Making bags and purse with leather/pleather is all the rage right now. I myself love pleather to bits, we stock 12 delicious (easy to sew with) colours! What is great about pleather is that it's really durable, making it perfect for bag making. But, as you can imagine, sewing with pleather can get rather too bulk-tastic for our poor sewing machines. One bag area where things can get bulky-crazy is the bag straps - all of those strap layers, and there's the strap ends, and there's the attaching of those bulky strap ends to the bag itself - aaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!
Here is my method for making pleather bag straps that look cute and are less bulky, this means your machine will be quite happy to these stitch these straps up for you! These pleather bag straps are made from Pleather (on the top) and lined with fabric (on the bottom). This lessens the bulk, and as the strap lining matches the bag lining, the straps look awesome!
CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE
How to make (less) bulky p/leather bag straps:
1. Cut strap pieces
2. Trim 3/4" from a lining interfacing short edge. Position interfacing into wrong side centre of lining fabric and iron in place. Now, (this bit is important) carefully trim off 3/16" (5mm) from a lining long edge. You will see why this is important in step 6.
3. (See pic below). Fold the lining in half and iron gently (just to get a visible centre crease) and open out. If adding hook/ring ends - fold in both lining short edges 3/8" (1cm) to the wrong side, then fold in both long edges to the centre crease. If not adding hooks just fold both long edges to the centre. Iron all edges, and iron out the centre crease too.
View of right and wrong side. I am adding a ring to my straps, so I've folded the short edges in.
4. (See pic below). Draw a line down the pleather fabric wrong side, long edge centre. Fold the pleather long edges to the WS centre line. Hold the folds in place with sewing clips.
5. (See pic below). Image shows strap right side on bottom, and strap wrong side on top). Set your stitch length to 4 and stitch along both raw long edges (now folded to strap centre). Stitch 1/8" (3mm) from the raw edges. When stitching on pleather remember to leave long thread tails. Leave them uncut till the very end.
6. (See pics below). Position the lining onto the pleather. Bring the strap lining and exterior pieces wrong sides together. The strap lining needs to positioned centrally onto the strap exterior - this means at both ends there should be a little clearance from the lining short edge to the exterior short edge, and on both long edges the lining is a touch narrower than the exterior (we don’t want the lining long edges peeking out, that wouldn’t look nice). Use plenty of clips to secure together.
If making a strap to be stitched into the seams follow as above except, there will be no clearance at the lining short edges (as the lining and pleather are the same length).
Notice how in this picture (of the strap right side) the lining does not peek out from underneath the strap? That's because we took the trouble to trim off the 3/16" from the lining long edge. How neat does that look!
7. (See pic below). If making a strap with hook/ring ends read on - if not, skip this step and follow the next). On both right side exterior strap short edges use a hera marker to draw a line that falls 1/8” (3mm) below the lining short edge. These lines will be stitching guides for the next step.
8. (See pic below). With stitch length still at 4, stitch the lining and exterior strap pieces together. Stitch on the strap right side 1/8” (3mm) from both long edges, and (if making a strap with hook ends) on the short edges stitch along the lines you drew in the previous step. If stitching the strap into the seams just stitching along the long edges is fine.
As you stitch the strap long edges, take care to prevent the lining from riding out from under the exterior (don’t let the lining escape and spoil the look of your strap!).
If you are stitching the strap into the seams your strap is now ready to be attached to your bag. If adding hooks/rings to your strap read on...
9. (See pic below). This is how your strap should look.
The lining side looks cute with it's extra pop of colour and the right side looks professional with some rather swish topstitching!
10. (See pics below). Zigzag stitch both strap short edges.
I set my stitch width to 3 and my length to 2.5, but do test on a folded scrap to see what works best for your machine. The stitches should not be too close or too apart. See my strap and aim for the same.
11. (See pics below). Your strap is now ready for the addition of hook/rings. On my strap I'm adding a strap slider, the method is the same for whatever wing-ding you want to add.
