Monday, 8 September 2014

Hobo Bag in leather

Back in April, I bought myself leather to make the Hot Patterns Hobo Bag. I nearly made it straight away, in fact it got to 3/4 completion in a week, then I wrecked it, so it had to sit in the sewing room in disgrace for some time before undergoing rehabilitation of sorts.

First the good parts.
I thought I'd made the bag before, but actually, I had previously made the Soho Slouch Tote, for a reversible linen/hemp bag that was definitely on its last legs by April, as the denim hemp was disintegrating -just like the jeans I made from the same fabric. I found the Soho Slouch very useful, but seriously lacking in pockets, and I much prefer leather bags to those made of cloth.

It could have been a very bad decision to make my first version of the Hobo Bag pattern in leather, as having very large pieces, is probably less suited to a leather bag than the Soho Slouch- it took 4 kangaroo skins, and the scraps were legion. Had it not been a shape I like, this might have been rather an expensive experiment. I must have been feeling very confident when I cut this out (I used a rotary cutter). As lining, I used a thick shirting cotton from Michael's fabrics
I enlarged the internal zipped pocket of the pattern, in cotton, then continued with the following additions


1. Leather sunglasses pouch in the strap - the top is gathered with elastic in a casing.This was a little difficult to construct with the edges turned in with the leather, and I decided to have all the other pockets inside the bag on the lining - however, it is in a particularly useful position for quick access to my sunglasses and I would repeat this pocket in leather for a second version.
2. Leather loops, one for a pen, one with a small clasp for my keys and an USB. I would add another loop in a second version and possibly also a loop strap with buckle - It is amazing how many things I carry about that need to stay upright!
3. Cotton pocket with a buttoning flap made to the dimensions of my phone in its wallet case.
4. My best addition, never found in a normal handbag - a waterbottle pouch made like a poacher's pocket with folded expanding corners and elastic at the top in a casing. I have found with recent use that this pocket is also remarkably useful for a folding umbrella on days so wet that no waterbottle is necessary ;)

Having previously sewn kangaroo leather, I was all prepared to glue and stitch with my handcranked Singer as previously, but a bit of trail and error allowed me to construct this primarily using a size 100 needle and jeans topstitching thread at 3.5mm stitch length on my Janome after my 1933 Singer had an episode of o ring disintegration that required ordering a new part from the U.S.A.
I didn't bother gluing, and used a teflon foot, but made no other concessions to sewing with leather. Things went swimmingly, even when sewing and turning seams in the leather through 4 thicknesses, until I came to the topstitching of the incorporated handles. At this point, the extra thickness over joining seams led to horrible stitches and stretching of the top layer of the leather. I was not happy.
Now most sources about sewing with leather say you cannot unpick. This is completely true, unpicking does leave holes and marks, however, I unpicked, and I have decided that these damaged areas are mostly apparent to myself, rather than the casual observer.

Here is the unpicked, then hand sewn stitching around the edges of my bag. Yes, a little bit unsightly, but not too bad for for use in my opinion. The hand stitching took ages, and was very hard on my hands - I used some of the original needle holes, but for most stitches had to force the needle through at least one layer of the leather, and as there were several already sewn layers to get through, it was not possible to use an awl. I rested the needle on a nice thick Ikea catalogue and pulled the leather down over the needle for each stitch. Its not a technique I recommend! and was the main reason this bag took a long time to complete.


Overall, I am very pleased with this bag. It has room for all my bits and pieces, even a nice large knitting project, some groceries of the bread+milk- has- run- out variety, or a parcel-to-post, yet my phone and keys never fall to the bottom. I love the colour  and softness of the leather, and it is comfortable over my shoulder.
I will use this bag until it wears out - then I might make an even better version with beautiful topstitching the first time around.


Janine said...

Good save! A lovely customised bag out of leather would cost hundreds as well . I like the colour too - different from the usual black. Where do you buy kangaroo leather ? ( we gave our japanese guests kangaroo lasagne -I don't think they quite believed me but went back for seconds )

kbenco said...

Thanks Janine, I buy leather at the Packer's tannery retail outlet at Narangba, a northern suburb of Brisbane.
There's a link to an earlier post about buying the leather at the top of this post in case others are interested. The leather I bought is seconds, which are fine to use for a bag that will get hard use and marks here and there fairly quickly.

Sue said...

Beautiful bag. I love the blue leather and the customised pockets.

Sharon said...

Amazing bag and so glad you could save it. Love the customised pockets.

fabric epiphanies said...

I love the colour and all of the useful pockets. I am always loosing things in the abyss that is my bag!

SewRuthie said...

what a beautiful bag!

Clio said...

Great Bag!!! I love the color and all your additions.

Anonymous said...

I really like this bag, especially the colour, and hadn't ever heard of kangaroo leather, but of course that makes sense. I have sewn a few leather items over the years - a skirt I loved and gloves. And I have handsew various hard and stiff items in just the way you describe. Not much fun. How honest of you to share the photos, which as you say will certainly just fine to any reasonable observer. I also like the way you planned the bag to accommodate the things you need to carry - I just have a huge ruck sac in which everything is lost and in a jumble.