It’s not often you can say the garment or bag you’re wearing is one you’ve hand made yourself.
Henry (the taller, more numerically inclined, better half) very sweetly booked me onto a course at The Makers Guild – a leather workshop which teaches you how to make a satchel.
It was an incredible experience, take a look at the journey from punching holes to stitching the bag together.
On a bright, sunny Saturday morning I headed into Portsmouth to join teacher Vlad (@fletcherhandmadeUK) and a small group of people who had never done any leather work before.
First up we learnt the basics, what tools to use, how to use them and most importantly some safety tips to make sure we all left with ten fingers and thumbs!
After lining up a template and learning how to punch holes we had to cut the leather into the panels and this was no easy task! Cutting leather is hard, you need a very sharp special blade and the right angle. By far this was the toughest part for me, I think I needed a lot more practice to master this.
Once all the parts were cut and had holes punched in them we rubbed some leather wax into each panel to treat it, feed it and shine it up a little.
The next step was to learn how to measure the waxed string to sew with, saddle stitch and tensioning. I loved this bit and it really felt like I had learnt a new skill and it felt like such an achievement to start sewing the panels together. Even the fiddly bits around the strap gave immense satisfaction once completed.
I really enjoyed the sewing but stitching around corners was a skill on itself. I found keeping the bag or pieces of leather close to my body really helped and making the needles blunt spared my fingers from becoming pin cushions. I thanked Vlad a lot for that, it was a small kindness that worked a treat!
Working through three pieces of leather also proved tricky but once you’d got the first stitch secured it became much easier.
Once stitched I think it looks quite neat and reminds me of the current satchels I own including my tiny satchel I had when I started at school. There’s something really nostalgic and comforting about how it looks and smells.
After day one I felt pretty good but day two of sewing saddle stitch and my poor fingers were very sore! But, it was totally worth it as the end result is a bag I’ll have for the rest of my life!
Even if it needs re-stitching I’ll know how to do that in the future and that’s such a great mentality to embrace. Don’t just throw something away, save it, nurture it and fix it up so it’s good as new.
Over two days and 10 hours I transformed some rough cut leather into a shiny new satchel, what an accomplishment in a weekend!
I was absolutely thrilled with the end result and have worn the bag non-stop since having it. It’s the perfect size for a purse, sunglasses and all the other bits and bobs I tend to carry around.
You could have knocked me down with a feather when a lady commented on how nice my bag was and I got to reply ‘oh yes, I made it’. It filled me with pride. I’m really keen to keep doing some leather crafting and hope to get a few of the tools to start creating.
If you like the look of this course then speak to The Makers Guild in Portsmouth to see when the next one is being held. They’re a really friendly bunch who love getting hands on to solve problems, help design your makes and enjoy putting on creative workshops.
Oh and yes, that’s me below, pleased as punch to have finished my bag!