Take one of the strap ends right side out and thread it through the strap slider. Fold the strap end over the slider bar to the strap wrong side by 2” (5cm).
Topstitch the strap end down 3/8” & 1/2” (1cm & 1.3cm) from the strap (zigzagged) short edge. Pull the machine threads to the WS and securely knot the tails together and trim. Also knot any other visible thread tails together.
And here is the strap in situ (on our Hermes Bag). Cute (and effective) eh! :)
Happy (pleather) strap making!
Topstitching is a final flourish on your project. It is stitching that appears on the top or right-hand side of your project. It differs from construction sewing in that it's used to pick out and highlight certain features of your sewing, such as pockets and seam edges (think of it as a way to underline things). Whilst some may feel it isn't obligatory, I personally do as it looks the business. Yes, it is largely decorative, but in some instances it's great for adding strength and it's also great for stitching down bulky seams.
I always top stitch my bags or purses. I love how topstitching looks and (I'll be honest) I love extra-challenging topstitching, the trickier the topstitching, the bigger the thrills!
Here are my top topstitching tips.
First things first. What foot are you using?
I am hardened true-blue lover of the walking foot. Read why I love walking feet so much. The only time I don't use that foot is when I have to stitch very close to an object such as bag fastener or button. I even stitch zippers with my walking foot. My feeling is, if you are going to sew bags, or stitch with heavy fabrics and do any layer-tastic sewing, you need to invest in a walking foot. With my walking foot I can stitch all fabrics from fine tana lawn through to sticky vinyl and leather and, AND it makes sewing through horrible chunky layers so much easier. This obviously helps when you have to topstitch though a ba-jillion layers and a bag strap! Smooth and even topstitching is more likely to happen for you when your project can sail though your machine - and for me the best sailing boat is a walking foot!
Topstitch length should be longer than construction stitch length. The longer the topstitch length the more visible it will be. Topstitch length is a personal preference kind of thing, but as a guide: when sewing with quilt weight, my topstitch length tends to be 3, (vs construction length of 2.4). If sewing with heavy weight or pleather my pref topstitch length is 4 (vs construction 3.5).
Seeing where to sew. Marking out tools
Whether you are stitching a single, double or (if you are hardcore) a triple(!!) row of topstitches you need to ensure that your machine does not waver off course. As mentioned above I only use walking feet (so the edge stitch foot is not an option for me - unless Janome do an edge stitch walking foot - I dunno) this means that I have to trust my eyes and hands which luckily, I do). Let's say I didn't trust my eyes, and I was jittery from a few too many coffees, I'd mark out where I have to sew. I'd use a disappearing marker or a hera marker or a chaco liner and for insurance I pop a piece of washi tape on the stitch plate (see image above). Of course if you prefer, you can swap your foot for an edge stitch foot. These feet really do keep you on course (as can be seen in Dianna's sublime topstitching), but for me, the trade off from loosing the walking foot means that I could be in for a bumpy ride when stitching over bulky parts (that my walking foot could have cushioned me from). That said, I do have an edge stitch foot because it is so handy for when you are stitching around curves. They are fab for topstitching curved bag flaps (be sure to place any fasteners high up into the flap - to allow access for your machine foot).
Left to right: Hera Marker - makes ink-free indents, great for marking out lines; disappearing marker - never be out of these!; Chaco liner - perfect for marking out leather; washi tape- the prettier, the nicer to use.
Right (said) thread and needle.
