Introduction: Leather Crossbody Bag

About: My name is Ben Altemus and I am the owner of Altemus Leatherwork. I make handcrafted leather goods and accessories operating out of Cleveland, Ohio.

Hello, everyone! Thank you for taking the time to view my project. This guide will take you through the process of crafting this sleek, stylish and functional Leather Crossbody Bag. This is an original design made in my workshop that I display and sell at shows around the Cleveland area.

Step 1: Materials

Here is a list of the materials I used and where you can buy them from Tandy Leather Factory and Amazon. It was always a challenge to find out exactly what people were using when I was first learning to craft, so I made sure to link everything I used. If you have questions please reach out.

Bag Body Leather -

(Note on leather: Get the 18" X 30" size or you won't have enough. There are a lot of choices on leather but the important part is that it needs to be thin enough to work with and thick enough to retain it's shape at least a little. Leather is measured in ounces which is weird... just know that if you stick to a 3-5 oz. you should be fine.)

Strap Leather -

(Note on Straps: This listing will get you a pre-dyed piece so you don't have to worry about dying the leather. It will also give you some extra length to play with to get a good fit for any sized person.

Rivets -

Trigger Snaps -

O-Rings -

Strap Buckle -

Button Closure -

Contact Cement -


Rotary Punch -

All Things Sewing -

Slicker -

Edge Beveler (#2) -

(Note on Slicker and Edge Beveler: This is optional, as we will talk about later, but super helpful for making clean edges.)

Mallet -

Razor Blade -

Rivet Setter -

Step 2: Cutting Out Your Bag and Strap Pieces

First thing's first. You'll need to make a pattern. The basic shape is in the second picture and each square is 1 inch. The long gusset piece is 2 1/4" by 20" and the small rectangles are 2" by 3/4" for reference. Sketch out the patterns in card stock and when you are satisfied, arrange your cut out card stock pieces on your leather and trace them with a pencil.

Cut out your pieces like in picture 2 with a fresh razor blade. Be sure to lay out ALL of your pattern pieces on the leather first. You'd hate to find out halfway through cutting that you aren't going to have enough leather because you spaced things too far apart...(I would never do that... 0:)

For the strap you will need to cut three pieces. The first will make the buckle end which will be 18 inches long as shown in the picture. The second strap will make the longer piece that will go over your back and across your chest, I would start with 46 inches. The final piece is the closure which is pictured at 3 inches.

Now you're ready to put it together!

Step 3: Making the Inside Pocket

Take your long body piece that has the bag flap as well as one of the short body pieces and turn it over so the finished side is down. You will need to glue these together using your contact cement as shown in the first picture.

Contact cement can be a bit tricky so here is how you do it. First and foremost, make sure you are in a well ventilated room! I cannot stress this part enough as this stuff has a VERY strong smell and is not good for you to be breathing in.

A little goes a long way, so spread a thin line around the bottom edge of the body pieces as shown (NOT THE FLAP OR TOP). Give the cement about 5-8 minutes to dry slightly before pressing the short body piece to the long body piece as shown in the second picture. You will know the cement is ready when it becomes tacky. Set the piece aside to dry completely while you prepare the next piece.

Step 4: Sewing in the Gusset

The gusset is a funny word for the piece of leather that gives the bag it's depth. The wider the gusset, the more space in the bag. For this project, we were going for a Crossbody that has just enough room for the essentials so our gusset is just 2 and 1/4 inch wide.

To start, lay out the long gusset and the remaining short body piece as shown in the first picture. As seen in the second picture, apply contact cement to the outside edge of one long side of the gusset as well as the short body piece, making sure you do not glue the bag opening edge at the top. Allow the pieces to become tacky before joining them as seen in the third and fourth pictures. This part can be tricky so take your time and make sure you're careful to line up the pieces around the rounded corners as perfectly as possible. If you have excess when you are done, cut it flush with the bag opening at the top.

Give your project at least an hour to set before this next step. If it is still wet the pieces can shift when making the stitching holes (I've lost many a project to the trash can due to impatience with glue). I used an industrial leather sewing machine but for this example it is just as viable to hand stitch and will actually end up being a bit stronger.

Trace a line 1/4 of an inch in from the edge around the area you just glued. Then take your stitching chisel and make holes all the way around using the line as a guide. When you get to the corners, drop down to the 2 pronged chisel and place the first prong in the hole you have already made in order to maintain equal distance.

