Introduction: Simple Leather Purse

Picture of Simple Leather Purse

Here are instructions for a simple leather purse. No sewing is required, just some leather cutting (which is easiest if you have access to a laser cutter) and some lacing.

The purse is about 9" x 9" x 3" when finished.

Materials required (all are available at Tandy Leather)
1) leather (I used a large scrap of vegetable tanned leather): $20
2) lacing (I bought a 35 yard roll of lacing, but only about 3 yards were needed for the purse): $35
3) a lacing needle ($5-$10)
4) a razor (for cutting lacing)
5) a laser cutter (if you don't want to cut the leather by hand)

Attached are four files with the specific pattern I used:
1) a .dwg file (autocad file) at full scale (inches)
2) a .dxf file at full scale (inches
3) a 1/4 scale pdf with a few dimensions
4) a 1/4 scale pdf with no dimensions

I made it at Techshop:

Step 1: Cut Out Your Pattern

Picture of Cut Out Your Pattern

You have a few options:
1) Be a warrior and use a razor or scissors to cut your lines a drill (1/8") or leather punch to make your holes
2) Get with the times and use a laser cutter

Step 2: Thread Your Needle

Picture of Thread Your Needle

There are a variety of needles to use with leather lacing. The type I used was a "Perma Lok" 1/8" lacing needle from Tandy Leather. For this type of needle, you:
1) cut the lacing at a taper
2) put the sharp end of the lacing in the hole
3) twist until it feels solid

Step 3: Bend Your Tabs

Picture of Bend Your Tabs

If you used vegetable tanned leather, as I did, then you can mold your leather using water.

1) take your center piece (the long rectangle with the tabs)
2) wet the tabs with a damp sponge
3) bend the tabs at a 90 degree angle

This will make lacing the center piece onto the faces easier.

Step 4: Start Lacing the Front Piece to the Center Piece

Picture of Start Lacing the Front Piece to the Center Piece

You may have noticed that there are two more holes in the front piece than there are in the center piece. The first and last holes in the front piece do not have corresponding holes in the center piece.

1) start your lace by going through the first hole in the FRONT PIECE ONLY
     - needle goes in on the rough side of the leather, comes out on the smooth side of the leather
2) leave about six inches of lacing hanging on the rough side of the leather
3) go through the SECOND HOLE in the FRONT PIECE and the FIRST HOLE in the CENTER PIECE

You are now set to start lacing all the way around.

PS: Don't worry, we'll finish off that hanging end later.

Step 5: Finish Lacing the Front Piece to the Center Piece

Picture of Finish Lacing the Front Piece to the Center Piece

1) continue lacing (up through one hole, down through the next)
2) keep your lacing straight. if it gets twisted, just un-twist it before you pull it tight
3) when you reach the end, thread through the last hole in the front piece (with no matching hole in the center piece)
4) leave yourself at least six inches of slack

The slits you cut for the tabs will allow the center piece to conform nicely to the curve of the front piece.

Step 6: Tie Up the Loose Ends

Picture of Tie Up the Loose Ends

prep) thread a needle onto your six inches plus of extra lace and wet down the top edge of the front piece with a sponge (so it will stay when you fold it)

1) thread the lacing through the first stitch (needle pointing inward)
2) pull tight and crease the top edge of the center piece (which you just got wet)
3) start threading back and forth underneath the other laces
4) make sure to pull the laces tight under the edge of the leather so they are least visible
5) after three or four passes, cut the lacing close
6) you have now tied up the loose end without an unsightly knot

REPEAT this process on the other side of the front piece (tie up both loose ends)

Step 7: Lace on the Flap Slot

Picture of Lace on the Flap Slot

Now, before the back is sewed on and in the way, is a good time to lace on the small "flap slot" that will hold the flap to close the purse.

1) thread down the top left hole
2) up the bottom left hole
3) down the bottom right hole
4) up the top right hole
5) thread both loose ends through the bottom loop and pull tight
6) leave 2-3 inches hanging as a decoration

Step 8: Halfway Done

Picture of Halfway Done

You should now have the front piece laced to the the middle piece and a "flap slot" laced to the front piece.

Step 9: Lace the Back Piece to the Center Piece

Picture of Lace the Back Piece to the Center Piece

The procedure is exactly the same as it was for lacing the front piece to the center piece, with two exceptions:

1) this time the front piece is in the way, so it's a little more cumbersome
2) you don't fold and crease the edge of the back piece when you tie up the loose ends

NOTE: You don't have to have the extra holes in the front and back pieces. If you don't want a folded top, just skip the first and last holes when you make your pattern.

Step 10: Add a Strap

Picture of Add a Strap

The simplest way to add a strap is to buy a pre-cut leather belt from the same place you got your leather. You can also cut your own, but you'll need a big piece of leather (expensive) to get a long strap.

1) cut the ends of the belt the way you want them (a simple triangle looks nice)
2) cut four holes to match the four holes on each side of your center piece (using your method of choice: I used a 1/8" drill bit)
3) lace the strap on using the same technique you used for the "flap-slot" on the front

Step 11: Admire

Picture of Admire

Credit for the original design goes to this image that I found when searching for purse patterns. I copied the proportions pretty directly, but had to make up the dimensions to get everything to the size I wanted it.

OPTIONAL EXTRA: since this was a gift for my wife for our third anniversary, I also used the laser cutter to burn the text of my wedding vows on the inside of the flap.


SamPB made it! (author)2014-12-21

I had to try it! I love this purse. I just made an alteration on the strap, because I didn't have enough leather for it

solobo (author)SamPB2015-08-27

I never saw this, looks awesome! Thanks for posting pictures!

