After making several carry on's, wallets, boxes and totes for people out of veg tan and chrome tan leathers I have been asked to make a video. This seems to be a better venue to show the steps and hopefully give people some ideas.
It's kind of long winded but I try to go into detail as much as possible. I don't supply overall measurements. I do only on crucial points, this way the bag can be made any size
Step 1: Tools and Supplies
Things I used. There are no set tools to do leatherwork. Use what you have and be creative such as a fork to make stitch marks or dental floss to sew with. Anyway
Chrome tan leather about a nickel thick
Waxed tiger thread
Cutting board and mat
5 prong hole punch
24 inch acrylic ruler
Rapid rivets and rivet setter
Hardware from a thrift store purse
handheld hole puncher
Total in supplies about 10 bucks.
Step 2: The Designing Part
I never use a pattern when making stuff, I usually start off with an idea then start cutting up Manila folders and cardboard and make it work that way first then take measurements and make templates. A lot of leather I use comes from old couches and chairs. The backs are usually very clean
This particular bag I used a side of chrome tanned leather that I got at the swap shop for 5 bucks. Some blemishes but that gives character.
Step 3: Parts
After getting my sizing correct I cut out all pieces with a rotary cutter and use scissors for the corners. Veg tan is a lot harder and I use a razor knife for that stuff. I left the flap end a little long and unfinished so I can add style and shape when the project is almost done. The shoulder strap I cut last because some people like them wider and different lengths
I used heavy cardboard to get the exact gusset length and to mark my glue stop line
Here I have a single piece for the front, bottom, back and front flap. 2 gussets, a small pocket, a divider pocket that won't be sewn at the bottom and 2 strap ring holders
Step 4: Assembly Prep
At this time I mark off all of my glue lines so I don't get it where it don't belong. Cement stains the good side and won't come out of the flesh side. Then I sand and scratch all finished surfaces to be glued. This aids in glue penetration and adhesion
Step 5: Small Pocket Assembly
Next I apply glue using mfg recommended directions to the marked off areas and carefully secure the pocket to the flesh side of the divider piece ( tip::: some cements will tear the leather before coming unglued. Be extra careful when sticking them together. Take your time) let it cure then mark off a stitch line, punch your holes and saddle stitch it all together. Don't pull the stitches too tight as this may cause wrinkling in the stitch line. Also add an extra loop on the top corners for added durability in stress areas.
Step 6: Divider/bottomless Pocket Assembly
At this point mark off where the divider piece ends at the bottom of the inside of the front. ( if that makes sense) you will only glue to this point. See pics. The divider is somewhat wider to accommodate a book or object being placed behind it. And the bottom is not secured to prevent stitch marks from appearing on the outside of the bag. After applying the glue per mfg instructions , carefully secure the divider piece into place making sure to orient the small pocket opening upwards. Then use clips to hold it until cured. You will not be sewing this part until you install the gusset
Step 7: Gluing Gussets
In the parts section I pictured using thick cardboard to get my gusset measurement and to mark my glue stop line. This is where the gusset will end on the back of the bag. Double check that point and make any minor adjustments now. When doing this part I only glue one side of the bag at a time because pieces tend to get stuck together when you are manipulating the leather around corners and such, use paper between pieces to avoid accidental adhesion. I rounded the gusset corners to help it all fit together smoothly and always start assembly from the front working to the rear so you aren't short or long when you come around, due to leather stretching. Once the gusset in in place, lightly hammer it down to ensure a good connection then apply your spring clips. Move onto the other side and repeat the process. Let this cure overnight you will be handling these a lot during sewing and need a strong bond
Step 8: Sewing Gussets
Once the glue is cured. I use wing dividers set about 1/4 inch and score punch line all the way around on the inside lip of the gusset. It is easier to punch from the inside lip. To begin punching I start from the front and work around to the back. Start about 3/16 inch down this gives a good lip to secure the end. When going around corners be careful to not punch off angle as an extra hole may be punched. When you come to the end stop about 3/16 inch down and make a single hole in the back just above the gusset end to secure the top. Start a saddle stitch 3 holes down and back stitch up and over the end then back down for durability. Work your way around to the rear and go over the edge through the single hole and back down 3 holes. Burn the thread edges for added security and neatness. Repeat on the other side.
