Introduction: Antique Style Leather Bag

About: Dare something worthy!

I always liked vintage and antique leather things and I keep experimenting on giving my leather goods that "old and antique" style.. I do not mean to make them torn and destroyed in real but just to create that look when you see the bag and think: "this has "antiquey" feel".

Soo.. My tutorial will be on the very same subject - antique bag.

We will need..

1) Vegetable tanned leather. You will need to weights - 2-3oz for gussets and 6-7oz for everything else,

2) Leather shears or round knife or any other knife you are comfortable with and which will be able to cut thick leather. Must be very sharp (watch out your fingers!)

3) Scratch awl and a stylus for tracing patterns on leather. Also, a Wing Divider to mark straight lines.

4) Stitching awl, two stitching needles with blunt ends, waxed thread 1mm thick and a piece of beeswax. Also pricking irons to mark stitches or diamond chisels.

5) Carving stamps and a mallet. Swivel knife.

6) Leathercraft glue - contact cement and water based.

7) Leather punches - round, oblong.

8) Snap button, rivets, buckle set, two matching conchos, snap and rivet setting sets.

9) Antique gel or paste.

10) Block-out resist finish (can be replaced with any other leather resist finish).

11) Leather finish to seal the antique.

12) Dark color dye for the background and for the edges.

13) Edge beveler and Safety Beveler

14) Any leather conditioner you have.

15) Also you will need a cutting board, paper scissors, sheep wool or sponge, paper towel, water, gloves, sellotape, wood or plastic slicker, burnishing cloth (canvas), stitching pony and a granite or marble slab for stamping surface.

Step 1: Print Out the Pattern and Cut the Parts Out of Leather

I provided you with the full sized cutting and carving patterns. Download the PDF file and open it in Adobe Reader. The patterns are made for A3 format so if you have an A4 printer do not forget to check the box which says "Tile large pages" to print the original pattern size.

Glue all the parts and then cut them out of paper. Place the patterns on leather and trace the outlines using the scratch awl. Do not scratch too deep, only enough to see the lines. Use a sharp knife (any you have or like) to cut the parts out. Be careful not to cut your hands, leather knives are very sharp! Use round punches to help in tight and small places. You will also need to cut a shoulder strap and it is not on the pattern. You simply cut a strap out from 6-7oz leather and the length will be the one you prefer. It could be 68-70cm to carry the bag on the shoulder under your arm or 120cm for the crossbody bag. So just make a strap to your taste. The width should be right to fit a buckle if you are using one.

Step 2: Casing the Leather and Cutting the Carving Design

Now we will get the leather ready for tooling. First we need to case the leather. Casing means to apply enough moisture so the leather gives nice burnished color when tooling. In order to do that dip your leather part (the one you are going to carve, not all pieces of the bag) into clean tap water at room temperature. Do not hold it under the water but remove it straight away. Just dip in and take out, nothing else. Now put it inside a clean plastic bag, do not seal the bag. Leave it for 10-15min to let the moisture penetrate the leather. Then remove leather from the bag and leave it facing up on the table at the room temperature. Leave it for 30min or longer until you see that the original color of leather is coming back. It could take more than 30 min depending on the temperature, on leather thickness and on how long you held it in water. Once you see the leather surface is getting light and dry but cool to the touch - it is ready for carving. A tip: take a sellotape (the widest you can find) and stick it to the back side of leather - it will prevent leather stretching and distortion during stamping. You can also use contact paper (draw liners) - use the cheapest one.

You can use a sponge to apply water instead of dipping it in the bucket.

When the leather is dry on the surface and cold to the touch (which indicates that there is still moisture inside) we can start tracing our tooling design. Place the paper with your design (you can use mine or you can draw your own) on leather and trace all lines with a stylus. Do not press to hard or you will tear the paper. Light pressure will give enough color on leather for lines to be seen.

Now take a swivel knife. It is better to have two blades - wider one for longer lines and angled detail blade for small and curved lines. The blade must be very sharp, hone it often during the process. I prefer to start with short and curvy lines and then move to longer ones, but you can do it the way you like.

Do not cut too deep or you will cut through leather. Just no more than half the way through.

Step 3: Bevel All the Lines

Now use bevelers, preferably of different sizes. You will need small ones for tiny places and wider ones for longer and more straight lines. Again, I usually start with short lines and move to the long ones. Use a mallet with a comfortable for your hand weight. Your arm should not get tired and feel like it is falling off. "Walk" the stamp along the line constantly hitting it (lightly) with the mallet. Try to achieve a smooth even line. Apply even pressure along all lines. I use checkered bevelers but smooth are good, too. Watch the design, which lines are on top and which are under them. Constantly refer to the pattern on paper to see where the background is and not to get lost in lines.

Step 4: Lifters or Undercuts

Use different sizes of lifters (or undercuts) to lift parts of flowers or leaves and add some visual volume to the design. Do not cut into leather too deep or you will pierce it through.

Step 5: Add Shape and Volume, Make Decorative Lines and Cuts

Use a modelling spoon to round sharp edges of the design.

