Tuesday, 12 October 2010

An unleather bag


This is the bag that I made with the 1/2 metre of black unleather that I bought...in retrospect I should have bought a little more as I used every last bit of it and the amount that I had to work with did dictate the design of the bag a little. The black that I've used for the bag has a little more a sheen to it than the brown that I used for the iPod holder in the last post. I wish that I didn't know that this wasn't real leather as I'm completely unable to objectively decide whether it's doing a realistic leather impression or whether it is very obviously a piece of plastic impersonating pig's clothing. 

My mannequin is modelling the bag here...they are not my empty, floppy arms.
The material was much easier to work with than I expected - apparently one should use paper clips, rather than pins, to hold leather (or unleather) in place while sewing, but I found that the paperclips just became misshapen, so I kept the pieces in place using my hands. Other recommendations are to baste the pieces together using glue and to use a Teflon sewing foot, due to the material being a little more slippery than usual. I don't have a Teflon foot and my past history told me to avoid the glue if I wished for a modicum of success with this project - I am incapable of gluing neatly, and have long since given up attempting to use the beautiful purse frames that you glue to fabric. My inbuilt walking foot seemed to hold everything in place nicely and a leather needle punctured through the fabric in a way that left it unscathed.

I have a couple of small changes to the shape that I'd make, but I'm thinking of writing this bag pattern up as one of my paid-for-patterns. Perhaps also showing how it would look in wool suiting and a summer weight fabric. It's very simple and for my unleather version I even omitted any top stitching, as I like the minimalism of it that way, but I'd probably add some in for fabric bags.


Inside is a zippered pocket (yes, the grey zip colour is dubious, but it was frenzied sewing that didn't allow for a trip to the shops to purchase more zippage), as well as an open pocket. I lined it with some Hope Valley by Denyse Schmidt - I'd earmarked it for the facings of a corduroy skirt that's in the works, but ended up using it here as it felt like a suitable partner for the outer fabric...now I must re-buy it for the skirt.


What do you think....should I refrain from buying any more unleather...or is it a viable alternative? It feels gorgeous...I'm less sure about whether it looks that way. Honest answers on a postcard...or just in the comments section.


Zebra girl took this picture of me and my bag before school this morning - I love that her silhouette standing on the bed is reflected on the wall behind me.

Wishing you a happy Tuesday,
Florence x

28 comments:

  1. Hi Florence. I read your last post but didn't have a chance to comment. I am certainly not much of an expert on leather, but it does look very leathery to me (which now sounds like an insult though it isn't meant to be). The bag looks supple and I really like the shape too. I agree with you about the minimalism as it lets the unleather speak for iself. I would be intersted to see if other colours look as convincing because I really can't see the difference from your photos. x

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  2. It certainly looks like leather in the photographs!

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  4. I agree with Pipany, the unleather looks lovely and supple, just like a nice case of the real thing.

    By the way, I saw on a blog the other day (agh, but I don't remember the name!) a jacket made from leather where the pieces were held together pre-sewing with bulldog clips; this looked much less fiddle than paper clips, so you might want to try that.

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  5. Some people call it pleather..... oh, that's truely plastic, maybe. Anywho - I love it! It will be interesting to see how it wears over time - but the shape is great! I've been wondering about sewing with leather - after looking at these bags: http://www.etsy.com/shop/cecilandedith

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  6. The bag looks amazing - I can only imagine how it must feel, there's nothing like the feel of soft leather - but I have noticed that the fake stuff is feeling a lot more 'genuine' these days. You've done a beautiful job!

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  7. Florence - I think it looks fantastic! I have shied away from using unleather for an entire bag but have used it for bag straps. I have used paperclips to hold and you are right, they get all misshaped! You did a great job on the bag and it looks like the real deal to me! Great job!!

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  8. I think it looks amazing. Full stop! I think human beings are very odd in how we like something - it looks good, it feels good etc. Then we ask what it is made of and suddenly it becomes bad! (Once read an anecdote where a girl drank a bowl of soup and finds something nasty at the bottom of the bowl - an insect I think. While girl was choking and doing a re-think about her soup which she had previously thought delicious her grandfather reminded her that that is what she had in fact experienced and that therefore the soup was still delicious and not suddenly disgusting.

    Anyway, if anyone says anything about pleather (liking that name!)I would just say that I'm a vegetarian who prefers not to wear leather. Not understanding why dead skin is somehow inherently nicer anyway! Personally if anyone peered at my bag - made by me or otherwise, then asked 'is that leather' (if they have to ask, it must be a pretty good imitation), before passing judgement; I would find them pretty rude!

    Be proud of your bag Florence, it's got a really nice shape and style and looks great. Love the inside too!
    Siobhan

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  9. I was thinking you could use small binder clips, too, instead of pins or paper clips. But I won't comment about the leatherness of it. It's hard to tell in pictures, and for me, leather has a scent that I love as much as the feel.

