Leather craftsmanship and making leather bags and satchels by hand to a high standard requires lots of skill and precision. To begin with It starts with a sketchbook and drawing various ideas, shapes and forms. At the same time, researching leather, colours and creating small samples can help the design process. Satchels and saddle bags have lots of details such as rivets, screws, fittings, and buckles, so creative sampling is key in creating a successful final outcome. When a design is successful and well balanced the prototyping process begins. To begin with this involves creating an accurate set of patterns and this is a skill in itself. Pattern cutting complex patterns with a variety of functional details can take years of experience as can leather sampling. Prototyping leather bags and satchels is the next stage and this can initially be done in paper, rubber or other non leather materials and a design may require many prototypes to get the final design accurate. At this stage the range of tools used would be extensive and the knowledge required to complete these initial tasks can take years to develop through training and experimentation with various different projects.
When a successful prototype has been completed, patterns and technical information can be transferred onto leather to be cut and assembled. It is after at this stage that patterns will be redrafted to suit the specific type of material which may be thicker, stiffer or react differently to prototyping materials. Now that you have a final prototype of you leather bag or satchel in the final material and a final set of bag patterns you can now produce your leather bag correctly and to a high standard. Handmade bags that have been crafted form start to finish require a varietal of skills which is why this development process can take time to get right.
when all these stages are complete you can continue to adapt patterns and designs for leather bags and satchels to specific customer needs and customise orders and products to suit a variety of functions. This can require less sampling in leather as the leather bag is already functional yet further sampling is required to make sure these bag and satchel adaptations are fit for purpose.
All these stages can feel daunting and the numerous skills required can be a challenge. Mastering design, pattern cutting and leather craft skills however will result in a beautiful leather bag that can last a lifetime.
So what tools do you need to begin with?
For design work I use a variety of sketchbooks, pencils and marker pens but to be honest sometimes I often use any paper or pens to hand at any given time. You can really use anything you feel comfortable with to document your ideas. Lots of people draw digitally these days to to create their fashion or accessory designs.
For pattern cutting you need a variety of tools to start with. I use 250 gsm pattern paper for fashion accessories which is a little thicker than pattern paper for fashion design. I also use metal rulers, scalpels and an awl to create my bag patterns. Masking tape is also essential to adapt your patterns and a good size cutting mat about A1 in size if possible.
To make your leather bags this depends if you want to use a machine or traditional hand skills. I prefer historical craft skills and a factory free aesthetic so I have lots of traditional tools such as hole punchers, river presses and also an embossing press to brand my leather bags and accessories. Some of these essential studio tools I purchase locally for leather craft shops such as the identity store who also offer a range of workshops for beginners which you can see in the link below: