For a while now my passion for leather accessories has been gaining momentum! I always get excited when I see hand-made leather products and after so many years in the footwear industry spent working with synthetic leathers, even just the smell of real leather is enough to grab my attention! In pursuit of this, I decided to enrol on a course with Diamond Awl to learn more about the making process and create a messenger bag by hand…
The location for the weekend was an old cotton mill near Saddleworth, in Lancashire. I immediately fell in love with the studio which was an industrial-style work space filled with leathers, tools and all manner of eclectic objects, making it feel like a miniature museum!
Under the careful watch of Jason and David, myself and 3 other students learnt first how to stitch a small key ring. This was to introduce us to the basic techniques of preparing the thread, stitching, bevelling and buffing. The linen thread was hand-waxed and each stitch-hole was hand-made using a diamond-shaped awl. For a first attempt, mine wasn’t bad although it was so hard to control the stitches on the back of the leather, which are far less uniform than the front! We bevelled the edges to round them off and rubbed them down to create a smooth finish.
Next we moved right onto the bags. I had a smooth, matt black leather which was cut into 4 pieces to make the main body, 2 sides and strap. I stitched one side and David was on hand to help steer around the corners. After lunch, stitching continued right into the afternoon.
The next day, I finished stitching my bag and had to decide on the design of the strap and the main bag fastening. As the leather was so beautifully simple, I wanted to the bag to reflect this so there would be no additional stitching or decoration. I chose to make a small rounded-slot with a leather loop secured by a ‘Sam Brown’ stud to close the bag. I also added an asymmetric element to the finished design to create something simple but striking.
I loved the making process and was chuffed to bits with the final bag! David and Jason were knowledgeable, supportive and inspiring and thanks to them I was able to walk away with a bag that I will actually use!
I’m now rifling through a leather tool catalogue deciding what to buy first. I’d love to return to the Diamond Awl and make something else though so I don’t think it will be the last they see of me…!