mmmmhmmmm…. I had a babysitter over last Saturday to watch the kids while Andy put in his usual 12 hours of grad school homework. Best. Idea. Ever. My Saturday went from stinky to sublime. I walked out of my sewing room after an hour to nurse Vincent with a big goofy grin on my face and I asked the sitter if she had a hobby that makes her breathless with excitement. She looked at me funny and said no. I guess I didn’t find this one until I was grown-up, married, and growing a family, but it amuses me to remember there was time when I wasn’t so ridiculously obsessed. (You mean there are people who AREN’T obsessed with things? weird.)
The Cheshire cat grin is due to some rather successful experimentation with a genuine sheepskin leather hide! I’m sin the process of making a leather accented Mommy Poppins Bag which I’ll fully reveal once I have finished the interior as well. In the meantime, want to learn how I made the leather handles shown above? Read on, my friend.
Tips for Sewing Leather
First off, I learned a bag-load of stuff from my Making a Leather Bags class on Craftsy*. Yes, you can sew leather on a home sewing machine. These are some tips for how to I managed it.
- Leather – Stick with a thinner leather (no more than “2 oz” in thickness). This is the key to success on a home machine. Thicker leathers need more power to puncture through them and you just won’t get it on most home machines.
- Feet– A walking foot is super helpful for dealing with the thick layers, but if you don’t have one at least use a Teflon “non-stick” foot.
- Don’t use pins – Instead use a double-sided tape (or my fav Wonder Tape double-sided adhesive) and Wonder Clips/Binder Clips instead of pins.
- Needles – Shmetz size 18 leather needles were just the ticket for this project.
- Stitches – Long stitches will look more professional and the less holes in the leather the stronger it will be. I used length “4.0”.
- Thread – The Craftsy class recommended using a nylon thread. I spent a couple sewing sessions trying to make Coats & Clark nylon upholstery thread to work on my machine. It failed. Big time. I couldn’t get the tension right for that thick of thread in the bobbin. Instead, I followed Stacy’s recommendation and just used plain Gutterman’s all-purpose 100% polyester. It looked just fine and we shall see how it holds up.
How To Make A Reversible Leather and Cotton Belting Handle Strap
I’m pretty excited how these handles turned out. The cotton belting tons down the sleekness of the leather a bit gives it heft that the thin leather wouldn’t have on it’s own.
These directions result in a 21 1/2 inch shoulder length strap (not including D-rings) and uses a pair of 1 1/4 inch D-rings. The strap length can be easily adjusted, but the width of the strap and the size of the D-rings are related to the width of the cotton belting.
For a single handle strap you will need:
- 43 inches of 1 inch wide cotton belting (length = 2 times final length plus two 1/4 inch seam allowances)
- two strips of leather 3/4 inches by 19 inches (width = 1/4″ thinner than belting, and length = 1 1/2 inches less than final strap)
- two 1 1/4 inch D-Rings
- threads to match belting and leather
- needles and notions mentioned above in the “Tips for Sewing Leather” section above.
Step 1: Thread the two D-rings onto the cotton belting, and sew the ends of the belting together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Make sure the belting is not twisted!
Step 2: Place a leather strip on the right side of belting, centering it across the width, hiding the seam just sewn underneath the leather about two inches from the end of the leather strip. (The aqua arrow points to the seam in the picture below, and the seam allowances are on the opposite side of the belting from the leather.) Use double sided tape on the wrong side of the lather strip and/or clips to hold into place.
Step 3: Sew the leather strip to the cotton belting 1/8 inch from the edge on all 4 sides.
Step 4: Place the second strip of leather onto the belting on the same side as the first strip and with both short ends 1 1/2 inches from the two ends of the first strip and centered across the width . Tape/clip the second leather strip into position and sew all four edges down as with the first.
Step 5: Bring the two leather strips wrong sides together with their cotton belting sides between them, flattening the loop. Line up the leather pieces on all sides and slide a D-ring into each of the two folds on the ends.
Once positioned, clip the two sides of the loop together.
Step 6: Sew the two layers together around the outside of the leather strips. You are not sewing through any leather in this step, just the cotton belting.
With the right stitch length and color thread, the stitches will barely be visible on the belting. The seam in the belting is only noticeable on close inspection which makes the straps reversible.
But how does one attach this to a bag? Well, the same you would any store bought handle strap, but sewed them on to mine with leather tabs
How To Attach A Bag Handle With Leather Tabs
For each bag strap, you will need:
- four strips of leather 1 1/4 inches wide and 4 inches long (The width is determined by the width of the handle D-rings.)
- the same leather sewing notions as the handle strap tutorial
Step 1: (I failed to take a picture. so bear with me.) Pair up the strips by sticking two together wrong sides facing with their edges lined up using double-sided tape to hold in place. Sew each of the pairs together 1/8 inch from the edge on three sides (2 long sides, 1 short).
Step 2: Lay a leather tab onto your bag with the not sewn edge towards what will be the bag bottom. If one side of your stitching looks better than the other (mine did), place the prettier side facing the bag and the less pretty one facing up. Sew the tab to the bag using two rows of stitching – one 1/8″ from the unsewn end of the tabe and the other 5/8″ from the end. Note: If you are making a Mommy Poppins bag, the bottom edge of the leather tab should be placed 2 1/2 inches down from the top of the bag.
Two arrows in the picture below are pointing to the two rows of stitching just sewn.
Step 3: Thread the handle strap D-ring onto the leather tab and fold the leather tab around the D-ring, bringing the leather tab’s loose short end 1 inch past the short end already sewn to the bag. Sew this end of the tab 1/8″ and a scant 1″ from the bottom (marked in yellow arrows below)
The row of stitches sewn 1/8 inch from the bottom will be sewing over stitches from step 1. Take care to match up your new stitches with the old as best you can and try to sew in the previous needle holes. The stitches sewn about 1 inch from the bottom should butting up to, but not sewing through the bottom half of the leather tab.
Step 4: Repeat steps 1 through 3 to sew the second leather tab and the other end of the bag handle onto the bag.
I would recommend following up these steps with showing off your swanky new leather bag handles to every.single.person. who walks through you door. They aren’t going to know they are handmade otherwise!
How about you? Do you usually buy your bag handles? Or do you mostly Make-Your-Own?
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