The Rio Grande Bag

I’ve designed and made quite a few bags before but this is the first time I made my own leather straps so I will mostly focus on that part.

I used a Tandy Leather Co tool called a leather strap cutter that my Dad got me and leather from along the spine of the animal where it is strongest because straps = suspended weight.

Check out the photos in the gallery below to see the strap creation progression and the final bag:

  1. To true up the edge first draw a straight line along the (spine) length. Set the width of your strap cutter wider than the widest part you’ll need to cut off. Align the zero on the strap cutter (where the blade is) with your line. Pull and keep the zero on the line as you go down the length.
  2. Next, adjust the strap cutter to the width of the strap that you want, let’s say 1″. Align the trued edge with the cutter handle and pull down.
  3. Roll the resulting straps to keep them neat while waiting to be sewed. (optional)
  4. Assemble two straps together, wrong sides facing, so that both sides of the outer strap are smooth. Stitch up one side. I used a Consew industrial sewing machine for this and it works great. Home machines can work too but it is much easier this way.
  5. Stitch down the other side of the strap assembly.
  6. Take a moment to admire your work

The fabric is Rio Grande wool from Pendleton Woolen Mills and the wool bias tape is from PWM. The leather is from a hide that I bought from Tandy to repair a belt (how I did it post coming soon). I was able to sew leather using the Consew industrial sewing machine at Needles Open Studio.

The interior is unlined. The exterior has a pocket formed by a seam along the bottom and at the front corners of the wool panel. The back of the bag is smooth.

This took about 10 hours to:

  • cut the leather bag body from hide
  • cut the wool panels
  • cut the straps from hide
  • sew the straps and cut them to size
  • sew the straps on the front and back
  • sew the panel on the front
  • sew the bag body together

These activities are not included in the time estimate:

  • designing the bag
  • creating the pattern
  • sourcing the materials