Saturday, February 2, 2013


Leather crafting is one of my favourite hobbies, it's one I've done quietly for years, amassing skills and knowledge enough that I would say I'm nearly at end of an Apprenticeship in leather craft.  There's still so much to learn I couldn't call myself a Journeyman and not laugh afterwards.

Today's project is a tobacco wallet to go with my pipes.  Three tobacco wallets to go with my three pipes.  The funnier thing about this is that I haven't yet smoked any of my pipes, I'm a non-smoker where meat isn't involved.  But I have always liked the look, feel and idea of pipes and the smell of pipe tobacco.  For certain costuming purposes, they can be the very prop that makes the outfit.

Anyway, today's project is really straight forward.  I had a plastic, store bought pouch of pipe tobacco stashed away to serve as a basic guide for the size I would make into my pattern.  My goal was to be able to tuck said pouch into my leather exterior to help protect the tobacco and at the same time give a nice looking way to carry it while in costume.  To do this, I traced it unfolded on a brown paper bag I'd cut open.  Then traced around that mark in a bold line with a Sharpie marker so that I gave myself plenty of seam allowance.  On the pattern, I marked where the fold should be, then folded the paper along that line.  Cutting out of the pattern soon followed, with marking on it what it's all about, and that's the pattern done.

(Yes, I know I have one too many B's on my pattern.)

I then picked out my three leathers, today's projects will likely live in some lovely wooden boxes with the pipes they correspond with, so I went to my garment grade leather stash and picked out three supple, soft pieces that are three different, lovely shades.  To trace the pattern, I flipped them over so that the 'wrong' side or the suede side was showing, traced my pattern and cut them out with regular old garden variety scissors.

I love a natural edge on a flap, so where possible I've used them, like on the fawn piece.  What I do there is make sure I've got plenty of room to trace the whole pattern, plus the raw edge.  I trace the two long sides, then the end that I'll cut.  Then I shift the pattern up onto the leather so that it fully covers the natural edge and make sure my template lines up with the lines I've already drawn and extend the lines.

Closing the pouch will be a simple length of the same leather I'm using to make the pouches with, so I cut a strip about a quarter of an inch wide and as long as I could get out of my pieces of leather to be the strap.  I suggest at this point picking out a button or decoration if you're going to put one on for the strap to tie onto, so that when you put the strap through it's little slot (see below) you can sew the button/decoration in at the start, rather than waiting until you have the whole thing finished to realise your lovely new pouch just seems to be missing something....

The strap slot generally goes in the middle, though you could get really fancy and have more than one.  Either way, you want them evenly spaced to neatly and completely hold the pouch closed.  You'll want to make the slot just a little bit bigger than you cut your strap so that you can slot it through, easy-peasy.  You can use the hole punch, putting one hole in the centre and two hole at the long edges of where you want your strap to come through, if there's any leather between you can clean it up with an exacto blade.  Give yourself enough room to then punch holes for stitching the strap down and sew on your decoration all in one go.  Tying in the strap can also work, as can riveting, though I don't need anything so heavy duty as a rivet.

You could also technically use a snap type closure, but before you decide on that, think about if it's appropriate for what you'll be wearing when you use that pouch.  Hobbits, after all are not know for the snap technologies, nor are 17th century Pirates.  Buckles and latches are an option, and on heavier grades of leather can look really smashing, but consider where this pouch will live when you haven't taken it out for a smoke, and if that latch is going to be pressing into you in uncomfortable places or ways.  I'm all about the comfort in my costuming.

Next comes the hole punching and the sewing.  Tandy sells a nifty little tool that puts little indentions into the leather so that you know where to punch your holes.  For something like this I like to use the middle wheel that comes with the kit.  Then I use a rotary punch designed for smaller holes, I think it's called a 'sewing punch', or some such.  It's the one I use the most to be honest.  Only the sides need holes or sewing, so I just use the marking tool and hole punch on the sides.  I punch holes all the way up, so that I can do decorative stitches alone the side edge of the flap.

For sewing this project, I used waxed linen.  It's heavier duty than is really needed, but I didn't have anything thinner that I don't already have set up for sewing in my fabric-only sewing machine.  I think it looks alright, not too big like latigo or other leather laces, and not too thin like my all-cotton thread.  Brown for the brown and fawn, and black for the cordovan leathers.

Now you're at the point where you have to decide if you want your stitches to show or not.  I like mine showing, so I stitch my leather together right sides out.  If you want to seam your pouch so that the stitches are hidden, you'll need to turn it inside out, just like you were sewing clothes.

On the brown, I used a simple double running stitch, the cordovan is done in a Two Loop Spanish Edge Lacing, and the fawn is done in a criss-cross stitch.  To be honest, I should have a thicker thread for the cordovan, just because of the type of stitch I used.  Generally I use a flat sort of latigo for that type of stitch, but right now I haven't got any and a trip to Tandy or Hobby Lobby is not in the cards.

The three came out decently enough that I'm not going to rip them apart and start all over again, which is always a good sign.  It's made the HELP (HEtero Life Partner) jealous cause he doesn't have any to go with his pipes. I told him that he's welcome to make his own.  The pattern is there, he just has to pick out his leather and follow my easy to find instructions....heh.

Before you ask, yes I am available for custom leather work....

Today's biliography:

Leather Braiding, written by Bruce Grant, Cornell Maritime Press - a Division of Schiffer Publishing, LTD.  First edition printed in 1950.

The Hobbit, written by J.R.R Tolkien, loads of publishers, multiple editions, annotations, illustrations, about the's and nearly anything else you can think of that might have been written about a book originally published in 1937.

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