Intro: Malachite Bucket Bag W/ Upcycled Leather & Suede
Bucket bags are the hottest handbags right now and they are not only gorgeous but utilitarian. Why not DIY your own designer bucket bag without the designer price tag?
Another great thing about the shape of the bucket bag I chose is that there are two ways to style it - sides out (flared) or folded & snapped in.
- Sewing machine
- Recycled leather (I used a slightly worn coat I bought on Ebay)
- Recycled suede (Suede pants bought at Goodwill - back pocket was tearing away from the pant and inner thighs were a bit worn but still lots of good suede to re-use.) This is my second project from these pants. :)
- Fabric - about 1/3 yard (buy 1/2 to play it safe)
- Heavy-duty fusible interfacing
- Very stiff cardboard
- Lining fabric - about 3/4 yard
- Leather sewing machine needles
- Bonded nylon thread is ideal (upholstery thread is next best) - I used quilting thread for most of it which also works
- Regular thread
- Walking foot for sewing machine will work best for leather (won't stick to the foot) and for all those layers you will be sandwiching
- Belt to re-purpose (for the handles/straps) or chain/rope - anything strap-worthy & strong
- Wire Cutters
- Strong (but not too big) needle for hand-sewing strap on
- Snaps or grommets
- Small cording (If you want to make your own piping to go around the perimeter of the bottom of your bag as I did.)
Step 1: You Must Start With the Bottom
Choose a round object (ie. pan lid, bowl) about 2" in diameter bigger than you want the bottom of your final bag. Trace on paper to use as your pattern. Use pattern to cut out your leather bottom.
Make another circle pattern (shown in green scrap paper) that is about 2" smaller in diameter. Use this pattern to cut out your cardboard (stiff, strong, thin) to give the bottom of your bag support and structure. Then cut out of scrap fabric (I used a heavy-duty canvas) two circles that you will use to pad your cardboard support. Sew your cardboard inside, being careful not to sew into the cardboard. Use a zigzag stitch to sew close to the cardboard edge and then trim your seams down to the stitching. (I used my serger for this step - not necessary to have one.)
*Note: I actually had to do this step twice because my circle was too big once I got to the final step of inserting it. So save yourself this step and cut it even smaller than your pattern. Use the green-sized pattern for your fabric and then cut your cardboard 1" smaller all around than that.
Step 2: Cut & Sew Your Center Panel (Suede & Leather)
I knew I wanted my center panel (front & back) to be suede so I had to go with whatever I had to work with left on my suede pants recycle. I wanted the center panel wider than these pants could give me so I added leather strips on either side of the suede. I love the different textures and the hint of gloss that the leather gave the bag. Necessity is not only the mother of invention but, in design, also the mother of a cool detail that would not have otherwise been there!
Each suede panel ended up being about 5.5" x 12.5" before sewing.
My leather strips were about 1.75" x 12.5"
Use your leather needles, bonded nylon thread (or something else heavy duty) and machine walking foot to construct the front and back center panels. You cannot pin leather so take your time sewing these seams, right sides facing and sew 3/8" away from the edge. Set your stitch length longer than normal so as not to perforate your leather as you sew. My normal stitch length is about a 2 so I set mine at a 2.5 for leather seam construction.
Step 3: Interfacing
Lightly iron the suede and leather on the back (wrong side) to remove any wrinkles. At this point you will add heavy duty fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the panel. I'm holding up a black piece of interfacing that is very thin - don't bother with this because I ended up adding another additional heavy duty one so that my bag could stand up by itself - depends on if you want a slouchy bucket bag or a more structured one. Either way, you will need some kind of interfacing to make it stronger & defined. Cut the interfacing to match your panel size and iron on (fuse) to the back. Even if you want a bag that will stand up on its own, you don't want the interfacing too stiff either.
*I made my own kind of interfacing with what I had on hand - with some white canvas (with animals) + steam-a-seam. This method of interfacing is more expensive than just using interfacing from a fabric store but I already had the fabric and was happy to put it to this use. It was the perfect weight for this bag. You will see my homemade interfacing in later steps.
Cut this same interfacing and fuse to the inside bottom (circle) of the bag.
Step 4: Complete Front & Back Panels
Now you are ready to finish off the front and back panels with fabric on each side of the center panels. Here's where you get to do some simple math. Measure 5/8" away from the edge of the circle* all the way around (pic #1). If you don't have a tape measure just use a piece of string (or grommet tape as pictured :)) and then measure that length with a ruler (or cutting mat in my case) (pic #2). My bottom circle perimeter (5/8" away from edge all around for seam allowances) measured 26.5". But it doesn't really matter what mine measured because your starting circle will be different from mine.
Take the perimeter measurement you just got and divide it by 2 (because you have 2 sides to your bag). Subtract the width measurement of your center panel from that number minus seam allowances (5/8" +5/8" = 1.25"). Then take that number and divide it by 2 (because each side has 2 fabric panels. Add 1 1/4" to that number for seam allowances and this is the width that your fabric panel needs to measure on the bottom.
