Leather Portfolio




Introduction: Leather Portfolio

On paper a portfolio looks like a very simple project. There are only a few pieces of leather and one piece of hardware. It should not be that hard but there were several small issues that had to be solved along the way. Also when making a pattern from scratch you spend a fair amount of time adjusting it trying to figure out the dimensions. I will of course include the pattern so you (and I) don't have to spend the time doing that again.

I will not go into details about sewing, burnishing and riveting. To see how I do this please take a look at my briefcase tutorial

Step 1: Tools & Materials


  • 2,5mm shoulder for the main part (I used colored veg tanned shoulder in dark racing green from metropolitan leather)
  • 1,5 mm shoulder for the gusset
  • Document case lock
  • Lin cable 432 - pine
  • Contact cement


  • Pricking iron (mine has 4 mm spacing) Diamond Hole Chisel Set
  • Mallet
  • Awl blade + Awl haft
  • Needles
  • Stitching horse
  • Small scissor
  • Beeswax
  • Utility knife
  • Round knife
  • Safety beveler
  • 1m ruler
  • Square
  • Paper clamps
  • Wax paper
  • Marking awl
  • Wing divider
  • edge beveler (I like a small edge beveler)
  • sandpaper (80, 180, 400)
  • Small ball peen hammer
  • Anvil (big flat piece of steel)
  • Lead
  • Pincers
  • Molotow 611em marker (for water)

Step 2: Making the Pattern

The dimensions I was going for was 38cm x 26cm x 3 cm (width x height x depth). I hit these pretty well as the final bag is:

I used thick paper to create the pattern and came up with something that I was happy with. I know from experience that the dimensions taken from the pattern will not be spot on as the relatively thin paper does not behave similar to leather. Therefore I make sure to add extra material when I cut the leather. In this case it means cutting the main piece longer. The width of the bag does not change from paper to leather.

Sometimes I use a staple gun to connect the paper but I prefer paper clips as it is much easier to make quick changes along the way.

Step 3: Gusset

The gusset on this folio is something new to me and I have not been able to find any guide making something similar. It is very simple but gives the bag a nice almost pointy bottom as oppose to a more round appearance which seems to be the norm. For a rounded bottom the end of the gusset would also need to be rounded.

I made a small mock up to see how it would work. This was a good idea because two problems appeared right away. It was not possible to have the two ends of the gusset meet. No matter how hard I tried there always came a gap. The only solution I could think of was to sew the gusset together but it had to be done very close to the edge. When I made a mock up of this the leather did not rip apart but held up nicely. The strength of leather always amazes me!

The end of the gusset is cut to a 45 degree angle to make them fit better together when sewn.

It is pretty simple to sew the bottom of the gusset. The holes should be just where the 45 degree angle ends.

I laid the gusset next to the main piece to mark where it ends. I use this mark to know where to begin the pricking marks.

Step 4: Main Piece

One end of the main piece needs to be cut so that it forms the flap. I made a template and used that to scribe a line which I then cut with the round knife. Before cutting mark the center(this will make it easier to position the hasp) A line for the stitches is marked around 3mm from the edge and all the edges are beveled.The marking of the stitches begins in the center of the gusset as shown in the "gusset" step.

To determine where the lock should be positioned I assembled the bag with paper clamps and marked the leather. This step sounds simple be it actually takes some time. You go back and forth moving the flap up and down to see what works best. Also the length of the main piece was cut to long so this had to be trimmed as well.

To make the hasp fit the flap the tip as to be cut flat. Take off a little at a time so you dont end up taking too much off. Lay the hasp and mark the holes with either a awl or a small round punch.

Before you rivet the hasp in place you should burnish the flap and the top edge.

The hole for the lock is easy to mark if you have the back plate. At this point I had already covered it in leather and did not want to take it out again. Therefore I just measured the lock and made some cutting lines.The hole is easy to cut but the indents for the rivets are a real pain. I used a combination of round punches and a knife to make them.

Step 5: Lock

I spend some time figuring out how to attach the lock. The easy way is to attach a piece of leather on the back and sew it in place. This however shows the stitches and on this bag I wanted a more sleek look. You could just glue the leather on the back in place but I had doubts whether or not it would hold up in the long run. I then had an idea to cover the back plate with thin leather. I made a quick test with some paper which looked like it might work. I then skived down some leather, made it wet and wrapped it around the back plate. When the leather had dried I cut holes for the rivets and set the rivet.

Step 6: Gluing, Sewing and Burnishing.

Before the sewing can begin you need to glue the gussets in place. I sand the edges and apply contact cement.

Wax paper is really handy to make sure that nothing sticks before you want it to. I used it when I attached the gusset.

Sewing starts with the two gussets and ends with the flap. On the flap the holes for the hasp are in the way of the stitching. As you can see I just skipped the two stitches where the holes are.

Hand Tools Only Contest 2016

Participated in the
Hand Tools Only Contest 2016

3 People Made This Project!


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5 years ago

thanks for the instruction :)


6 years ago

Muchas gracias :)


6 years ago

Craftmanship! Very Nice!


6 years ago

Very classy looking! Nice work