My first hand stitched leather bag – Leather Craft Workshop Days – review

Hello my crafty friends!

I am so excited today to introduce you to my first ever hand stitched leather bag!!! I think this is my most proudest make to date, but let me start from the beginning.

I’ve spent most of last year obsessing about learning a leather craft. I’ve watched a countless number of videos, read blogs and signed up for Skillshare to get the knowledge and understanding as much about the process as I could. After awhile I’ve hit a brick wall….I won’t be able to make a simplest bag at home without a specialist tools. Tools that I clearly do not have! Errrrr tools that are not the cheapest either! But I really wanted to touch and do something with leather, so at that point I’ve decided to look for some kind of workshop or a class.

In my mind not only this was the most practical way of learning the skills but also the easiest way of finding out if it is something that I will continue to be engaged with in a long run. I started browsing the internet with an idea that I want to make a bag and be able to take it home. There were few classes that I was considering taking, but either the price was to high, it was too far to travel or you had to bring your own materials that in the end I did not sign up for.

After a while I came across Leather craft workshop days website and found a class that I really wanted to take called ‘Make your own crossbody bag’. Sadly there were no available dates, so I emailed Richard, who is running the workshops and asked if there will be any dates added in November. He promptly replied saying that he is free to do a workshop in mid November and added a date to the calendar just for me. He also confirmed that there are no hidden cost and what I make during the class I can take it home. I was sold at this stage! The price of a full day workshop is £210, which in my opinion is quite reasonable if you take into account what you get by attending, not only a beautiful product, but also a newly learned skill.

Leather Craft Workshop Day

On my arrival to the class Richard offered me a hot tea and we sat in his workshop to start the lesson. Richard began the class by showing me and talking about different types of leather, their origin, weight, usage etc. I’ve listened to every word he said and took some notes for the future reference.

The rest of the workshop consisted of me doing a various tasks to complete my crossbody bag. I had chosen to make my bag out of this loud blue/purple color veg tanned leather with brown straps.

Richard prepared the pattern for me and gave me a scraps of leather to practice cutting. Once I was confident enough I cut out the bag ( with his help) and followed the instruction on what to do next.

Throughout the day I was introduced to a various tools that are essential to produce a high quality leather product like stitch line groover, scratch awl, chisel punch, burnisher and others. I’ve learned how to clean and prep the leather, burnish the edges, punched holes and attach various rivets and closures.

The most nerve wracking part for me was when I had to use a stitch line groover ( which I called shaver hihihi), because it shaves of a thin line close to the leather egde. This has to be done very precisely otherwise the stitching line would look wonky and of a poor quality. I practiced a lot on a scraps before I was brave to do it on my bag….sweating from nerves at this point!

The most fun part for me was punching stitching holes with a chisel punch, which in turn reminded me of a fork. It took awhile to make all those tiny holes, but practice makes perfect as they say and near to the end my speed improved. You need some muscles to do this craft 🙂

What took me by surprise was when Richard told me to count the number of holes on either sides of the bag…as a sewist I never do that. But it made sense at the end to ensure the stitching is even on both sides.

Next, I picked the color of the thread, run it through the bees wax and was shown how to do a saddle stitch using two needles. I thought it would take me forever, but I was wrong. It was quicker than punching all those stitching holes.

Lastly I’ve attached the strap and my bag was finished!

Final thoughts

It probably won’t surprise you when I say that I highly recommend this workshop! If like me you are a complete beginner this is the best class out there that will get you started!

Richard is such a passionate and knowledgeable teacher and I took away a lot of that knowledge with me. Throughout the day he made me feel comfortable and was very patient when I was asking many questions …some of which not even related to the leather craft at all. His class gave me confidence and boosted my love of leather craft even more, so don’t be surprise if you see me doing more bags in the future!!!

Hope you enjoyed this little review. See you next time!!!

Monika xxx

Perfect for Winter -Pisco dress – hacking the pattern

Hello everyone!

Do you belong to a group of sewists who is using , hacking and adapting a pattern they like to make many different looks, or do you think it is a waste of time and just prefer to buy a new pattern that resembles the style you want??? I belong to the first group and enjoy immensely the whole process and the final result. I must say that I am not always successful at it, but it is always a learning curve.

