Monthly Archives: June 2008

hand painted leather sandals


This is my favorite pair of summer sandals. They were originally plain ol’ black and true to form, I couldn’t let them go unadorned. I had had this goddess-of-the-night picture swirling around my head for a few weeks and decided to trial it on the shoes before making it into a painting (which I never did).
Painting on leather requires a bit of prep to take the finish off so the paint will adhere well. You can do this with a commercial preparation or acetone (nail polish remover). I’ve used both and they’ve worked equally as well. You can buy paint specifically made for leather work or just use plain old acrylic. Again, I’ve used both successfully, but I do prefer the Angelus leather paints. I can’t go anywhere in these babies without having people comment on them. I’ve even gotten a couple commissions simply by walking around town in them!


zig zag bag: construction


I had been thinking of making corded handles out of the lining fabric, but then decided to use bamboo handles instead. So I had to make loops to attach the handles to the bag. I cut 3/4″ x 3″ leather strips, folded them in half length-wise and used the handles to mark the placement on the main bag sections. I rubber cemented them in place , then stitched, being careful to lift the lining fabric out of the way while doing so. I used a triple row of stitching for strength.
When sewing leather, any holes you make with pins or the machine needle will stay there, so be very careful and think things through before putting holes in your leather. I use binder clips to hold layers together for stitching.

I decided to use a contrasting red thread for some visual interest.
First, I sewed the two larger rectangles together, wrong sides together with a narrow seam across both sides and the bottom. Then I did the same with the larger and smaller pocket. This helped to stabilize things so that when I placed the pockets on the main bag to sew them together, I only had 2 separate layers rather than 4.
Stitch around all 3 edges inside the first seams you did on the pockets and bag, then stitch again, close to the edge of the leather, then trim any excess. Make certain to backstitch at the beginning and end of seams for strength. You may want to reinforce the corners as well.
Attach the handles to the loops and you’re done!

zig zag bag: prelude to sewing


If you haven’t done any sewing with leather, don’t be put off by it. With a few simple tips, it’s as easy as fabric. First, get a teflon presser foot for your machine. I ordered mine online. You can find ’em easily. The teflon helps the leather glide on the foot rather than sticking which it will do on metal or plastic. Secondly, sew with nylon or heavy duty thread and a needle specifically for leather. If you are using garment weight leather, your machine won’t even know the difference. That’s all I do differently for machine sewing leather.

zig zag bag : the cutting


I’ve seen a really cool purse design in a few shops in SoHo (NYC, not London) that I used for inspiration on this bag. The ones I saw were leather on both sides, but I decided to use leather and fabric here. I generally use vintage and previously used leather because it’s both less expensive and we have so much usable materials already out there in the world that there’s no reason to kill another cow for my little handbag ventures.
So here’s a step by step on how this one came about.
I cut up a patchworked leather skirt and cut two 10″x13″ rectangles for the main part of the bag. Size and proportion are personal choices; I’ve seen this bag done both taller-than-wide and wider-than-tall and both looked great.
Then I cut two pieces for the outside pockets, the first is the same size as the 2 rectangles and the second is the same width, but half the height. I then cut the top edges at angles in opposite directions to get the zig and the zag (this will all make sense soon). Again, depending on the height to width ratio, the angle will differ. You’ll know what looks pleasing; just hold a ruler across the top edge and see how steep an angle you like.

Next, use those pieces as patterns to cut another set in contrasting leather or fabric being mindful to have wrong sides together. I forgot this part and had to recut my fabric. Ugh!
I assembled the pieces by pairing contrasting ones. Next, trim an eighth of an inch to a quarter inch on the top edge of the fabric on the two main rectangles and the smallest pocket. Trim the same amount from the top edge of leather on the larger pocket. Fold the untrimmed leather edge over the trimmed fabric edge to get finished top edges. I like to keep these in place by using rubber cement on both surfaces, letting it dry, then folding over and sticking it together until I’m ready to sew.
At this point, you can insert interfacing or a stiffener between the front and back layers if you like a bag that holds its shape more, of if your materials are lighter weight.
Then I stacked them into position:the two rectangles with fabric sides together, the larger pocket, fabric side up, the smaller pocket, fabric side down.
I didn’t like the very square look of things, so I angled the sides from top to bottom, just taking off about an inch and a half on each side of the top edge as shown in the last photo.

Now we’re ready to start sewing. Tune in tomorrow for chapter 2!



I seem to have had a lot of denim come my way lately. This again is a classic battle jacket style, but zips up the front. I wanted to feminize it a bit and had a scrap of my beloved rosebud fabric left from a previous project ( see hippie chic, below) that I wanted to use. I started by sewing pieces of it over the breast pockets, leaving them unhemmed so they’ll get that nice soft fringe after washing. Then I cut 3 slashes down the center back and sewed the rosebud fabric behind the slashes. I sewed around the edges and vertically between each slash, then washed and dried it so the edges would soften and fray. I’m thinking of a ruffled cuff like this, or maybe some hand painted rose details , but not sure yet how I want to finish. It will tell me what it wants in its own time.

cabbage roses


This has become one of my favorites. Another vintage apron (thank you Sheree) in gray with two big fluffy roses which are also pockets. I made a simple skirt out of some apple green fabric, removed the waistband and ties from the apron, then reattached the ties as a bottom band on the skirt. All that was left to do was add an elasticized waistband in a coordinating floral print and add some stripes from the same fabric as trim along the center front and pocket edges. Wish I had the time to do some garage sale shopping for more cool aprons. I’m running out of source material!

Vintage apron goes hippie chic


My dear friend Sheree gave me a number of vintage aprons knowing I would have to do something with them. This skirt started life as a lovely handmade hostess apron; the kind Donna Reed and June Cleaver wore while serving their clean and shiny families in the dining room even on weeknights. Since it wouldn’t get that kind of use in my house, I decided to tear it apart and start over. I used McCall’s 5140 pattern as a starting point with some black cotton gauze and a tiny rosebud print that I just adore… reminds me of my childhood in some way.
I constructed the layered skirt from those two fabrics, then cut the apron ties and waistband off, cut it vertically down the center and used the two pieces as additional shorter layers; one on the front (with pocket intact) and the other on the back. It has a slit up the front between the rosebud and black. It’s a great little summer skirt now, but likes going to restaurants better than serving at home.