A crossbody bag is a great project to see the fruit of your leather craftsmanship. All the hours and resources spent practicing on smaller items have led you to this moment. If you’re already a pro, I also welcome you to this moment. Either way, if you’re eyeing to make a crossbody bag and would like some idea where to start, I’ve got you covered.
How to make a leather crossbody bag? Find a pattern that fits your preference. Transfer the pattern to your leather of choice and cut. Assemble all the elements using contact cement and stitching. Create a strap and attach using rings. Apply protective coating for the bag to last.
Let me take you through the step-by-step of how to create your very own crossbody bag, and the care needed to make sure it stays with you for a very long time. Excited? Let’s go!
How to Make a Leather Crossbody Bag
If this is your first time, read through the steps first and try to imagine how you’re going to do it in real life. Having a rough idea of how you want it to turn out is a big help in planning and preparing for the project.
- Linen thread
- Beeswax (for thread)
- Contact Cement
- Magnetic Snap or Bag Lock
- Strap Rings
- Chicago Rivet/Screw
- Dye (optional)
- Conditioner (optional)
- Leather protective coating
- Cutting Tool (utility knife, round cutter)
- Skiving Knife
- Stitching Needle
- Metallic Ruler
- Canvas Cloth
Step 1 – Dye the Leather
This is an optional step, but if your leather is too bland for your taste or you want a particular color, now is the time to dye the leather. You can choose between aniline and semi-aniline dyes. Aniline is water based and will offer a more natural leather feel and smell. Semi-aniline has oil and pigments added resulting in firmer and denser finish.
Apply a thin coat of dye on the leather and let it dry for a minimum of 30mins. Drying time will still depend on the dye so do a little research on the brand you plan to use. Once dry, apply a thin coat of protective coating.
Step 2 – Cut Leather for the Bag Parts
The bag’s dimension is 6.3in high x 8.3in wide x 3in thick.
For the body, cut a 22in x 8.3in rectangle of the dyed leather. Cut another one with the same measurements from the undyed leather for the inner lining.
For the sides, cut two pieces of 3.5in x 5.25in. Round the corners of one of the short sides for both pieces. Use dyed leather for the sides.
For the inside pocket, imagine a rectangle with a smaller strip of rectangle sitting on top of a longer edge. The big rectangle will measure 4in x 7in. The smaller strip measures 1/2in x 5in.
Use the undyed leather for the pocket.
If your chosen leather is thick enough and easy to burnish, go ahead and use a little beeswax on the edge and rub with canvas cloth to burnish the edges.
Step 3 – Prepare the Sides
Skive the edges around 1/4in. This is the area where you will place the stitches. 1/8in from the edges, mark the stitch lines. Leave the short side that doesn’t have rounded corners free from stitch lines. Punch the stitch holes.
Step 4 – Prepare the Body
Round the corners of the body and the inner lining. Round corners are less harsh for the bag as compared to sharp ones. Line up the body with the sides to see how the bag will roughly look like.
Mark where you want the snaps both on the body and the flap. That will be approximately 4 ⅛ inches from the body’s long edge and 3 inches from the short edge. Make adjustments as needed. Measure twice before making the cuts. Attach the snaps.
Step 5 – Prepare the Pocket
Skive 1/4in from the edges and make it as thin as possible. Fold the skived edge to half and use contact cement to keep it secure. Folding the edge and using cement makes it sturdier and less likely to unravel.
Mark 1/8in from the edges for the stitch lines. Punch stitch holes using mallet and chisel. Bend the sides of the pocket in, make a small fold going in, near the extra strip. Imagine an inside pocket that doesn’t just lay flat on the lining but has a bit of space.
Step 6 – Prepare the Body’s Lining
Mark where you want to place the pocket. Note that this pocket can go on the front or back side of the lining. Mark where you need stitch holes. Count the stitch holes in the pocket to perfectly match how many you will need on the lining. Punch the holes and stitch the pocket to the lining. Add beeswax to the thread for smoother glide when stitching.
