Monday 14 July 2014

How To: Minimal Phillip Lim-Inspired Leather Backpack

 photo readystanding_zpsae4f0772.jpg
Dreams of the 3.1 Phillip Lim 31 Hour Backpack have been filling my mind for the past couple months, when every morning I watch my shoulder bags get abused banging against my bike tires on my ride to work. The minimalist leather backpack's time had come.

 photo 0Tools_zps8275b162.jpg
Leather (quantity depending on the size of backpack)  |  Metal zipper  |  Strap clips as shown  |  Sewing machine + leather needle and strong thread  |  Binder clips to use instead of pins

I. Cut out patterns for the different pieces from paper. This will help in estimating what's the best arrangement to make most out of the leather you have. I determined the size by the width and length of my 13" MacBook (35 cm long, 25 cm wide, 12 cm deep).
 photo 1pieces_zps6880d6e7.jpg II. Trace the pieces and cut them out with an approx. 1cm allowance (the bottom piece here is a bit different, I used a relatively soft cow hide for the backpack with the exception of the bottom part, which I made out of slightly thicker leather). The two thin pieces will go on either side of the zipper, so their width will depend on the width of your zipper - the total width of the two straps + zipper width - seam allowances should be the same as the depth of the bag (see step IV for the visual).
 photo 2 cut pieces copy_zps29bchsin.jpg III. Fold the allowance of the two long pieces that will be attached to the zipper with the help of an iron. Yes, you can iron leather. Just need a cotton cloth in between (an old pillow case will do).
 photo 3ironedzipperpieces_zpsf22137f3.jpg IV. Place the pieces on the zipper (the overall width should be the same as the side pieces as shown below). Sew a straight stitch on top of the fold.
 photo 4zipperpieceswithzipper_zpsf41a41fe.jpg V. Press the side piece allowance fold with the iron and sew a straight stitch approx. 2 mm from the edge. Repeat for other side piece.
 photo 5sewzipperpieceswithsidepiece_zps954dc929.jpg  photo 6zipperpiecesandsidesattached_zps054bc261.jpg VI. Place the rectangular front piece right side facing the right side of the bottom piece, and sew the two together on the wrong side.
 photo 7bottomandbackfrontpiecesattached_zps35df74c2.jpg VII. Place the front piece right in the middle of the zipper piece. Use binder clips to attach the pieces together (pins don't work, leather is unforgiving when it comes to puncture marks). Continue going around and attaching the zipper piece to the front piece sides. Sew slowly along the line you drew when tracing the pieces.
 photo 8attachfrontpiecetomiddleofzipperpiece_zps2f035741.jpg  photo 9pinsidesallaround_zps3a494b95.jpg  photo 10sewnedges_zpsed69ef51.jpg VIII. Make the short straps to attach the clips to. Width should be double what fits through the clip. Fold the sides to the middle, pressing with iron through a cloth. Sew a straight stitch on both sides and slip through the clips.
 photo 11ironedstraps_zps2260003a.jpg  photo 12folderbottomstraps_zps3aec4b1f.jpg IX. Place the straps folded in half on the bottom part, and attach the front piece with binder clips, with the two straps in between. Sew a straight stitch trapping the straps in their place.
 photo 13placebottomstrapsinmiddle_zpsfbea6d40.jpg  photo 14pinforsewing_zpsf3e0fadf.jpg X. Continue sewing the remaining edges of the side pieces and the back piece, leaving a gap at the top where the long straps will go.
 photo 15sewnedges_zpsebb98b34.jpg XI. Cut out the straps (I had to make them from 2 pieces each to get them long enough). Using the iron, press the allowance down into a fold on each side of both piece.
 photo 16cutstrappieces_zps7a4a9bf5.jpg  photo 17extendedstrapsewn_zpse8906e64.jpg  photo 18sewnandcutseam_zps2d54e11a.jpg  photo 19ironedstrapedges_zpse5376212.jpg XII. Fold both piece in half, pressing with iron again through a cloth. Sew a couple mm from the edge, all the way.
 photo 20ironedstrapdone_zpsabfad24c.jpg  photo 21sewnstraps_zps26b5e0b5.jpg XIII. Same as with the bottom straps, attach the back and side piece, sewing a straight stitch with the straps in between the two pieces.
XIV. Slip the straps through the clips as shown below, and sew the ends of the straps creating a loop at the end, securing the strap to the clip. Reinforce all stitches supporting the straps by hand-sewing them tightly.
 photo 23strapsthroughloops_zps6cf68152.jpg  photo 24strapsready_zps4f721993.jpg And you're good to go!
 photo ready2copy_zpsf5afa1f1.jpg  photo ready3_zps98b36575.jpg  photo ready6_zps9c7fba6b.jpg xo,



  1. Ben voyons, t'es ben bonne! Wow! Combien de temps ca t'a pris?

  2. Merci Sara:) Quelques heures je dirais... le temps passe vite quand on s'amuse..!

  3. Why did you not include the measurement of the pieces. You have now made this way more difficult.

    1. Hi Rhonda, the measurements will depend on what size you want your backpack to be, and as I mention in the post, I made mine to fit my MacBook Pro (13"). That means my main rectangle that determines the width and length of the bag was 35 cm x 25 cm, and the top side piece (which determines the depth of the bag) I made to be 10 cm wide - as you add the zipper in the middle, this gave me a total depth of about 12 cm for the bag. The two side pieces that don't have the zipper should be as wide as the center piece becomes with the zipper (see step IV). Hope that helps!

  4. I agree with Ronda... it would have been better to put the measurements down so that we could readjust if we needed to... I personally love the size of your bag but I don't believe I can make it because I need exact measurements... But nice work...

    1. Hi there, thanks for the feedback! Back when I made this I'll admit I didn't think anyone was actually reading my blog:D I've added the measurements to the image, hope that helps!

  5. Hi Julia! Thank You for this one, its amazing! Now i have my little dream bag... Greetings from Lithuania. :)

  6. Dear Julia, thank you so much for your post. I have made one according to your instructions. It is perfectly great.

  7. Can't wait to make this for myself!


I would love to hear what you think and learn about your DIY adventures! If you use one of my tutorials, tag me on social @contour_affair, I'd love to see!


Contour Affair Copyright © 2011 -- Template created by O Pregador -- Powered by Blogger