A few years ago I assisted with a summer camp and came up with some simple leather bags for the kids to make during one of the activities. The beauty of these bags are that they can be any size you want or need and can be almost entirely made from scraps.
In this Instructable I'll go over two ways to make a simple leather bag as well as making leather lace.
I hope you guys enjoy it!
Step 1: Materials and Tools
As far as your materials go, these bags work best when made out of suede or deerskin leather. You can buy it in whole hides, in leather remnants packages or you might just have some left over from previous projects.
Punch Awl or Scratch Awl
Compass or Groover - I prefer a compass, it's far more versatile
Sharp Knife/Scissors - Exacto Knife or a Round knife work really well, or just a good sturdy pair of scissors
2 x Blunt Leather Needle - any size works, although thicker ones are easier to grip
Cutting Board - To prevent you from ruining a perfectly good table
Rotary Punch or a round punch set
Ruler or a square
Thread - I use unwaxed linen thread, and for this project I used a thinner two ply variety
Beeswax - for waxing the thread to both lubricate and preserve it
Pliers - to help pull the needles through
Cardboard or Cardstock- to make patterns
Step 2: Planning It Out
Our first step is to plan out the bag on cardstock or any other sort of heavy paper. The basic plan of these bags starts with a 4 inch by 10 inch rectangle. The end result is a bag wide enough to reach inside and deep enough to hold any sort of goodies you could want. You can always make these bigger or smaller, depending on your needs and the material you have available, so don't be afraid to experiment!
For the purposes of this instructable I made two of these patterns and set one aside.
With my other pattern I started by folding it in half and drawing a line 1/4 inch from the top of the pattern. Since this will also be the top of our bag and we'll need to tie it closed when we finish, I plotted out three holes one inch apart along this line and used my rotary punch the holes out.
Now we are ready to cut out our material.
Step 3: Preparing Our Leather
Now that we have a pattern, we can go ahead and cut out our leather.
Using an awl I traced my pattern onto a piece of leather large enough to accommodate it, and then I cut it out using my round knife. You could also use an exacto knife or a pair of scissors or shears to cut out the pattern, it's really whatever you have at hand.
Once I had the leather cut, I put my pattern back on it to double check the size as well as to mark the spacing for the closure holes and used the rotary punch to punch them out.
This first bag is going to require a little more planning as I'll actually be sewing it together, and the method I'm using is called the saddle stitch.
If you've read my other ibles you'll notice that the saddle stitch is pretty much the workhorse stitch when it comes to leather working, and is a fairly simple one to work out.
To start with I set my compass to 1/8th an inch and ran it down the two long edges of the leather to plot out how far from the edge my stitches will fall. Using the same spacing I then "walked" my compass down the grooves left behind applying pressure to leave indentations of where the holes will be punched.
At this point you need to pause and count the holes you've just plotted out to ensure that you have the same number on all the pieces so that they match when you sew them together. In this case you'll be folding this rectangle in half, so ideally your long edges will be an even number so you can just fold at the halfway point. In my case, I had an odd number of holes so I skipped over the middle hole when I punched them out.
To punch these holes, simply grab an awl and make sure you have some sort of board behind your leather to make sure you don't mess up you table. Or drive your awl into your finger or leg.
Learn from my mistakes!
Step 4: Prepping the Thread and the Saddle Stitch
If you haven't recounted your newly punched holes, you'll want to do so now to make sure everything is going to line up.
As I mentioned at the beginning I'm using a 2-ply Linen thread that will require waxing to prepare it. You can skip this if you find waxed thread, such as dental floss, or if you use sinew.
First cut off a length of your thread roughly equal to 3 times the distance you're planning to sew together. To wax thread all you need to do is pull the thread through a piece of beeswax over and over until it will stand on it's own. The reason you want to do this is to both lubricate and preserve your thread by slicking down all loose fibers and giving it some minor water resistance.
Now that your thread is ready, you'll need to grab two needles and put one on each side of the thread. Put your first needle through your first hole, I recommend starting at the fold and working to the top of the bag. To keep things from coming out of the bottom of your bag I recommend looping around the bottom of your bag. With this accomplished pull your thread so that you have equal lengths on both sides of the leather.
To begin your saddle stitch, grab your needle and push it through the next hole pulling it all the way through. Now take your other needle and put it into the same hole going in the opposite direction. Pull both threads tight and your first stitch is done. The idea here is that you will be constantly applying pressure on both sides of the leather keeping it firmly in place even if a stitch was to break or weaken over time.
Continue this pattern until you get to the top of your bag. You'll want to loop over the top and the side with both needles here to prevent the stitches from being pulled apart through use. With all your stitches finished you'll want to push one needle through so that both ends are on the same side. Then tie it off and push the other needle through so that you can pull your knot into the hole to prevent it from untying and trim off the rest of the thread.
Sew up your other side and flip you bag inside out and you're finished with your sewing!
Step 5: Alternate Assembly Instructions
For a quick camp or rainy day version of this bag we have some alternate steps.
As I mentioned earlier I cut out two patterns, and here's where the second one comes in. First off you'll want to fold it in half along the long edge. On the three outside edges I drew a line roughly 1/4 inches in to label where the holes will be punched.
With a ruler I measured out a hole every inch with an extra hole 1/8 an inch from the fold to hold the bag closed so that nothing would slip out. Using my rotary punch I punched out all the holes to apply them to my leather.
Unfold your pattern and make sure the holes have all been properly punched out and, if you haven't already, cut out your leather. With the leather piece cut lay your pattern on top of it and mark out all the holes with a pen or a marker before using your rotary punch to punch out all the holes in you bag and all your prep work is done.
Now you'll need some leather lace.
Step 6: Making Leather Lace
Lace is actually pretty simple to make, and there are a couple of methods to create it.
For this method, you just need a small piece of leather and a pair of scissors or a knife.
First off cut your leather into a fairly round shape, to prevent hard corners from causing kinks in your lace. Next up slowly start cutting the outside edge of the leather in a spiral pattern. You'll want to try to keep it under about 1/4 inches wide if you can to keep it from being too large for most applications. Unfortunately I didn't pay enough attention to my lace and it turned out a bit wide, but nonetheless still usable for my application.
Keep cutting your spiral until your circle is no more and you'll have a nice strip of lace!
Step 7: Lace Up Your Bags!
Now that we have some lace we can finish up our second bag.
Go ahead and cut off enough lace to go 3/4 of the way around your bag. Tie off one end and pass it through the holes along one side until you get to the top. Since we want to be able to put things in the bag you only want to pass the lace through the three holes on one piece of the leather leaving the opening clear.
Flip the bag over and repeat the process on the other side. Now turn it inside out and you're finished!
Step 8: Finished
With your bags laced up, you're finished! Now all you'll need to do is find things to fill them with!
All told you can make either of these bags in about an hour, less if you decide to go with the lace. Either way they are a great first time leather working project, or a great summer camp or rainy day activity!
I hope you all enjoyed this Instructable!
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