Step 7 – Assemble the Bag
Put together the lining and body with contact cement. Let the cement dry for around 15 minutes. Bevel the edges. Bevel the edges of the side pieces as well. Re-dye the beveled surfaces as needed. Keep the undyed part of the pieces clean since they will be facing the inside of the bag.
On the body, mark the stitch lines 1/8in from the edge where the sides will be attached. Count the stitch holes made on the sides and match this count for your body. Punch the stitching holes.
Stitch the body and the sides together. If your leather is sturdier, have the sides’ stitch lines facing out, as if the sides are being pushed in. If the leather is more supple, have the stitch lines facing in to make it look cleaner. Bevel any excess leather to keep the edges clean. Re-dye as needed.
Step 8 – Make and Attach the Strap
Used the dyed leather, cut two pieces measuring 1/2in x 4in. Make another pair with the dimensions 1/2in x the length that you want your strap with 3in in excess.
Attach the rings to the short strips and seal the leather with cement. Round the corners. Mark stitch lines 1/8in from the edges and stitch.
Mark the side of the bag where you want to attach the rings for the strap. Punch holes to the sides and the ring strips for the rivets. Attach the rings to the sides.
Using the two longer strips of leather, stick them together with cement and let it dry. Attach the ends to the rings with rivets.
Step 9 – Finishing Touches
Give a final protective coating for shine and protection from scuffs. This will also help keep the pigment of the dye. Now you can enjoy your bag!
Which Leather to Use for Your Bag
Depending on your preference on looks, form, and use, you can choose between chrome tan or veg tan.
Chrome tan leather is softer and more supple. This will give your bag a floppy and casual look. However it can be easily damaged especially if you use a thinner hide.
Veg tan will give a sturdier form to your bag. You may want to keep the thickness of the bag on the smaller side to avoid making it too bulky, but hey if that’s your preference… With proper care, veg tan leather can last for a very long time.
Make Your Crossbody Bag Last
No one wants to go through all this trouble just to see their project go bad in just a few months. You invested time and resources for this bag. Allow it to serve you longer by applying the following tips to keep your leather bag (and other leather goods) in good shape.
Keep It Dry
Too much moisture in leather can cause swelling or loss of its shape. Avoid using your bag outside on rainy or snowy days. If you need to put liquid products inside, keep them in a separate, watertight pouch to protect from spills.
If the bag accidentally got wet, dry it quickly with paper towels and let it air dry. Do not even think about using a hairdryer to save time. It can ruin the leather. Use a leather conditioner once it’s dry.
For daily cleaning, wipe the surface with a soft, dry towel or a barely damp towel. For scheduled cleaning, use a leather cleaner. Avoid products with alcohol as they can dry or discolor the leather. If you see stains, try applying powdered chalk directly on the stain, leave it overnight, and then brush it off.
Leather items, especially when stored over time, can get dry causing wrinkling and flaking. To prevent this, use a leather conditioner on your stuff at least twice a year up to once a month, depending on the humidity in your area. This will keep your leather good soft and supple and will make it last longer.
Before putting your bag away, make sure that it’s clean. Stuff bubble wrap or parchment paper to keep the original shape of the bag. Avoid printed paper as it might cause ink smears on the lining. Wrap the chains and buckles in tissue paper to avoid markings on the leather.
Once all these are done, place it inside a dust bag. Bags from popular brands come with one. Put silica gel packets to avoid excess moisture. Air the bags every two weeks to avoid mold.
Leather might be tough but it can still get deformed. Do not overstuff your bag to keep it in good shape. Leather is also sensitive to oil. It can mess with the color and it attracts dirt. To avoid oil stains, keep your hands clean whenever you touch the surface of the bag. Also, keep it away from vanities or salon work tables where it can be exposed to beauty or hair products that can ruin the color of the leather.
A leather crossbody bag is not just a tiny project. You can customize it however you want to suit your needs and taste. It can stay with you for decades if well taken care of. Give your new bag the proper TLC and it will surely give it back to you.