So here's my math as an example:
26.5 (perimeter) /2 = 13.25
13.25 - 7" (my center -suede & leather - panel width) - 1.25" (center panel seam allowances) = 5"
5/ 2 = 2.5
2.5 + 1.25 (fabric seam allowances) = 3.75"
I rounded 3.75 up to 4" to give myself a bit of leeway.
Now you are ready to make the paper pattern for the fabric portion of the bag. So the bottom edge of my pattern will be 4" wide and I doubled it to an 8" width for the top edge. The length is predetermined by the length of the center panel (mine measured 12.5" tall at this point).
Now the easiest part:
Cut your fabric using the paper pattern you just made.
Cut 2 at a time with fabric folded, making sure pattern follows the grainline (straight up and down) of the fabric. You will have 4 pieces when you are done. Add interfacing to the wrong side of these pieces as you did for the center panels.
Cut 4 pieces of interfacing and fuse to the wrong side of each of your 4 fabric pieces.
Keep your stitch length slightly longer than normal for sewing with leather. Place wrong sides together and sew your 4 fabric panels to your 2 center panels, 5/8" away from the edge. You cannot pin these pieces since you are using leather. You can use clips or just holding them together while you take your time works too.
* Ignore the piping you see on my bag bottom. I have a better way for you to apply piping around your bottom than the way I did it. We will get to that in Step 8.
Step 5: Topstitch
Set your machine stitch length longer (a 3.5 on mine). Push (or lightly iron) seam allowances inward (toward the center) so that you catch that seam as you topstitch 1/4" away from each leather or suede edge.
Step 6: Cut & Sew Lining Pieces & Inside Pockets
Use one of your completed panel pieces to as a pattern for your lining. Cut 2. Also cut a circle piece of lining using the smaller circle pattern piece you made.
Then cut a square of fabric as a pocket to fit your phone and a rectangle - each with a same size lining piece. (Pic 2)
Put right sides together and sew 3 sides, leaving the top side open. (Pic 3)
Snip corners being careful not to cut the stitching (pic 4). Press. Turn right side out & press again, turning top edges under (pics 5 & 6).
Stitch top closed of each pocket + lining. Then pin these to your lining after applying fusible interfacing on the back of each lining piece to reinforce. (pic 7).
Sew pockets onto lining - around 3 edges. Pic 8 shows you what the back looks like when you are done.
Pic #9 shows the finished pockets on the lining.
Step 7: Sew Front & Back Panels Together; Attach Bottom
With right sides of front & back panels facing, stitch sides with 5/8" seam allowance.
With right sides of front & back lining panels facing, stitch lining sides with 5/8" seam allowance.
Pin & sew bottom circle to lining sides. The trick here is to use a lot of pins and fold circle in half, lining up side seams on those lines - directly across from each other.
Sew leather bottom circle to the outer handbag in the same manner.
Step 8: Optional: Add Piping
Piping along your bottom edge between the bottom and side panels will give your bag a finished, structured look. But you can skip this step if you need to simplify.
I used a small cording in the middle of lengths of leather that were about 1" wide. If you need more details on this, stay tuned for the YouTube tutorial.
Then instead of basting it to the bottom circle (as I did - see pic), the easier way would be to baste it to the bottom edge of the upper bag, 5/8" away from the edge with the piped edge facing inward/upward.
Step 9: Sew Lining to Outer Bag
Turn bag inside out and place lining side with pockets facing the right side of the bag (right sides together). Pin along cloth edges only. Sew along edge 5/8" away from the edge. Leave an opening big enough for the cardboard bottom to go through.
Turn right side out, pulling bag through the opening. Press edge, leaving a lip of the outer bag showing on the inside (pic #5). Then topstitch all around top edge 1/4" away from edge.
Step 10: Add Handles/ Straps & Snaps or Grommets
I used a belt that I never wear and upcycled it to serve as my bucket bag's straps. I needed to reconfigure it a good deal with my wire cutters and pliers to create 2 straps equal in length. I used a bit of leather from the collar of the upcycled jacket & some left over piping to extend the length to a measurement that I wanted. My total strap lengths were 25".
I love that the handles match but are not identical - yet each one symmetrical.
I stitched these handles to the inside of the bag by hand. It may prove that this stitching will need to be replaced with grommets. I do have screw-together grommets on the way that would be sturdy enough for this job but for now it is beautiful as is!
If you want to carry your bag with the sides folded up, you can hand sew small snaps that would be on the inside and not show from the outside. You would need 4 small snaps for this job.
Thank you for reading my tutorial and I hope you make this amazing bag! If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below and I would be happy to help if I can.
Step 11: Enjoy Your Beautiful Bucket Bag
Here's a link to the gorgeous malachite fabric: