Wet Formed Handles – another evolution…

A review of my theme bags revealed I needed to up my game in handle making. One designer has a video on the Internet of a worker making beautiful shaped handles.  Seriously!  Look…

Theirs – a thing of beauty!
beginning handles
Mine – they look alright, but I want better!

I searched my favorite leather forum and see Al Stohlman’s books are referenced – a TON!  So I picked up his volume two “The Art Of Making Leather Cases” because there are a bunch of handle patterns and tips.  It is totally worth the 16 or 20 bucks! Plus half a hide of veg tan…

The first four…

Actually I began the process in October of 2015!  Yes, over a year ago and these were the first four.  Because I do not have wood-working equipment (or skills) to make a forming block, I made a basic little unit by horseshoe nailing three 12″ sections of a 2″x4″ together and attaching cans to it.

This is my original forming block. A crude little beast on which I began my wet formed handles.

Frustrated and dissatisfied with my results – I got the most encouraging words of all from Alan & Jayne at Shoe School when I said I can’t make those beautiful handles like they do over at “designer house X”   Alan challenged me “Why not?”  He went on to say that handles are probably the only thing the guy in the video does.  Everyday.  It is likely he cannot create a bag from concept to final product.

I was inspired; my talent and accomplishments in my little handbag hobby were evident.  Like all things – “practice, practice, practice” (thanks for that Mr. Nick! – an art instructor-friend).

The pattern needed changing – I wanted to rid the end rings (for this particular style) and I ordered a rainbow of colored edge paints and channel pliers from Springfield Leather.  Once I figure this out…the possibilities may be endless.

I set out to work and as with each of my projects, I took copious notes on sizes, shapes, bonding techniques, stitching holes, thread and needle choices, and more.  I created another five handles on my original forming block (the 2″ x 4″ pieces horseshoe nailed together).

With the fifth, I was that much closer to the final version – the problem?  The channels created by putting the 2″ x 4″ pieces together left ridges in the handle.

Along the top edge you can see the ridges set into the leather as it dried on the 2″ x 4″ pieces.  A shout out to Alan & Eddie at Channel City Lumbar (Ha!! I sooo did not plan that – channels and Channel!)  Let’s just say I certainly got Alan’s attention when I put my forming block on the counter to show hime what I was doing and what changes I wanted to make 🙂

This is what we came up with for my new forming block.

So here is version number six being set on the new forming block.

There are many details about what you see here;  I won’t bore you with them though.

This is it!  The finished handle.

If it looks like the stitches do not match, they don’t. I tried two different types of thread (linen which I hand waxed and a heavier machine thread). Before stitching, I applied multiple coats of colored leather edge paint, a clear finish and a final buffing with a bone folder.

The front and back are the same.

Next I need to find eyelets that will fit the depth of the holes – up to this point, I have been using two for each hole.

So after one or two more tests on the new forming block, I think I will be ready to go.

An Evolution of Wallets

I am burned out on wallets for now but here is a series of their evolution.  The most basic leather with six pockets to hand stitched with hidden pockets and the addition of an ID holder.  Yup if you look carefully you can see my really crude prototype of the ID holder wallet in blue garment leather suede.  😮


Open sesame!


Love the shade of blue on that crude prototype!

I’m taking a break on wallets for now, but JP, Pete, and JK are next prototypes for slim card wallets…you guys know who you are.  I gotta’ do some handles and baby shoes right now.

Crocodile Textured Leather Wallet

Hand stitched with linen thread- this was another experiment – I wanted to see how my stitching skills were. I used Stohlman’s book for reference and recommend newbies follow the instructions step by step including don’t set your awl down as you sew with two needles in two hands.  Yes! Make or buy a stitching pony.


I changed up the pattern a bit and added two hidden pockets; this was a step I would include in another wallet for a family member.

bill-slot for faux croc
I also turned the leather for the interior piece in so it is visible when you look in the bill slot – I lined the flesh side of the exterior piece with a piece of coordinating suede.


Black Textured Leather Wallet With ID Holder & Hidden Pockets

This was for a family member – the deal? Use it and provide me with feedback (good & bad).  One evaluator said he had a problem – the pockets stretched out.  He also said it may have been his fault in that he put lots of cards in the pockets…

I used a textured cowhide, (about 3 oz or 1.2 mm thick) for the interior & extrior pockets and recycled garment leather for the pockets & ID flap. The test here? Can the garment grade leather hold up or will it stretch.

On the left and under the ID holder, I used two pockets and on the right side interior I used three pocket.

Inside the bill slot.

So far the feed back is it looks great and is sturdy.  The flap and wallet close, but the carrier wants the overall profile to lay flatter.  His feedback is it may come with time and use.  It may be just the bulk since I lined the bill slot and added the hidden pockets – a little larger gap (middle fold area) may help with that too…

Slim Wallet Prototype

Someone asked about a slim wallet since they don’t carry cash.  I created this little card carrier.

front id window
Recycled black napa garment leather is hand stitched for this simple piece. The front is an ID window and it opens like a book.
back slit pocket
The back is a funky slit pocket for gift or credit cards. I want to try and alter this to have RFID blocking.
interior pockets
Two card slots on either side for this slim card carrier.
Neon yellow edge paint to match the stitching. It seems to lay a little flatter with use/stretching…a few other tweaks and I think this can be a hit. A young woman at the grocery store complimented me on this yesterday. Yup, carrying this one too for test and evaluation.

Men’s Black Textured Leather Bi-Fold Wallet

front closed
The front & back of the wallet look the same – black weave imprinted leather.
interior full pockets
The four interior card slots are made of recycled black garment leather.
interior with biz card f n b
This image is with the front & back of my new business cards. Similar to the brochures, the business card is a little version of the black suede wristlet I made.
$ bill slot interior
Dollar bill slot runs the full length of the wallet. Credit for this wallet pattern goes to “ducjes” a leather worker website user/member.


A Special Order For A Special Grandchild

This fairy-themed bag was made with  up-cycled placemats.

fairy front
This bag is a little larger than the other similarly styled ones. I used store-bought wooden handles, a hint of silver colored metal chain, and added the spring hook keychain with my logo.
fairy back
The back is exactly the same as the front; I used a magnetic snap on an interior tab so the image is fully visible.
interior back pocket fairy
I made the back pocket a little larger and gave them more depth. I intentionally turned the eyelets so the rims were inside the bag to keep the focus on the main character depicted on the outside front & back.
fairy side view
A white shiny, textured vinyl on the sides and bottom detracted the least from the design. (Hmm perhaps traditionalists would consider this a spring/summer bag)