You will be using a "saddle stitch" for this project and for a better explanation of how to do it you can find a ton of tutorials on YouTube. Basically, you have a needle on both ends of the string measuring 4x your projects length and go through each hole twice.

Once you are finished it should look like the fifth picture and you are ready to turn the flap inside out to make the outside of the bag as seen in the final pictures.

Step 5: Attaching the Gusset Piece to the Main Body

Now it all starts to come together! Apply contact cement to inside edge of the gusset piece and the outside edge of the main body as shown in the first picture. Again, allow ample time for pieces to dry before joining the two pieces as show in the second picture. This is a critical stage so again take your time and make sure your cement is dry before punching your stitching holes as seen in picture three.

Stitch together and we've almost got ourselves a bag!

Step 6: Adding the O-Ring Strap Mounts

Take your two small rectangular pieces and loop them through the O-Rings. Then take your rotary punch (or standard punch if available as seen in the picture) and punch a hole just large enough to fit your rivets through both sides while the leather is sandwiched together. Then place the pieces on the gusset just below the top opening and mark the leather with a pen. Again, use your rotary punch to make the hole.

Take the stem piece (longer piece) and feed it through the inside of the bag hole and through the two sandwiched pieces. Then place the cap on the other side. It should click in place. Then take your rivet setter (or if you don't have one a normal hammer) and place on a hard surface like a concrete floor and hammer the rivet flush. Start with gentile taps until you feel it start to set and then finish it with a few more powerful blows to lock it in place. Repeat on the other side and you should have something like the third and fourth pictures.

Step 7: Adding the Straps

Take your first trigger snap and loop it through one end of your 18 inch strap. Sandwich the leather about an inch behind the trigger snap and, just like in the last step, punch a hole through both pieces. This leather is thicker so if you need to soften it up slightly take some cool water and rub it into the fold with a rag but be careful not to saturate it too much. Set another rivet to secure the trigger snap like in the first picture.

The other end of the 18 inch piece will need the buckle attached to it. To do this, measure 1.5 inches in and punch a hole in the middle of the strap. Then measure 1 inch further in and make another hole. Take your razor blade and carefully connect both holes to make your buckle prong troth. It should look similar to the second picture.

Feed the strap through the buckle and put the pin through as you feed it back onto itself as seen in the third picture. Make another sandwiched hole and rivet it in place like the other end. You should have a piece like the fourth picture.

The longer strap is next and on one end you simply repeat attaching the second and final trigger snap. On the opposite end you will take your razor blade and make a point to more easily feed the strap through the buckle. At this point you should have something like the fifth picture. You will now finish it by placing adjustment holes in the end with the point. My holes are spaced 1.5 inches apart but you can make more or less depending on your size requirements.

The last step is the make the button hole closure on the shortest strap piece. You will cut one end of short piece to a point and make a rivet hole on the opposite end. Now the tricky part. Set your Rotary Punch to the second largest hole maker and punch a hole 3/4 of an inch above the pointed end. Then take your razor blade and cut a line up the middle 1/2 an inch. It should look like the 7th picture when complete. Test the button hole to make sure it snaps in place and can be removed with relative ease before riveting the piece to the underside of the body flap. It will break in over time so don't go wild making the slit too long or it will not stay shut.

**Optional Step** You can also bevel and slick your strap edges. It will work fine as is but using the edge beveler to round the front and back sides of your straps can make for a cleaner and more professional look. Simply run the #2 edge beveler along both sides of your straps and when you are done you should have a pile of "leather spaghetti" like in the seventh picture.

The last picture shows the slicking process. I use a slicking compound but water can work just as well. Take your slicking tool after dampening the edges of your leather and rub it vigorously along the edges. It doesn't take a ton of pressure, just consistency. This will lay down all loose fibers and soften the edge.

Step 8: Attaching the Button Closure and Completing the Project!

In the home stretch now! Attach the short strap to the underside of the main bag flap as seen in the first picture. Make a mark where you want the hole by placing the strap on top of the flap first and then marking the hole with a pen. Then attach the strap to the underside using a rivet.

Pull the flap down over the main body and mark where the button hole on the strap meets the bag. This will be where you attach the button hole. Make a hole in the bag at that point and feed the screw end up from inside the bag. Place a small dab of cement in the hole of the button snap so it does not unscrew itself over time. Screw the pieces together tightly and attach your straps.

You are done! Congratulations on a job well done and if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me on Instructables or my Facebook or Instagram page. Thank you so very much for taking the time to learn this craft and we'll see you next time!

Leather Challenge

Runner Up in the
Leather Challenge