Leather dice bag project

2017-05-07 08:37:26 -08:00

Last year, I took a sewing class and bought a sewing machine. Since then, I’ve taken another sewing class, bought another sewing machine, and done my first solo project: a leather dice bag, to keep my D&D dice in. (I was keeping them in the tube they came in, but it’s harder to get the dice back in than just pouring them into a bag, and it doesn’t look anywhere near as cool.)

This wasn’t the first drawstring bag I’d made; I’d done one previously at the first sewing class (there’s a whirlwind tour of operating a sewing machine and then they drop you straight into making things; it rocks), and I made a couple of prototypes from cheap muslin before I started actually sewing the leather.

This was the first time I’d worked with leather, however, and that was interesting. Leather is grippier than most fabrics, so you actually need to use a different presser foot on your sewing machine—specifically, a roller foot. Fortunately, I’d bought a no-name variety pack of presser feet off Amazon Warehouse Deals awhile back, so I had one ready to go.

This is largely going to be a photo tour; I took photos the whole way through the project. I posted the photos on Flickr and will be embedding them here.

Raw scrap of leather with $2 sticker still stapled to it.

I started with a scrap of leather from Fabric Outlet‘s $2 bin.

Next I traced out the biggest square of whole leather I could on a piece of paper:

Pattern traced in pencil on the paper.

And added a sleeve to run a drawstring of cotton cord through:

Fitting the cord

Next I drew a line bisecting that into two rectangular pieces, then added half-inch seam allowances round the three sides of the bag (below the edge of the cord sleeve), and checked whether the dice would fit comfortably in that space:

Dice fitting

Unlike woven or knit fabrics, for which you typically use pins to fasten the pattern to the fabric, for solid textiles like leather or vinyl, you use clips and/or weights. I used binder clips (for stationery) that I already had on hand:

Binder clips

And then cut out the square of leather with my rotary cutter:

Pattern shape cut out

The square of leather needs to become two rectangles, so I marked that line with tailor’s chalk (also from Fabric Outlet) and then ran the rotary cutter down it:

Marking the wrong side

Bisection mark

Measure twice, cut once: After marking the bisection line, I folded the square over and squared up the edges to check that the line was in the right spot. It was!

Measure twice, cut once

Checking that that’s enough material for each cord sleeve:

Checking cord fit

At this point I took a break to make a prototype from cheap muslin before committing any further. (Arguably I should have done this step before ever cutting into the leather.)

Two muslin pieces

This did prove important. My initial plan was to sew the pieces together first, then sew down the cord sleeves. Doing this with the muslin, I both sewed too far up one edge (you can see the holes left behind after I ripped that much seam out):

Muslin pieces sewed together

And also discovered how tricky it’d be to sew each sleeve with the other one just on the other side of the bag:

First cord sleeve sewn

But I was ultimately successful. Experience gained; one prototype bag produced.

Both sleeves done on the muslin

The bag is initially inside-out, so the last step (before putting in the cord) is to pull the bottom out through the top.

Inverting the muslin bag, 1 of 2

Inverting the muslin bag, 2 of 2

Next is putting in the cord and checking how much length I’ll need for an Ashley’s stopper knot at each end:

Loading the cord in the muslin

Estimating the length

Final check of capacity (I did this earlier against the paper pattern, but three-dimensional objects can be tricky about this sort of thing). Shining a bright light through the muslin confirms that there’s plenty of space after putting my dice into it.

Muslin bag capacity check

OK, now back to the leather. I marked where the edges of the cord sleeves will need to fold down to.

Marked the fold marks on the leather

At this point I’m about to start actually sewing the leather on my sewing machine, so I need to change out some things:

Equipment change

I’ve never sewn leather before, so I wanted to fool around for a bit and get a feel for it before I started sewing the real piece, so I used my scissors to cut off a scrap from what was left of the larger scrap:

Cutting some scrap off the scrap

Three stitches

The middle and right stitches are straight stitches of different lengths (I think 2 and 3, respectively). The left one is a zigzag stitch with width 1 and length 3, which I think gives it kind of a faux hand-sewn look. Perfect for a bag that I’ll be bringing to dice-rolling role-playing games.

OK, now to sew the real article, this time doing the cord sleeves first. Note the binder clip at each end and the roller foot on the machine:

Sewing the cord sleeve on the leather bag

First cord sleeve done on leather

On one piece, I ended up messing up the first seam enough that I decided to put in a second seam to brace it. Good thing I had enough clearance!

Two seams

After sewing the other three sides, I now have an inside-out leather dice bag:

Complete leather bag, inside out

Protip: Use the (blunt) tip of your scissors to push out the edges and corners of the bag.

Insiding out the leather bag

Right side out

I toughed it out and did it manually when I was doing this on the muslin, but for the real bag, I decided to use the tool that exists for the purpose of loading cords into sleeves and similar tasks, which is called a bodkin:

Bodkin from Daiso

Here I’ve got the bodkin stuck all the way through one of the cord sleeves, and the cord through the loop on the bodkin. I’ll cinch the loop shut on the cord, then pull the bodkin through the one sleeve, then run it the other way through the other one.

Cord on bodkin

Cord in sleeves

After cutting the cord to length and tying the stopper knots, the bag is complete:

Finished bag

All that remains is to put dice in it:

Finished bag with dice in it

And cinch it shut:

Bag cinched

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