I don’t normally sew handbags. (In general I’m not a craft or home decor sewer.) But lately I’ve been wanting something classier than my old nylon L.L.Bean bag. In addition to being turned off by the high prices retailers demand for genuine leather bags, I realized that I wanted something more unique than what was being offered. That’s when I decided to make the Paris tote from Style Arc (note: affiliate link).
In case if you’re wondering, the dress is a recently completed wool sweater knit version of the Style Arc Cleo.
For this bag I used a deep brown lambskin purchased over four years ago from Fabric Mart. The lambskin was very soft and pliable, so in order to give it additional body and strength I fused the bag section with Pro-Sheer Elegance from Fashion Sewing Supply. The result is a bag that’s flexible and feels incredibly luxurious (which is what I was looking for.) I’m glad I was finally able to do something with this skin!
For the trim, handles, and base patches I used an embossed cowhide from the Etsy seller oneway52.
This Etsy seller is kind of awesome; he had super fast shipping and noted that he included a couple of extra pieces to compensate for bad spots on some of the pieces, which means that now I have to figure out a project for the remaining leather. (Maybe coordinating zipped pouches?) Along with a business card, he also included some Sugar Babies and a pen with a light on one end in the order! Completely unexpected.
The handles are attached to the bag via leather rivets. You can see how I pinked the upper edge of the cowhide.
I ordered 6mm cap brass rivets from BuckleGuy.com, as I knew that even if my local Joann’s carried them the quality would likely be suspect. Along with the rivets I ordered a rivet setter. The rivet setter works, but you have to be very careful about how you position it. If you aren’t perfectly vertical it will set them in at an angle.
The decorative tie is also held in place by a leather rivet.
I topstitched the handles on my Janome 6500P. I used Gutermann Mara 70 thread from Cleaner’s Supply. My Janome sewed it, but it didn’t like it nearly as much as the buttery soft lambskin. I lengthened the handles a couple of inches to make them easier to slip over my winter coats.
The section where the cowhide trim is attached to the bag proved to be too much for my Janome, so at that point I switched to topstitching with my industrial walking foot machine. The cowhide was not very thick, but the sheer density of it was making the Janome struggle more than I liked.
I held the base patches in place with some scotch tape. This was a bad move; I didn’t get around to topstitching that night, so when I topstitched the next day the tape didn’t remove as cleanly as I had thought it would, and the leather was a little sticky. I had to switch to a Teflon foot in order to finish sewing the patches on. To remove the adhesive and cover up where the tape slightly damaged the surface of the lambskin I treated it with some saddle soap and leather conditioner.
To form the base of the bag you form a couple of tucks before sewing the side seam.
The zipper guards do not extend all the way to the edges of the bag. Not sure how I feel about this…
The zipper is a #5 nylon boot zipper, also from Cleaner’s Supply. The lining is a heavier gold satin poly that was part of a freebie bundle from Fabric Mart. I’m glad I finally found a use for it. It was too heavy for a blazer, but there wasn’t enough yardage for a coat.
I took a little bit of liberty with the pattern and made four instead of two pockets. My pockets are also larger than what Style Arc drafted. After all, isn’t being able to customize storage the biggest reason to sew instead of buy your own bag?
These two are for my phone, wallet, and keys.
I bound the sides with some scraps of the lambskin leather. Between the cowhide and multiple layers of lambskin I knew better than to even attempt to sew it on the Janome, so I stitched it on my industrial.
For maximum durability I made a double instead of single fold binding.