Ideally, you'd use a thread that matches your exterior fabric weight - when using thinner thread topstitching can look a bit lost on thicker fabric. If you don't have thicker thread to hand at least try to use a high quality all-purpose thread in both your construction and topstitching. I like to use Auriful 40wt because it's a great construction thread and as it's a tad thicker it still works great as a topstitching thread. But if you want plump, voluptuous topstitches, you need a plump voluptuous thread. Enter Auriful 12wt - mmm voluptuous! Whatever weight thread you use, be sure to use all-purpose thread in your bobbin. An option to using thicker thread is to use a thicker stitch. You can use a fatter-looking triple straight stitch. See how Dianna demonstrates this to beautiful effect. I personally prefer to use thicker thread because it looks more subtle and straight stitch is faster to sew, but that's just me - I'm an impatient sewer.
I'll be honest, I just use purpose heavyweight needles for all bag making steps. I find that using a fresh heavyweight needle (for every 2 bag projects) in conjunction with my walking foot means that I don't need to use special topstitching or leather needles for example. But if you don't have a walking foot or your girl is just behaves differently, try Topstitching needles (they really are worth having in your tool kit). Topstitch needles are extra sharp for layer piercing and they have larger eyes for accommodating fatter threads.
Here are the threads in action stitch length is 3 and heavier 12wt thread is on the left. For the blue Kona quilt weight I have interfaced with woven fusible interfacing and interlined with gorgeous thick fusible fleece; I also stitched a woven interfaced sample of denim just to ring any changes. It's plain to see that the thicker thread topstitching has extra oomph!
With my walking foot, a new universal sz 80 needle and Auriful 40wt, I was able to topstitch this faux leather fabric detail with top band - stop reading a minute and calculate how many layers are involved in the 'pleat combined with top band areas'. Yes you guessed right; a mother-load!. Yet, I think it looks none to shabby :)
Beating bulk and reaching those hard to reach areas.
Bag making is layer-tastic and topstitching over umpteen layers is great for feeding the swear jar! Here are some tips to try to help make life less sweary.
Starting and finishing
Topstitching is stitched to be seen, this means that your start and end stitches will be be very much on show too. When topstitching it's best not to anchor our stitches by stitching in forward and reverse because it's nigh on impossible to stitch perfectly on the existing stitch line (so you'll be left with a bit of a unsightly zigzaggy line). Instead, for the beginning of your stitch line, pick a more inconspicuous bag area to begin and decrease your stitch length to a tiny one. Stitch in forward and reverse for one or two stitches, max, then increase and topstitch. At the end of your stitches stop sewing, leave long thread tails and then pull the stitch thread from right to the wrong side. Then double-knot the tails.
I love the brittle, light as a feather crispness of Chinese seaweed. I think I love the mouthfeel almost more than the flavour. I know it's pretty popular amongst you too. But did you know, the takeout version is none to good for you? It's deep fried and is often sprinkled with copious amounts of MSG and salt. Here is a far healthier version I made earlier this week (as a rather successful experiment). We couldn't believe how moreish it was! It turned out to be a good way to get the little one to eat her greens. Mabel grabbed at it like a digger!
You will need:
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We are looking for a nice, honest, motivated and hands-on individual to join our small friendly, helpful and enthusiastic team. We all muck-in and take turns to make the tea.
U-Handbag is an online store which specialises in bag making supplies. We are based in Brighton, UK. We are an online shop only. All orders are packed and dispatched in-house for mail order. Lisa (the boss) is extremely proud of her little business and is obsessed with giving her customers good service (so you will need to help her achieve that at all times).
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If this sounds like a nice job to you and you have a majority of the skills listed above, we'd love to have a chat with you.
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Thanks to everyone who took part in the bag naming contest for this bag. We can alway reply on you to come up with a great sounding name. This time the winner is ...Snow Wildsmith (I'm so in love that name!) who suggested 'The Hermes Bag'. Snow, will you please get in touch with us so we can get your bag making kit (when ready) sent to you?
"How about the Hermes bag? He was the Greek messenger god and since it's a messenger bag... :-) "
If you are interested in the kit you can pre-order the kit here. The kit will launch as soon as our lovely pattern testers have finished working on it (should be next week). Thanks!
