Introduction: Leather Sling Bag

About: Woodworker and maker in Central Illinois.

This is my second real leatherworking project. I was inspired by the custom bag project in the Intermediate leatherworking class ( and decided to do my own. My concept was a sling bag that could hold a few essentials. For the design, I kind of did a sketch on Illustrator, but really I just did it all on posterboard. I wasn't planning to make an instructable, so I didn't document it well, but I followed the basic stops of the class and my design is very similar in a lot of ways.

For this project, I used a shoulder of soft chrome-tanned leather from tandy that is billed as being chrome-tanned leather you can do tooling on. I think it's 3-4 oz. The two straps are veg tanned belly 8/9 oz. It's very soft. It wasn't exactly what I expected, but I think it worked out okay. I didn't have a full toolset when I started, so there isn't much burnishing or that kind of thing going on. I dyed the leather, cut, added some beeswax stuff that is supposed to give it some water protection, saddle stitched it together, and that's about it.

Step 1: Dyeing and Prep

After cutting out my pieces I applied a dark brown water-based dye that I watered down with water. Water.

Anyway, I'm still not great at dyeing and it looked pretty uneven. I had oiled it with jojoba oil beforehand, but went a little overboard. After it dried, I oiled it again and the colors evened out. I think it ended up looking okay at the end. I mostly used a rotary cutter and shears to cut everything out.

To make the cell phone pocket, I traced my phone, and addend some room for the stitching, about 1/8", plus another 1/8" on the bottom just to be sure. The gusset is a half-inch strip of leather. I punched the holes independently and sewed it on. I should have been more careful on the next step, but this step turned out okay.

Step 2: The Front

I attached the cell phone pocket to the front of the bag and here's where I first messed up. I just kind of winged it with my hole placement and ended up with a slightly lopsided pocket. Not unusable, but not what I wanted. I found you have to be extra careful in attaching gussets. When attaching the back, I was obsessive and counting holes and stuff. That's the way to go. Or do the smart thing and glue it together, then punch the holes like I see a lot of other people doing. Anyway. for the other pocket what I did was make it a little wide, punch holes all around it, then attached one side by pounding holes with my chisel punch then saddle stitching. Then I did the same to the other side, but at a narrower width than the pocket. For the bottom, once I started going around the curves at the bottom I would punch the holes with an awl and kind of bunch up the leather as I went. This made a pocket with a little more depth than I would have otherwise gotten.

To attached the gusset, I sewed it inside out, exactly as in the intermediate leatherworking class.

Once that was done, I decided to add some stability to the top. This is exactly like what they do in the class. I cut a strip of leather, punched holes in it, wrapped it over the the top and stitched it in place. It really works well for this softer leather, though I'm sure there are other methods.

Step 3: Attaching the Back

First thing I did on the back was rivet my straps in place. The original straps ended up being too short to stay in place, so eventually I had to cut the rivets off and put longer, thicker straps on to get the bag to stay closed.

Originally the back had that flap where the shoulder strap attaches, but then I realized that I'd have flesh side showing, so I thought I would laminate another piece on top of it. But then that sounded like overkill, so I cut the flap off, skived it (like they do in the class with the strips that hold the D-rings) and then sewed it in. Actually, I forgot to sew it in, had to cut my seams on one side and restitch, but that's the basic idea.

Anyway, this one, just like in the class, is attached with an outside seam to help it lay flat against the body. I was verrrry careful about lining up everything to make it even, having already failed at that twice. What I did was sew one side, then the other, and only then punch the holes around the corners and on the bottom. I don't know if that's the best way, but none of the other ways worked right for me, so that's what I did.

The shoulder strap is a basic strip with a buckle. I later added a pad, not pictured. I did that by laminating a thick piece of leather and a thin piece and cutting two slots for the strap to pass through the thin piece. I also added a snap for the small pocket and strips on the bottom to hold the bag closed.

It turned out good and I'm happy with it. It's about big enough for my wallet, phone, keys, hat and gloves. I'll use it more in the summer as a bag to keep my stuff in so I don't forget anything when running errands (I'm terrible at remembering my wallet).

If you do the leatherworking class first, everything I've done here lines up well with that. If anything seems mysterious, feel free to ask questions.