Sometimes the pattern inspires and the fabric follows, and sometimes it’s the fabric that creates the drive to create. The latter is definitely true with this make: my first shot at sewing a leather handbag!
I’ve eyed the leather hides that show up at Fabric Mart here and there in the past, but never bit because I couldn’t decide what I would make with them. When the Michael Stars goatskin hides showed up in full force I decided it was time to figure it out. Sorry to say they’re sold out now.
This goatskin is so thin and supple and beautiful; it definitely seems thin enough to use with a home sewing machine, but my sewing it was not without issues (more to come on that). The goatskin came folded up in large ziplock bags; when I’ve seen leathers in the past, they’ve been either hanging or on rolls, and the folding did create some creases that I was unable to get rid of and unavoidable in cutting, but really aren’t so bad. There were also a few very severe creases along the edges that I had to avoid completely.
This is not my first rodeo at bag making (see here and here) but I by no means consider myself experienced in the art, and I’ve always used faux leather or fabric. I decided to let this beautiful leather really shine by going simple with the Swoon Bonnie Bucket Bag. So simple that I even decided not to include the external welt on the bag; I was nervous for the possibility of messing it all up.
To make up for the lack of that external pocket, I sewed one into the lining of the bag. I’m a little surprised that there isn’t a pocket designed into the interior already, but it’s an easy thing to add. The lining of this is a lovely double faced very sturdy satin. It’s sold out now, but this would make a very nice substitution.
This pattern is definitely a great introductory way to start making bags: it has very minimal notions needs (two O or D rings, 1-2 zippers, and firm sew-in interfacing) and creates a very nice handbag with clean lines in a very usable size.
I had two of the 8-10 square foot skins, and ended up using about 1 1/4 of them to make this bag fully in leather. This pattern also has an option to use a coordinating fabric for one half of the body.
Leather is certainly a snarky mistress; I had smooth sailing in some areas, and in others had some terrible looking stitching on the bobbin side of the stitches. Unfortunately, some of this is visible from the top edge of the bag. Since stitching leather creates perforations that cannot and do not “heal,” like fabric can, so I’ve left it for now for fear of weakening it by ripping and restitching.
I have a Pfaff Performance 5.0, which does have a walking foot, but according to a Pfaff Facebook group I’m in, I would’ve benefited from a Teflon foot, going super snail slow in my stitching (instead of just fairly slow), and even greater tension than I used (I was at a 7; the default on my machine is 4.6). I used Coats & Clark “Heavy” thread and used a bit of a longer stitch (3.5) and a size 18 leather needle, which cuts/pierces the hide more than a sharp would.
I feel like I’ve learned a lot but there is still so much for me to know about working with leather. My machine definitely seems to struggle with it, so I may not revisit it in the short term, but despite my struggles, I’m really quite happy with this bag!