Sunday 6 August 2017

Well hello, beautiful.

That's what I kept saying as this gorgeous bag came alive, piece by piece, in my hands.

It was only fitting that she should keep her name.

This is the first truly involved leather project I have worked. I've made a belt, a clutch, oversized bag and sandals. But in all those cases the patterns were drafted for me and provided at full scale, or in the case of the clutch, a very simple shape.

This bag came about after the utterly delightful and generous Jen contacted me to say she'd found this wondrous leather workbook on her opp shop circuit adventures. She thought of me, the clever woman, and much to my delight this amazing treasure trove of 70's leathercrafting and how-to's became mine.

Let me tell you, I devoured it as soon as I received it. My delight grew when I discovered it was published in the year of my birth. The projects are diverse ranging from bags of many sizes and shapes, sandals, belts, hats, neckties, aprons.... the list honestly goes on and on. And the introductory how-to chapters are fabulously informative and helpful.

I pretty much saw that bag on the cover though and thought you will be mine. My love of veg-tanned leather shoulder bags has a history. One where my amazing hubby drafted a bag pattern exactly to my specifications and then went on to make me the Bespoke Bag of Love which you can read about here. I use that baby every. single. day. She needs some serious leather-conditioning love. She's been loved almost to death. But because she is so beautifully crafted she'll be rejuvenated and live another day.

In the meantime, I felt this bag calling my name. Loudly and incessantly. A trip to Birdsall Leather later and a single shoulder of this beautiful cognac veg-tanned leather was mine. And coincidentally it matches my boots!

The most time consuming part of this project was drafting the pattern. As you can see from the book images above there was a tiny, pretty poorly detailed sketch of the pieces needed and their suggested scale. I'm fussy. I like certain curves. I like certain dimensions. I like certain strap lengths. So of course I went off piste... and prayed that when it came time to lace it together that everything would meet up. Spoiler alert! It did.

I used beautifully matching (I didn't like the contrasting lacing on the inspiration piece) cognac-coloured glazed roo (as in kangaroo) thong for the lacing, because unlike my other leather projects which were either sewn by hand or machine, this bag is laced.

Just like a children's lacing game you say? Not quite. I banged every single one of those 300 odd holes into all that 2.2mm thick leather. My forearms and hands will attest to it. I had to do it over several sessions of 60 or so holes each time. And no, the lacing wasn't simple like a child's lacing game. Bending and coaxing and cajoling that leather gusset into submission around those curves was freaking difficult, especially since you need to get that lacing super tight. I did use a lacing "needle" which helped feed the lace into the holes.

I did not line the bag, I actually prefer the rustic interior. The lacing is simply tied in a knot to finish and secure it or threaded under the lacing line.

In the end, strap length was determined by the maximum length I could cut out of my piece of leather and I'm actually really happy with it. I wear my other shoulder bag cross-body and I knew I wanted this to be different. This length is great, proportionally, on me.

The flap is secured by a strap that slips into a brass ring. The leather has some softening up to do before it sits low and perfectly in that ring, but that won't take long.

And those curves? I used some very hi-tech curve drafting devices. They included a glass tumbler rim, a round bottomed toothpick container and my Merchant & Mills Tailor's Beeswax box.

That very same beeswax was used on all raw cut edges which were then burnished with a wood slicker, which heats the wax and allows it to absorb into the cut edge. I chose this as my finish of choice instead of beveling the edges as directed because my edge beveling tool was getting a bit blunt, consequently dragging and warping the edges instead of cutting a lovely soft edge.

Those slightly fuzzy edges with smooth with loving use, so I didn't fuss too much.

To say I'm a little bit pleased would be a gross understatement.  This bag with be by my side for many years to come. There might even be some sibling rivalry with that bespoke bag going on.

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