Thursday, 6 November 2014

How To: 30-Minute Basic Leather Tote

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Sometimes I find leftovers from previous projects lying around and feel an intense need to put them into use. Last weekend some beaten up leather found a new life as a basic tote that just fits my laptop, wallet, and notebook.

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Leather (how much will depend on how big of a bag you want to make - add about 15 cm to the width and 7cm to the height you want to finished bag to be)  |  Rope (about 30 cm - thickness should correspond to how thick you want to make the bag handles)  |  Thread and sewing machine (leather needle)  |  Marker  |  Scissors  |  Optional: Black leather dye (if the flipside of your leather is not processed and you'd like the end product to be fully black, like the one I made)

I. Cut out a rectangular piece of leather according to the size you want to ready bag to be. My piece was 40cm x 75cm to start, and the ready bag ended up being 27cm x 32 cm and about 7cm in depth. Make sure you have enough leather to make the handles - you need about 8-10cm in width x the length of handles you're looking for.
I also created the starting rectangle from two pieces of leather, attaching them with a seam - I wanted the end result to have some added structure. You could also just use a single piece with no seam.
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II. Fold the rectangle in half, right sides facing, and sew a straight stitch along both edges.
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III. Cut the corners after the stitch open like so:
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IV. This will allow you to fold the corner flat. Here's where you decide the depth of your bag, and mark a straight line as shown in the image below. The further from the corner you mark this line, the more depth (and the less width) your bag will have. Mark a line at the same distance on the other corner, and sew a straight stitch along your marking on both sides.
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V. Take the remaining leather and place the rope at the edge, wrapping the leather around it. Mark the spot that leaves a few millimetres extra for adding a stitch to the edge, with the rope still fitting nicely inside. Be sure not to make this too tight - you'll need to be able to slide the rope through after sewing the stitch (having gone through multiple DIY fails, that wouldn't be the end of the world though, you could just replace your rope with a slightly less thick variety and continue like nothing happened).
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VI. Mark the width at a couple of spots along the desired length of your bag handles, and cut out two identical straps of leather. Cut the rope in half to end up with two pieces.
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VII. Mark the center point of the rope and the leather strap, and two spots 1-2 cm from the ends of the rope. Repeat for second strap.
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VIII. Fold the strap width wise and sew a straight stitch right at the edge, covering the distance that will hold the rope inside.
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IX. Attach a strong string with a needle (or other weight) to the end of the rope, allow the needle to drop through the tunnel you just made in the strap, and pull the rope through landing it nicely inside the sewn part of the handle.
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X. Continue the stitch a few cm further at both ends of the handle, stopping about 8 cm from the end. Repeat for other handle.
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XI. Measure and mark the spots you want the handles to be attached at. The inner edges of my handles were 11cm from the side seam of the bag.
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XII. Sew the straps in place with a vertical straight stitch down both edges of the strap.
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The final optional step is to take black leather dye and color the insiders of the bag. If you want a more rustic look (or are working with leather that's already been dyed), you can skip this. Enjoy your new bag!
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