Making the Maria Crossbody Bag

Updated: Jul 16

The Maria pattern is the first in a series of "adventurous beginner" full leather patterns. This pattern is great for those new to sewing leather, or for anyone who is looking for a really cute bag that is quick and easy to sew. The pattern includes pattern pieces, step-by-step instructions, pattern notes, and lots of color photos. Once you choose your leather, you will be on you way to making a beautiul bag in no time - but...before you go, let's go over a few helpful things to know before getting started.



Domestic Machine or Industrial? Depending on the leather used, you might need an industrial machine for this bag. How will you know if your machine can and leather are right for this pattern? At the thickest point, you will be sewing through two layers of leather. To test your machine, try taking a few small scraps of the leather you would like to use and sewing over two layers (if using a domestic, I recommend increasing your stitch length and using a new leather needle). If you are successful at sewing through two layers, you should have no problem making the Maria bag on your machine.


Needles & Thread: Thread and needle sizes can vary, but if sewing your bag on a domestic machine, consider using heavy duty polyester thread and a new leather sewing machine needle. You should also use a longer stitch length than is typically used when sewing fabrics. We sew our Maria bags on an industrial machine with a size 125/20 needle and size 92 thread (I believe this is the Tex 90 equivalent). You can use other thread and needle sizes, but check the specifications for your specific machine to see what is recommended.


How To Tie Off Your Threads: As an alternative to backstitching, some people prefer to pull the threads through to one side then tie them off. This is often done to avoid the appearance of backstitching in visible areas. However, at high stress points, I like to backstitch a couple times and tie my threads off. I find that it creates a much stronger seam because it prevents the stitches from unraveling. This is optional and totally up to you! There are step-by-step instructions and photos in the pattern that show how to tie off your threads, but click below if you would like to also see a video of the method we use.




Sourcing Your Leather

The Maria bag pattern was written so the entire bag can be cut using a 12" x 24" leather panel. This was done because it is generally easy to find pre-cut panels in this size. It is not necessary to purchase this exact cut. You can choose to purchase something different, but make sure there is enough area for cutting all of your pieces.


There are many places to shop for leather. I typically purchase double-shoulders and hides from District Leather Supply, Rocky Mountain Leather, The Buckle Guy, Springfield Leather, Weaver Leather Supply, and Acadia Leather. If you are looking for premium leathers, District Leather, The Buckle Guy, and Rocky Mountain are great choices. If looking for more affordable, but still great options, Acadia and Springfield offer really good deals.


Choosing the Correct Leather Weight

I like to use a 5-5.5 oz. leather with a medium firm (semi-stiff) temper for this bag. What is “temper”? Essentially, temper refers to what your leather feels like in hand and how easily it can be folded or manipulated. If using the recommended weight and temper, your cut of leather should not be too floppy.


You could use a leather that is a bit thinner. In fact, the testers did exactly this! The pattern includes tester feedback for using leather as thin as 2-3 oz. The key for this bag is choosing leather that has good structure. Otherwise, your flap might be too floppy. It is worth noting... if using anything less than 3 oz, you will likely need to double and glue your pieces. If using a 3 - 4 oz leather, you might need to double and glue two pieces for your straps. Did someone mention straps?...


Straps

If using a 12" x 24" panel for your bag, the pattern includes instructions for making a three-piece segmented strap. However, if you have a larger piece of leather, you could make a one-piece, or even a two-piece strap (the two-piece strap is a personal favorite). It is totally up to you, but here are a few recommendation for the leather weight...


If you would like to cut your strap from a single strip of leather, I recommend leather that is at least 5 oz. You want something that is not too soft or stretchy, or your strap and strap connectors will feel too flimsy. Remember... if using a thinner leather for your straps and strap connectors, you might consider cutting them from two pieces of leather that have been glued together to make one thicker piece. This is discussed a bit more in the pattern.



Choosing Your Leather Type

My favorite leather to use for the Maria bag is 5-5.5 oz veg-tanned leather because I like the thickness and it burnishes easily (not all leather can be burnished). Also, since 5-5.5 oz. leather meets the weight requirement for the strap, I can use the same leather for the entire bag without doubling up the strips for the strap and strap connectors.


However, there are several types of leather that can be used for your Maria bag. I have used veg-tanned, oil-tanned, and other chrome tanned leather for this pattern. There is no right or wrong - it is all just a matter of preference.


Check out the short video below to see a bag made made fully using one type of 5.5 oz. leather. Hang around until the very end and you will also get to see some thicker strap options. Of course, you could always use something different from what you see here, but if so, I highly recommend staying within the suggested weight range. Again, it is just a matter of preference. The key is to choose the type of materials that will allow you to create a bag that YOU love!




Burnishing Edges: Finishing the edges of your leather can really enhance the overall look of your project. Burnishing will leave your project with smooth and glossy edges and it can be done pretty quickly and easily. We will talk about that a bit, but first I should mention not all types of leather can be burnished. There are tons of videos out there on how to burnish various types of leather, but the best and easiest burnish typically happens on veg-tanned leather. If you do have a burnishable leather, it is a great way to finish the edges on the Maria bag. So, what do you need to burnish your edges? There are countless methods and all sorts of gadgets to aid in this task, but it doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. Simply using a a small piece of canvas, a burnishing agent (we like to use Tokonole and/or beeswax), and good old-fashioned elbow grease can produce beautiful results. With a leather that takes burnishing well, you would be amazed how quickly your bags transforms. Take a peek at the short video below showing this method (the video has been sped up a bit).


Cutting Out the Maria: If using the paper pattern pieces that are included in the pattern, I find the easiest method is to trace the shape onto your leather, remove the pattern piece, then cut your leather using a ruler and rotary cutter. If you have the acrylic templates (available at ARC Expressions - click here), you can cut around the template while it is still in place instead of tracing then using a ruler. In the video clip below, I demonstrate how I cut the Maria when using the tracing method. Remember...if tracing, make sure all marks are removable! The leather I am using in this video is an oil-tanned side, so faint scratches rub out easily.




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