Introduction: Leather Bag "Carmen"

About: Dare something worthy!

This bag is absolutely adorable and very “comfy”, especially if you make it out of thick and soft leather. I used 3mm vegetable tanned leather for front, back and the divider inside and 2mm veg tan for gussets. The strap can be made longer and adjustable if you like.

Step 1: You Will Need:

You will need:

Vegetable tanned leather

Vegetable tanned pigskin for the pocket

Hardware (snap buttons, rivets and D-rings)

Tools for installing this hardware

Leather knife and/or scissors

Punches for stitching and for snaps

Glue for leather

Dye for the background and for the edges (black or brown)

Acrylic finish

Antique paste or gel

Gold acrylic

Tooling stamps set with a mallet and a swivel knife

Two stitching needles and thread 1mm waxed (I used natural color)

Piece of wax and wooden slicker (or a piece of t-shirt)

Sanding paper (fine grit)

Step 2: Patterns

First you need to print the patterns out and glue all the parts together joining the lines. Print at 100% with “tile all pages” option for page scaling. You can find the patterns file in the end of this step.

There are two versions of tolling patterns in the file, they are designed by me and you can use them to your like. Please do not sell them and if you share them elsewhere give me a credit.

Of course, you can create your own patterns or just leave the leather clean and untooled.

Step 3: Cut the Leather

Use an awl to trace the patterns on to leather. Do not scratch too deep, just enough to see the lines.

Cut an inside pocket out from thin pigskin. Use a sharp knife to cut all the patterns out. Use a round punch to cut round corners. In this way the cut lines will look cleaner. Cut the slots on shoulder pad.

Use an edge beveller to round up those edges which will not be stitched together.

Step 4: Tooling Part One

Now we are ready for carving. Get your picture ready – transfer it to a piece of vellum or parchment paper or plastic or anything that allows you to see through and follow the lines. You can print out and use mine, which you got with this tutorial.

Now you need to case your leather. Place it into clean water (not cold not warm, just room temperature), leave it in water for two seconds, then remove and place it on the table surface. Leave it for an hour or so to let the water soak into leather and when you see the leather coming back to its natural colour (drying off) – it is ready for carving. If you are not sure if leather is still wet enough – try it with your hand, it should be cold to the touch even if it is hot in the room. It means there is still enough moisture left in leather.

To stop leather from stretching during the carving I usually stick sellotape on the back.

Place your picture on leather making sure it is centred, if you need – fix it to the table with cello tape. Use a stylus to trace all the lines, do not press too hard, just hard enough to see the lines on leather.

Now take your swivel knife and strap it properly. It must be very sharp to cut the smooth lines.

Cut each line very carefully taking care not to cut too deep just half of the leather thickness.

Step 5: Tooling Part Two

Take your bevellers. You will need at least two different sizes.

Start bevelling outside the lines. Place the stamp vertically in the cut, steep side facing outside. Go carefully around all lines; do not hit to deep, just on the same depth you made the cuts.

Now take undercut stamp (or lifters) and go through all the places, which you think should have some volume – just lift the petals and leaves to make some fridges. Use different sizes of stamps for smaller and bigger places.

Step 6: Tooling Part Three

Make a flower centre with any stamp you have. Now use a veiner to add pattern and texture to leaves and stems and a camouflage stamp for the same purpose.

Step 7: Tooling Part Four

Use a mule foot stamp to add a finished look on stems and also on the tips of petals and leaves if you like it.

Then use a stop stamp for flower petals.

Use your swivel knife to make some decorative cuts – try to follow the flower shape for more “eye pleasant” cuts.

Choose any stamp you want or have for the background. I used just a simple dot here. Fill up all spaces between the flowers and stems taking care not to hit the lines. When you are done with stamping let the leather dry completely. Then remove the sellotape from the back.

Step 8: Dyeing the Background

Now we are ready to dye! (i.e. to apply some color :-)

First we will dye the background for better contrast. Use medium or small brush. Start in the middle of each background area and not near the flower or stem edges. The dye will soak and spread around and will mark your flowers. Start in the middle then carefully move to the design elements (leaves and stems)

Step 9: Applying Antique

Let it dry for an hour at least. Then use acrylic finish to seal everything. I used Super Shene from Tandy but any acrylic finish will work. Apply 2-3 coats (let the leather dry between the coats) and let it dry for an hour. Do not use lacquer because it will seal the leather completely and we want some penetration ability left to achieve that antique look.

Now use a piece of sheep wool and antique paste or gel in brown.

Apply it nicely in circles all over the leather surface starting with carved area. Then apply the paste all over the bag parts to tone the surface. Use a clean piece of sheep wool or a kitchen towel to wipe off the excess of antique. After it is dry you will see that antique soaked into leather in some random places and created that old and used look already.

