Sunday, February 15, 2015

2015 is off to a good start

After my winter break project of working with metal and synthetic fabrics, it felt good to get back to the familiarity of leather. Up first is a clutch modification. The client had purchased this leather clutch/portfolio at a thrift store, but wasn't thrilled with the monogram that decorated the flap:
She wanted a tooled leather piece with her own initials to cover the stamped monogram, which seemed simple enough. However, once I was ready to start sewing it into place, I discovered that, while the exterior leather was in great shape, the interior lining was extremely thin and fragile, and tore as easily as tearing a sheet of paper. I ended up replacing the entire lining with vegetable-tanned leather, to match the tooled piece on the flap:
Somehow it was rainy and dark the entire time I was working on this, which is why I don't have better photos of this project.
 Up next is a fun project - another squirrel wallet. The client wanted to acquire for his girlfriend a nice wallet, but wasn't exactly sure as to the specifics. He put me in touch with her, and we figured out the details of what would fulfill her carry needs - zippered all the way around, with enough space for cash/cards and a smartphone, plus a wrist strap. There would be some tooling on the interior of a saying from her dad, plus some imagery to match. And here is the end result:

Dark blue/violet pebbled Horween leather for the exterior, tooled veg-tanned leather for the interior, and the wallet zips shut with a sturdy YKK zipper.
This next project is another zippered wallet, and an Etsy request. She really liked the zippered wallets I have for sale, but wanted a different color scheme - something a little more natural. After some discussion as to what "natural" meant, we settled on black doe kidskin for the exterior, with an interior color to be chosen by me:

Usually I use a thicker leather and use that for the entire wallet, but the kidskin was thin enough to do turned edges and I think it turned out quite well. I'd forgotten how fantastic that particular leather feels.
A friend from work wanted just a plain, sturdy belt, and wanted to reuse the buckle from his soon-to-be-retired current belt. Here is is, made from thick Hermann Oak leather and dyed black:
And finally, I decided at kind of the last moment to make something complicated for my own special lady for Valentine's Day. She's a big fan of purple, and I had a lot of new purple leather to try working with, and it seemed like a good idea to turn it into a chambered nautilus clutch purse:

It's mostly constructed from soft purple cowhide, and gold speckly leather was used for the inlays and onlays, plus the interior lining. It closes with an antique brass YKK zipper.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Winter break

While I was away from work on an extended winter break, I finally tackled a project that I've been wanting to do for quite a while - create some low front panniers for my commuter bike. Normally I use a large bag that sits on top of the front rack and it works just fine, but the handling starts to feel perilous in wet road conditions. I thought it would be a good idea to put the weight much lower and see how that affected the handling.
First, the rack had to be modified to hold the panniers where I wanted and also keep them out of the spokes. I added a portion to each side that would be a low attachment point and also keep the bags from bashing into the wheel:

Once these were attached I could start planning and building the panniers. Here they are in place with a typical work day load:

I didn't want to build hooks and have a rigid back on each pannier, so I used a combination of straps and tension locks, plus some heavy duty elastic to loop around the lower attachment points:

The interior of each has a floating liner of vinyl coated polyester, for maximum water resistance, and to keep them from being an unorganized mess on the inside there are dividers with two pockets and multiple pen/pencil slots:
I've only been using them for a couple of weeks but the difference was immediately apparent. The bike handles much better with the weight down by the axle, and the ride is much more nimble. I no longer feel like I'm wrestling with the steering. Also, this frees up the top of the rack, in case I need to lug something else around. There are a couple of downsides though. It's less convenient to carry two separate bags around, as I couldn't think of a way to utilize a shoulder strap with both of these that was clean and simple. Also, getting them on and off the rack is very finicky and slow, so I may reconsider putting hooks on the top instead of those straps. Overall, I think that, with all the time I spend riding, the improved handling outweighs the inconveniences.