We eat in about 95% of the time. I pretty much do all the cooking and that is (largely) OK. I'm better at it than he is and I enjoy it a lot more. His thing is the tidying up, he loves tidying up, he finds it relaxing and it helps him feel balanced (which is wonderful and at times extremely annoying!).
Last night I made this amazingly easy and oh so good, one pan meal. It basically involves slow roasting chicken on an bed of tomatoes, basil and a whole head of garlic. I also added some old (and wangy) chorizo, some spuds and a red pepper. The result was a mouthwatering, juicy, moist and warming chicken supper which can be happily eaten as is and/or make guest appearances in the following day's supper.
Jamie's Chicken recipe. Perfect for you're busy and want something satisfying (and you want leftovers for the following day).
Because I am programmed to constantly think about food, as I was serving up the current dinner, I was already planning the next night's dinner. For at the bottom of the chicken roasting pan was a glistening pool of fragrant pan juices (which by my calculations, consisted of 7 parts meat, herb and vegetable juices to 1 part fat - which makes for a deliciously potent stock base) accompanied buttery soft pearls of sweet smelling roast garlic - not to mention the yummy pan scrapings of crispy meant and veg. Ohh boy! What delights could I whip-up with this pan full of flavour bounty? A bolognese, a paella, a pie, a stew?
After serving myself I put my plate of steaming hot, ready to be devoured chicken down on the table, I skipped to my recipe books to quickly flesh out a plan for tomorrow's dinner (I'm sooooooo distractable). I found a recipe and grinned to myself in anticipation of tomorrow's yummy dinner. I then turned around to resume eating the current dinner...only to find he had tipped the whole pan into the compost bin. Gaaaahhh! 15 odd years together and (in the kitchen) we still don't dance to the same tune!
Are you the main cook? Do you prefer to cook alone?
I'm really LOVING working with pleather. It's so pleasant to use. A pleather bag will be waterproof, hard wearing and will look totally professional! I thought I share this easy guide on how to get great results from working with leather and leather like fabrics.
1. Leather scars. Once you make a hole in pleather it’s there for good, so don’t use sewing pins for holding pattern pieces together. The pin pricks will look awful and even if you were to only place them inside the seam allowance, the pins will create bulges and distort your work. Instead, use sewing clips, tape or paperclips.
2. Securing stitches. *Because it scars you cannot back stitch or make securing stitches in leather during construction. Instead, at the start and end of your stitching you need to leave long tread tails (that need to be hand tied into secure knots).
3. Tying up loose thread tails. For stitch line ends - in other words: thread tails (that will not eventually be concealed inside a dissecting seam on the finished bag, we need to pull the machine thread from the RS to the WS of the work. Do this by working at the WS. Carefully use an awl/seam ripper to pull machine thread to the WS. Knot the thread tails securely together.
4. Needle and feet. Use a leather needle. Leather needles are thick and have extra sharp chisel-shaped tips that are designed to pierce before stitching. If you don’t have a leather needle, heavy all-purpose/jeans needles work fine too. On our faux leather I’ve been using 90s with no problems. I use a walking foot for 95% of my sewing (that includes working with leather). You can also use a roller or teflon foot.
5. Stitch length and thread. With leather we need to elongate our stitches. If we use the normal 2.5 length we will stitch perforations in the leather and greatly weaken it. Instead, I recommend for construction sewing a stitch length of 3.5, and for topstitching, length 4. My absolute fave bag making thread is Aurifil 40wt. It’s a tad thicker and the stitches look plump and pretty. If you don’t have Aurfil use a high quality branded all purpose nylon thread.
6. Reinforcement. Leather is typically more hardwearing than woven fabric, so it may not necessarily need interfacing but I would still reinforce finer leather, snap and fastener areas or larger hardworking bags. My fave is woven fusible interfacing, it's strong, but drapes beautifully with your fabric.
Have you tried sewing with pleather or vinyl yet? You may find yourself getting hooked on it - like I have!