Introduction: Creating a Unique and Stylish Leather Messenger Bag
Runner Up in the
Tandy Leather Contest 2016
Hello and thank you for checking out my item!! A good friend of mine had left over fur-on cow hide that was utilized to make an ottoman, but was just collecting dust in his closet. This beautiful hide was the inspiration in creating this bag. It is unisex and can be utilized as an everyday satchel, book bag, briefcase or handbag.
This project requires a base-level knowledge of working with leather and the machinery for sewing it. It isn't too complicated, but is not for beginners.
Step 1: Gather Supplies
For this project you will need:
- Leather hide: I used two different kinds, a soft, medium thick upholstery hide for the bag and a fur-on cow hide for the outer pocket and flap (@10 Sq ft for body and @4 sq ft for the flap and outer pocket)
- Straight edge ruler
- Rotary wheel cutter and X-acto knife
- Tailor's chalk
- Leather seam tape (a double stick polyester based invisible adhesive tape used to secure seams, glue down inner selvage etc.) You may also use an all purpose cement like "Barges"
- Fused nylon thread in 67 or 92 gauge thickness
- Material for the lining. (I used 100% silk)
- 2 - Handbag magnetic clasps
- 1.5" belt buckle
- 1.5" wide by 50" long nylon strap in black or similar color to bag leather
- Walking foot industrial sewing machine or other machine used for leather construction (Do NOT use a regular sewing machine. It will destroy the tension mechanism)
- Zipper for additional interior pocket
- Padding for lining (either batting, foam or plush fabric)
Step 2: Marking and Cutting Pattern
For a medium sized bag:
- Mark and cut 2 - 17" x 16" pieces of leather and lining. Cut a 2.5" box out of two lower corners on the 17" side. (Bag exterior)
- Mark and cut 1 - 17" x 14" piece of leather and lining adding a slight arc to one long side and notch the lower corners to match the other pieces. (Front exterior pocket)
- Mark and cut 1 - 50" x 2.25" piece of leather (Strap)
- (See third picture above) Cut 1 - 14" x 2.25" piece of leather. Fold in half. Cut and angle piece starting 3.5" from end, leaving 1/2" on narrow side at end (Buckle/strap holder)
- Mark and cut 3.25" x 1.25" piece of leather (Belt loop)
- See next step for cutting the fur-on pieces
Step 3: Cutting Fur-on Hide
If utilizing fur-on hide, instead of using the rotary cutter, you will want to use an X-Acto knife. Cut on the wrong side of the leather and be careful to cut through just the hide itself without cutting the fur, this way, you will not have chopped off fur at the end of your cut. This works best if you lift the hide off of the table so the fur has an escape from the blade.
- Mark and cut 1- 17" x 9" (outer bag flap)and 1 - 12" x 9.5" (back exterior pocket) piece of fur on hide. Please note, if there are special markings or non-straight edges that you like, you may have the bottoms of the large flap or the pocket piece reflect this and not be straight across
Step 4: Making the Strap
Take the nylon belting and the 50" piece of leather strap.
- Utilizing the leather tape, place on the long edges of both sides of leather strap. Carefully remove top layer and fold 1/4" over to create a finished edge. Please note this is a lot harder than it seems. Be careful to create an even 1.75" leather strap.
- Add another piece of leather tape down the underside center of the leather strap and carefully affix to the nylon strap ensuring even lines on both sides. The nylon will slightly overhang the leather.
- Stitch the edges of leather to the nylon as close to the folded edge as possible using a walking foot machine.
- Utilizing a leather hole punch, add a total of 8 - 12 holes, 1.5" apart, to one end of the strap. Ensure holes are large enough for the belt buckle poker to go through them. To prevent fraying, take a lighter and carefully melt the loose fibers at each hole on the nylon side.
Step 5: Making the Buckle Holding Strap
- Take the buckle strap as pictured above, and open up the fold.
- Add 1/4" leather tape to both edges of the strap and fold over to create finished edges on both sides.
