The UpCycled Leather Leaf Purse

Alright, I admit it; I just can’t throw away beautiful leather! It’s amazing how a cast-off can become something beautiful. Meet my new ‘almost free’ UpCycled Leather Leaf purse.

The Leather from Garments

It’s my mothers fault… When I was young I observed how she would often take older style leather jackets and fashion them into something better and modern. Some leather is so luxurious and some isn’t. When you love the feel of it and its has some softness but also some stability it warrants becoming a purse. Mostly garment leather can be sewn with a home sewing machine if you have an older metal kind. My old Kenmore machines are quite the ‘work horses’.

But even my Kenmore sewing machines still have limits. You can however plan the design to make it a bit easier on the machine. Not having excessive thicknesses to sew makes the world of difference. My machine handles 2 layers quite well, 3 with some help….

The Simple Design

I prefer a simple purse design that also has a secure closure like a zipper. This ‘bucket style bag is a simple design. The rectangle side(s) need to match the circumference of the oblong bottom piece at the stitching line. That is the basic concept for inside lining as well, except that the narrow strip near the top will have the zipper side tabs sewn into the seam.

To make a sturdy bottom I doubled and top stitched through the 2 layers. A random design makes it not so fussy. If a design is random then mistakes don’t really happen.

Embellishing the outside

After cutting the major leather outside side pieces (even some with existing seams) The leaves are cut to sewn onto the upcycled leather leaf purse.

Since pinning is not possible, I use small tabs of double sided tape. Since it may get the needle gummed up I try to keep it’s use at a minimum. Test to see how your tape works on a scrap. I place them in a pleasing asymmetrical design avoiding the seams (less bulk)

The leaves are stitched quite easily since the line shapes are pretty simple, pivot and sew and pivot…

You could be creative and use any design you like… just keep it simple. Purses usually accent what you wear and have a subtle design. ‘And I tend to be a bit of a leaf nut’

Zipper installation scares a lot of people. I completely understand. So to make it even easier I noticed this design on some bags. It is not a completely closed design but the slight openings on the end will not lose anything important. The zipper can be shortened at the bottom. To make opening easier an end can be left a bit longer to use as a pull tab. I even made a leaf by sandwiching the cut end of zipper it between 2 leaf shapes.

UpCycle Leather Leaf Purse Assemble

  • Assemble the bottom to the sides after closing the side seams. (clipping the bottom every 1/4″ helps sew the curves of the bottom shape.
  • The lining is the same as outside but a tiny bit smaller. Leave an opening when attaching the bottom (for later turning). Sew on any pockets to organize the inside .
  • The zipper side-tabs are sewn into the lining seam near the top between the lining and a narrow strip.
  • Make a couple loops of strapping (with D-ring) or desired leather strip and attach between lining and outside leather. These can be reinforced later with rivets

Easy Zipper Install

The zipper is slightly recessed since is sew into the lining via the narrow top strip The lining is sewn to the outside (right sides together), tabs with d-rings in place.

The whole thing is then flipped right side out and lining is pushed inside and hand-stitched closed at bottom inside.

The top edge can then be top stitched around. Since it lining inside there isn’t excessive layers/bulk. It worked out nice for my machine.

Cross-body is my preference. Using some hardware to attach the strap to the D-rings. You could piece some strips together for the strap but I like the kind that comes by the yard. ‘And of course I added some leaves.

For some extra fun I made a few leaves and then used rivets to attach them to the side, also with a rivet loop. There is a jump ring so that I could swap out the leaves.

When making separate leaves only cut the top one first. Then after sewing cut the bottom layer to match top.

Cut after sewing. They can resemble feathers as well.

I love part rivets! They are so easy to use since they just hammer together using the proper tool.

You can make this in alternate proportions, larger or smaller or even narrower.

