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.
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.
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!
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.