What does the perfect diaper bag look like to you? For me, it’s a bag that doesn’t SCREAM “I’m a big, fat diaper bag“! I like diaper bags that look like purses, but that are a little more roomy to store more stuff. I recently had the chance to sew with a leather hide from Leather Hide Store for the first time, and I knew exactly what my project was going to be – my perfect, DIY slouchy leather diaper bag and a matching clutch! I’m really quite pleased with how it turned out, and today I’m going to share with you how to make an easy leather diaper bag and clutch yourself.
The leather I chose for this project is a gorgeous, distressed look gray-brown leather remnant called Calvary Bone. I ordered a few samples from Leather Hide Store, mulled over them for a while, and then I chose my favourite one! It’s quite thick, and I thought it was a great weight for a diaper bag and diaper clutch that would get a lot of wear. I was really drawn to its vintage, boho colour and look. It also happens to match our gray-brown oak laminate. Obviously I like this colour!
Since I’m a beginner at sewing with leather, I opted to design a really simple diaper bag that required as little stitching as possible. I’ve loved slouchy hobo styled bags FOREVER, so I thought this sort of bag shape would be the perfect one for my leather diaper bag. It’s basically just a big, lined square with a few darts and only a few seams.
This is a great bag to sew if you’re also beginning to use leather, or you could even make it out of an upholstery weight fabric. It took me a little while to visualize and design the pattern, but the actual sewing of this bag and clutch took me only a couple of days. (That’s MOM DAYS – sewing in 5 minute increments in between caring for three littles!)
I’ve worn this bag out grocery shopping, and I’m totally digging it so far! It’s light weight, simple and stylish. The magnetic snap closure makes it easy to open and close with one hand (a MUST for a diaper bag, I think) and the two inner pockets work well for dividing things so I don’t lose them. I seriously lose my keys and/or cell phone about once a day… I’m working on it.
The hardest part of making this bag for me was attaching the straps to its sides. Sewing over the seam of the bag was a little hair-pulling, let me tell you! I have a regular sewing machine, so I did have to research some of the best tips on how to sew this upholstery leather with one.
Here are some tips that I learned and used on how to sew leather with a regular sewing machine:
- don’t use pins on the leather when cutting (I just measured my pieces out with a hard ruler, drew on the leather with a pencil, and cut it with my rotary cutter)
- use a leather needle (they’re shaped differently than regular needles, so they cut through the leather the best)
- use polyester thread that will stretch and move with the leather
- use a long stitch (I used a stitch length of 4 for the entire project)
- use a walking foot or teflon foot to help the leather move through the machine (I used the latter)
Here’s how to make an easy, DIY slouchy leather diaper bag and clutch.
This bag measures about 13″ wide by 15″ tall and the darts create a base that’s about 4″ deep. It’s a slouchy, unstructured style.
- leather hide remnant (I used Calvary Bone from Leather Hide Store)
- 1/2 yard of lining fabric (I used some cotton voile that I had in my stash)
- 1/4″ elastic
- magnetic snap
- pearl snap
- polyester thread
- rotary cutter
- hard ruler
- cutting mat
- needle & thread
Using your hard ruler, measure and mark two squares on the leather that are 18″ x 18″. Make sure to inspect the leather first before you mark it for any scratches or holes since leather is a natural material that can have markings.
Cut the squares out with a rotary cutter and hard ruler, and then cut out two notches on one edge of each that measure 2″ x 2″. These are the darts for the bottom of your bag.
Next, fold the bottom corner of one of the side of your bag as shown so that the edges of the darts are right-sides-together and stitch with your sewing machine. Use a long stitch and a walking foot or teflon foot. Use a seam allowance of 1/4″. Repeat this step with all four darts.
Place the sides of your bag together with the right sides facing in. Match the darts and the tops. Use clips or your hands to hold the bag steady and not pins. Stitch around three sides of the bag as shown. Carefully sew over the thick darts – I had to hand-crank my machine over them a few times.
Decide on what length you’d like your handle to be, and then cut a piece of leather out of the hide that is the desired length of your handle x 1.3 (to account for the braiding) + 4″ for the base and 1 1/2″ wide. Then, draw two lines on the WRONG side of the leather that are each 1/2″ from the edges of the handle strip and that start 2″ from either end. You’re dividing your strap into thirds and then you’ll be braiding it using this fabulous “magic braid” technique. The best way I can explain it to you is by telling you to watch this video! Round the ends of the handles with your rotary cutter if desired.
