DIY: "raw" pleather bag

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I love the looks of these raw leather bags (like this LOVELY one from Stash Co.) but I don't have the money to spend on a purse like that, as much as I wish I could. What I do have, though, is a  grand tradition of making my own purses, so I thought that this was a project I could tackle without too much trouble. I ended up taking pictures so I could share my process with you. Here's the finished result!

pleather (1 yard is plenty)
thick needle
nylon strap
2 D-rings
2 trigger hooks
(also a straight edge, something to mark your fabric with, and scissors)

Step One: Draw out your plan.
If you pay close attention to the picture above, you'll see that I actually designed two bags. I made them both, but one held up (the one I'm sharing with you) and one didn't.
When you're thinking about how you want your bag to be, just think of it as a box, or an envelope. Sometimes it helps me to make a version out of paper while I'm planning, just to work out the kinks. You can see here, one thing I'm super bad about is planning out measurements. I usually just wing it. Sometimes it bites me in the butt, and sometimes it works out okay.

Step Two: Pattern (kinda).
Once I had my bag pretty much planned out, I take a look at the lines and make sure everything is going to fit okay. If it looks like everything is going to work out, I move on to patterns. If I were working with normal fabric, I would have drawn this all out on a separate sheet of paper, pinned it on, and then cut it out. But since I was working with pleather, I didn't mind drawing straight onto the fabric itself. (Note: I went into this knowing that my cut/fold/sew lines might be visible in the finished product. If this is something that bugs you, use a pencil instead of a permanent marker.)
For this step, I absolutely recommend using a straight edge as much as possible. Basically, you want to look at the drawing you've created in your plan, and transfer it onto the fabric. Same lines, but bigger and cleaner. A rule of drawing lines: always measure to three points. If you connect three dots, you're less likely to have a crooked line. 
Just a silly little image to show you how my lines were laid out.
Notice I created this pattern to use as much of a rectangle of material as I could. Almost none of the fabric went to waste. You'll also need some extra material the same width to make the flap in the next step.

Step Three: Create the "raw" edge.
I wanted the flap to look as organic as possible. I drew out a basic shape on another piece of paper, and then loosely re-created that shape (backwards) on the back of the fabric by using really messy dots. Then I connected the dots to give myself the line to cut on. This made the edge look less structured, and more natural.
At this point I noticed that the edges of the pleather were very light, and when they were put against the black they were distracting. In the end I just colored all of the edges with black permanent markers. Not the most elegant solution, but it got the job done.

Step Four: Sew everything up!
Next I pinned the flap to the edge of the purse that I had created and started sewing. I like to hand-sew, and it worked really well for a project using such thick material. I made sure to use a big needle
(an upholstery needle, to be exact), so it wouldn't bend when going through multiple layers. For extra reinforcement, and to add a little design flair, I stitched two parallel seams. It's little things like that that make projects look thought out.

Next I sewed the edges using a back stitch. You just need to run a straight seam along the front and back edges. I always go over the beginning and end stitches a few times to reinforce everything. In total you'll have two seams. Leave the extra bit of material as shown. It will come in handy later!

Step Four: Add the hooks.
Okay, So here's where I was a bit of a space case. But we are going to learn from my mistakes. See, originally I sewed the loops without adding the rings first. Bad plan. Add the rings.
So first you fold your loop over the ring, making sure to have enough that you'll be able to get it fastened securely,  then pin it down. Then sew the heck out of it. I did a square around the outside, and then did an x in the middle. I went over everything a few times before tying it off.
Also, if this is a bag you think you're going to use a lot, I might suggest using another layer of fabric on this step, just to add some strength to the loops.

Step Five: Turn it right side out.
This step is really self explanitory. But it's also the most satisfying step by far. So take your time. Enjoy the experience.
Remember how I said you needed to keep those little flaps by the edge of your seams? This is why. If you tuck them inside, they help catch any spare things floating around in the bottom of your bag. This isn't the most polished method of creating the bottom, but doing your seams this way makes the bag infinitely easier to construct.

Step Six: Make the strap.

For this step I used a trigger hook and a nylon strap. To measure for the length of the strap, you can either just wind the strap around you like you would a real bag, and measure that, or use a bag with a strap length that you find comfortable. Remember to add a few inches to attach the strap to the hook.
Once you've decided your strap length, fold the end over the loop, and pin it. Then just sew. I did another box with an x. Attach the strap to the hook on your bag, and you're done!

I'm really happy with how my bag turned out. Doing it again, there are a few things I would change. Pick a more realistic (and stronger) fabric, add a lining, have a more complicated strap, etc. But for a purse I sewed in an afternoon, I think the result was worth the effort.

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