Amy here! 2019 is most definitely the year of the belt bag! We have seen them all over, from the runways of fashion week to just about stylish lady on the street. However, if you’re a little incredulous at the idea of this trend making a comeback, know this is not the ubiquitous fanny pack of the 80’s and 90’s. This year’s iteration is a little more grown up, often made from leather, with a more dressy belt than a plastic clip. And today, we have a free pattern and tutorial to make your very own belt bag, a chic and functional addition to any me-made wardrobe.
Our belt bag pattern was designed to accompany our latest patterns, the Rome Collection, and we love it layered over the Fiore Skirt & Pietra Pants. We hope you enjoy a hands-free summer with this baby, which is just big enough for a small wallet, passport, iphone and lip balm; feel free to scale it up or down to suit your needs!
The options on this bag are just about endless. You can make it bigger or smaller, use an existing belt or make one from scratch, change the closure, add more pockets… really this is just a jumping off point. This was my first time sewing with thick leather and I have to say, it is very addictive. There are a few basic principles I will share with you here but leatherworking is an in-depth hobby that should you choose to get into in a serious way, will provide you endless opportunity to improve. I will give you the basic tools you need, but again, all you need to do it pick up a Lee Valley catalogue to see that you could spend the rest of your life buying special tools for this purpose and there would still be things you don’t have yet… So with that said, let’s get started! First step is to download the free pattern in our members-only sewing resource library. To get access, sign up for our newsletter below and we’ll send you the password!
The first thing you need to do is source some leather. We bought a whole hide from a supplier in Montreal but obviously, you don’t need that much for this project. You could also use pleather, vinyl, upcycle a thrifted leather skirt or jacket, or this cool paper fabric that works like hide. You want to make sure it is thick enough to hold its shape, but not so thick you can’t sew it with your machine. I suggest reading this blog post that Heather wrote a while back about working with and sourcing leather before you get started. Don’t be scared! This bag I’m showing you was my first attempt.
You’ll also need:
- Leather needles
- Teflon foot to glide over the hide. If you don’t have one, adding frosted scotch tape to the bottom of your foot will work in a pinch.
- Nylon thread. This is super thick, durable thread generally used for leather work, but a beefy topstitching thread will work as well.
- Sharp, heavy-duty exacto knife
- Pencil or ballpoint pen to mark your leather
- Awl or hole punch
- Anvil (you can use the bottom of a cast iron frying pan)
- Self-healing cutting mat
- Thick hand sewing needle
- Depending on what you want to use for your closure (we used a snap) you will also need the tools for snap setting. If you have extra Kelly Anorak snaps you are all set!
Start by printing out your pattern. You will want to figure out how to lay it out to waste the least amount of leather. Once you like your layout, trace around each piece with a pencil or ballpoint pen. We tried sharpie but it leaves a mess if you don’t cut the entire line off. From there you will cut carefully through your trace lines.
Make sure you use a fresh blade and that you are keeping it 90 degrees to the mat. If your leather if very thick you can create a bevelled edge if you’re not careful.
If you want a credit card holder, align it on the bag body at the suggested location marked on the pattern. Mark the corners with a pen so when you get to your sewing machine you can adjust it in place. Lower your needle through the corner and sew 1/8th” from the edge, leaving the top side free. Leave long thread tails on both ends and don’t back stitch!
A tip for sewing with leather: to help the leather glide under your foot, use a teflon foot or cover your foot with a piece of frosted scotch tape. Read this blog post for a refresher on leather sewing tips.
Pull the thread tails to the outside of the bag and either knot together and clip or using your hand sewing needle, weave the tail back through the holes you already made. The picture I am using of that step is of the outer edge, but you get the idea.
Next, mark the slits for your bag – we’ve marked the pattern with a suggested location. Align the top of the slit with the top of the pocket and make the slits approx. 3/4″ apart. You will make these slits as wide as your belt. If you are using a ready made belt, simply measure that, or if you are making a custom belt, decide your width based on your buckle.
If you are using a snap closure as we did here, you will also want to attach your snap parts now. In order to mark the location I just pushed it really hard into the leather where the snap front looked good.
Using your awl, make a hole where your mark is.
If you have a hole punch tool (which comes with our Kelly Anorak kits!), it’s easier than using the awl since it removes a piece of leather rather than just pushing it out of the way. I used our hand press to install the snap parts – hole punch removes just the right amount to get the cap post in.
Next up: installing the snaps! It’s best to do this step now; it’s tricky to do when the bag is sewn together.
Install the top of the snap on the flap of the bag body. In order to line up the snaps on each side of the bag, align the two parts of your bag, fold over the flap and mark where the snap on the bag body hits the front piece. Next, install the bottom of the snap on the bag front. Need help installing snaps? We have a tutorial for that!
Now it’s time to sew the bag front to the bag body. Wonder clips are an awesome pinless way of holding everything in place but be careful – they have teeth on one side so just test a piece first to make sure they don’t mark your leather. Sew your bag edge at 1/8″, leaving long tails at both the beginning and end of your stitching. Don’t backstitch since you want to reduce the amount of times you puncture the leather.
Pull the thread tails to the back and tie them off.
On to the belt! If you are choosing to make your belt from scratch, measure your waist where you think you’ll want to wear the bag. Allow for a little extra for the sewn end and then give yourself 6-8 ” of overlap since you might want to wear your bag over a coat or lower on your hips. I suggest cutting it extra long and then trimming down if necessary. When cutting, try to cut as cleanly and smoothly as possible – a quilting ruler is your friend!
There are lots of buckles out there and they are all installed a little differently. For the buckle below, I wrapped the end of the leather around the end and stitched it in place.
Almost done! Time to add belt holes. The hole punch is the best way to make professional looking holes in your belt. I hammered mine on an anvil, but the back of a cast iron frying pan will work in a pinch!
Moment of truth! Lace your belt through the slits at the back and try her on!!
How are you going to wear your belt bag??!! Show us by using the hashtag #closetcasebeltbag!!