DIY Leather Purse (Plain)

Make one of these cute purses and learn techniques for sewing and working with leather. In the latest YouTube tutorial (How To: Leather Plain Purse DIY) I share tips for sewing leather and the step by step construction of one of these purses. This blog post and corresponding tutorial work with a plain leather purse. Next week I will share a new tutorial and guide for making a leather purse with a bow or frill on the front, I will only share the specific instructions for those designs and recommend that you refer to this tutorial for further detailed information and construction tips.

To make one of these leather purses you will need the following materials:
– Leather or Suede (your choice of fabric) (I recommend you choose a fabric that doesn’t fray such as oil cloth, as there are some parts of the purses that use the raw edge of the leather. If you wish to use a fabric that frays check out this tutorial, especially for the tabs: How To: Quilted Wash Bag).
– 4″ (10cm) Zipper (metal or plastic)
– Interfacing
– Thread

If you wish to make a different sized bag or purse read this tutorial that explains the process of how we created the sizes of the bags: LINK!

Sewing Leather
When sewing leather you may find some of this equipment useful:
Clover Double Sided Basting Tape
505 Temporary Spray Adhesive
Leather Needle (sewing machine)
Wonder Clips / Bulldog Clips
– Walking Foot

For this project you will also need:
– Ruler
– Pen (marking the leather)
– Scissors or Rotary Cutter or Craft Knife (mat / ruler etc.)
– Point Turner (or pencil)
– Zipper Foot (sewing machine)

Start by cutting out the following in the leather:

Made to Sew - Leather Purse Plain 1

Make Leather Purse
Mark the size of the purse you are working with on the wrong side of the leather hide. Use a ruler for accuracy and a biro or gel pen.

If you are working with suede (fabric that has a nap) or a patterned fabric remember to acknowledge the top of the pattern or nap.

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Cut out the marked lines using your choice of scissors or rotary cutter / craft knife and cutting mat. Try not to stretch or move the leather whilst cutting. If you find this difficult and you are working with a very soft leather I would recommend interfacing the leather first before cutting it out. This techniques is called block fusing.

Make sure that you cut away all of the pen markings as some parts of the purse will use the finished edge of the leather, and the pen markings may be visible.

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For the plain purse you should have a front and back rectangle that measure (width: 6 1/4″ (14.6cm) x height: 4 1/2″ (11.5cm)) and 2 tabs that measure (width: 1 1/2″ (3.5cm) x 1″ (2cm)).

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I would recommend interfacing the wrong side of the leather to stabilise the leather hide and to prevent it from stretching or distorting on the sewing machine. Work with a woven fusible interfacing, leather can take a large amount of heat but water can damage the leather or suede, so always test the steam setting on your iron prior to use.

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Starting by attaching the tabs to either end of the zipper.

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Wrap the tabs around the end of the zipper tape, so that the right side of the leather is on the outside. The width of the tab will be sitting width ways across the zip and may be larger than the zip, it depends on the width of your individual zip.

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More than likely you will need to trim down some of the zipper tape so that the edge of the leather tab (when it’s folded over the zipper tape) buts against the end of the zip. If you are working with a fabric that frays I recommend you work with slightly different tabs, the edges need to be folded in to prevent fraying, check out another similar tutorial: How To: Quilted Wash Bag.

Trim off the required about of zipper tape (normally 1/8″ (3mm)) so that the tab will touch the end of the zip.

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Hold the tab in place with wonder clips or bull dog clips as you are unable to pin the leather.

If you struggle with this step try using 505 Temporary Spray Adhesive to hold the tab in place whilst sewing. Spray onto the wrong side of the tab before wrapping around the zip. Make sure you cover your table with scrap paper to project it whilst applying the adhesive.

Alternatively use some Clover Double Sided Basting Tape to hold the tab in position. I show you how to use this in the YouTube tutorial: How To: Leather Plain Purse DIY.

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The top of the zip is slightly trickier as the zipper may need to be open whilst you complete this. You will need at least 2 wonder clips / bulldog clips to hold this in place.

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Stitch on the sewing machine using the zipper foot. Stitch 1/8″ (3mm) away from the raw edge of the leather tab.

I used the edge of my zipper foot to line up with the edge of the tab and moved my needle over (to the right) by 1/8″ (3mm), it is always best to have something to follow as a guide for accurate, straight stitching. Use a larger stitch length (such as 3.5mm) to have a nice visible stitch. Back stitch at both ends to secure.

If your sewing machine struggles to feed this through I would recommend starting in the middle and sewing out to one side, starting in the middle again and sewing out to the other side.

