Travel Bags – Sewing with Leather & Adding Zips

Earlier this month I headed off to New York for 8 eight days with my family. Our trip started on the Tuesday after the Easter weekend. This lovely long weekend before we headed off meant that once I had got my classes finished and the house and family prepared for the trip, I had a day to myself to dedicate to sewing a leather travel set.

To put this in context, I’d had the pattern for 3 months ahead of this time, the fabrics for 2 months before that, and a month ago I’d traced the pattern and decided on the hacks I was going to make to the design, ready for a day when I got time to sew for myself. So this was nothing like a spur of the moment thing! The pattern I’d chosen was the Portside Travel Set by Grainline Studios. I make a lot of their dressmaking patterns and was intrigued to have a go at this set.

The set comprises a large cabin bag/weekend bag, along with a zipped document holder and a structured zipped pouch which could be used for toiletries, but I found it super useful for the chargers, plugs and all that type of paraphernalia that a family on tour requires. I’ve recently been enjoying sewing with leather when making free machine embroidered gifts, where I’ve added leather panels to  ‘pimp up’ the pouch. For a similar reason, I had bought leather to make this bag just a little bit more special. Adding the extra zipped compartments and meshed pockets made the bag more functional – as key items could be held securely and found quickly when travelling. All the linings with this travel set are drop-in – which I opted to hand sew in place, so were easy to modify.

Whilst the pattern, like all Grainline patterns, was great, having some knowledge of bag making allowed me to swap out plain interfacing for more structured foam, and to add in meshed and pillar box zip pockets in the travel bag and the ‘toiletries’ bag.I also felt the travel bag needed a firm base, so I added a fabric covered stiff removable bag bottom, as well as adding bag feet.  These things are easy to add and you can customise this bag however you want to because the base pattern is so good.

This was not a hard make at all. With all bag making, there is a lot of time required to cut all the various pieces out in fabric, lining, leather, interfacing, foam etc., but when that is done, this is a really enjoyable make. At points I was sewing through 2 layers of leather along with foam, for this a size 90 leather needle, a longer stitch length and going slowly was required.

Having returned from New York, the bag was a roaring success with a couple of people asking where I had bought the set! The document holder is a great size and my charger bag was perfect for chargers and earphones which always end up rattling about at the bottom of a bag. The meshed pockets in the main travel bag worked well.

The Portside Travel Set Pattern retails for £14 for the ‘proper’ paper version or around £11 ($16) if the pdf is download from the Grainline website.

For details of the 3-evening classes to make this set visit GillyMac Designs website or click here.

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