Making Christmas presents from scraps

One of the great benefits of the shoe making course is that I was able to pick up lots of discarded leather pieces. In the photograph below I include my feet, for scale.

Nice (free) leather offcuts     

I think the dark brown is probably sufficient to make a skirt, if it is pieced. Or maybe a pair of shoes! I love dark brown leather. The bright pink, and the green are pigskin, used for lining. Some are patent, some are suede. We have metallics, some stretch, and a piece of leopardskin printed leather. Upper right you can see small sample books – I always say yes to a sample book although these pieces are very small. I thought if I ever make jeans again these would be nice on the back waist band. My friend Linde suggested you could make a colourful binding by stitching them all together which is also a great idea.

I took this selection in case I  get around to making a few little presents for the forthcoming season. I am not doing Secret Santa this year – it is just too much pressure – but I am want to make small, handmade gifts for everyone. You know the time pressures I am under currently so I need something nice, personal, thoughtful, colourful. And quick.

Last Christmas I was impressed with the padded patchwork purses that Jenny the Lilac cat made.  I actually bought the supplies but never got round to it – maybe I will manage one or two this year.

I started thinking about what I might like for myself (useful and beautiful)

  • somewhere to safely store my earphones
  • a little purse for a couple of cards, a fiver and a housekey, when I need a minimalist approach
  • maybe a traditional looking wallet but in interesting colours
  • coasters to protect the surfaces of Nick’s wonderful furniture
  • fabric bags with leather straps (Jenny again)

This weekend I have started to play around with ideas of how to create small leather items.

Thinking of closures I bought an useful piece of inexpensive equipment with hundreds of colourful poppers. These apparently work on leather and will allow me to introduce more colour. I also have quite a large selection of short colourful zips that I won last spring from William Gee. As a garment maker I could not see the point.  Now I can –  they may be good for small bags or purses. They also gave me some strong khaki thread that will work well on leather.

Total cost of the popper set, including next day delivery, was about £13. So if I can do everyone’s Christmas gifts for around a tenner, I will be pleased.

I am going to start with the three sample books.

These are precut leather with a hole that are asking to be made into small purses. I want to add textiles to the leather and I will use two other fabric sample books I have had for ages. One is my Linton tweed plain crepe wools in strong colours. The other is digital printing on different types of fabric that was sent to me by a company that has now gone out of business, Fabpad. So I thought I might combine the leather with the wool lining and use the digital printing for an internal pocket.

Bottom right shows my prototypes. I realise I need rubber glue – after six weeks of inhaling it every Sunday (bootmaking) you would have thought I would have procured some already . Some of the fabrics will need interfacing. Even using a leather needle and the strong thread my machine doesn’t really like doing this.

Any tips at all for someone who has never made non-clothes items?

Making small purses

The problem of writing these posts before Christmas is that everyone now knows what he or she is getting.

Small but perfectly formed

Oh well.


32 Responses

  1. Kerry

    I don’t have tips really, but I know there are great tutorials online. One year I made simple but nice bags similar to yours, with a flap. I was given left over vinyl, or was it mock leather? They were large enough for a paperback book or mini iPad or Kindle, because I like to read. I kept one for myself and I find it’s really useful to protect any folded over A4 documents from the nastiness that is my handbag, as well as useful when travelling.

    • fabrickated

      Yes! What a good idea. A cover for a Kindle is a brilliant idea. I need one myself as my screen has got scratched. There is also something about colourful colours helping us identify the specific item we are searching in the bottom of our huge rucksack or handbag!

  2. Annieloveslinen

    Great minds! I’ve just bought Thread Theory’s wallet patterns and some leather pieces of Amazon, Kerry’s right, there are many online tutes for little purses. I almost bought the Prym popper tool but was put off by having to choose a coloured snap, too limiting I thought but seeing yours, I may rethink that. Interesting times.

    • fabrickated

      I just looked at the Thread Theory wallets! I love the paper fabric they use, and would be interested to see how you get on. The wallet itself looks nice, but I am wondering about how the fold over works – it appears to be secured just at the bottom. I may have a go at a wallet as making presents for men can be the worst part of Christmas. Please let me know how you get on Annie.

  3. Jane Makes

    I was sorting out my fabric scraps last night in order to start making some xmas gifts! It’s very satisfying to make gifts but I too made the decision not to join in with the Secret Santa this year because I didn’t want the pressure of a deadline! I bought the snap installing tool for making baby clothes and it’s interesting to see that it also works with leather. Your little leather purses are great – especially with those amazing digitally printed fabrics.

    • fabrickated

      I can see you are in the same place as me Jane – when Secret Santa seems too self indulgent and time pressured!!

      The digital print samples are tiny but so beautiful. Inside a purse as a secret layer they just make them a bit more special. And yes the snap tool would be great for baby items too.

    • fabrickated

      Hello dear Rachel, and how nice to hear from you. I got the snap tool from Amazon. There are lots of sellers with similar products. I am pretty sure they are made in China but the one I got was sent from the UK. I can confirm the snaps are pretty solid (I am using the prototype). Also I needed to remove one and it was very hard to prize off.

  4. Jenny

    I agree with the comments above, google and Pinterest will be your best friends to find ideas and tutorials. It’s not that they tie you down to a specific design just fire your imagination and give you are a starting point. Your creativity can then take over. I’m salivating at all those wonderful leather offcuts. I love the combination of fabric and leather in fact I really must get some offcuts….see how contagious inspiration is!

