Over Columbus Day weekend I stayed in a cabin up in the Adirondacks with my dad. One morning when we went into Saranac Lake there was a small farmers market going on. One of the vendors was a guy selling rustic furniture–Adirondack chairs, tables, etc. I talked with him for a bit about the materials he was using, and he offered to sell me all the leather scraps he had on him for $10. I forgot to take a photo of this while it was happening, but I did get one later of my dog sleeping behind the pile I took home:

I waited a little too long to start on this project, and getting the leather turned out to be the easiest part. I went to Lowes, Blick, and Michael’s for tools, and all 3 were sold out of leather punches. Michael’s was the only store that carried eyelet grommets in a smaller size, but they were out of the correct size attachment tool. REI Soho was out of both 5mm and 6mm accessory cord. Lesson learned: get it together in advance.

My initial plan was to make a leather chalk bag. I didn’t really have enough material to make a full size one, so it ended up being more of a pouch, but it could still be functionally used as a chalk bag.

I first tested a cut on the 75 watt laser using the recommended 30% speed/100% power, and had to make 3 passes to cut through:

My template for the pouch in Ai had 8 holes for eyelets (which turned out to be way too few to cinch the whole thing together):

I used the same settings to cut it out, which worked, but smelled pretty bad:

Next, I added the eyehole grommets. Since I couldn’t get the correct size punch tool, I resorted to doing this by hand using pliers and a hammer. I hated the stain/dye color on the smooth side, so I chose to use the rough out side as the outside:

All the grommets pushed through and flattened on the inside:

I knew that I wanted to line the pouch with another material, and I planned to use the sewing machines in the soft lab to do that. After talking to some 2nd years (shoutout to Lindsey!), it became apparent that we did not have the necessary equipment to go through 2 layers of leather and 1 layer of polyester. I resorted to sewing everything together by hand. I used some black polyester scrap material and tested it out on a leather scrap piece:

Hand sewing is hard…the inside (above) looks worse, but the outside was still fairly rough:

The good news is that the stitching wouldn’t be very visible once the pouch was finished and cinched together. I took apart a piece of 5mm cord that I was using as a prusik loop for climbing and used it as the cord for the pouch:

Unfortunately, the wide spacing of the eyelets resulted in the pouch not really cinching together as a pouch–more like a lump with a cord through it. I had to pivot a bit and sew the cord directly into the leather and remove all but 2 eyelets. Here it is almost finished (looks kind of like an apple tart crust to me):

Finished stitching:

Cinching it all together after stitching it:

It’s not my favorite thing I ever made, but I’m pretty proud of it considering I have never worked with leather before and I haven’t stitched anything in over 10 years. It kind of looks like a video game coin purse (Zelda?), which I love.

October 10, 2017


Nice work, I’m glad you tried materials that are new to you.

And I agree with you, getting all materials and tools together before you start is key.

I don’t know much about sewing, but I believe there are ways to get one of our machines to sew through all of those layers. It may be an incredibly slow setting or even moving the machine by hand, but I believe it can be done.

Thanks Ben.

I was told it can be done but requires specific needles that we don’t have–neither Blick nor Michael’s sells them. I’d like to work with leather again in the future, so I may order some or try to find a place in the garment district that will sell me some.

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