Step 10: Golden Time

Now get some gold dye and mix it with medium brown dye. Apply it with a small brush to the flowers, stems and leaves. Let it fully dry.

Step 11: Sanding and Finishing

Now take fine sanding paper and work out all surfaces removing dye partially all over including the carved area.

Now repeat with the golden dye again and then after the gold is fully dry apply finish. Again, I used the Super Shene leather finish.

Dye all the rest of leather in similar way. First – apply finish and then antique in a few minutes. After antique is dry apply finish again.

Step 12: Gussets

Now let's prepare the gussets for sewing. Use a ruler and a bone folder to fold the edges outside by 1cm. This will let the gusset make a smooth curved line when we attach it to the panels. With your hands make a curve on the gusset in the same places where bag corners will be. Use your fingers to press the edges helping them to keep the shape. No glue applied at this stage yet.

Step 13: Snap Button

Now attach the snaps buttons. Make a round leather rosette to use when installing the snap to the internal pocket. It is needed because the leather of the pocket is too thin and the snap might tear it when in use.

Step 14: Attach the Inside Pocket

Attach the inside pocket to the divider. In order to do that scratch the edge with a knife before you apply glue there. It will help the glue to adhere better.

Step 15: Get the Needles Ready

Follow the pictures to thread the needles. I usually take thread four times of the length of the stitching area plus 20cm for comfortable sawing.

Step 16: Attaching the Flap

Mark the line where the flap will be attached to the panel with an awl and then rough out the leather inside this line (where the flap will be glued on). Do the same (roughing out) on the flap. Mark the stitching line on the flap 0.5cm all around. Punch stitching holes with a pricking iron or stitching punch.

Now stitch all around the flap except the part which will be attached to the panel. This is a decorative stitching.

When you get to the point where the flap is going to be stitched to the panel apply some glue to the flap and to the panel in the places where you scratched the leather. Let it dry until tacky and then carefully place the flap on the panel. Apply some pressure and wait a few minutes for glue to dry.

Make stitching holes in the panel using the holes in the flap as a guide. If you feel confident with the awl then carry on stitching using an awl to make those holes. Carry on with stitching with the same thread if you have not cut it off or use a new one. Make a double stitch in the corner for durability.

Use a mallet to settle down the stitches. In the photos you can see the difference in the stitching when 1) after the mallet was used and 2) before the mallet was used.

The flap in horizontal position when closed will be slightly curved, that is OK. When the bag is assembled the flap will take the right shape of the bag following from the back panel to the front one.

Step 17: Attaching the Gussets

Now we are going to stitch the gussets to the divider.

Scratch all the edges, which are going to be glued on the divider and on the gussets. Apply glue and let it dry until tacky. Connect one gusset to the divider taking care to be as neat in the corners as possible. Cut the excesses off. Use the punch to make stitching holes.

Now do the same with the other gusset – glue it on the divider from another side, cut the excesses off and make stitching holes. If you cannot find a suitable and comfortable surface to punch the holes do it with an awl when stitching.

Stitch through the all three layers (divider and both gussets).

Step 18: Finishing the Edges

Cut the edge clean with a sharp knife. Bevel them on both sides. Dye them with black (or brown if you like) alcohol dye, let it dry, rub a piece of wax on them and polish with a piece of t-shirt or with a wooden slicker.

Step 19: Attaching the Panels

Rough out the edges of the panels where they will be stitched to the gussets. Apply the glue to both panels and both gussets. Let it dry until tacky and connect the edges carefully. Punch the holes and stitch all around. Push the needles inside the bag and cut the thread short.

PS: I was making more than one bag at the same time so you might see different pieces in the photos. The process is the same for all of them anyway.

Step 20: Finish the Edges

Finish the edges in the same manner as previously. Cut them clean bevel them, dye, rub the wax, polish.

Step 21: Attach the Strap

There is no strap pattern given simply because there is nothing to give. Cut a 1" wide strap out of leather, antique it in the same manner as the other bag parts, finish the edges. You can make one long strap or you can make it with three pieces as I did (see the photos). Punch the holes and install the strap as shown in the pictures.

The bag is ready.

I hope you enjoyed this project and if you decide to make this bag do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions/problems.

Good luck!

Step 22: PS: Second Bag Tooling

I added photos on how to tool and finish the other bag with the second tooling design you will find in the patterns file. Just step-by-step photos, they are pretty much self-explanatory but if you have any questions please ask.

Epilog Contest 8

First Prize in the
Epilog Contest 8

Bag Contest

Grand Prize in the
Bag Contest

Homemade Gifts Contest 2016

Participated in the
Homemade Gifts Contest 2016