Trying Out New Materials: Leather

After an unsuccessful trip to the high street this afternoon (somehow since I have been sewing my own clothes, I never want to buy any clothes on the high street any more!) I popped in to Karstadt to have a peruse. I came across something I’d never seen before – a medium sized bag of Nappa leather scraps, for the bargain price of EUR 5,95. I really love leather, its soft and supple feeling and the way it smells. I think it’s my years and years of childhood spent around horses, cleaning and caring for leather and using it in the day today which has given me a real appreciation for it. I also appreciate that it is not the most animal friendly of materials – which for me makes it even more important to use every last scrap!  So anyway, ode to leather over, check out what I got in my scrap bag!

Scrap Leather Treasure!

I love the variety of colours and the fact that some of it is super soft and supple which is great for purses and elbow patches, where other pieces are more robust which will be good for things like notebook covers, brooches and appliqué. The majority of the pieces are of a really good size, so I think I’m going to be able to use most of it. The piece that attracted me most to buy the scrap bag was that big black piece at the front. If I’d have been on the high street and seen a purse or bag made of that I would have been all over it! As a result, I decided that a super soft coin and credit card purse would have to be my first leather make.

I cut out two squares from the black scraps, measuring 6 1/2 ” x 4 1/2″. I also chose this  cool grey geometric print fat quarter from my stash for the lining, which I also cut at 6 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ and a nice chunky gold 6″ zipper in the hope of adding a bit of glam!

Could this be a match made in heaven?

My first step was to stitch in one of my super cool new Make Amy Make labels to the lining. I’m now slightly wishing that I’d gotten them printed black text on white labels, for makes just like this, but at the time the blue seemed cool! You live and learn! After testing out the leather needle I’d inserted in my machine on a tiny left over scrap, I braved attaching the leather and lining to the zipper using Debby from Sew Sew Easy’s Cosmetic Bag tutorial as a reminder! I was super pleased with the zip insertion at this point and was surprisingly pleased with how my machine was coping with sewing on leather.

So far so good …

At this point I was really pleased with my choice of zipper as well! I think the chunky bling adds a little something!

Zipper goodness!

I then proceeded to top stitch along the leather to hold the lining in place. Throughout the zip insertion process I was helped along considerably by my favourite little helpers – wonder clips! As leather doesn’t like to be pinned (those nasty pins leave a mark which will stay forever!) these little clips were really handy for keeping the zipper in place and “pinning” wrong sides together etc.

I only really ran in to trouble at the point where I needed to sew from the lining up and over the zipper tapes. My machine did not like having to deal with sewing leather plus the zipper tapes, leather seam allowance from the zip insertion and lining fabric all at once. The feed dogs also struggled throughout and I’m thinking I should maybe have adjusted my presser foot pressure (I should really learn how and when to do that!) Together, we found a way though, and we got there in the end!

Here’s the finished product being modelled by a friend of mine … can you tell I like Dachshunds?!

The corners are a little squiffy and the zipper sure ain’t perfect where I sewed those zipper tapes in, but all in all I am so happy with my first foray in to sewing with leather! When I think that I’ve now got a completely useable real leather purse for a total cost of about 3 euros (the majority of which is the zipper), I feel pretty pleased with myself! I will definitely be using this one in my handbag come Monday morning!

Now I just need to think what else I could do with my leather scraps … I’ve been doing some research and have come up with this little list:

  • Leather Bow hair clip
  • Leather Bow Brooch
  • Necklace pendant
  • Notebook covers for my mini notebooks
  • Tassles (who doesn’t want to adorn things with tassles?!)
  • Fringing (see above – fringing is in right now right?!)
  • Elbow patches for my McCall’s M6992
  • Tote Bag Straps
  • Applique shapes
  • Credit card wallet
  • Travel Card Holder
  • Luggage Tags
  • Flower Brooches/Hairclips
  • Mobile phone envelope cover
  • Pouch/drawstring bag for holding jewellery
  • Tie Belt

So yeah – lots of things to practice my leather sewing skills on with these scraps! Maybe one day I will be brave enough to make a proper bag – a big tote seems a good place to start! Have any of you ever sewn with leather? Any top tips or project ideas for me?

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6 thoughts on “Trying Out New Materials: Leather

  1. JaneyB says:

    I’ve never sewn with leather – I’ve not been sure my machine would co-operate! Your ‘to do’ list looks very exciting and the little purse is lovely – great lining and very professional labels.

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    • Amy-June says:

      Thanks JaneyB! I’m really pleased with it – I was all smiley when I put it in my handbag this morning! I think if your machine could see a double layer of denim it could probably do a soft leather … I was surprised that my machine was ok – I definitely need to play with thread tension and presser foot pressure though!

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  2. TinLizzie72 says:

    I did a leather project ages ago, before I knew better. My machine is a White “Jeans Machine,” which I bought specifically so it could go through heavy fabrics (25 years ago when I bought it, I was sewing lots of corduroy and upholstery fabrics for Renaissance Fair costumes). I even did hand-bound eyelets, can you believe?! I’m sure my machine could handle it still but now I know better, so I’d be more nervous, haha! I love that pouch though – I love leather too. : )

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