Sewing Leather Bags: Tips, Resources & Discount for Leather!

5/29/2017 08:28:00 PM

Have you wondered where to buy good quality, affordable, leather that is suitable for bag making? Cyndi from The Nosy Pepper is here to give us the skinny on where we can get beautiful leather for bag making, give us tips on how to sew with it, and give us a discount code that we can use while shopping at one of our favourite leather shops, The Tannery NYC.

I should mention that we were not paid for a positive review on this leather, but we were given some leather to try out so we could judge for ourselves. Truth be told, we're already devoted customers to The Tannery NYC anyway! Cyndi will tell you all about it in this post! - Janelle MacKay, Emmaline Bags.

Check it out this leather project! 

Have you been curious about sewing with leather? Not sure where to start? It can seem super intimidating but it doesn't have to be! With a few tools and knowing what your machine can handle you can start incorporating leather into your bag making.

The Tannery NYC carries an amazing selections of colors and finishes that are often hard to find. Many leather suppliers sell mainly to manufacturers leaving few options for those of us who just need a small amount for a project or two. This is what makes The Tannery NYC different, they sell the same high quality leather but in sizes that are affordable for bagineers. They're constantly adding new skins and their customer service is amazing! If they don't have exactly what you are looking for just ask, chances are they can get it for you! I'm particularly in love with the metallics they carry. They are incredible!

I used their silver metallic skin to make this bag:

It was absolutely amazing, and it's hard to capture how gorgeous this leather is. It's so luscious and catches the light in a way that it's hard to show in a picture. It almost takes a different hue depending on the environment. It's such a perfect pairing with the Emmaline gunmetal finish hardware. I made this bag with Emmaline's Miss Maggie's Handbag pattern. I love this pattern because it's so easy to change up the look with different features and hardware. For this bag I used the Long John Strap Anchors, Script Style Bag Label, purse feet and hanging tassel cap all in this luxe gunmetal finish.

Miss Maggie is a great starter leather bag if you are ready to take the plunge. There are few seams to worry about with the exterior and no curves either. Another way to reduce bulk is to cut your exterior in one piece. I did this with this bag, as you can see there is no bottom seam:

Laurie Dasso makes the most incredible leather bags and has used various leathers from The Tannery in her stunning creations and has helped me tremendously in venturing into the world of leather. Check out some of the incredible bags she has created with some of the gorgeous leather from The Tannery NYC:

Obviously Laurie is a master with leather and has an industrial machine and years of experience,  but that doesn't mean that you can't sew with leather too! I have a domestic as many of us bagineers do and Laurie has taught me so many things about modifying construction for domestic machines.

Here's some info to keep in mind as you get started:

First, it's important to know what your machine can handle. Most domestics can handle sewing with a leather that is 3oz weight or less. Make sure you always use a leather needle and use some scraps to test out your machine, see how many layers you can reasonably. Adjust tensions, your pressure foot pressure and find what works best for your machine. Don't forget, you can always hand crank!

Leather, is unlike any other material. Some inconsistencies with grain, texture, or even some marks are part of what makes it leather! Some believe these flaws are what makes it indicative of an artisan work. Always use care when cutting out leather, especially if there are marks or parts that you don't want on your bag so you can cut around these. Lay out your pieces carefully before cutting to make sure you fit your pattern pieces in a way that maximizes your leather.

At the Tannery you can purchase by the half or the full skin. A half skin is about 10 ft², a whole skin roughly 20 ft². You can get a smaller bag out of a half skin. Skins come irregularly shaped so keep this in mind when choosing a project. It's very different than buying by the yard.

Always use clips and not pins with leather, once a hole is there it's permanant! Leather tape is also a great alternative.

For the handles, leather is something that you don't have to worry about raw edges because it absolutely will not fray. I didn't want to leave the side edges raw, so I used Laurie’s strategy of doing a tri fold, so that there is only one raw edge and it's more or less hidden on the back of the strap. This greatly reduces the layers your machine has to handle but looks more finished than leaving the side edges raw. As you can see, it's hardly noticeable that there is a raw edge:

Do NOT use cotton thread with leather, it will eventually break down. Choose polyester or nylon thread instead. A leather needle is a MUST. 

