How to Make a Leather Backpack by Yourself

Step 1: Research & Design

The tools, materials, technique, design, and processes are very important when designing a bag, you also need to consider the purpose as well as the material you want it to be made of.

Design

When designing a bag from scratch, it is often easier to use another suitable bag as a rough template for the dimensions of the bag, and the length of the straps.Whenever you are designing a bag from the scratch, it is good to use another bag as a template for the dimension of the bag as well as the length of the straps. It is also crucial to minimize stitches and seams because it would be time consuming. So as to minimize this, you can incorporate bends; this method will tend to produce a rounded figure rather than the sharp angles. However, if you love to put angles, you can go ahead.

Materials

  • Leather – about 16 square feet for the main compartment and 1x24cm zip for the interior pocket
  • 50m Thread (preferably waxed)
  • x18 Rivets / Chicago screws
  • x2 Buckles to suit shoulder straps
  • x5 Screw-back feet which is optional

Tools

  • 2x Blunt needles –
  • Awl
  • Hole punch
  • Stitch punch
  • Xacto knife
  • Chisel
  • Pliers
  • Hammer
  • Flat-head screw-driver
  • Steel ruler
  • Thumbtacks
  • Clips
  • Edge groover which is optional
  • Over-stitch wheel which is optional

Step 2: The Basics

Marking & punching the stitch lines

  1. Use a pointed tool and ruler to mark the stitch line.
  2. Hammer along the line marked with the stitch punch until the punch penetrates.

Thread the needle

Step 3: Template & CuttingFor the template

You can print the blueprint on an A0 paper and carefully cut it out with a knife and ruler.

For the leather

For the leather, arrange the pieces of template to minimize wastage and tape it down. Outline the corners with an awl; while you are doing this, it’s good to also mark the rivet points, crease lines, stitch lines and other important points. Remove the template and cut out the pieces with a ruler and knife. 

Step 4: Front CompartmentFirst, let’s make the front compartment. Let’s make the front compartment first.

First, let’s make the front compartment. Let’s make the front compartment first.

Design

By making the front compartment alone, enclosed space would be created between it and the front panel of the main compartment into a different interior pocket. This can be done by making a zipped slot on the backside of the piece. The slot for the zip consists of a single cut line which allows the zip to be hidden when closed. For convenience, magnet closures were used. With this, the backpack can be carried over one shoulder and reach inside the front compartment with a single hand. 

Step 5: Front Compartment: Zip Slot

Punch the stitch line as it was marked on the blueprint.

Cut out the squares at the end of the zip slot

Make an incision along the center of the slot

Use thumbtacks to hold the zip in position

Stitch down the zip

Step 6: Front Compartment: Magnet Closures

Cut out the 2x 5cm squares to be stitched to the lid.

Secure the magnet closure to the squares

Glue the square to the right position

Mark and stitch to the lid.

Step 7: Front Compartment: Accordion Folds

Mark the fold lines on the leather with the aid of blueprint.

Wet the line with water in order to make it easier to fold.

Mark the first fold.

Repeat for the second fold but in an outward manner.

Repeat on the other side.

Step 8: Front Compartment: Stitching to the Main Bag

Punch and stitch the top and bottom line of the front compartment to the front panel of the bag.

Punch and stitch the sides to the main bag.

Step 9: Front Panel

Moving on to the main work

Design

As earlier mentioned, I want to minimize the level of stitching and that is why I used fold more than stitch lines. So take note of the blueprint because some line is fold line and not stitch line. It is also important to incorporate extended zip cover flap to guard against the sneaky droplets. If you are making this bag ensure to leave the zip handle cutouts for extra protection.

Step 10: Front Panel: Zips

Mark out and punch the stitch line without the zip.

Pin along the line with the aid of thumbtacks every 5cm.

Place the zip on the pins and secure them with clips.

Stitch in place.

Step 11: Front Panel: Corners

Make a diagonal cut in the corner of the wing, leaving 3mm from the inside.