Use pear shaders or thumb prints to add volume

Use a mule foot where the stems meetup to add texture and use veiners for the same purpose.

I used a bar grounder for the background but it is quite a difficult tool and if you are not comfortable with it yet then use another type of background stamps.

Step 6: Prepare Little Things

Prepare closure straps and gussets attachments. Punch a buckle slot, a rivet hole and a snap button hole. Refer to the pattern for placing these things.Use a safety beveler or a skiving knife to thin leather on the buckle strap. Do it only in the middle where the strap will be folding. Locate and punch holes for conchos on the gusset attachments (concho placements).

Cut a gusset from 2-3oz leather. Draw it on leather first using a scratch awl. W 9.0cm x L 67.0cm. Use the paper pattern to shape the sides (the gusset is 7.0cm at the both ends). Bevel all edges on small parts and the strap along both sides. Use #2 edge beveler. Do not bevel the gusset as it is too thin.

Take off the sellotape

Bevel all edges on the flap, and top edges on the front and back panel

Step 7: Frame It

Use a compass to mark a line 7-8mm from the edge on both panels and the flap. Do not mark the line along top edge on the back panel - it will be covered with the flap later.

Use your swivel knife (and a ruler if you need) to cut this line half deep through.

Use a push beveler to bevel this line. You can use a stamping beveler you used for tooling the scroll.

Step 8: Dye the Background and Apply Resist

Now we need to darken the background for better contrast. Use a very small detail brush for that.

I used Fiebing's Professional Oil dye Chocolate. You can use any other dye, preferably alcohol based.

Start applying the dye touching the middle of the area you are working on. Do not start near edges or the dye will spread on them and ruin your project. Start in the middle so the dye excesses will penetrate leather around not touching the leaves and scrolls and only after that with the drier brush finish coloring near edges. Work carefully not to make splashes around (it is easy to do with a brush)

Now use resist finish. I used Eco-Flo Block Out but Super Shene or other finish will do the job. With also tiny clean brush apply resist to leaves and scrolls and be very careful not to get on leather around the design. Even a tiny drop will prevent antique to stick to leather and will leave a light spot.

Apply resist to the died background, too, to seal it.

When you finish and it gets dry, start again and apply a second coat to the whole tooled design including background.

Apply two coats of resist to the "frame" on both panels and the flap.

Apply two coats on buckle straps and gusset attachments.

Now let it fully dry for a couple of hours at least (better leave it overnight if you have time)

Step 9: Antique

I used Eco-Flo Antique gel but you can use any other antique. Color is up to your preferences, too. I added some waterstain to get the color I liked

Put the gloves on, get a piece of sheep wool or a sponge, have some water around and some paper towel.

Dip the wool in antique and start working it into leather in circles. Make sure you got into all cuts in tooling area and nothing is missing. Then take paper towel and wipe off the excess. You can wet the towel a bit in water and wipe whatever is still left on leather. If you are not planning to line your bag then antique the back side of leather, too, but dilute the antique with water (you do not need much there). There is usually enough antique left on the sheep wool and with added water you can dye a panel or even more before you add more antique..

Do not forget to antique all parts, shoulder strap and concho placements.

Step 10: Sanding and Finishing

Leave it to dry completely, preferably overnight. Then buff it well and then buff it again.Now take sanding paper, you will need fine or extra fine one. Sorry, I am not much of a sandpaper user so can not tell you the numbers.. It must be fine so it does not leave scratches but only rub the paint off a bit. Sand the carved design to rub the paint a bit and then rub the "frame" around the panels. It will add that "old and used" look to your bag.Do not forget to sand the little parts. Then use a brush to get rid of dust.

Use any leather finish (I used Eco-Flo Super Shene) and apply it to all parts on front and back. I usually apply two coats with some drying time in between them.

Step 11: Finishing Edges

I missed a photo here when making but now you need to sand all the edges which are not going to be sewn together, including small parts and the strap. Start with medium coarse sandpaper and go to extra fine one. Sand in one direction only, do not rub back and forth. You want the edges to become smooth.

Then take a wool dauber and apply dye to edges. I used Fiebing's Oil Dye chocolate. Now rub a piece of beeswax onto edges and slick them with a wood or plastic slicker. Polish them until smooth and nice. If you have an electric burnisher or a drill - use that to speed the process.

Step 12: Install Hardware and Mark Stitching Holes

Now let's install the hardware

The pictures are talking for themselves basically, there is no much to add..You use two "bottom parts' of the snap as you see in the image, then you install it . You install a rivet to hold the buckle and the strap holder (I might be calling it the wrong name). Then glue the leather together hiding the snap inside. Mark the stitching holes with a pricking iron. Mark them on all small parts. Install the tip corner using contact cement and a grub screw (I hope this is the right name for it)

Step 13: Thread the Needle

Choose thread color you want. I love this natural color.

You need two stitching needles with blunt ends. Thread the needle and then push the needle through the thread twice, about 5cm from the end. Pull the needle through. Do the same with another needle on another end of thread.

