Thursday, 22 September 2011

My week in Tetbury, learning how to handstitch leather

Well, it has been some time since I last posted. Sorry about that! As some of you may know I went off to Tetbury for a week to attend a summer school on hand stitching leather goods. The course was provided by Macgregor and Michael and the lovely Val is the kindest, understanding teacher you will ever meet. When I arrived on the Sunday evening I had, had quite a journey. I decided to get the national express coach from Lincoln as it seemed the easiest option! Well...9 hours later I arrived at my destination! I had a LONG wait at Birmingham! I had intended to blog about my week daily but I found the bed and breakfast I was in only had internet access on the landing and so I would have been in the way of other guests. So here it is!
Bright and early Monday morning (after a yummy breakfast) I made my way to Val's workshop. There I met 4 lovely people who were also looking to learn skills for leather production. One of them been Jules from Cloon Keen Atelier - An exquisite perfume company based in Galway. The smell from their candles is amazing!!!!
We talked to Val about what we aimed to get from the course. I was after expanding my handbag designs and pet accessories.
First, the basics! We had to learn how the leather was prepared and then on to do a basic saddle stitch:
These are the basic hand tools needed for working with leather.
The leather is first marked to show where the stitches will be.

It is then the stitching can begin! As you can see my first attempt was not very straight!

After stitching we bevelled and burnished the edges (bevelling is where the edge is white) this helps to show I nice finish on products)

Burnished edges are created by using a special gum which is then rubbed onto the sides of the leather by a linen cloth.

Once my trial piece was finished it was time to begin my bag! I designed a style I wanted for myself, a timeless classic. So I chose a lovely red leather and a saddle shape. First, the pattern was made:

Then, it was time to cut out the leather with these tools- 

eeek! This was so scary! Especially cutting around the curve I'd decided to use on the front!

I was so worried about cutting it out as it would be very expensive to waste! I'm not sure if you can see on the picture but the crease marks are from the cow, every piece of leather tells a story!

Next I made the gusset for my bag, this was by far the hardest part! It involved lots of cutting, gluing ,clamping,bevelling,burnishing and stitching!

Time to mark the guidelines for channelling-

The edges of the gusset had to be channelled on the backs to allow them to be folded when gluing.

Then clipped in place to allow the glue to set.

The glued edges were then stitched (A little straighter and neater than my first attempt!)


I then prepared my strap. This also had to be bevelled and burnished, plus a keeper to keep the strap secure.

Burnishing the edges of the main body.

Next I marked out where my clasp was to be positioned and cut the trickiest hole EVER!

The two lines are where I next needed to cut, it had to be the correct size for my turn lock. involving lots of attempts with tracing paper to get it right!

After that, I attached the rivet on the strap to the gusset. This was a fun part, getting rid of any pent up anger!! WHACK!

It was now time to attach the dreaded gusset itself!!! This was very tricky and involved at least two pairs of hands! I have no idea what I would have done without trusty bulldog clips! I had to ensure all corners were evenly lined so the bag didn't end up out of shape!

Bit by bit it was time to stitch......

This took a while....

Phew!!!! Now, there were a few uneven edges, this was easily sorted out by shaving them all together to make sure I had a straight edge

And of course you cant't leave the edge like that!!!

Beautifully bevelled and burnished!!!

Nearly there just have to glue my inner pocket to the main part of the bag, This was cut out with pigskin, commonly used for linings and pockets. I glued this to the back of the bag and trapped it between the other side of the gusset and commenced more gluing and bulldog clipping!

To burnish this edge I needed to use a red dye as the pocket is a light colour it showed through on the outside.

Finally, the last bit was to attach the buckle and its keeper,

The keeper and beeswaxed thread ready for stitching

The strap then needed to be marked,a hole cut for the buckle and skimmed (this was also done on the gusset) to enable me to stitch through the double layer.

Then glued down in place ready for stitching.

The keeper is held in place by two double stitches,

The last bit was to punch holes in the strap,polish the main bag and voila!! As they say!!!

One special bag!!!

If you like what you see I will be shortly creating my own in my workshop at home. Also in my next blog I will update with pet accessories I have made. Using the traditional hand tool method in leather production is very satisfying and the double saddle stitch technique lasts far longer than any machine stitch would ever do.

Please visit zukiestyle for all the latest designs from Zukie's leather boutique

Thanks for listening!x

Dee Dee's Bag!!!!x


Anonymous said...
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cj - Curious Cat Creative said...

fantastic, thanks for sharing :)

rayr77 said...

Love the bag :)

Alison - Belovedly said...

That looks amazing Dee! Well done. I had no idea there were so many steps involved, thought it was just a case of cutting and sewing like fabric.

ZukieStyle said...

Thank you guys, hope I didn't bore you too much but thought I'd best share before it got too late!!!
Alison - you should try it sometime, it is so satisfying and a good workout!! Despite the blisters it was worth it!!x

All About The Bag

All About The Bag
Photo Shoot For 'Beached Out' 2010