Step 9: Adding Strap Holder Rings
I cut this hardware from a new thrift store purse. The zipper was torn and it was unused. I take my securing strap and fold it in half then I mark and punch the 4 holes this ensures that they line up on either side of the gusset. Then I position the strap where I want it and mark and punch the holes in the gusset. With the strap folded in half,notch the edges to accommodate the ring since it is wider than the ring. It is wider at the secure point to distribute the weight of the bag. Insert the ring into the folded strap and put one side on the inside and one side on the outside of the gusset, insert and secure your rivets through the aligned holes
Step 10: The Belt Keep.
A belt keep is the little ring on a belt next to the buckle to hold the tag end down. It tidies up the tag end and stops the buckle from accidentally coming undone. You will add this piece to the strap in the next step.
Take a piece of leather about 1/2 inch to 1 inch wide depending on your style and wrap it around a folded over portion of the belt and overlap it about 1/4 inch( about enough room for a hole and rivet) and mark and cut it off there. This process gives you room to slide the tag end snugly under the keep once it is installed. Since you won't be adjusting it much it should be fairly tight in there. Mark and punch the ends and install a small rivet to make the ring.
Step 11: Making the Shoulder Strap Pt 1
Once you have determined the size of your strap, cut the length plus enough for adjustments and for folding around the buckle and rings during installation. The buckle size is determined by the width of the strap. I usually add 6 inches for adjusting and 2.5 inches for securing around each of the rings and 2-2.5 inches for the buckle.
We will make a 2 piece cross body strap for this bag. The strap will be 2/3 from rear to adjuster and 1/3 from buckle to the front. This way the buckle is not centered over your shoulder. So I will add 7.5 inches to the total of the rear strap and about 5 inches to the front strap.
Rear strap first. Determine a comfortable position for the bag and measure from the back ring over the shoulder to mid way down the front. A cloth measuring tape works best for this. To this measurement add your desired amount of Adjustment and add 2.5 inches for attaching the ring. On the ring end mark, punch, attach your strap to the ring and apply your rivets as you did in the gusset/ring connection, trimming the strap width if necessary. ( make sure you have the flesh/unfinished side facing inward to avoid having a twist). On the adjustment end, taper the end to the desired shape and starting about an inch or so back, punch holes about an inch apart for adjusting in the buckle. 6 is usually enough, You can always add more holes later if needed. If you prefer to have the buckle to the back then fasten it to the ring with thread until you get the buckle ends measurement. Continued
Step 12: Shoulder Strap Pt. 2
Position the bag where it is comfortable and bring the rear strap over your shoulder and measure from the front ring to the 3 rd hole up on the strap. This will give you several inches each way to adjust. To this measurement add the 2.5 inches for the buckle and the keep and 2.5 inches for attaching to the ring. Mark and punch the ring end and make any adjustments to the width if needed. On the buckle end fold over 2.5 inches and mark the center, you will make a 1/2 to 5/8 in slot here about 1/8 inch wide with your mark in the center. This will accommodate the buckle tongue. Depending on the width of the strap use 1 or 2 rivets wide. Here I used 2 for aesthetic purposes. With the buckle in place and the tongue oriented in the proper direction, Mark and punch the holes somewhat close to the buckle but leave some room for play. Install your first set of rivets. You will be installing the keep between these and the next set of rivets. Lay the keep in place between the pieces with the keep rivet trapped inside the layers and the loop on top of the belt, mark, punch and rivet the next set in place,close to the keep to keep it secure. If needed trim any excess leather from the end
Step 13: Finishing the Bag
Install the straps to the rings. The lady decided on the buckle to her back. The measurements stayed the same. I installed 4 smaller rivets to coincide with the lower half of the ring.
For the front flap I drew a wavy like pattern and traced it out directly on the leather and carefully cut it with a rotary cutter. We left the sewn edges unfinished. It gave the whole bag a rustic look.