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  10. I think the bag is gorgeous - a wonderful design/shape. such simplicity but oh so elegant!

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  11. I love your bag - leather or not. My only issue with pleather is what happens to it in the cold weather - becoming hard and un-leather like. I love the minimalism of the design. And, thank heavens that was not your arm in the photo!

    FYI - one of my favorite office supply sewing room supplies is the "binder clip" - i sues them for everything - way better than pins for a lot of things! And - invest in a teflon foot - makes sewing the pleather and laminated cottons a breeze - they're not expensive!

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  12. Looks wonderful, soft and supple and lovely style. Hope valley lining was the perfect choice. I have had vegan leather boots before and the quality was fantastic and not at fake looking. The materials are out there but not all unleather is created equally!

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  13. It looks leather to me, in fact it looks like one of those very expensive minimal-looking leather bags. Maybe it's the lack of top stitching which creates this effect, I'm not sure. I LOVE the lining fabric, in fact I love the entire Hope Valley range but I think the simplicity of the criss crossing on the fabric is perfect for your elegant and stylish bag. Beautiful. Jane x

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  14. Both the ipod case and the bag look fabulous! K x

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  15. Looks like a very good leather substitute to me. A tip from when I did a lot of sewing with something similar for play costumes - check that you don't get a sort of build up on the needle - some of these fabrics sort of warm up under the friction of the needle going in and out. (I was sewing vast quantities though).
    Love the bag.

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  16. I think your unleather adventures have been a success! I am not a leather expert, but to me it looks like a basic leather bag. Nice job!

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  17. Sorry, I think I might be the only one here that disagrees...I really like the style of the bag but the first thing I thought when I saw the photo was eugh - that looks cheap. I think it is the shine on the fabric, as I like the look of your iPod case.

    Sorry, but I don't think unleather works for me on a large scale!

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  18. I'm another veggie who draws very wobbly lines when it comes to leather. I'm kind of surprised how good the bag looks, actually. The sheen isn't far off my lovely Radley bag, which is similarly understated.

    Spend some time with the bag, and you'll forget what it's supposed to look like and see it more clearly.

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  19. Hard to tell that this isn't real leather, Florence. Well, at least from the pictures. I think it makes a great looking bag and no one would know that it isn't leather.

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  20. It looks like leather to me in the pictures - I think it looks fabulous! And I'm really enjoying that you're venturing into unleather on my behalf - I can learn through you! Thanks for sharing your adventures in sewing.

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  21. Someone else suggested bulldog clips but what you want are MINI bulldog clips. You can get these at Staples. Otherwise try MINI clothes pegs you can get these from craft shops (they're used in cardmaking and scapbooking). The bag looks lovely and sometimes having to create a bag out of a limited piece of fabric turns out better than we expected. Be proud of it!

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  22. Gosh, thank you so much for all your comments and advice.

    The tip with the bull dog clips (or mini bull dog clips) is wonderful and I think unleather or no unleather I will now have to invest in some of those!

    Beth - those bags are gorgeous - and that's the frustrating difference between leather and unleather - with real leather you can leave raw edges...with unleather you can't.

    Anonymous - thank you so much for your honest opinion - yes, the sheen on the leather had bothered me a little too - although some leather does actually look like that, when I'm choosing a leather bag I would normally go for one that is more matt and has more character and lack of uniformity in the leather, for exactly the reason you said.

    Christine - thank you so much for sharing where you can get the mini-bulldog clips - that will save me hours of research!

    Florence x

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  23. I love the simplicity of this bag, and would never have guessed it wasn't real leather. I too am a veggie, and though I do have rather a lot of leather bags and shoes I am always on the look out for good alternatives - so thanks! I look forward to seeing the fabric versions.

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  24. Hi Florence! I am not a fan of manmade fibres in general, but this looks really good. If it also feels good, it's a keeper. In general I can spot the difference between leather and unleather really easily, but not in this one. (On the other hand it might have to do with many items made of unleather not being nearly as beautiful and stylish as your bag). Well done!

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  25. Hello Florence - if you don't tell that it's not a real leather bag, no one will notice it's not. A really great bag! Chloe Patricia

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  26. It looks like a comfortable bag and, from the photos, very much like leather. Maybe you could wear it out and about and pop into a shop or two that stocks some top top notch leather and then see how you feel about it then?

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  27. gorgeous. really really lovely

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  28. I love the look of your bag. Personally I'm not a fan of unleather but I also don't like the look of an animal-shaped bit of leather. My solution to it is to recycle. I found an old, very unstylish leather jacket which was made out of lovely leather. It only cost a few pounds and after taking it apart I had some big pieces of leather that were suitable for a bag.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x