    • fabrickated

      Interesting! I see you do it – I do a version – you see me do it – you do a version. You inspire me to do better with both the design and the making, but I accept that these purses might have to be a bit imperfect, and hope my giftees are generous in their understanding!

  5. Judy

    Great job. Those snaps make for a really professional finish. We are going very minimal for Christmas this year. I will be with both my children and their families camping on the northern beaches of New South Wales.

    • fabrickated

      I thought you said South Wales for a minute!! I was thinking you might freeze to death. But luckily you are in sunny, summery Australia. Yes, minimalism for me too. I am literally going to give everyone a purse, in which there maybe some of our modern plastic money for the young people in the family.

  6. jay

    I made a leather belt once using teeny pieces of leather – about the size of an old pre decimal penny. I patched them by butting them up to one another on a canvas backing and using a close zigzag over. At this point I can’t remember what machine I used, but it was either a very basic Brother or the Bernina Sport I have now. I’m a bit precious these days with the Bernina, but have stitched lighter weight leather on it a fair bit. I’ve got some large pieces of thick leather – about 4mm, so if you have any tips/ideas for what to do with this I’d be delighted to hear them. The lighter weight leather presented no problems, I did use a leather needle for the most part, but when I forgot to change from a regular needle it still behaved. It fed through ok, in fact compared to the dreaded pleather it was a piece of cake.

    • fabrickated

      I love this idea Jay – the smaller pieces would definitely make a colourful belt and of course zig zagging them together is the answer. I think I may be able to use the pig skin as a liner, with some sort of layer inbetween (maybe just glue). I wish I had an old work horse of a machine for this task as my fancy modern ones are moaning a bit.

  7. Verona

    I am fairly new to sewing (18 months) and having such a good time this Christmas making small zip up bags for everyone (sweetpea pods). I bought some half metres of colourful fabric (toucans, pelicans, unicorns) for nieces at £1.50 each, some more sophisticated patterns (for my mother in law) at a bit more and got out my leftover plains of linen and cotton, bought a random assortment of zips and am really enjoying mixing and matching outers, lining, pull tabs and zips to make colourful little bags. Three done, and possibly 12 more to do, but an enjoyable process and an individual present for everyone, not a drag around the shops

    • fabrickated

      Hi Verona! Thanks so much for your feedback and information. I love those fun fabrics and matching everything together is half the fun, isn’t it? I do believe that presents that are hand made are always better than bought ones, and traipsing around the shops is one of the worst tortures I know, especially on a Saturday, and especially close to Christmas.

      What are sweetpea pods please?

  8. Sarah Moran

    Try a search on Google images for – leather earphone tidy, I made a pile of bear ones last year and also some straightforward straight ones from the tiniest pieces of leather. Just a popper with no sewing at all and they come in useful for all sorts of little tasks.

  9. Kim

    My hand crank Singer will sew through just about anything I ask. I think anyone receiving one of your purses will be happy – they are cute!

  10. Mary

    Wonderful all Kate! I bought a red suede coat for 35 cents and unpicked it to get some large pieces to work with to make gifts. I am experimenting and it is great fun. I really like your efforts for adding fun lining fabrics. I am trying to stitch rick-rack into the seams for more color and interest with some success. I have some metal printing letters that I want to heat and see if I can brand initials into the leather. I too enjoy giving thoughtful handmade gifts and these little suede pouches and card cases seem to fill the brief and are so much fun to create.

    • fabrickated

      Fantastic lateral thinking my dear Mary! What a bargain and red suede will look super – with so many options for lining fabrics. Ric-rac – yes – I was thinking of braids. It is so nice to work with leather as it doesn’t fray and doesn’t need finishing! By choosing wool linings I am rather relying on my pinking shears which is not ideal.

    • fabrickated

      Hello Katherine – I am still experimenting a bit. I tried just sewing the lining but it was flabby. On the other hand the glue shows on the lighter coloured wool linings so I have to find a better solution. When I get to nirvana I will give you a call, or produce a short blog post.

  11. Aida

    oh, I’m so bad in Christmas presents, I always say will start early making them and I end up running to the shops the last days! Those leather samples made me think of labels on the back of the trousers and patchwork pouch but maybe that’s too much labour involved there! Wish you luck in finishing all in time!

  12. Henni

    It never crossed my mind to use plastic snaps on leather, but it is brilliant! So much more options and fun than just using metallic ones. I made my husband a leather passport cover (with an insurance card pocket and plastic snap fastening) after reading your post, that’s one Christmas gift ready!

  13. ceci

    Some of those printed fabrics are hilarious….pig butts! Perfect little card holders – an inspired idea to use up some pretty posh scraps.

    So far I have no holiday gift enthusiasm to draw on, I foresee checks for the adult children and pickles for everyone else……


  14. Jacqui Hooper

    Hi I found my Bernina didn’t mind sewing leather once I got a teflon foot – both a straight stitch one and a zipper one. The difference was stunning – no more skipped stitches or uneven stitching lines. My old Elna did the trick until the feet arrived. Good luck with your purses they will be spectacular and very well received by all. I like the idea of a tablet cover with some pockets for cards etc.

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