Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Balsam Bag -- Upcycled leather bag

From Couch to Bag

Balsam Bag-- Sofiona Designs
Upcycled Leather Bag 

Several years ago we needed to get rid of our old leather couch.  So when we did, my husband cut off all the usable leather, the back was in great shape and the cushions were ok too, just the frame was shot.  I kept the leather hoping to do something with it.  I have NEVER sewn with leather before and know there is a learning curve.  When I saw this bag being tested I realized it was simple enough to give it a go.

I made a smaller angled bag in woven for my daughter to try the pattern and get a feel for it, and then I really wanted to make myself a lovely leather fall bag.  I knew I'd found the right pattern to finally try it out.

I pulled out the two couch cushions and laid them out.  One is a bit more wrinkled than the other but I think it adds character.  I was able to get the straps out of the fabric around the edge, it does have a couple of seams but it still worked out fine.

My rotary cutter worked great on the leather so that was a good start.  I got a heavy-duty needle, I used a topstitching one because I didn't have a leather one on hand, and it worked great. Although I will be getting some leather ones as well.   I also used my Teflon foot to help things slide better, and lowered my presser foot pressure.  I also discovered my machine does a better topstitch in the left-hand needle position.  It tended to skip in positions farther to the right, I usually pop my needle over when I topstitch on the right-hand side, but had to adjust that.

I added the rivets to the pocket because I thought they were cute.  The rivets to the straps were necessary because my rings were quite thick, and I love the look of rivets.  I bought them a while ago so it's fun to have an excuse to use them.  I bought my rivets from Tandy Leather, and now I'm eyeing those pyramid ones!!!!

My only issue came with the straps.  Keep in mind leather and vinyl come in different thicknesses, and the leather I was using was from my couch.  When I tried folding the straps like the pattern recommends it was just way to thick for the slider I had on hand.  I'm not sure if there are other sliders that would have worked better, but I was upcycling off an old strap, so it was what I had on hand.  Here's how bulky my strap ended up being.   Topstitching it would have helped some, but I didn't want to punch holes in it and have it not work.  So I decided to try a different method and I think it worked beautifully.

This is the blog post I followed for my NEW strap.  "How to make (less Bulky) Leather bag straps."  Yes, that is the title of the post, perfect right?? ahaha.  You can see here the difference it made.  Some people don't like the raw edge showing, but I found it lined up so well on the strap, and only on the tabs is it showing, and I kind of like the look, so it's really personal preference.  This was just a practice one, on my real strap I lined up the ends and it looks really nice.  I just wanted to see if this was going to work, and you can see how much thinner it is.

So What I did was cut my strap at 2" so I'd have a 1" finished strap to fit my hardware.  I drew a line right down the center, to fold the straps in half evenly.   Since the raw edge is going to show, make sure you don't have any snags in the leather, I used the rotary cutter, and it left it nice and clean.

 I made the happy discovery that a glue stick works great to hold the strap down.  It was much easier and faster than using a ton of clips.  I only put clips on the seams and in a few places just to make sure I didn't have any surprises when I started sewing.
The next step was to sew down those center pieces.  I sewed from the wrong side, being careful to make a nice straight line by lining up with the edge of the strap.  I sewed each side down, then flipped it over and topstitched along the edges.  This made a super flat and sturdy strap.

I love how well the straps slide through the rings and sliders.  I did the connector straps the same way in the bag.  I used rivets on them to hold them on.

I have to say I'm super pleased with my first ever leather bag. The pattern is great and has several options.  I'm excited to share this pattern with others because I know how intimidating making a bag or purse can be.  But it's really quite simple, and the pattern is well written and easy to follow.

This is the large fold-over bag option, on the Balsam Pattern.

I still can't belive I managed to make a leather bag, and strap for less than $10, by using my old couch, and reusing the hardware from a purse strap.

The Handmade bag bling I got from Emmaline Bags.   And she really has an amazing selection of hardware for bags.  They add so much, and make the finished product look more professional, and one of a kind.

 If the cost of hardware is making you hesitate, keep in mind you can always upcycle items from other bags, like straps and snaps.  And if you don't want to make an adjustable strap you can just make a regular length one, and use key rings for your loops on the ends :D.   Remember a pattern is like a recipe, it's ok to change a few things here and there to match what you have on hand, your budget or personal preferences.  For more cost-saving tips check out more info on my daughter's Bag.  Balsam Bag--Bag on a Budget

So now you have no excuse to not give this great pattern a try.  Head on over to Sofiona Designs Fan Group, to see more examples and inspiration.  Click this link here to buy the pattern  Sofiona Designs. 


  1. This is great! I'm impressed with how well you know your machine and know that topstitching works better on one side! I don't think I ever would have thought to even try that.

    1. Thanks, but it was more desperation then anything!!! Hahaha

  2. This is so impressive!!! I love how you upcycled!