- Take belt loop piece. Add leather tape to the center of the short side. fold one side of rectangle to adhere to the tape. Fold the other side over on top of first and stitch close to the folds on both sides.
- Take the buckle and slide it into the center of the strap, allowing the male insert to poke through the slot created. (Ensure you have the buckle facing the right way. See above). Place one side of the belt loop @1" below the buckle and refold the strap a pictured above. Stitch this side.
- Take the other end of the belt loop and pull across the front of the strap. Insert it in-between the straps on the opposite side and carefully stitch in place, ensure you do not sew through the top of the loop.. Finish sewing the rest of this side.
Step 6: Creating and Attaching Back Outer Pocket
- Take the back pocket and lining along with one of the magnetic closures. Place the male side of the magnet through the lining about 1" from the top edge and centered.
- Take the back pocket and lining, with right sides together, stitch around all four sides close to the edge, leaving @ a 3" opening to turn right-side out.
- Once the liner is attached to the pocket, stitch the remaining 3" opening.
- Take a seam ripper or letter opener and carefully run along the edges of the fur to ensure the stitches around the edges are concealed by the fur. (see pictures 3 and 4 above).
- Take one of the outer bag leather pieces and place newly created pocket on the right side of the leather, centering side to side and placing @ 2" below the top (non-notched side).
- Carefully stitch the sides and bottom of the pocket ensuring the placement remains centered.
- Take the female part of the magnetic clasp and utilizing the placement of male part, mark and attach it to the leather.
Step 7: Preparing Front Pocket
- Take arched edge front pocket piece of leather and lining along with the other magnetic clasp.
- Add the male side of magnet to the center top of the lining @1" below top.
- Take the outer pocket leather piece with the arch cut out on the top as well as the liner for the pocket and with right sides together, stitch only to top arched seam.
- Flip right side out and top stitch the seam so that the liner is tucked out of sight on the seam.
Step 8: Putting the Bag Together
We are now ready to assemble the bag!!
- Take the remaining untouched bag side and place the new front pocket right side up on top of it, aligning the bottoms and sides.
- Now take the strap and buckle piece. Cut the non-hole punched end and cut at an angle like the buckle piece, making sure they are mirror images and place one on each side of the bag 2" below the top edge. Ensure the actual buckle and strap are angled on the inside and place inbetween the back and front bag pieces. I utilized my leather tape to adhere the seams of the straps to the bag to ensure they are in exactly the same place.
- Now take the back outer piece (with the fur on pocket) and place face down on top of the front pocket, again aligning sides and bottom. Stitch the bottom seam first, then the two side seams avoiding the square notches in the bottom corners as pictured above.
- Now take the notched corners and fold the leather perpendicular to the other seams and stitch across.
- Reinforce all seams by top stitching the seam allowance down. Also stitch the strap and buckle piece to the outer bag about 1/8" from the seam.
- Turn right side out and put leather tape along the upper edges of the bag. Fold the edges over 1/4" and adhere to create a finished edge.
Step 9: Preparing and Installing Lining and Outer Flap
- Take the front flap and the main bag. utilizing seam tape, adhere the shorter edge to the back of the bag @ 1/2" above the back pocket. Top stitch only the flap to the bag. (Please note, if you are utilizing regular hide and not fur-on, you will want to prepare a lining for the flap and have a finished edge to attach vs the raw leather.)
- Take and stitch the lining just like the outer bag in step 8. (please note, if you want to add any interior pockets or other attachments to the lining, do so before stitching together. I added a pocket to each side, but am not instructing that part)
- Like the outer bag, add the seam tape to the top of the lining edges also and fold under to create a finished lining edge.
- Insert the lining wrong side out into the bag and clip the lining to the bag carefully matching up the side seams. Ensure the lining is slightly below the edge line so it isn't visible unless the bag is open. Stitch the upper edge.
- Cut off any loose threads, etc. Utilize a lighter to melt and raw threads.
Thanks you so much for taking the time to review my messenger bag how-to guide. Happy Crafting!! If you have any specific questions, not answered or unclear above, you may email me at TimtheLeatherTailor@gmail.com and I will get right back to you!!
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