Red pen bag (commission)



I have been planning on making this bag for some time but have never got around to it so here goes.

First step is to make a set of templates I want the back pocket of the bag to hold an A5 notebook.



Once I had a full set of templates I tried fitting them all together.


Once I was happy with the templates I was able to start cutting the leather.


Normally I would line the leather in suede however for this project I decided to use cream leather for the inside.


After lining I decided on a dry fit at this point I decided that three pockets were one too many.


After the dry fit I toyed with the idea of adding some piping around the outer edges


I had also been experimenting with the interior this is my first effort.


I had planned to get 10 slots and my first effort was not up to the mark. So I made another using suede.


The suede pen slots were incorporated into the front panel which I then attached to the gusset pieces.


After I glued up the front panel I tried a dry fit of the rear panel and flap it looks like this:


I also added the magnetic bag clasps


Regular readers will know that things don’t always go to plan and this is one of those occasions.

Edges are always difficult veg tanned leather can be softened with water and burnished until they are nice and smooth they can then be dyed or painted with a special coating


This is how the edges looked after a lot of sanding the right edge coating could be applied and after more sanding and even more sanding a good edge could have been achieved.


As the coloured edge coat is a week away I decided to have a go at binding the edges the picture above is my test piece.

This is the bag with the bound edge before stitching.



I am fairly happy with this the leather has to be cut into strips and thinned or skived to around a third of its original thickness before it can be glued in place before stitching.

As ever edges are an issue I have started to think that adding piping would have been a much easier to get around this issue. Anyway I no longer have this option for this bag so I am sticking with the option of binding the edges as above and using the edge paint that has recently arrived.


Lots more sanding required.

The easy way is to bind the edges or so I thought the leather needs to be thinned to bend around the edges which also means it will stretch as it is glued in place which makes it difficult to get the edges straight.


The other big issue is I don’t have enough of this leather to do what I want to do and as this colour is quite old it is no longer available. My supplier has found me a similar colour which is on its way although it is only available as a full hide which is around 25 sq ft. I guess I will be making more than one red bag.

Leather arrived yesterday it is huge I will need to sell some bags to pay for it 🙂


I started making the replacement bag by cutting the pieces from the same template I had used before.


After some thought I felt it may have been better to make the insert first so I set the pieces to one side and started making the inner section.


I buy grey board from an art supplier which I use to form the body of the inner section.

After wrapping it in leather I started adding the pen slots these are formed around an 18 mm dowel


Almost half way



The second half is made up of pen slots and a wider pocket for a small notebook or mobile phone.



I made a fillet piece to hold everything in place  this took some time to work out.




Time to make a bag for it to fit in.

I have decided to edge this bag with piping in order to go all around the back and front flap it needs to be 1.6 metres long and 20 mm wide the drawback is that it is 1.2 mm thick and I need it to be half of that. As I don’t as yet have a leather splitter I have to do it by hand which takes a long time.

I made two samples the larger one has a 3 mm core made from para cord the smaller of the two has a core of 1 mm leather thong.


Here is the finished length of piping along with a pile of shavings.


I also made a new gusset piece which also had to be thinned all around which created another pile of shavings.


Now I have all of the components well almost.. It is time to think about how it is all going to come together.

This is the inside of the back panel which also forms the front flap it will be stitched together along with the piping inside out the bottom will be left open to facilitate this.


The only item I don’t have is the flowers so time to maker flowers.


After heat sealing the edges and applying edge kote I assembled the flowers and attached it to the front of the bag.


As you can see I have also fixed the magnetic catch in place I have hidden a line of stitching under the outer cream leather I will also add more to strengthen the flower as I think this flower will be used to open the bag. Now I have the catch and flower in place I can stitch the panel together the cream is the inside and the red is the outside.

Before stitching these two pieces together I realised I had not placed the joint in the piping exactly where I wanted it so I removed the tack stitches. this also gave me an opportunity to reconsider the option of using more of the flowers I have made.

Four flower option


Three flower option


I have also started the assembly of the main body of the bag. here is the mock up.


I have started stitching the centre divider in place I have learnt for larger bags that it is not necessary to stitch around all of the corners on the centre divider.


I have now finished the stitching of the centre divider and am looking at how I am going to join this piece to the back and front panels. I think this may involve unpicking the bottom line of stitching to allow the inner section to be turned inside out.

It turned out that I did not need to unpick the stitching although I did need to have a rethink. I have been trying to work out a good way of explaining this but honestly I cannot I will just try to show it through pictures.


To get the finished look that I wanted I stitched the two pieces of the back and flap together. When I reached the point where the front piece was to be attached I added the edges in from the inside. To make life easier I had spent some time marking and punching stitching holes. My first attempt I managed to attach it backwards rather than inside out.

This is actually the moment of truth and I am pleased to say that it worked out quite well.


I had left the two pieces that make up the flap / back panel separate so I could stitch the inside first then the outer red leather adding the piping in as I went.


As you can see I have prepared the front panel ready for fitting this is going to be difficult as I don’t want any ends or edges showing. My current plan is to stitch the two pieces of the front panel either side of the gusset piece so the end will be hidden. I am really not sure if this is possible so I have not gone any further than one stitch.



I am pleased to say that the insert fits perfectly in the rear pocket.

The strap is next along with the mounts.

I cut some leather for the strap but I don’t like it so I will start over in the mean time I have looked at the front panel again I wanted to hide the stitching but soon realised it would not work . But I kept right on trying having finally given up on that this afternoon I got on with fitting the front.


The main body of the bag is finished all that is left is the strap.


The pen carrier and the bag designed to carry it.





The leather needs to settle into its new shape I thing it looks ok.

Now back to that strap.

The first part of the strap is the mounts they need to be towards the centre of the side of the bag but not hard against the seam where the divider is.


I decided to go with a simple shape I will explain the reason for this later.

As the bag is cream and red throughout I lined the mount in cream leather it will not be seen but we all know it is there.


This is how this mount is fitted a slot is cut into the side of the bag one end is passed through the slot and the stitching goes through the sides of the bag pulling everything together. This makes the mount very strong with minimum stress on the side of the bag. The simpler the shape the easier it is to stitch through.


When I was happy with the test piece it was time to make the holes in the side of the bag and fit the mounts.


This strap needs to have a buckle at one end to allow for adjustment so I made a short strap to fix the buckle to.


The next step is to make the actual strap it is quite long but I decided to stitch each edge it took three days a couple of hours a day.


Here are the pictures of the finished bag


As the main purpose of this bag is to carry pens then a pen carrier is required.


The pen carrier is designed to fit into the rear pocket of the bag as well as act as a free standing display to show off the pens.




Thanks for looking




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