When sewing on a domestic machine, realize that you may have to change up parts of the pattern and keep in mind the bulk your machine can handle. Don't be afraid to hand crank if things get tough.

As you can see, I opted not to topstitch my Miss Maggie. This is because I was afraid with the bulk of the layers, my stitching wouldn't be as smooth as I would like. Better no top stitching than messy stitching or even worse: a bunch of holes in the leather after I rip those icky stitches out!

Sewing with leather is something that's doable for almost anyone! Just choose easy projects first to get a feel for what you're dealing with. It's something you can try to incorporate into other bags by making leather straps and accents if you're not ready to jump into making an all leather bag. The Tannery also sells scrap packs, so you can try out some scraps and make some small projects. 

Use leather scraps to accent a handmade bag. Check out this pretty color blocked Compass Bag (pattern by Noodlehead) I have made with quilting cottons and my left over silver leather. Since this leather was not used in the main construction of the bag, it was an easy sew, but still has the luxurious look of a leather bag. 

Get the Discount Code!

The Tannery offers SO many choices, and I love scoping out to see the new things they constantly add. As a bonus, The Tannery NYC has partnered with Emmaline followers to offer 10% off purchases of $50.00 USD or more using code EMMALINEBAGS. So, if you've ever wanted to try sewing with leather, here's your chance to scoop up some incredible high end leather! 


Photos and content provided and written for Emmaline Bags by Cyndi Farfsing, from The Nosy Pepper. Cyndi's blog is chock is full of more bag photos and make making tips. Check out her bag series "It's in the Bag! Better Bag Making Series," to learn a ton of new bag making skills.

Share your projects made from Emmaline patterns and/or with Emmaline hardware in our facebook group Emmaline Sewing Patterns Group, or on instagram with the hashtags #emmalinehardware, #emmalinepatterns, #emmalinebags, or tag us @emmalinebags.

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  1. Loved this post. Plan to do my first leather Miss Maggie tomorrow (if a pending test doesn't arrive). Loved learning more about Tannery NYC.Thanks for your fine information.

  2. Beautiful!!! Do you have directions posted on how to do the exterior of miss Maggie in one piece ? Would love to know !! Thank you

    1. I just cut one large panel 16" w x 25 1/3" (you need to subtract off what would normally be included in the seam allowance), and just skip the part about sewing the bottom edge together because it's already done. Then follow the directions as normal :)

    2. Thank you, how do you do the cutouts for the boxed corners?

  3. Thank you so much! Then do you still cut the boxes for the corners?

    1. Yes, you cut the boxed corners as one cut out on each side at side centre. IF you want 2" boxed corners for example, the box you cut out will start at 2" x 4" on the side, but you have to account for the seam allowance that was made to sew the side panels together, so you subtract those seam allowances. This makes the box you notch out, 2" x 3.25". I hope that helps!

  4. What a beautiful handbag! Just lovely. I'm working up my nerve to try leather. It's a great idea to do the front/back as one, and as much as I look, I can't see a seam in your straps. Just beautiful.

  5. Great post. Just starting to sew with leather. Is there a tutorial on the tri fold handle? Thanks

    1. HI Michele, here is a tutorial for a similar strap. Cyndi has done the same but only used one stitching line down each side of the strap.

  6. Would the half size skin be sufficient for the Emmaline bag? Thanks.

    1. Yes, I think it would be, but it would have to be from a large hide. Not a small goat, lamb. I hope that helps!

    2. You'll need about 10 sqft for the miss Maggie bag if that helps.

  7. I actually meant Miss Maggie, so that information is perfect. Thank you. I don't know why I typed the Emmaline bag,


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The contents of this blog, including text, original photos and ideas are the sole property of the author. If you intend to use my text or images, please link back to this blog and give credit to Emmaline Bags & Patterns. A notification email would be greatly appreciated too! Please do not ever republish an entire post, any tutorials, or post photos of my family. Thank you, Janelle