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How I Create Leather Bags

An explanation of several of my creations’ design and construction techniques.

I like solving puzzles to learn how things are constructed. I see it as a giant puzzle that has to be solved, and when you do, one of the most pleasing sensations is achievement and pleasure in your work.

My life and creators have been all around me. My Pop was an engineer, and my Nana was an artist on my mother’s side. My grandfather made leather items on my father’s side. In the 1960s, he created and produced backpacks for miners in Western Australia. My father received this skill from his father, who is now imparting it to me. It makes me happy.

For me, picking up some tools and doing something tangible is a terrific release. As a UX designer, it’s lovely to take a break from the displays and technologies I use daily. I use the same procedure for creating bags as I would for any other design medium. I go through these phases while I work.

State the Issue You’re Trying to Address

As vital as it is to have something visually pleasing, it is crucial to design with usefulness in mind first. What is the main issue you are attempting to resolve? What is the void that this bag will fill in society? You should consider things like: What situation will I use this bag in? What things must fit within it? Where am I going to take it?

Case 1: the Toolbox

After work, I always feel a little self-conscious walking about with a backpack. I thus required a bag that served the same purpose as my backpack but was also fashionable enough for me to use outside of the house. I had my eye on a £4,000 Celine bag for a while. Although it had a flawless appearance, it didn’t have a longer strap and wouldn’t have accommodated my laptop or my sports equipment. Thus, it would have been useless to purchase it.

I recreated it myself, making specific adjustments to suit my requirements. My items fit nicely within the size, and a quick clip-on strap was added so I could sling it over my back like a backpack.

Case 2: the Sleeping Bag

I’ve sometimes needed a tiny, plain black shoulder bag to go with me on evenings out. I took inspiration from earlier mistakes and issues I experienced with travel bags. I built the bag with a plastic liner since I knew it would become filthy inside and needed to be cleaned. This is in addition to a zip closure that guarantees my possessions are safe and won’t escape.

Planning and Research

Making your design in advance can help you save a lot of time and money since leather skins aren’t exactly inexpensive. I’ll look at existing structures and use my favourite components as inspiration. I can’t get enough of the films that demonstrate the bag-making processes used by designer labels. They are a fantastic resource since they often utilize strategies you may use.


I’ll start by making paper prototypes initially. I’ll go back and forth for each model I construct, adjusting the template to get the ideal size and form. Making sure that all of the actual items you’ll be packing in the backpack will fit is an excellent idea during the prototype stage.

Wearing the paper prototypes around will help you determine the fit and how it will look on your body. I tested the actual contents, as shown in the picture below. It has to hold my laptop and exercise gear, or else the bag wouldn’t be worth anything.

I’ll use paper to determine the size, shape, and design. Both inexpensive leather and plastic were used to evaluate the structure’s joinery and stitching. Keep in mind that this is a continuous back-and-forth motion. You will reach a stage where you must choose a pattern for the creation step.

Pattern Creation

As I develop and enhance each concept, pattern creation happens concurrently with prototyping. When ready to adapt it to leather, I’ll create a more polished pattern.

I use AutoCAD, a drafting tool I learned to use while studying architecture, to create my designs. I can accurately measure the pattern and draw it to scale with this application. I’ll also specify where the stitches should go, where to punch holes, and how many overlays I need.


The most delicate part is about to begin: picking up the tools. I don’t have a lot of expensive gear, so I try to avoid using it wherever possible and let the device’s usefulness and aesthetic appeal speak for itself.

I’ll make design notes as I go, such as the sequence in which the pieces were sewn together. What areas should I have constructed first, how long does it takes for the glue or edge coat to cure, and so on?

It would help if you had the appropriate tools and equipment for the manufacturing step. A fabric sewing machine would not be able to cut through the thick layers of leather so you couldn’t use one. I consider myself quite fortunate to have access to various leatherworking equipment. A skiving machine, for instance, thins the leather. This enables you to stitch them together and produce joins that are of a constant thickness.

It’s preferable to go on and continue producing something when something has been done incorrectly. I’ll record any errors, enhancements, or modifications I wish to make for the next time.

After Utilizing It in Practice, Iterate

I used the finished bag for a time before thinking about creating a new one. I’ll learn about design flaws and functional problems in this manner. In addition to how the leather has deteriorated and changed form. You could even discover that you’re utilizing it in a situation that wasn’t intended when you first thought of it.

This bucket bag is one of two that I created. The first had no lining and was shorter. After often utilizing the bag, I discovered that I couldn’t see what was inside. So I made the second version, which has a bright gold goat leather interior. Additionally, I increased the height by an inch since I thought the proportions were a bit wrong and my wallet was sticking out the top. This, when done in public, is not ideal.

Acknowledging Mistakes

This is an illustration of a bag I have been working on. I added stiffening to each component since the leather was too soft to keep the desired structured form. I quickly discovered that I had put it together incorrectly since it was excessively stiff. I was unable to take it beyond the sewing machine for the post.

I gave up on this bag since I didn’t have enough time to build a replacement. Even though it’s upsetting to “throw away” something you worked so hard on, all of your missteps serve as excellent teaching opportunities. You may use what you learn each time in your future creations.

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