I now had a creative fire burning inside me. It was time to look for materials. The longer I waited, the more likely that I would make an excuse to do nothing. Fortunately, Christmas was approaching and I was due for some time off!
The instructor of my online class, Don Morin, suggested making a mockup using wool felt. He said that the properties of the felt would be like that of leather. That would allow me to try my design for size and give me a chance to simulate sewing the leather. Supposedly.
Off to the fabric store! I found exactly one color of 100% wool felt. Natural. That just wasn’t going to do. Oh well. Pattern ideas were the next order of business. I decided to model my mockup after my current-favorite bag. It’s a Vera Bradley bag that’s bid enough to hold my iPad and small enough to not weigh a ton if it’s over-filled. I measured it and drew up a pattern. Before I started cutting, however, I decided to do something about that color, or lack thereof.
I didn’t really want to try regular store-bought fabric dyes. I had read some articles on natural dyes and started searching internet for ways to dye natural wool. KOOL-AID!! Hey, why not! I found an amazing set of instructions and a color chart on knitty.com. I used cherry and black cherry. Here’s what I got.
Grape plus Black Cherry
The first time through, it was a bit splotchy. I decided to send it though again. This time I mixed one packet of grape with one packet of black cherry. It turned out better. Still a little splotchy, but more interesting and closer to the color I had in mind originally.
Dyed and dried
Time to see if my prototype is going to work. I cut the pattern pieces out. I went ahead and practiced with my rotary cutter since that’s what I would be using to cut the leather. Good thing I practiced. There is a bit of a technique for rotary cutting and I did not realize how out of practice I was. I also raided my fabric stash to find something suitable to use as a lining fabric.
I should also give credit to the instructor on another class took on Craftsy – Brett Bara. Her class is called “Design Your Own Handbag.” It is a terrific class. She also suggests making a mockup and she gives great instructions for different features for linings.
Now it’s time to put it all together. That is a really fun process. A bit counter-intuitive, though. Before you do this step, though, you have to make sure that you’ve installed any hardware or pockets that don’t go through all layers. ( a lesson that I would need to remind myself of on the next bag!) You turn the exterior right-side-out. You turn the lining wrong-side-out. The lining isn’t closed completely on the bottom. Now, you place the exterior into the lining and sew all the way around the top.
What happens next is like magic! You carefully pull the exterior through the opening you left in the bottom of the lining. Continue turning until the exterior is through and the lining is now right-side-out. If you want to put something in the bottom of the bag to help it hold its shape, you do this before you close up the opening in the lining. Then you simply slip-stitch the opening closed and smooth the lining into place.
Ready to add the handles
This was great practice. I’m glad I went though the process. It helped me to realize that I wanted the leather bag to be a bit bigger. I need to adjust the pattern. I also started thinking about what kinds of pockets I want in the interior. I am thinking that I’m ready for the next step.
I started checking the internet for leather. I know N.O.T.H.I.N.G. about buying leather. My class instructor gave guidance on the types and thicknesses of leather that are recommended. I found several places, but it’s so hard to know what you’re getting – not to mention – that’s a lot of money to pay for something you haven’t really seen. At least now I have an idea of how much leather I will need. I believe it’s time for a field trip. That will be my next story. I’m ready to go!