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How to make a DIY leather clutch

Every time it all happens again. As Summer holidays get closer I pick a brand-new last-minute project to pack right before leaving. It’s just not the one project I made 10, 100, 1000 times before. Of course not! It has to be something I’ve never tried before that I don’t quite know if I’ll end up packing for real or I’ll just leave behind.

And this year was no exception. I’ve already share with you the tulle skirt and the crop top projects I made for my friend Grazia’s wedding. How couldn’t I complete the outfit with a DIY leather clutch? Never ever!

So, my initial checklist was something like this:
never worked with leather ✔️
no more than one purse ever sewed ✔️
cartamodello non adatto ai beginner ✔️
various changes to make to the pattern ✔️

However, in my defense:
– the clutch bag sewing pattern by Constructivism Patterns was just lovely and super detailed
– the Italian leather from La Garzarara Outlet had the perfect shade of pink to match my sandals
– why should one buy a clutch bag when they can make their own just the way they want it?

So here I am, telling you about that day, right before leaving for my Summer holidays, when I spent the day in my studio sewing up a leather clutch bag with a weaving detail and how, finally, I made it work. I’ll share with you some tips I already knew and some others I learned on the way. Let’s get started!

What you’re going to learn in this tutorial

Many tips on how to work with leather and how to sew it with a standard sewing machine. I’ll tell you more about my workflow to make the bag and the sewing pattern I used, plus all the little tricks to make your make a success.

How to make a DIY leather clutch

Execution time: 3/4 hours
Difficulty: intermediate
Supplies:

  • Weave Clutch sewing pattern by Constructivism Patterns
  • leather for the clutch (see below for details about fabrics and interfacings)
  • medium-weight iron-on interfacing
  • medium-weight fabric for lining
  • magnetic snap button
  • bag supplies: rings x2 and metal chain
  • heavy-weight non-fusible interfacing for bags
  • coordinated thread
  • fabric marker (Prym art. 611807)
  • leather machine needle #90 (Prym art. 152450/152101)
  • wonder tape (Prym art. 987125)
  • fabric clips (Prym art. 610185/610180)
  • teflon presser foot
  • sewing machine
  • basic sewing tools

Fabric tips

For this project you need a light-to-medium-weight leather, in order to be able to make the front weaving detail. Even with a lightweight leather you need to alter the pattern and the construction as explained below to work with a single layer, without using the detail facing. The leather I used for this clutch comes from La Garzarara shop, an Italian leather supplier from Marche. What I liked the most? The great staff who’s willing to give you some shopping advice based on the project you’d like to make (you can also contact them through Instagram here).

As for the lining, I used some of the lovely viscose/lurex fabric from Supercut I had left after my latest crop top project.

As for the fusible interfacing, my suggestion is to add it at least to the facing, plus a double layer where you install the snap button. If your leather is pretty thin as mine was, it’s best to reinforce all pattern pieces. I chose a medium-weight fusible interfacing from Prym (art. 968200). It comes in a 90×45 cm package, enough to make the clutch.

If you chose a lightweight, thin leather, it’s best to also add a stiffener, as suggested by the original pattern. This non-fusible very heavy stiffener will be placed in between the leather and the lining (except for the front detail part), as explained in the instruction booklet that comes with the pattern.

How much fabric you need?

When working with leather talking about fabric yardage doesn’t make much sense. Leather comes in irregular shapes and each piece may vary in size. For this project I worked with two pieces of leather (about 50×60 cm/20″x24″ each) You can find further details about the list of supplies inside the instruction booklet of the Weave Clutch pattern.

About the sewing pattern…

The design of the Weave Clutch was love at first sight. Minimal and sophisticated at the same time, plus a retro touch. The sewing pattern is available in English on Genevieve’s Etsy shop, who was very kind to answer all of my questions. She gave me some precious advice on how to alter the pattern the way I wanted plus how to adapt it to leather (as the pattern is originally designed for fabric). You can buy the digital sewing pattern online and print it and assemble it at home following the instructions included. Construction is explained step-by-step with photos and illustrations: more than 100 steps to assist you all the way through.

You can buy the sewing patterns from Constructivism Patterns taking advantage of a special coupon Genevieve created just for you: use the code THEYELLOWPEG20 at checkout for 20% off the entire shop.

Here's the leather I chose for my clutch bag. In this picture you can get the feeling of its thickness and structure.

1

Printing and assembling the pattern

You can find details on how to print and assemble the Weave Clutch sewing pattern inside the instruction booklet. I suggest you print the whole pattern twice and then assemble the pieces so as to have a full piece (instead of half of it to cut on the fold). This is really important for cutting it out of leather.