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Now it is time to attach the zip onto both sides of the bag. Position the zipper right side facing up (teeth facing up).

Take the leather or fabric and position this right side down onto the zipper teeth, with the top width edge of the fabric lined up with the top edge of the zipper tape. The zipper should be central within the width of the bag, this will be 5/8″ (1.3cm) either side, if you have measured and sewn accurately.

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Hold together with wonder clips or bull dog clips.

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A view from the opposite side. Please don’t worry if the tabs stick out past the edge of the fabric, we are only worried about lining the edge of the zipper up with the edge of the fabric.

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We are now going to stitch down the side of the zip, as close to the teeth as possible. When you have completed this the fabric will fold back like so.

It can be useful to fold the fabric back prior to sewing, this allows you to check everything is in order and that you have positioned your fabric or leather onto the zip the right way up. The top edge is the edge closest to the zipper, and this should be the top of your pattern or nap (if you are working with suede).

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Stitch down the edge of the zip, using the zipper foot. Stitch as close to the teeth as possible (this is generally about 1/16″ (2mm)) away from a metal zipper, the zipper pull will need that 2mm of space to move up and down. Standard plastic zippers can be sewn slightly closer, but it does depend on the size of the zipper pull, remember to give it space to move!

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Start sewing at the tab at one end of the zip and stitch along to the tab at the other end. Use a standard stitch length of 2.5mm and back stitch at the start and the end.

You may need to un-do the zipper pull so that you can stitch past it straight. When this occurs position the needle into the fabric and lift the presser foot, allowing you to move the zipper pull up and down as required.

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Once sewn the bag should look something like this.

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Now you need to topstitch along the edge of the leather you have just sewn. This will hold the leather in position and provide a neat professional finish.

Start stitching at the end of the leather or fabric and use a larger stitch length (I used 3.5mm stitch length). You may also wish to use a topstitching thread or two threads through the top of the sewing machine for a visible stitch.

I chose to stitch 1/8″ (3mm) away from the edge of the leather but you are welcome to stitch closer or further away, it is your choice of topstitching. Line the edge up with something neat and easy to follow and work your way along, un-fasten the zipper pull if required.

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Here is one side of the purse complete.

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For the second side complete the same as the first. Place the zipper (now with attached fabric) right side facing up. Position the fabric with the right side down onto the zipper, match the width edge of the fabric with the edge of the zipper tape. Don’t worry if the tabs extend.

Make sure that the zip is central and that the sides of the second piece of fabric are in line with the sides of the first. Check the placement of the pattern and nap, which way is top?

For the second side I explained how to use double sided basting tape to hold the layers in place (so that you don’t need to use wonder clips or bulldog clips). Watch the tutorial on YouTube for a step by step guide: How To: Leather Plain Purse DIY.

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Complete the same process for the second side, stitch and then topstitch.

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To close the purse you will need to fold the bag in half, right sides of fabric together. Match the top edge (near the zipper first, this is VERY important) and use wonder clips or bull dog clips to hold the edge in place. Remember to open the zip!

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Complete for both sides.

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Stitch starting at the top edge (next to the zip tabs) on both sides and sew down to the bottom. Stitch following the 1/2″ (1cm) seam allowance, use a 2.5mm stitch length and back stitch at the start and end. I recommend sewing off the fabric at the start so that this area is nice and secure. If your machine struggles to feed the fabric through use the hand wheel to walk the stitches in this section slowly.

If you are able to use the walking foot it will help, however you may find that the zipper tab is in the way and you need to use the zipper foot.

Backstitch at the bottom edge for approximately 1/2″ (1cm), this is the length of the seam allowance on the bottom edge. The seam allowances will be trimmed down after sewing and you need to make sure the stitches are secure.

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The reason why you can’t stitch all the way around the purse, down one side, along the bottom and up the other side is due to the slip at the top corners. The top corners (of the zipper) need to be sewn first so that they are held in position and that the edges will match when the bag is turned around.

Finally stitch along the bottom edge using the same seam allowance 1/2″ (1cm) and back stitching past the previous rows of stitching to secure these areas.

If the bag is going to take a lot of strain or tension I would recommend sewing over the first row of stitching, or using a smaller stitch length of 1.5mm for reinforcement.

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Trim the seam allowances down to 1/8″ (3mm) (depending on thickness of fabric) and trim the corners.

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Turn the bag around to the right side through the open zipper. Poke the corners using a point turner or pencil.

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And there you have it, a professionally finished leather purse. Remember to watch the step by step guide on YouTube if you get stuck at any point: How To: Leather Plain Purse DIY.

Stay tuned for the bow and frill purse ‘how-to’s’ launching next week.