Prototype bag Style# 4216 pt.1

42161_top_finishedIf you want to catch up on previous entries of my saga before I start whining in today’s entry because whine I will, these are pt.1, pt.2, pt.3, pt.4, pt.5 and pt.6. It seems I’ve had nothing but trouble. Do I like to sew? Did I actually say that? On tape? Be that as it may, here’s evidence of my progress at right. Blog experts say you’re more likely to click through if I post a pretty (humor me) picture at the top of the page. This is style #4216 so far.

But let me start at the beginning which started last weekend. I spent some time cleaning up the joint. I can see my desktop for the first time in months. I found checks that weren’t so old I couldn’t cash them. Best of all, my uncle finally came up from El Paso to pick up that industrial Singer along with some other stuff that needed a new home. There’s only one good thing about being a packrat; it’s genetic. Because it’s genetic, you have family members with the condition and luckily for me, Uncle also married a pack rat so I was home freeee! As it happens, not only did this clear up some floor space, doing so solved my electrical problem because I found another circuit with nothing on it. It also solved the problem of placing the pressing station. Now I don’t have to traipse 50 feet away to iron or wend my way around a bank of machines that effectively serve to divide the room. I’ve been pressing more. Things look spiffier. Life is good. Until I started sewing.

Inset sewing on leather
42162_topWhat follows is a quasi tutorial of reverse applique on leather. I’d posted photos of the pattern before. That link actually shows the sewing guides, not the actual pattern pieces which are interspersed here. My top layer is maroon. The color is prettier in the photo than in real life but it doesn’t look bad in real life either. The second layer is lighter green and the bag body is olive.

Theoretically, the hard part about doing these is the pattern. Then it’s working sewing order in your mind and then lastly it’s sewing. Sewing takes a long time though. First you cut out the top layer (above right). Not a great photo but you can see straps so you know it’s the top layer.

42164_underlay_sewn The second layer looks weird (link). You have to notch it so it will lay exactly right under the top layer. At right is a photo of the underlay (light green) on top of the backside of the maroon. You can see the first layer of stitching has already been done.

By the way, the black stuff you see on the backs of all these pieces is fusible. Fusible is good. Black is not good. Black is not good because it’s difficult to see marks on it. It took me twenty minutes to sew this first layer of stitching. I prefer to use white because you can trace the sewing line with the guide very quickly with a ball point pen. The problem with white though is that when you trim the leather away on the top side, the white will show. Black blends better.

42165_underlay_trimmedRight you’ll see I’ve trimmed away the first layer (maroon) close to the line of stitching. For effect, I laid it on top of the olive body to see what it’d look like but it’s not attached yet. In the following photos though, it is attached with embroidery adhesive. I love this stuff.

At this stage is when I ran into a lot of problems. I had a second sewing guide for the second layer of stitching but ya know, it didn’t match up like it was supposed to. I’ve never done exactly this sort of double inset so I didn’t think about it. So, how to fix? The second line of stitching had to be customized to the first. What I ended up doing was to use chalk to trace the first layer from the back. To get fine lines, I used a silver calligraphy pen I bought last night.

42167_second_line_sewnFrom the finish line of the first layer, I drew out the second line of stitching 1/4″ away. I thought I got a picture before I sewed it but I didn’t. Instead I’ll show you the line already sewn (right).

The biggest hassle of doing this (other than what I’ve already said) is trimming the top layer away to match the sewing line. I use a pair of home sewing applique scissors. These are great with very sharp points. The problem with trimming is two fold. The most obvious one is that the fusible sticks to the embroidery adhesive so it’s not as simple to trim away as it should be. I had to use a knitting needle and come in from the bottom to separate the layers. The second problem is, color on a leather hide is a surface treatment, the color rarely penetrates through the hide. So when you cut an edge that will be visible, you have to do it at an angle so the white inner portion of the hide doesn’t show.

The summary result of Style #4216 is that if I do this in even small quantities, the marking process will have to be redesigned. I’m not quite sure how that would work yet (ideas?). Or, I’d dispense with two layers of insets and just have one. This particular bag would cost too much.  For now, below is a full size photo of the bag front. So what do you think? Would you pay $1,000 bucks for this? I didn’t think so but that’s what if feels like this should cost at this point. Why do I do this to myself?


Until I can clean this entry to make it a bit clearer, I’ve uploaded these photos and others (full size) to a web album.

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  1. dosfashionistas says:

    What would happen if you stitched the under layer to the bag, trimmed it, then stitched the top layer in place using the underlayer stitching to place and true up the design? Working with the larger pieces might help stabilize things is what I am thinking.

    Any time I made myself part of the production process, I wound up hating to sew. Otherwise I would be making wedding dresses today instead of selling on eBay.

  2. Vesta says:

    Kathleen, you may not delete one of the layers of leather. There has to be a way to do this for less than $1000 retail.

  3. Esther says:

    I think you discovered how easy it is to design expensive product. The challenge is trying to design to meet a price point, as you know. Have you figured out what price point you want to meet? Don’t give up! I think you can get the look with less labor.

  4. Kaaren says:

    I love this design -but $1,000 for the bag is out of my budget. I would attempt to make one for myself rather than buy it from you.

    I would also love something not quite so expensive, to own.

    I would use a single or custom pair of leather stamps ( Harper Manufacturing offers custom steel stamps). Paint on leather dye in 2 or more colors, blushed with some of the ‘pearlized’ paints such as Peal Ex pigments from Jacquard Products available in art supply stores. Using a paint by number cartoon (pattern), almost any unskilled worker could apply. Result would provide dimension, color and design definition all on the body of the bag. Less allocation of leather-, a couple of taps and minimal brush strokes to apply the dye. Considering added dry time and even handling again for a blush of pearl powder should shorten the per bag assembly time and real cost.


  5. Mary says:

    Love this!

    As to marking the black, why not just avoid it if it is a problem? Could you CUT the black interfacing with a seam allowance that matches the pressure foot you are using. Adhere it and stitch using the edge of the foot as the guide. That way, you have your marking, but have not lost time on the marking, although you will be cutting twice. Always a trade-off.

    I had luck marking fabric cutting lines with- don’t laugh- a white out pen. They now have very good control with the pen points, if you keep the dried material cleaned off and keep them moving. On leather, where there is no danger of bleed through, it might work for a stitching line on the back of an interfaced piece.

    Spray the adhesive on using a template to cover the area you do not want sprayed.

    Good luck.

  6. Kathleen says:

    I finished the back, altho pieced in 7 pieces, it went together well and quickly. It also looks cool, better than I thought it would. It’s actually style 4217 that makes up the back of this. It can stand alone of course but having a pattern to break up the expanse of leather into smaller pieces makes for good yield.

    This other photo shows the contrasting facing from inside the bag (strap flopped over). The facing is the light green leather. I think it’ll look nice when it’s done.

  7. barbmaslen says:

    I love the bag – it looks great. And I find a silver gel pen is great for marking on dark coloured fabrics, you can get a fine line and the pens are cheap. You may have to try a few different brands, some work better than others. Silver often seems to ‘stick’ better than white, I don’t know why.

  8. Doris W. in TN says:

    Awesome bag! Here are some ideas to throw against the wall, and see what sticks:

    Embroidery (Sulky, 505) adhesive can gum up a needle over time unless you use a titanium coated needle. You probably already knew that. It doesn’t give a strong enough bond to suit me when I do mach. embr., but you probably have access to better industrial type stuff.

    If this was my project , I would use something like Steam-a-Seam Lite for all the appliqué layers. You mark the backing paper with the shape after fusing, peel the paper away after it cools, and cut the shape out. It’s very lightweight and flexible, but gets the job done enough to hold it in place for the stitching. I use it often in garment construction and love it.

    Another product to consider (if the concept appeals) is Misty Fuse ( ) although it appears to have no backing paper. Quilters like it for machine appliqué but I have not personally used it.

    For marking, have you considered the Sulky Transfer Pen? ( ) I used it for a quilting project, when I needed to draw a certain shape over and over – which would have driven me mad – and this worked really well for me.

    Hope this helps. Thank you for continuing to share your blog with us.

  9. Nancy K says:

    I don’t have $1000 to spend, but I am sure that at a high end boutique there are still women who’d pay that for a unique bag like this. But, the question is that the wholesale or retail price we’re talking about? By the way, what is embroidery adhesive? Could you use the temporary spray that lets go after a few hours or overnight?

  10. Renee says:

    Hey Kathleen, I love the back shot. It reminds me of a Japanese rising sun. Will you be making 4217 in a color-blocked version? Or same color but two finishes, like matte and shiny would be sweet.

  11. Marie-Christine says:

    Mmm.. too much for me :-).

    OK, it looks great, but I think a single layer would probably look good enough, at least it’d be worth testing. Maybe use that ‘piping’ turquoise color in topstitching so a single-layer looks more complex?

    About marking black: I use a Japanese wheel with yellow chalk powder (Clover I believe). As fast as a pen, very fine, totally stands out. In a pinch, I’ve used a sliver of soap, a bit harder to maneuver and less durable but still perfectly serviceable. I like your silver pen, but fear it’s permanent which you may not like everywhere.

  12. Shar says:

    I’ve done applique with leathers before, and whatever they say, most of them can be steamed enough to use lightweight fusible to bond the layers. Draw it on the paper backing, iron it onto the back of the leather, cut it out and fuse it down with a press cloth. Try a few tests with scraps of the leather to see if you need more or less steam or none at all. Then you can just straight stitch near the cut edge. Or satin stitch it, which is what I usually do. Do it just a bit less dense than on fabric. I also use a Bernina 950, and I narrow the width to nothing as I come to a point to make it sharp.

  13. Linda Curtis says:

    Very pretty pattern -reminds me of fire blazing- and some western boot tops. My question is about the leather. Are you using real cowhide or types if leather-type upholstery? I make western decor and have been using a type of brushed/rustic vinyl upholstery as well as very thin hides (deer skin, etc). I’m always looking for new colors and textures. Mostly ‘luck-out’ on most finds. Could you provide me with company names and contact numbers/addresses. I’m getting desparate for the new colors. Any help would be appreciated!!

  14. Linda: I used pig, not cow. Garment weight grade, not upholstery or bag leather (for those who don’t know, garment grade is drapier; upholstery/bag is stiffer even if the same weight per oz). The weight I used is 2 oz or there abouts.

    I have so much leather I wouldn’t need to buy any. Except pig occasionally for mockups. I go to a local place for that -R.L.Cox. They don’t have a website, walk in traffic only until you get to know each other in which case, they sometimes do mail order for staples (deer/elk in standard colors etc). There are a lot of leather sources on the forum tho. I visit the sites, wistfully. I can’t justify buying anymore until I get rid of what I have.

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