Start by piercing first hole with an awl. Pull a needle through the hole and on another side. Pull thread through to make both ends of the same length.

Make another hole with an awl. Push "left" needle through the hole to the right side and push the "right" needle through the same hole to the left side. Pull thread on both sides tightly making a stitch. Carry on in the same order: pierce a hole with an awl, push left needle to the right side through this hole, then push the right needle to the left through the same hole, pull thread making a tight stitch. Try to pierce holes holding the awl at the same angle all the time to make stitches nice and even.

When you get to the last hole make a few stitches in the opposite direction (stitch back) through the same holes. Then pull the threads to the "wrong" side, cut them short and use a lighter or woodburning station ( as in my case) to melt thread ends (and so to fix them)

Step 14: Finish the Edges

Now sand the edges again, dye them, apply beeswax and then slick and polish until they are nice and smooth.

Step 15: Attach the Closure Strap to the Flap and Attach the Flap to the Back Panel

Now install the second part of the snap, refer to the pattern where to place it. Check if it closes properly. If it is too tight you need to close and open a few times to work it out loose a bit, and if it is too loose take small pliers and tighten very carefully and very little the top part of the snap. Check again if it closes nicely.

Take a scratch compass and mark a stitching line 4mm from the edge on both panels and on the flap. Mark stitching holes along this line with pricking iron or with a stitching wheel. Locate the closure strap placement (refer to the pattern) and sand or scratch the paint there for better glue contact.Apply some contact cement ot leathercraft weld and when it is dry and tacky glue the strap to the flap. Stitch it in (use a stitching pony).

No skive the edges of the back panel, those which are going to be sewn together. Apply some glue, wait until tacky and connect two pieces. Now stitch them nicely. Hammer the stitching line to settle the thread in leather.

Step 16: Sewing the Gusset One Side and Tidying Up Edges

Use a bone creaser to fold the edges of the gusset on both sides (long sides). Make the fold at 1.0cm from the edge. Locate the place where the bags corners will be and bend the gusset in those places stretching the edges where the corners will be. Glue the gusset to the front panel carefully matching the edges. Stitch them together starting with the top edge of the panel and then moving along the edges around this panel.

When finishing make a few stitches back in the opposite direction and pull the threads to the inside the bag. Cut them short and use a lighter to fix them.

Use a safety beveler to level the edges but be very careful not to cut too much which is very easy to do. Than if you have a lot of glue on the edges use a rubber eraser to get rid of it.

Bevel the edges with an edge beveler.

Step 17: Gusset Another Side

Now stitch the back panel and the front panel with the gusset in the very same way. Glue them together, then stitch and then tidy up the edges.

Step 18: Attach the Shoulder Strap

Now, the simplest way to attach a strap is to attach it with a D-ring. But since this bag is not just for tutorial purpose but also for sale I want the strap to be attached in the way I want even if it is more complicated. So you have a choice. You can attach it with a D-ring and not to be bothered with "how-to" . Or you can attach it my way but it will take time and some nerves.

Locate the concho holes and mark them. Cut the strap ends so they fit under the concho placements.Punch the holes. Attach the conchos: put some contact cement inside and then attach the strap with screws (tightly).

Install a rivet (on each end). Rivets are not supposed to hold anything, they are just decoration. Mark stitching holes on both sides of the rivets.

Glue the strap ends to the gusset on both sides and then stitch them in. This part is the most difficult one as it is hard to stitch when the bag is already assembled, Probably it is a good idea to attach the strap first and then to stitch the gusset to the bag (although, then the gusset would be in the way..). Pick whichever is easier for you or just attach the strap with a D-ring :-)

Step 19: Edges and Finishing Touches

Now we almost finished our bag. You can leave it as it is (shown in the first photo), with straight gussets. Or you can go further in making the bag "antique" and squash the gussets (see photos). This is completely ap to toy and your artistic taste.

Then sand the edges, dye them, apply beeswax and slick them nicely.

Now use fine sandpaper and rub the surface on front and back and on the flap where it is bent. Just so slightly, like if they were in use for awhile and the paint wore off. Do not make scratches, just take a layer of paint off.

Now the final touch - apply leather conditioner. Any conditioner will do. Leave it to settle in leather and then buff the bag to nice sheen.

The bag is ready.

Step 20:

This tutorial is quite long but I tried to make it "step-by-step" so a person could make this bag following the instructions without the need to look for more information on the subject, like find out how to tool leather or how to stitch, etc.. Do not hesitate to ask any questions you might have as I could miss something on the way. If you think some information is not there please leave a comment and I will add whatever I can. There is also tones of pictures - study them carefully as they are alone are a step-by-step tutorial.

The patterns are made in Photoshop and I tried to make them as simple as possible. They are ready to print and use, including a carving pattern which I drew myself from scratch on a paper and then transformed it to digital format which itself takes a lot of time and effort.

Please give me a credit when sharing this material and do not sell this tutorial or the patterns, respect my work. This would be only fair and I would appreciate it. Thank you very much for taking time to read the tutorial and good luck with your projects!

Kind regards,

Era Shevtsova

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