The latest hack that I had done, which also was a success, was made on a Pisco dress by SBCC Patterns. You can find a post and my review of this pattern here.

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Pisco dress and my design

I fell in love with this pattern so much that I knew I was going to hack it any way I can! As it is a sleeveless dress, the first think that came to my mind was to simply add sleeves. After that I thought it would be nice to have a cosy and warm dress during Xmas holidays ( I went to Poland, where the temperature dropped to -5 and it was snowing alot), so I wanted to also add a turtleneck.

Hacking the pattern

To ensure I do not mess up my existing Pisco dress pattern I had first copied the bodice pieces (front, back and sides) up to waistline and left a free space around each piece to allow me to do any adjustments.

I started adapting the pattern by changing the neckline and drafting a separate turtleneck pattern, because it was the easiest part. To do this I simply merged the front and back Pisco neckline with a Freya top pattern by Tilly and the buttons. Next, I took a Freya roll neckline pattern and lengthened it by 7cm.

The process of hacking the armhole and adding sleeve pattern was more complicated, because original Pisco dress pattern has armhole band that is shapped and not symmetrical, also the bodice is shaped using princess seam with side panels.

First I pinned all parts of the bodice seams together just under the armhole to give me an idea of how the pattern pieces lay together and to see the curve of the armcycle.

Next using the Freya top front and back pieces I placed it on top of The Pieco pattern to check if I can use it as a guideline. It was pretty easy to do on the back so I copied the outline and angle of the shoulder seam and a curve of the back armhole.

I did the same for the front, however I had to guess the shape of the front armhole curve, because of the princess line shaping. To do this I measured the width of the Pisco armhole band at the side seam and use this number to extend the side seam going towards armpit. Otherwise the armcycle would have too low cut. After that I simply conected and smoothed the front and back armhole curves to meet at the new seam line, but keeped the shape of the copied armhole at the start of each shoulder seams as far as possible.

For the sleeve pattern I also decided to use a copy of the Freya sleeve, because the overall circumference of a newly drafted armcycle was very close in measurements to that of the Freya top.

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Fabric choice

For this project I had purchased 2 meters of this lovely cotton blend sweatshirting fabric from Universal textiles in Shepherd’s Bush (£12.99/meter). This was a first time I had a chance to sew this type of fabric and I have to say it was pretty easy apart from the rolling edges ( had to use more pins to keep it flat). However I decided to use this as a feature on my turtleneck, by leaving the top edge raw.

I really like how warm and cosy this fabric is, but what took me by surprise was the lack of stretch. I do not know if all sweatshirting fabrics are like this, but when I think about RTW joggers and hoodies made out of this type of material it always seam that it have more stretch to it….but maybe I’m wrong?

Sewing the pattern

The entire process of sewing this pattern was nice and smooth, because the fabric was easy to handle and manipulate and because I am familiar with both Pisco and Freya patterns.

Once I had decided to leave the turtleneck hem raw and allow it to roll naturally I had to take a moment to think what would be best way to finish off the seam at the back. I did not want simply to overlock it because when rolled outside it would be visible, so I opted to go for more of a visible feature stitch. I opened and trimmed the seam allowance and used the biggest zig zag stitch on my machine to flatten and cover the entire seam allowance. It looks more tidy in my opinion and ads some character. Mind you it cannot really be noticable when my hair are down.

I came upon one problem once I finished making the dress. When I tried it on I barely could put my arms through the sleeves. oooohhh boy!!! During the time I was altering the pattern I didn’t know what fabric I would pick and was expecting to use a Ponte Roma fabric which has a lot more give. In hindsight I should have thought about it once I had my fabric, but I didnt think it would make such a difference…..I was wrong! Luckily I had enough of fabric scraps to cut two large rectangles . I had to unpick both sleeves, cut them in half and insert the panels in the middle to increase arm circumference. This process made the sleeve head larger but I still managed to ease it in into the armhole. Next time I will have to pay more attention to the type of fabric and stretch percentage.

Final thoughts

I really like the way this dress turned out, even with all new features and amendments and  I wore it as planned during the Xmas dinner. The process of hacking this pattern and merging it with another one opened a new door for so many possibilities! It definitely saved me a lot of time, because drafting pattern takes time for me. I have few more ideas how I can transform the Pisco pattern, so do not be surprised if you hear it being used again 😉

Monika xxx