Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Paisley Purse, Please

Well, I almost managed to get a second purse done before I went back to work, but not quite.  It took me an extra two days to finish.

My second purse is very similar to the first one: same shape, same upholstery leather.  For this one, though, I was mostly playing with how I could make a filigree-punched Paisley pattern for the main decorative design. I have a set of filigree punches from Tandy (triangle, diamond, moon, heart, flower) as well as my circular drive punches that I usually use for punching holes for rivets and such.

I started with a paper sketch of the Paisley shape, and I started punching right through the paper into the leather.

It got kind of zen-like as I just started punching one line of shapes after another, just following the sketch lines.  By the time I was done I had my punched leather layer and a really cool paper doily.

I used diamond chisel punches (forks with attitude!) to punch holes for all the stitching.  I have three of them: six teeth, two teeth, and one tooth (which helps you get around curves).  I embroidered the blue lines to hold the punched layer to the gold leather layer.

I laced the purse together with a different type of lace this time.  It's something called EcoSoft Lace from Tandy, and it's microfiber!  You know, the stuff "high-tech" cleaning cloths are made of.  It's nice and soft and comes in more interesting colors than regular leather lace.  The one downside I found is that it's difficult to skive (shave off) the ends into a tapered shape for splicing two pieces together.  You are only supposed to work with about two yards of lace at a time so you avoid wearing out or fraying the lace by the time you get to the end of the piece (since you pull the whole piece through each lacing hole).  Since the double loop stitch uses a lot of lace per inch of leather edges, I ended up having to do several splices.

The last big different thing I did on this one was to do saddle stitch along the two edges of the shoulder strap. Saddle stitch is like running stitch with two alternating needles, or what my husband calls "racing stitch". There are lots of videos out on YouTube for learning to do saddle stitch.  I punched all the holes first with my diamond chisels again.  It added several extra hours of work to the project to do the stitching, but it does really improve the look.  The strap is made of two layers of the upholstery leather glued back to back.

Here are the two finished purses, along with the usual gratuitous dog pose.  Lacey and Tulip will endorse anything for enough treats!

Well, leatherwork was a good way to while away a good chunk of four weeks off work, and now it's back to my day job!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Nevermind Netflix--I'm Too Busy Making Leather Stuff!

I recently had some surgery that requires some time off work to recuperate (and it's going just fine).  I had originally planned to use the time to catch up on all the various TV series that I never get around to watching during my regular life: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and so on.  I had a list all lined up. Yeah, so much for that idea!  The wi-fi isn't good enough, and there are just too many other things that interest me.

Among other things, my older daughter and a friend got me hooked on Pinterest.  Now I'm wondering how I ever lived without it, and how I will live without spending hours on it after I go back to work!  So much inspiration!  Dyeing, leatherwork, fashion, shoes... I've been caught in a frenzy of wanting to pin more things and wanting to run off and do a project right away based on something I see.  I was really drooling over the amazing Russian leatherwork at kooc.livejournal.com.

I have a leather stash like some of my quilting friends have a fabric stash (yes, I've got one of those too...), and I figured I should use some of it.  Since my favorite color is blue, I have a good selection of blue leathers, as well as other colors.  A lot of it is upholstery leather, odd-lot whole hides that appealed to me even if I didn't have a specific project in mind for them.

I thought I'd try out making a purse with a couple of the techniques I saw in the Russian bags (especially this one).  Specifically, I wanted to try out lacing and hand stitching as well as the cut-out techniques, all techniques I haven't used in previous projects.

I made a pattern for my purse.  I wanted the bag itself to be simple since the decoration would get most of the work.  I cut one "figure-8" piece (the pattern is two same-size circles overlapping like a Venn diagram), two "half-8" pieces that were half of the figure-8 piece (circles missing top sections), and a rectangular strip to form the gusset section of the purse.  One of those half-8 pieces is a gold-dusted leather that will peek through the cutouts of the front flap of the figure-8.

The Design

I can't ever make a "creative" project exactly like somebody else's (even if I had the skill of the Russian leatherworker!), so I did my own design of a sky with clouds.  I used a half-inch drive punch to make the cloud cut-outs, and I cut slits in the leather in a fan design to create the sun rays.

The Clasp

A while back I had ordered a bunch of strong and small neodymium magnets from K&J Magnetics for some other project that I had then abandoned, so I used some of those to make a hidden magnetic clasp to hold the bag closed.   I initially sewed one magnet between the blue and gold leathers on the front flap (adding the gold "sun" piece on top to hide that stitching).

I sewed the lines around the clouds and the little bird motifs in lockstitch using a sewing awl after watching an instructional video on YouTube (have I mentioned that I LOVE YouTube for learning how to do things?). Lockstitch is the same type of stitch a regular sewing machine makes.  I also used some contact glue between the cut-out blue leather and the gold piece to hold everything in place more firmly.

I glued and sewed the matching magnet under the moon motif on the inner front piece.

When I got those done, I found that the magnetic clasp hardly did anything.  There was too much leather between the magnets.  I skived down some of the leather between the magnets, but it wasn't enough to help much.  I then took those pieces back apart and added another magnet to each side (so 2 neodymium 3/4" x 3/8" x 1/32" block magnets on each side).  It works, but it doesn't have the reassuring "click" of those magnetic clasps where one piece clicks into the other.  On the good side, it doesn't show at all, and the magnet does have the handy advantage of holding my metal lacing needle for me!

The Lacing

I glued the gusset panel to the front and back pieces, and then it was time for the lacing step.  Back to YouTube for a lacing video!  I followed that video, tried it on a practice piece with my lace and lacing needle, and off I went to the real thing.  I used "Superior Calf Lace" from Tandy Leather Factory for this.

I really like the double loop lacing style.  However, if I were to do this again, I wouldn't use the brown color (too jarring a contrast), and I would only do the double-loop lacing on the flap.  The double-loop lacing is too stiff for the upholstery leather body of the bag, and it juts straight out from the gusset panel, making an odd raised rim around the front and back of the bag body, though it is less obvious if the bag is full (which it will be!).

For the strap, I glued two strips of the leather back-to-back, riveted it onto the sides of the gusset, and added a strap buckle and keeper loop.


So now I've got a fancy new cross-body bag, and I've learned some new techniques!  I've still got some more time before I can go back to work, though.  Hmm, what should I do for my next project?  Back to Pinterest!


If you want to find me on Pinterest, I'm the Sara Woodhull with a profile picture of two dogs wearing tie-dye (of course)!