Last week, I finally got around to buying a big piece of cow skin to experiment with. It’s brown, which isn’t my first choice, but I wanted something less fancy to make mistakes on; it’s embossed to look like ostrich skin and should distress well, so I hope whatever I make will be successful enough to use. Even cheap leather is not cheap, when you’re buying what used to cover half an ungulate.
What I need now is a pattern. A pattern for a tote bag that is slightly slouchy, would look good in a brown bumpy leather, is roomy enough for all my work stuff but not excessively so, has good interior pockets with a nice cotton lining, a solid bottom so it won’t collapse when I pick it up, and handles suitable for a shoulder-bag.
I cannot find even a pattern for a leather bag that isn’t hideous. Well, if not hideous, at least not boxy and boring. Even the patterns for not-leather bags are either way, way too much (picture frills and frou-frou exploding all over the place, or enormous trendy showstoppers designed to look appealing in quilting cotton) or way, way not enough (as in, two pieces of fabric sewn together at the sides, make a gusset, attach straps, and that’s it).
No no no.
I’ve pretty well resigned myself to making my own pattern. Which so far has involved looking through approximately 1,000 pages of fashion magazine so I can rip out pictures of leather bags I like, and squint at them to see if I can figure out how they were put together. Where are the seams? How did they attach the pockets? Does it have a top zip closure, or a clasp? What did they put in the bottom to give it structure?
I have previously made shoulder bags without a pattern. My favourite was the one that started with an old pair of jeans for the lining; then I cut some boiled wool for the top facing and attached it, used that to sketch out a pattern piece for the front and back, estimated a length and width for the straps and used cotton scraps to line them, embroidered the bag front, sewed it all together and added a gusset. It looks great and it’s very functional, though embroidering through boiled wool with yarn is no joke.
So I know it is doable. But the prospect is less intimidating when one is experimenting with old blue jeans and $5/metre boiled wool, rather than embossed leather.
I also thought about adding a bit of cross-stitching or other embroidery, and bought glover’s needles just in case I end up doing any hand-work. Glover’s needles are serious weapons. I could probably sew my fingers together with them.
Current thoughts are something like the Dior bag, but a titch smaller and maybe with some embroidery; a separate side piece to give it some good interior room and avoid the need for darts or gussets; and a top-zip, if I can figure out how to assemble and install it. I want rings for the handles, like in the aqua bag, and studs to reinforce joints and seams. I want it to have feet, and a base that is attached to the side piece for a bit of extra strength and structure. And maybe I’ll have my spring/summer work bag in time for fall.