Friday, August 15, 2014

Make Your Own Leather Soho Slouch Tote

I really can't call this a Fabulous Free Pattern Friday piece as this was done by The Weekend Designer back in August of 2008. And since no pattern was published, it really doesn't fit in the Thrifty Thursday file either. 
But it's a great bag that is super easy to make, so in the event that you haven't seen this bag, I think you'll really enjoy making one for yourself.
The suede bag was originally sold in the Sundance catalog, and like most things in the catalog, it was very nice, but fairly expensive. 
They came in a lovely selection of colors.
I didn't have a piece of suede that was of a suitable weight, so I made mine out of  a supple piece of leather. As long as I don't carry bricks in the bag, the lighter weight of leather should be fine.  
You can find all of the detailed instructions for this bag here.

In the instructions for the bag, there is a graph for the pattern.
Rather than make you count the tiny squares, I thought I would just draw it out for you. You can see that the bag is really nothing more than a few connected rectangles.
The width across the bottom is 9"
The side length is 11"
The length of the handle is 9"
And my apologies, I neglected to add that the width of the handle is 2 1/2" 
I did not draw out the bottom of the bag, but it is a simple 9" square.
In order to achieve the curved edge on my handle, I used my curved ruler, but to be honest, you can easily draw the curve in by hand. 
In order to have the same exact curve on either side, I simply folded the pattern in half and then cut the handle out.
If you have never sewn with leather or suede, I encourage you to give it a try. To be honest, I absolutely love sewing with leather. The leather comes as a skin and there will be imperfections. In the picture below you can see a hole in the lower left hand corner. So when choosing a skin, look carefully at the piece before purchasing it. If there was a large imperfection in the center, it would really limit the possibilities of what I could do with the skin.
The instructions from the Weekend Designer says to cut the handle on the fold. This would not allow me to make the best use the leather, so I decided to just add a seam to the top of my handle. One of the nice things about leather is that is no grain, so you can turn your pieces in whatever way you like as you see below. I have marked my pieces on the wrong side of the leather.
The bag has 4 sides, so since I didn't cut the handle on the fold, I will need to cut 4. I was able to get 3 sides out of 1 skin. 
Once all of the pieces have been cut, it's time to start sewing them together. Leather can be a little tricky especially since you can't pin it. The instructions say to use mounting tape. I have never used tape on any leather project. If you would like, you can use paper clips to hold the pieces together as you sew. You can also use a walking foot. But to be honest, I don't use either. Just take your time, be patient and practice a little with some of your scraps and I think you'll get the hang of sewing with leather. One thing to keep in mind is that you must use a leather needle. Please don't try to use a regular needle. The leather needle has a special point specifically for sewing leather. It makes all the difference in the world.
Once you sew the seam, I used 1/4" seams on this bag, you can either glue down the seams with rubber cement, or you can top stitch them. I prefer to top stitch my seams. It must have been the angle at which I took the picture as my stitches look like they are on an angle, but they really aren't.
Once the seams for the sides of the bag have been sewn, you'll then attach the bottom. Pay close attention to the fact that the seams of the bag do not match up to the corners of the bottom. The seams of the bag match the center of the bottom of the bag. It can be a little tricky, but you can top stitch the seams around the bottom of the bag. Just take your time.
 Since I didn't cut my handles on the fold, I simply over lapped the 2 ends and sewed them together.
 My finished bag.
You can see that the bag is quite roomy. If you would like a hard bottom, you can always cut a piece of chip board, a thick cardboard, and place it in the bottom of the bag. I rather like the soft, easy feel of the bag.
If you have never sewn with leather or suede, I urge you to give it a try. This is a great first time project. If you are a little concerned about spending the money for leather for a first time project, there are a lot of home dec fabrics that mimic leather, so that's a nice alternative.
The Weekend Designer no longer writes at that address. You can find him at http://bagntell.wordpress.com/ 
The blog is full of wonderful information and projects. He also has a Craftsy class that teaches you how to work with leather and you can find it here.

Share this PostPin ThisShare on TumblrShare on Google PlusEmail This


  1. That's just lovely, Rhonda. Did you have another skin to cut the fourth piece? This would be a great gift project. Thanks.

    1. I actually had 4 skins, so I had plenty to cut the 4th piece and the bottom. Now I have 2 1/2 skins left for something fun. :)

  2. What a great bag! I have a too small suede skirt that I might use for this.

  3. I had forgot about the Weekend Designer! I bookmarked it back on my old computer. And lo and behold I have actually signed up for his class a while ago! Your bag is really cute. Time to go to the op shop (goodwill) to see if I can find a cheap old jacket.

    1. Make the pattern pieces before you go so you can get an idea if there is enough fabric. Love everyone's ideas about recycling!

  4. Thanks for sharing tips Rhonda. One question, do we have to use the leather needle for faux suede as well ?And your bag looks nice. I would have tried this if it had a closure

    1. Hi Diya. I would use a leather needle with faux suede.
      As for a closure, you can always stitch in a piece of Velcro if you are concerned about security.

  5. Fantastic tutorial Rhonda! Looking at your cutting layout it seems that grainline is not an issue. Is that correct?

    1. Hi Gail and thanks! With leather, Grainline is not an issue.

  6. Great pattern! Thank you for sharing this!

  7. Lovely simplicity! Thank you for this. :)

    1. The nice thing about the pattern is that it can be made out of almost anything. I may make one out of a lightweight but sturdy vinyl for my groceries.


    1. The best online place to buy leather skins is at http://www.tandyleather.com/en/
      Depending upon where you live, I have found leather at Colorado Fabrics in Denver. From time to time I find leather at Vogue Fabrics in Chicago, but it's very hit or miss. I thinknYandy would be your best bet.