2

Altering the pattern, cutting and prepping

To make my own version of the Weave Clutch I made the following alterations to the pattern:

  • I removed the zip and used a magnetic snap closure instead (so you don’t need part 4, the zip facing)
  • I added a metal chain to make it easier to carry around
  • I removed parte 2, the front detail facing, working on a single layer of leather Hence, the weaving detail won’t be backed by the facing.
  • I drafted a new facing for finishing the top part of the clutch (and to hold the snap button). I opted for a finished width of 5 cm (2″). You can alter the zip facing pattern piece widening it and making the short sides straight.
  • I altered the lining pattern to be sewed to a 5 cm-facing (instead of a smallerzip facing). To do that, you can place the 5 cm facing on top of part 3 (back panel) and figure out the new height of the lining piece from what’s left below (thus altering part 4 – lining).

Before cutting through leather carefully plan the placing of the pattern pieces so as to use it efficiently. The best way to cut leather is using rotary cutter + cutting mat + fabric weights. This will ensure you better accuracy than scissors (as I explain in this online course). Other than all pattern pieces I also cut two small stripes of leather (1×5 cm / 3/8″x2″) to hold the chain rings.

Cut also all lining pieces. My lining fabric is pretty structured so I didn’t need to interface it. Then cut the fusible interfacing and apply it on the wrong side of the leather pieces. Do this as you would for any other fabric, just set your iron to a medium temperature and use an ironing cloth to protect the leather.

If your leather is not very thick, consider using a non-fusible very heavy stiffener., as suggested in the pattern instructions. I haven’t used it but by the end I realised I needed it to give my clutch bag a little more structure.

Here's the altered facing pieces together with the small leather stripes to hold the metal chain

3

Sew the leather clutch

Once all your material is ready, you can dive into the clutch construction. Always test your sewing machine setup on leather scraps to adjust it as needed. Use a teflon presser foot and a leather-specific needle (see the list of supplies above for further details).
As you can’t use pins with leather, here are a few tips to hold the pieces together before sewing them:

  • use fabric clips instead of pins to prepare your pieces and remove them as you sew
  • use the wonder tape (a double sided sewing tape for fabric) to secure some parts together before sewing that would move and slide away otherwise (e.g. the leather stripes to hold the metal chain)

As I altered the pattern, I also needed to alter the construction a bit. Here’s the list of steps you can use as a reference together with the instruction booklet:

Leather

  1. Sew the sides, the base and the bottom corners of the bag
  2. Sew the sides of the facing pieces
  3. Sew the facing to the clutch placing the two stripes and rings in between at the sides and matching all seam allowances.
  4. Turn the facing right side out, press the seam allowances open and then press the facing toward the inside of the clutch. You can iron leather using an ironing cloth and a medium-temperature setting (preferably without steam).

Lining

  1. Sew the inside pocket (optional)
  2. Sew the sides and stay-stitch the base as showed in the instructions
  3. Sew the lining to the facing
  4. Insert the snap buttons centered on the facing
  5. Sew the bottom corners of the lining
  6. Sew part of the base leaving an opening.
  7. Turn the bag inside out through the opening, then close the opening at the base of the lining

Here are some pictures I took during the construction, I hope you’ll find them useful!

The facing is placed at the top of the clutch and held in place using fabric clips.
The wonder tape is very useful to hold together leather pieces that you don't want to slide away when sewing
The wonder tape is very useful to hold together leather pieces that you don't want to slide away when sewing
The clutch is almost done. Next step: sewing the base of the lining.
Here's the inside of the leather clutch

Ready to wear your DIY leather clutch?

So here is my leather clutch! I shared with you my personal experience and all the tricks I learned along the way. I’m really curious to see your own version of the Weave Clutch from Constructivism Patterns (pssst: remember to use the coupon on her shop).

I’ll have to admit it’s been a tricky project as I’ve never worked with leather before. But it was definitely worth the time and effort and I can’t wait to work on my next leather project! My biggest mistake was thinking I could make the leather clutch with the front detail facing as the original patter instructed. However thin your leather is, doubling the layers in the weaving detail made the bag just impossible to sew. Luckly I managed to unstitch the whole thing and make it on a single layer. Then I made it on a single layer. That was definitely the way to go!

Have you ever worked with leather? Tell me in the comments!
ciao ciao!
Simona

Here's the complete outfit for the wedding. I love that clutch!

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