I can definitely see trying some of these ideas. Don has such great ideas and information.


quilted lining_incase
Credit: photo by Incase

Designing a protective bag collection needs to be produced with three things in mind – conveyance, organization and co-ordination. Begin with a super durable fashion fabric for the exterior so that the bag will take you through your travels and beyond. It should be spacious and the perfect size for urban commutes and easy air travel. Remember some airlines have weight and size restrictions for carry-on baggage. Leather, suede, vinyls, waxed canvas are ideal choices as they are rugged and durable.

For the inside of the bag, the interior layer should be a soft-textured, moisture-resistant bonded fabric for easy sliding and ensures good protection against water and dust. Waterproof fabric make it suitable for swimwear, sun creams and conventional shopping. While, a padded interior made with a soft-textured quilted lining fabric or reinforced middle padded layer will provide superior protection against impact and leakage. Typically…

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Posted in Uncategorized

From the heights to the depths

I now had my leather. I also had all of my tools:

  • rotary cutter and cutting mat
  • double stick tape (can’t use pins on leather!) and binder clips
  • skiving tool for thinning the seam areas
  • metal ruler
  • leather sewing machine needles
  • brayer
  • and of course, my sewing machine!

I was one prepared chick! What else could I need? I felt like the baby bird ready to fly. Of course, that first step out of the nest is a long way down.

Even though I had worked out my pattern, I decided to make sure I had my sewing machine set up and calibrated before I got too far. I cut some small pieces from the irregular edges of the hide. I installed the leather needle and the polyester thread. You shouldn’t use natural fiber thread when sewing leather. I learned that in my class. The tannins in the leather will actually cause natural thread (and even lining materials) to rot. Everything was ready. Time to sew!

or not…

I have a brand new sewing machine. I bought it this past fall. I LOVE my sewing machine. My sewing machine, however, does not love leather. In fact, my new, wonderful, expensive sewing machine went into open revolt. Even with the needles especially made for leather, alarms were sounding, lights were flashing… no, I am not exaggerating.

I reviewed the class session on setting up your machine. I rechecked everything: tension, needle, thread, was everything right? Yes. and No. Sewing one small seam made me wonder if I was putting my machine in jeopardy. No. No. No!!! My stomach sank. What was wrong? I had to try again. This was not the answer I was ready accept. Maybe I could slow down some more. Maybe I need to … I don’t know… pray? Please?? Absolute disaster.

The nearest I could tell, the problem was the leather I had chosen. The beautiful, shiny, embossed leather. *sigh* Really? My eyes had betrayed me. How many times in life have I gotten in trouble because what was pleasing to my eyes wasn’t the best thing for me? OH! I could fill a blog. Now I was bitten again. The embossed leather is pretty dense – compressed my the embossing process. It is also very stiff – much stiffer than the soft, supple, buttery kid leather. This was not what I was expecting. I sat at the table near tears. OK, I’m lying. There were tears. What have I done? Spent a bunch of money on tools and leather. Now I’m about to break my sewing machine. I can’t do that. Even if I have to write off the leather, I can’t kill my machine.

I’m upset. I’m sad. I feel utterly defeated. I feel embarrassed. How could I have thought I could do this? What a joke. Turn out the lights. Go to bed.

Morning brings many new things. Every day brings a chance for a new beginning, a new perspective, a new idea, and even some new energy and determination. Most of my best problem solving happens in my dreams. My sleeping brain has debugged computer programs and figured out  many complex puzzles that have eluded my conscious mind. The next morning brought me a gift. I had a flash of inspiration that, while it might not work, might give me some hope.

That’s a story for another day. But here is a clue to what came next…

Exterior shell

Exterior shell

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Posted in Alligator Embossed Leather Bag

My first leather bag – finding the perfect leather


Now that my mockup was finished, it was time to move on to making a leather bag. I reviewed the class session on how to pick your leather. I really had no idea what to get. All of my memories of leather working involved really thick leather like we used at summer camp for leather stamping. Fortunately, the instructor explained really well the different ways to tell what kind of leather could be sewn with a home sewing machine. It’s actually sold by ounces per square foot, not by length the way fabric is sold. Where on earth to find it, though! I tried different web sites, but I was really reluctant to buy something I couldn’t see. This was especially challenging because the hides could vary in size even if they were the same price. I wouldn’t know exactly how much leather I would be getting until it arrived. This was just a bit much for me. I was on the threshold of turning back.