Punch corresponding stitch lies in the top of the side panels and the ends of the wings.

Fold the wings over itself and secure with clips.

Punch & stitch to the edge.

Flip it inside out.

Tuck the remaining flap under the side panel.

Stitch to the very end using the previously punched holes.

Repeat for the other corner.

Step 12: Shoulder StrapsDesign

It is good to make the straps with belt, it would be completely out of the leather with 2 straps stitched back to back so as to have good strength. If it is made this way, the amount of stitching required would be minimal. But when it is all prepped and threaded, you’ll find it very easy to stitch. The buckles, as well as the loops, are secured with Chicago screws.

Step 13: Shoulder Straps:

contact out four different copies of the top and bottom for the shoulder straps with the aid of the template. Group them into two sets and use clip to hold them. Punch and stitch.

Step 14: Shoulder Straps: Buckling UpTop shoulder strap

Mark and punch out 6 holes for the buckle tongue. This would be done to suit different bodies, so a brilliant idea is to use an existing bag to get an accurate measurement.

Keeper loop

Cut two 12x2cm straps.

Punch & stitch flush.

Use any method you’re comfortable with – this won’t be visible.

Try not to overlap the ends while stitching – this will make the folds too bulky.

Bottom shoulder strap

Mark a suitable location for the buckle.

Cut out a 2.5×0.4cm rectangle along the center of the strap.

Feed the loop through, then the buckle.

Feed the buckle tongue through the cutout and fold the strap over.

Use clips and thumbtacks to hold the straps while marking the locations for the rivets.

Rivet down (or punch out holes and attach Chicago screws)

Slide the keeper loop against the rivets.

Rivet down the other side, trapping the loop.

Step 15: Back PanelDesign

In order to strengthen the bag and minimize stitches, extend the back panel down and fold to act as the bottom panel. An additional panel can also be stitched on this bottom section.

Step 16: Back Panel: Hand Strap

Secure the hand strap to the back panel with the aid of a thumbtack.

Punch & stitch.

Step 17: Back Panel: Attaching Lower Shoulder Strap

Trim the bottom part of the lower strap to suit the angle of the back panel. There is no need to cut the threads; you will still use them when stitching the straps.

Punch and stitch hole according to the hole of the strap.

Stitch the straps to the suede side

Repeat the same for the other side. Once you are done with this, punch the stitch line to suit the top shoulder strap at the right location on the back panel. These are the outer set of markers.

Align the top strap in the right position and secure with thumbtacks.

Hammer them together

Do not stitch them together yet.

Step 18: Back Panel: Bottom Panel

With the aid of template, secure the bottom panel to the right section of the back panel punch the stitch holes on the four sides and then stitch only the top side. Once this is done you won’t have to stitch twice when you want to attach the back panel to the front.

Step 19: Assembling Main CompartmentDesignThe back panel will be stitched to the side of the front panel. This is why a border of about 1cm is around all sides that would be stitched. This is very difficult when compared to the conventional way but this method will look very clean.

Step 20: Assembling the Main Compartment: Zip

Ensure your position and secure the zips just like you did for the front panel.

Start stitching from the center.

Cut a notch in the zip flap for a smooth stitching transition from zipping to body.

Transition onto the body of the bag, making sure the back panel is on top of the sides.

Test the zip for good alignment.

Repeat on the other side.

Step 21: Assembling the Main Compartment: Sides and Bottom

Continue stitching down the sides.

You can now continue stitching onto the top of the strap part.

Stop and tie off when you’ve reached the bottom panel.

Start a new stitch on top of the bottom panel, and stitch all the layers together.

Continue stitching around the perimeter of the bottom panel.

Tie off somewhere near the middle and repeat for the other side.

Step 22: Attaching the Top Strap

Stitch the top straps to their corresponding places on the back panel.

Step 23: Attaching Rivets

You are through with the most challenging part and this is the final stage. You can now select the area where you want to join the leather and secure them with rivets in order to have extra strength and durability.

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