ArleyB1 (author)2016-08-28

Would make a great Possibles Bag for Black powder shooter . Just make it abit larger . Great work .

solobo (author)ArleyB12016-08-31


TheBroSquad made it! (author)2016-06-06

Great project! We made it with a slightly different fold-over strap because of the shape and size of our leather and because we made it into a laptop bag. It made a great gift to our sister! Tons of fun!

solobo (author)TheBroSquad2016-06-06

Very cool, thanks for posting!

GeraldinGa (author)2015-08-27

Do you have the hole spacing measurements

solobo (author)GeraldinGa2015-08-27

I don't remember them, but measuring the purse it looks like they were about 1/2" apart.

GeraldinGa (author)solobo2015-08-28

Thank you very much.

jstnbeeks (author)2014-04-27

Would be great for a possibles bag at rendezvous

solobo (author)jstnbeeks2014-04-27

true that.

HollyMann (author)2013-12-09

I miss leather tooling! :) It's a very rare craft - great job.

solobo (author)HollyMann2013-12-09


DragonDon (author)2013-10-13

Sooo reminds me of the Tandy leather kids we did as kids. Thanks.

Silver_Kate (author)2013-07-27

You can cut holes for the lacing by using a punch or you can take a short peice of pipe and a rubber mallet (or hammer) and punch them that way. If you are careful you can use a knife to cut out the main body and strap. People have been doing leather for longer than even the modern knife was invented. I did respect that the author put in how he used a laser cutter. This purse is beautiful..

picturesofsilver (author)2013-07-26

very well done, congrats on contest win :)

stephenf (author)2013-07-07

Definitely cool. I KNOW this will last a long time 'cause my wife still has a similar purse I gave her from my hippie days ... Now I will need to make one for my granddaughter.

Wonder if I can mod this into a laptop/messenger/gear bag ...

TorBoy9 (author)2013-07-04

Nice 'Ible, well written and clear. I've never done lacing as I hand or machine sew all my leather. Buying the leather lace for $30 is simpler but you could have bought a square or larger piece of the same veggie leather and get a lace cutter for $10. The lace cutter is a razor blade that is held off from a guide. The space between is the thickness of the lace. It is easy to use to make your own lace. You can also use the lace cutter to cut the belt.

Veggie tan leather needs protection or water will mark it. Stain it if you wish and then throw some Lexol or some other protector on it and your bag will last generations.

solobo (author)TorBoy92013-07-04

Good tips, thanks!

Azzurro (author)2013-07-02

you use laser cutter to cut a sheet of paper in half as well?

catfan63 (author)2013-07-02

You will want to wet the entire piece of leather instead of just the tabs to avoid watermarks.

onemoroni1 (author)2013-07-02

Very nicely done, both the project and instructable.

mmccullough3 (author)2013-07-02

Could you use the laser to cut the laces?

solobo (author)mmccullough32013-07-02


MaximK (author)2013-07-02

Great! Thank you!

legless (author)2013-07-02

Depending on the length you need you can often buy scrap pieces for making the strap. Another option is to make it from more than one piece laced/sewn together. Also extendiing the gusset above the top of the bag allows you to use a shorter strap.

pheenix42 (author)2013-06-30

Terrific project!

...but, you must realize most folks don't have access to a laser cutter just yet, right?

barista (author)pheenix422013-07-02

'Yet' being the operative word here.
I lusted after a CNC-type paper cutter for ages and finally got a Cameo about a year ago and use it all the time.
Even if you don't have access to a cutter, this is a great how-to and has good pictures and useful leatherwork tips that can be used in your own project(s).

Well done solobo!

solobo (author)pheenix422013-07-01

Very true. If you happen to live in the bay area or a few other key cities, there's a company called "Tech Shop" that allows you to pay a monthly fee for access to a machine shop; that's where I got my access to a laser cutter.

Mindmapper1 (author)pheenix422013-07-01

of course they do but those who do can use this technique. I guess you could say this about almost any instructable.... if you dont have the tools or materials it really isnt going to happen for you!

Gregbot (author)2013-07-01

(Is anybody else having trouble with the View All Steps button? It will not work for me!) ..... Hey! I LOVE LOVE LOVE this presentation!!!! It soooo applies to more than purses!!!! Thank you!!!!!! .... I even went through all 11 steps with the View All button malfunctioning!!!!!!!!!!

barista (author)Gregbot2013-07-02

Hey Gregbot, try this instructable.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2013-07-01

This is soo cool! I couldn't tell it was all laser cut from the main image! Such an awesome design, do you think you could attach the files?

solobo (author)Penolopy Bulnick2013-07-01

Thanks! The files should be attached now; let me know if they still don't show up.

Oscelot (author)2013-07-01

for those who can't punch the holes with a laser cutter, y'might try a leather punch. heck of a lot easier than going at it with a drill. There are also chisel style punches here . Love the instructable, I think I may have to try this when my current Purse of Doom wears out (which it is sadly working on quite quickly now).

acuchetto (author)2013-07-01

I want to try this with some other medium (e.g., rubber, heavy paper, woven plastic bags...).

A laser cutter? It sure would be nice if they were as affordable as most inkjet printers are today!

MonkiMan (author)2013-07-01

great, i wanted make something like this for ages and i just never get around to it.
i love the laser cutter idea but i nor anyone near me have a laser cutter so i'll have to cut it by hand.

jessyratfink (author)2013-06-30

That is absolutely beautiful! :D

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