I’m quite happy with this! The jacket would possibly be in a landfill by now but instead it is a great upcycled leather purse! It will accent all the Eco prints so well, maybe even tie a silk scarf around the strap. Keep an eye out for those leathers heading to the trash…

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  1. love this!!! so beautifully done. have been looking for a way to put a design on my fauxdori leather cover and you have inspired me. thanks so much!!!

  2. Beauty! I have a blue leather jacket crying out for a project like this. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Oh blue?! That’s even better!!! When taking apart the zipper(s) can also be reused! I good snipper makes it a relaxing job often in front of the TV… And why not use the lining too?! Good luck!

  3. Nice work! I do not need a purse at the present time. I do need a little make-up pouch, though. I was thinking black velvet but your leather idea is wonderful. Thanks.!

  4. I can’t find the words to tell you how much joy and hope you bring into my life. Sheltering in place vs. Covid-19 is a good place to be when there are so many options for “making” something better for people. While we can’t give hugs, we can give personal gifts created by loving hands and hearts. Yes, wear a mask – even better to be able to make your own, or one for someone you love. I don’t have the skill to make a purse like this – no sewing machine and “zipper terrors”, but there is no famous brand purse that is as beautiful as the the recycled leather bag you have just created. I love the extra leaves, and the way they cascade from the body of the bag and from the strap. Could even be interchangeable, in colors to match your outfit – just swap them out for a fresh look. Or create some movement with reversible-color leaves. And the design stitched into the bottom of the bag adds a very professional finishing touch. Maybe the inner pockets could have zippers to protect contents without having to sew a zipper into leather at the top? I can see your feather bag, too. In my imagination, it has a pull-tab that is solid leather on the bottom and a top with a clear plastic insert to reveal a beautiful feather (peacock?). Personalize with your own big, bold initial/s. Something to be proud of.

    1. I am so glad I bring you that much joy! That is what art is about. I can’t imagine how my sould would be if I didn’t have this endeavour. When I am in my studio in the midst of a creative mess I totally forget about everything else – even the pandemic. It’s great therapy. No need for zipper terrors and used machines can be had for very cheap. My favourite Pfaff was $10 at a thrift shop (the manual had the original receipt for $850 in it) Who knows… Never say never.

  5. This is beautiful. What are the dimensions of the bag? I now so regret my husband throwing out worn out leather jackets that I could have salvaged with a project like this!

    1. It is about 11″ wide and about 10″ tall, but could be adapted wider or smaller. I found that the tabs of the zipper attached this way make it less fussy. There are amazing leathers to be had a thrift stores too! Happy making…

  6. WOW an amazing project. I love to repurpose “everything:??!! So much enjoyed your post. Lots of great info on your details. I had 2 worn purses of my mom’s and die cut some leaf/flowers and made cute ATC cards for fun little surprises to her grandgirls. I love thrifting and using unusual items makes my life fun. Thank You for sharing your great projects.

  7. Mucha gracias mi querida por tu gran generosidad. Excelente ideas para reciclar cueros y realizar algo hermoso. Hago fieltro y también Ecoprint y ahora en Pandemia me ha entrado mucha ansiedad por hacer de todo. La naturaleza nos brinda sus hermosos elementos y aprovecho de ellos con respeto de mi jardín y alrededores. Con mi amiga Susi que también se enreda en lanas y el amor por este arte vamos llevando esta situación. Mil Gracias por tus bellezas y enorme abrazo desde Uruguay interior.

  8. This project is so fun and amazing! I am always looking at how many leather jackets there are in thrift stores! People seem to buy them, but not wear them…and they are not cheap! I am getting ready to try my first purse. Do you just make the lining inside out, then once it is flipped, is it only attached to the leather at the top? I plan to just use the nice zipper that is in the jacket, and the lining as well!! Thanks, Barb, I love all your projects! Laura. (Northern California)

    1. I do that too! It is amazing how wasteful society is nowadays! Yes, I made the lining similar to the outside and leave an opening to flip it all. The zipper flaps are easier than setting it in the top seam I think. Perfect to use the jacket zippers! Have fun!