This is a “half of a belly” leather cut.

I will use a portion of it to make the straps for this tote.

I use a long wood slat for a straight edge to make my first guide line.

I use a t-square that is 2″ wide as my template to mark out cuts.

I transfer the full piece up to my work table to cut the straps out.

I use a standard ruler and put a new blade in my utility knife.

I cut about 8″-10″ of length at a time.

I work very carefully.

I bevel the edges of the removeable shoulder strap.

I measure out roughly 24″ lengths of strap for the handles.

I measure out one of them and mark stitching holes.

I replicate those measurements on the second strap.

I am showing how the handles will be folded when stitched.

After I stitch the handle, I bevel then sand to even the edge.

I use a rougher grit then a very fine grit.

I do this over my tub, then wipe out the dust.

The edge after sanding and before burnishing.

Edge after burnishing

The handle connectors are trimmed, punched and burnished.

The second picture shows how they will join the handle.

Stitching the handles to the tote.

For the most part, this tote is finished , just some small separate features to complete.

The shoulder strap is removeable.

I will make a slim shoulder pad to slip onto it.


2″ wide rectangle loops for handles of bag and 1″ center bar buckle for the tote hardware.

strap attachment pieces for the double handles

working on buckle attachment for the closure.

The piece that will attach the buckle has marks for hole punching.

The... (wait,… I need to go look up what the rod in the buckle is called)

prong.. (oh neeto, I learned something…parts of a buckle…frame, bar and prong)

I need to create a long hole for the prong to go through.

There is a pounding punch tool for creating that shape but I don’t use punches that require hammering cause they make too much noise for being in an apartment. I also would need to go find a heaver table and pound board…..too much extra extra.

This is a little more rustic way of creating the hole. I punch two bigger holes spaced apart.

Then to slice the portion out between the holes. Bevel the oblong hole and burnish it.

(all measurements tested out on scrap)

white stuff in the holes is lotion I used to condition the leather and help burnish the edges.
now for the closure strap. I use a round object to mark corners.
and trim
then bevel
entire piece
stitching the gussets to the cover of the bag
As I stitch the gussets, I incorporate a long thin piece a couple inches from the top rim that will be the reinforcement for securing the hardware attachments.
bottom of gussets are stitched
stitching hardware attachments
now just wait for strap leather to arrive


The stitching part starts with a length of waxed polyester thread that is approximately 4 times the length of the seam with a needle on each end.

When I started sewing, I tried non synthetic threads like linen and hemp. Those fibers are not strong. They broke after a few tugs. I found that I needed to use a waxed polyester thread. I first tried waxing polyester threads myself (Too labor intensive and creates beeswax crumbles that I have no patients for…..perhaps I wasn’t doing it correctly? Maybe there is an easier way of doing it.?..perhaps) I tried a very popular and well marketed brand called Ritza Tiger Thread. Its braided thread (impressive) it is strong, and comes in a good selection of colors but I find it slippery. Maine Thread is my go-to source for thread these days. I used their waxed polycord which has the perfect amount of wax for gripping stiches.

The stitch I’m using is called a locking saddle stitch.

a wrap over and under with each stitch

pull the stitch tight with both needles to finish a stitch.

starting a new stitch, I begin with inserting the needle from the back (flesh side).

It makes no difference if the wrap goes “over and under” or “under and over” it just needs to be consistent. I pick a pattern and stay with that.

after finishing a seam, I insert both ends of the thread into the last hole.
This tucks the thread under the seam to hide the ends. I will snip off the extra thread it the edge.

one gusset completed.

PART2 KVC leather tote

This is a remnant piece of leather from a previous project.

It has a pebble grain unlike the smooth grain hide that I have specifically for the tote.

It will match because it is produced from the same tannery and has the same quality.

The contrast in grain adds some interest.

I’m going to use it to create the shoulder strap-keepers that will attach to the gussets.

The following steps I will show for these strap-keepers are the steps I will do for each piece that will make the tote.

I will cut a curve on each end of the keepers. I use a round template to mark the cut.

hook knife for cutting curves

I make the cuts freehand. I used to use the template as a guide but it would sometimes slip.

I found over time cutting freehand allows for more control.

The most important thing is to have a sharp/new blade.

The strap-keeper are trimmed out and ready to have holes punched.

After the holes are punched I will remove the grid paper.

The next step is to bevel the edges of both side of each piece.

This will round the edge and allow for burnishing of the edge.

the pieces are prepped and burnished.

A burnished edge is rubbed with water (one option) and polished till its smooth.

Burnishing takes a long time and the image only shows it partially done.

I used a natural based lotion to condition these pieces which doubled as a burnishing treatment.

The lotion is shea butter based and has no synthetic ingredients.

I’m not sure if I would recommend it as an instruction, but it works for me.

I will go back and do a thorough burnishing on this pieces before stitching.

The gusset pieces are trimmed out, edges hole punched and punched in the middle with an awl where the strap-keeper will be attached.

The strap keeper is slightly wider than the seam it will be stitched to.

This allows for flexibility of the gusset without being pinched by the strap-keeper.

Example of punching holes with an awl.

I use an awl (big strong needle attached to a handle) to punch any hole beyond

the reach of my round hole punch.

The placement of strap-keeper on the gussets.

punching holes with my round hole punch.

Most of the pieces trimmed out, hole punched, and edged beveled.

The remaining pieces left to trim out are for the handle strap attachments and closure buckle.

I am waiting for the hardware to arrive.

I will cut the pieces out for them after I get the exact hardware measurement.

I ordered a specific size item, but I wait till I have the item in hand to make a cut.

The way that I have created the rim that holds the hardware keepers allow for adjustment.

PART1 KVC Leather tote

This is will be a quick documentation of how I create leatherwork in a small area.

This will be a basic sturdy landscape/vertical style tote with the cover being one large panel and two panels for the gussets.

(a gusset on each side verses one gusset attaching two covers. More on that later after I create a page on “anatomy of bag”)

This piece of leather was purchased from Rocky Mountain Leather Supply

It is a half hide of the Badalassi Carlo – Minerva Smooth in natural. It will eventually age to a deep tan hue.

The first part I go through is laying out the leather and seeing how much I have to work with. This size piece is the perfect amount for a tote. This piece can accommodate a vertical style with a deeper/wider gusset or a horizontal style with a gusset not as deep/wide. If I was going to make a satchel type bag with a flap, I would need more leather. Of course, this size would allow for a small satchel or a few wallets, various covers and………..and I’m gonna stop myself before this bus gets totally lost.

grain side of 1/2 hide
flesh side of 1/2 hide (the bottom)
aligned and taped together sheets of graph paper attached to the flesh side of the leather with double sided masking tape.

I attach graph paper to the leather to mark the pattern and use as a guide for hole punching. ( I use metric grid because 5mm spacing works the best for me.) I like to use large sheets of Rhodia graph paper usually.

I ran out… but had this A4 graph paper journal that I removed a couple signatures and pieced the unfolded sheets together. Works the same.

main panels trimmed out and ready for hole punching.

This tote will be-

WIDTH: 42cm/ 16.5″(approx.)

HEIGHT: 33cm/ 13″(approx.)

DEPTH: (gusset width) 14 cm (5 1/2 “)