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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Riveted Leather Clutch with Two Wrist Straps

This is the first time I've worked with leather in this way, and I am super happy about how well it went. I bought a bag of leather scraps from Michael's craft store. You can't (aren't supposed to) open the bags to see what's in them, but the bags are clear plastic, so I could tell that there was a big piece folded up in one bag. When I opened it at home, I was thrilled to find a big enough piece to make a purse! I had wanted long pieces to make bracelets, but I couldn't pass up the chance to try making a purse. I thought about it for a few weeks, trying to decide what kind of shape I wanted and just where to cut the leather. It only cost about $7, but I think it's unlikely that I will ever find another big piece like that for $7, so I didn't want to waste it. 

After spending a while thinking about what kind of purse to make, Stefanie suggested that I make a clutch, and I loved the idea!

Here's what I needed:

Sharp scissors or a rotary cutter and cutting mat
X-Acto knife
Hole puncher
Rivet setter and anvil
Magnetic snaps

Sorry these photos are re-enactments on scraps. I made my real purse at night after the kids were in bed, working in the basement so I could hammer without waking them up. I took these photos on a different day when I could set up in sunlight.

When I was finally ready to cut into the leather, I used my rotary cutter and mat. I cut three sides straight, with right angles, and left the fourth side raw. 

Then I marked where to punch holes for the rivets. I used a marker, making small dots that would be cut out by the hole puncher. 

Then I lined up the two holes and pushed the rivet through. 

 Then placed the top on and squeezed until it clicked. 

Now it was time to hammer. I found that I could hammer right on the rivets and it worked for me. You can use an anvil, which will protect the surface of the rivets and let them keep a curved shape on top. My bag is kind of distressed looking, so I didn't mind if my rivets got beaten up by the hammer. It only added more character. 

To use the anvil and setter, find a good spot to work. Please don't do this on your kitchen table - you might dent it. If you have a workbench, that would be great. Maybe put a scrap of wood on top of a cement basement floor or out on your driveway. Then place the anvil on top of the wood, with the concave part facing up. This will cradle the rivet so that it's less likely to slip, and also less likely to be scratched or dented. Then place the rivet/leather sandwich on top. Then the setter. Hit the setter with the hammer as many times as needed. The rivet should be tight, so that it can't spin.

I added two sets of magnetic snaps inside to keep the purse closed. This part needs extra care. It's really easy to slice through the leather, so take it slowly and don't take out your aggression here (that's what hammer was for in the last step!). You can mark with a pen or pencil where the prongs of the snaps should go. 

Using an X-Acto knife, I made two small slices for the prongs. Err on the side of caution and make tiny cuts. 

I inserted the prongs into the slits. 

Then I folded down the prongs. There is some debate over folding them in or out. Both work! If you don't want to see the outline of the prongs beside the snap, fold them in. For extra stability, fold them out. Just think about what makes sense to you before you fold the prongs, and I'm sure it will be fine either way.

Here's what the snaps look like inside my bag:

Now I added two extra strips of leather to cover up the backs of the snaps (the prongs). I also wanted to add more stability to my bag, since my leather is really soft. My bag is kind of floppy, and I thought that adding more layers might reinforce it a bit. You could just add a little square on top of each snap's back, if you don't want a whole strip. I riveted again, but you could sew the leather at any point instead of riveting. You'll need a special strong needle for your sewing machine. The needle will be marked "leather" and is available at any sewing store. Just take it slowly with your machine and help it out by turning the hand crank when necessary. 

I also decided to copy a clutch that I had seen on Madewell, and a knockoff that I had bought from Forever21, and add a wrist strap on the back. While playing around with the placement, I decided to add TWO wrist straps, which I've never seen before. It seemed like a fun new twist on a simple clutch. I also decided to reverse the fabric and create some contrast. The right side of my leather is a dark green - so dark that it's not always obvious that it's green. But the wrong side is pretty bright and clearly green. I think it's fun to show some of that side, too. 

I measured the strap on my F21 bag to see how much extra length I needed to fit my wrist between the strap and the bag. 1.5" is the answer. I used a measuring tape and a pen to mark where I needed to make holes for the rivets. 

Because these rivets weren't going to be placed near the edge of the leather, I couldn't use my hole puncher. I had to carefully use my knife to make the holes in the bag.  I put a fabric cutting mat inside the bag so that I wouldn't cut through the front of my purse. Once you work with the leather a bit, you'll get the hang of how much pressure to use with your knife. For the strips, I was able to punch holes with the hole puncher - which feels safer, so use that whenever you can.

Then I riveted the straps on, and I was done!   

 It's kind of floppy, so I might trim it down a bit. I'd have to re-rivet the sides, but that's no big deal. Or I could try sewing it this time. There are so many options! I do like the long proportions that it currently has, but it might be too long to be really usable. If I cut it down, I'll let you know how it turns out.  

Have you done any leatherworking? What about at a childhood camp? Did everyone make those lanyards out of leather cording? 

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