Leather Courier Bag Upcycled From Vest/Vest Pattern




About: Careers: documentary filmmaker, DOP, engineering student, practical environmentalist, idealist. Loves: bicycles and when weeds grow in the city. I'm from western Canada, Yukon, Japan and Montreal.

Turn a narshty leather vest into something you'd like to be seen in.

This bag can be made from scrounged materials for almost no money if you're resourceful.


This is not a detailed instructable and there are some pictures lacking but hopefully it's enough to get you rolling.

Step 1: Needful Things

You will need:

Leather vest (or vest pattern).
A sewing awl (I'm partial to the Speedy Stitcher).
Sewing awl thread.
Webbing for the strap.
Snap buckles, rings, fasteners as per your design. I used things like copper pipe and bone.
Leather waterproofer like mink oil.
1 day if your fast, more if you're not.

Step 2: Waterproof

Apply your water protection before you stitch the thing together. I used lots of mink oil. It took a few weeks to fully absorb into new untreated leather.

Step 3: Cut It Out and Sew It Up

If you're working with a vest, you'll mostly be using the back.

Take apart the seams. The vest's back/shoulder area will become the bag's front. (see video in step 1) The lower back will be the bag's back and side gussets. This is all one piece so far.

Note at this point that it is possible to make the front flap out of the same piece of leather if you want your bag to be shallow. In my case I sewed a bit of the front on to serve as a flap.

Sew the straps over a large area. This way, if your leather is old and crappy, it will be less prone to tearing off.

Step 4: Copper Bits!

I used a construction harness quick release buckle. It needed an offset to facilitate easier closure. Copper pipe worked quite nicely. I squeezed it in a vice, hammered it flat and folded the corners down.

Wood in your vice will help protect your copper from excessive marking.

A bit of sandpaper can help smooth off small inevitable burrs.

Step 5: Buckle

The construction harness buckle has satisfying action.

Step 6: Toggle

Cut a piece of bone or nice wood to about 2 to 3 inches and sandpaper it smooth.

Loop string through the outer bottom corners of the bag. The toggle will go in ether of these.

My toggle fastens to a ladder lock buckle on the end of the shoulder strap webbing. This forms a sort of optional waist belt, courier bag style.

Drill through the toggle or carve a groove in the middle so you can tie it with cord.

Step 7: Use

Hopefully your result will be somewhere between a murse and a messenger bag. Mine have seen a lot of action.

Bike off into the sunset like you stole it.



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    7 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I got a Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl. I was wondering how you got that stitch pattern. I'm still wondering in fact. I'm always on the lookout for leather I can salvage. I have some car seats I can skin right now.

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago

    Ah, I assume you mean the ziggyzag stitching on the sides? Here's how:
    1) Start with a simple line of stitching to hold your pieces together.
    2) Going through the same holes from the straight stitch, zigzag over to just past the floppy loose edge of leather. This will hold the edge down.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the explanation. I think I can see what is going on now a bit better. I have the sewing awl but I have never tackled such a big project with mine yet. I usually use it to mend patches to things. Stuff like that. To be honest my sewing skills can barely manage what I do now. I really need to get an over stitch wheel so my stitches come out more even.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! Yes, indeed I used leather for the flap straps first time I made one of these. Thin leather works nicely in snap buckles but thicker, stiffer leather is a different story. It would need different hardware.

    Longevity is another issue too. I found that there is a lot of wear in frequently stressed areas like where straps connect or where they are sewn down. That was part of the reason I went with simple webbing in this case.