The break came when I discovered one of the sites I had shopped actually had a store in Dallas. This was the chance that I was needing. It was time for a field trip! What wonders awaited? It was truly overwhelming. They were having a sale – that helped. However, I was still faced with so many choices! The instructor had used goat skin and lamb skin for his bag. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the garment-weight leathers were at the back of the store. That means I had to walk past all the other leathers to get to it. Those crafty sales people. I passed a table full of alligator embossed cowhide – shiny and gorgeous – on my way back. After that, the other hides just didn’t stand a chance. I went over and took a closer look. The colors were amazing: blue, burgundy, black, green – all vibrant and beautiful. I was struck at the how the sizes varied from hide to hide. I loved the burgundy, but I had serious doubts that there would be enough to complete anything except a small project. I had grander visions. There was a very nice black piece, but again the size was a challenge. I was torn between a denim blue colored hide and a bright, lime green one. The rebel in me really wanted that lime green. It would have definitely made a statement. My practical side won out and I opted for the blue. Ok, I say practical, but we are talking about a piece of leather embossed to look like alligator that was blue with gold highlights. We are still going to be making a statement. Yes, indeed. I left with leather in hand and a feeling of jubilation. I had conquered the leather store! I had that I needed to make the most amazing bag in the history of the world!

This is about the time I should have wondered if I was setting myself up. The short answer: yes. The long answer: Yes, indeed. Have you ever noticed that it’s just when you think you’ve got the world figured out that the real education process hits?

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Posted in Alligator Embossed Leather Bag

The Practice Run

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 I used cherry and black cherry. Here’s what I got.

Grape plus Black Cherry

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

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

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!

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Posted in Mockups

Ten Lessons From a Maker by David Hieatt, Hiut Denim Co.

This is a very interesting article. He makes many good points. It’s too bad that I don’t believe they sell jeans in the US. I would love to try a pair!

Posted in Random Finds

Overcoming inertia

I have always loved creating things. I think that’s why I’m a sucker for every craft that comes along. I also love learning. I would happily take classes and learn new things for the rest of my life. For years, though, I didn’t do much of anything creatively. I was busy. Busy working. Busy being a mom. Busy driving everywhere. Busy volunteering at school. There would be occasional projects that would give me a creative outlet – sewing curtains and pillows, being the craft mom for VBS – but that didn’t really allow me total creative control. I was never completely satisfied. Occasionally, I would try something new, like knitting. I would try to find resources like “Teach Yourself to Knit” books (always for right-handed people btw ) or a YouTube video, but I would end up frustrated because I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. So I stopped. Just gave up. I told myself that I couldn’t do it. I also got really depressed. Creativity thwarted.

In 2009, I went back to college. I spent the first year as a music major – something I had always wanted to do. It was daunting as a forty-something-year-old person, but I learned a lot about myself. I could, as an adult, learn to play the piano. I could learn to play guitar. I could do a lot of things that I never thought I could. What did I have then that I didn’t have before? First of all, I had excellent instruction. I could ask questions. Also, I knew going in that this wasn’t going to be easy. I was going to have to practice, practice and practice some more. I was going to fail at some things in the beginning, but giving up wasn’t an option. I had to pick myself up and keep going.

This was so freeing. I have been a life-long perfectionist. Failure wasn’t allowed. If it didn’t come easy, it must not have been meant for me. Ugh! I wonder how I ever did anything. I now had given myself permission to be less-than-perfect at something, at least during the learning process. Actually, I discovered that there is a learning process! Who knew!!

The world was open ahead of me. I started trying things again. After decades, I picked up crocheting again. I enjoyed making things for my family. Trying, messing up, trying again and actually becoming competent at a new skill. That led to experimenting and making my own patterns. I just wanted to see what was possible. It felt to great. I started sewing again.

This brings me to my current projects. A few months ago I discovered a site called Craftsy. At first, I was mostly interested in taking classes to improve my sewing skills. They have very helpful classes. I was able to learn things that had eluded in all of the books that I had read. Oh, the power of a demonstration!

Not long after I started taking classes, I saw a class that caught my attention. “Making Leather Bags” Ooooohh! Could I? Really? No… surely not. Really? Hmmm. Ok, what if I signed up and watch. There’s no harm in that. So I started watching. It didn’t look that bad. Surely, I could do that. Shortly afterward, I saw another class – “Design Your Own Handbag”. Now the wheels really started turning. The possibilities were spinning in my head.

Next stop the leather store!

Posted in Uncategorized

The adventure begins!

Have you ever thought you would like to learn a new skill, but thought it would be beyond you? I am constantly seeing things that I would love to be able to do. I will admit that I’m a bit of a craftaholic. I’ve tried everything from rubber stamping to stained glass to crocheting. I love the act of creating something new. I also love the challenge of learning new things.

This is where my adventure begins. An online class and the thought that maybe I can do this after all!

Posted in Uncategorized
About me
I'm on a journey to learn new skills and discover new things about myself. I want to try things that push me beyond my comfort zone - things that I have to struggle to master.

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