You can tack the handle in place with some glue. I used Gorilla Glue only because I always have it around, but you could use a glue or contact cement especially designed for leather. Place the ends of the handle about 3″ from the top raw edge of your bag and centered on the side seams. Glue just the center of the bag ends to the bag so that you still have room to stitch them without running your needle through the glue.
This handle placement is going to help your bag fold at the top to create a relaxed top edge and a sort of “faux” facing.
Machine stitch the handles to the bag on three sides as shown. Go slowly over the seam.
Mark where the magnetic snap will go on the bag – it can be about 2″ from the top raw edge and centered horizontally. Use the snap manufacturer’s directions to install the snap. For mine, I cut tiny slits in the leather, poked the prongs of the snap though, and pushed them back to secure each side of the snap.
Now it’s time to sew the lining. Cut out two pieces of lining fabric that are 18″ wide by 12″ deep (NOT 15″ deep like shown in this picture – ARGH! I had to re-do the lining after I sewed it in because I didn’t account for the foldover of the bag’s top.) Cut out 2″ x 2″ notches in the bottom corners of the lining for darts.
Cut two pockets out of lining that are 12″ wide by 9″ deep.
Fold the sides of the pockets 1/2″ and then another 1/2″ to the wrong side and press. Iron the bottom the same, and then the top 1/2″ and then 3/4″ to create an elastic casing. Stitch around the edge as shown to finish the bottom and sides of the pocket and create an elastic casing at the top. Thread a piece of 1/4″ elastic through the top of the pocket that’s about 10″ long and secure it at each end. This creates a nice stretchy pocket that’s easy to access and holds things well inside. Repeat this for the second pocket.
Sew the darts of the lining pieces in the same way as you sewed the ones on the main bag pieces and then serge or zig-zag around the perimeter. Pin the pocket to the bag and place it about 2″ from the top of the bag lining and centered horizontally. Stitch it to the lining on three sides. Repeat with the other side of the bag and pocket.
Pin the lining pieces right sides together, matching the side seams and darts. Stitch around the three sides with a 1/2″ seam allowance, but leave a hole at the bottom of the lining that’s at least 12″ wide to flip the bag right side out later.
Keeping the lining inside out, place it over the bag’s outer as shown and match its side seams to the outer’s side seams. Hold or clip the bag to the lining, and stitch around the top using a 1/4″ seam. I sewed with the lining on top so that I could gently tug it if necessary to match the leather outer.
Flip the bag right side out by pulling the lining over the bag using the large hole. Stitch the lining shut by hand with a needle and thread.
Gently iron the lining flat where the lining meets the leather bag.
Push the lining down into your bag, and your done the main part of your bag!
You can choose to embellish your bag a little like I did mine by cutting 1/2″ strips of leather and tying them around the handles on each side.
I thought this gave the bag some more interest and a breezy, boho feel that I love!
To make the matching leather diaper clutch:
Measure and cut a piece of leather that is 2 1/2 times as long as the diapers and wipes case you want it to hold and about 2″ wider. You can round one end by using a bowl to mark the curve and a rotary cutter.
Fold the leather wrong-sides-together as shown so that it’s the same height as your diapers/wipes. Hold it in place and stitch along the sides about 1/4″ from each edge.
Set a pearl snap in the desired spot on the flap and main front of the clutch using the snap manufacturer’s directions. I used a snap setting tool.
Finito! You’re done and easy peasy matching leather diaper clutch to go with your new leather diaper bag.
Aren’t they purty? This bag would also make a great anything bag, so I can’t wait to use it for a long time to come.
Even Baby B was satisfied with the roominess of our new diaper bag.
She was even steady(ish) for new-bag-and-baby-selfies!
… And for the pics Little C (my 6 year old daughter) took of us modeling our new DIY leather bag and clutch!
Thanks for the sweet photos, Little C!
Tell me: Have YOU ever sewn with leather? What’s been your experience? I can’t wait to try again!
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Leather Hide Store. Thanks for providing me with this gorgeous leather to work with! As always, all of the opinions here are purely my own.