog is finally working. You'll soon realize, that this blog is much better than the rest ;-) Haha

    I'm of course kidding, but I hope, you'll stay on and continue reading.