As readers may recall, I’ve always been a big fan of fiveleft leather goods. Imagine my surprise and delight when designer Lincoln Heller invited me into his studio in East Vancouver to make one of his bags by hand. On top of that, he happened to choose the signature clutch that I’ve been coveting since I first discovered him as the one we’d make. In my favourite colour, red. I was stunned – a fashion dream had come true.
He showed me step-by-step how this beautiful clutch is put together, many of which would normally be done by a machine. He allowed me to get hands-on throughout the whole process, only stepping in for the tricky parts like sewing the side seams. Breaking down the assembly line like this made me appreciate the kind of thought and attention to detail that goes into handcrafted work. It really is a labour of love and passion.
Here is a rundown of how the clutch was made:
1. Hole Punching
The sheet of leather was already treated and dyed, and thus ready to go. First I had to punch holes into it for the rivets to fit into. Just like when you punch holes into paper, except this was done with a nail-shaped tool and a hammer instead.
The next step was to attach the leather tongue and metal clasp that would together keep the clutch closed. Using rivets normally applied to boats, I secured both accessories to the leather sheet with the help of a heavy duty clamp. I had to step on a foot pedal, applying maximum pressure to the tops of the rivets to ensure they wouldn’t fall apart.
3. Bending & More Riveting
Do you know how to bend leather without it cracking? It’s much simpler than you might think – just brush water along the crease line you want to use, and then bed. After the leather sheet was bent in half to create the clutch shape (without actually folding it), I secured the shape by filling the holes I had created with rivets. Easy peasy.
This was a trickier step so Lincoln took over and used an industrial sewing machine to stitch the sides of the clutch together, creating a tidy straight seam of black thread. The needle went through the layers of leather like butter.
5. Let’s Rivet Some More
To secure the corners of the clutch, rivets were used again and secured with the heavy duty clamp.
6. Final Touches
And for the signature details, the fiveleft leather brand was stamped onto the interior, as well as the number and Lincoln’s handwritten signature. This personalizes and makes every clutch one-of-a-kind.
Voila! The clutch was surprisingly simple to put together, showing how much Lincoln has honed and streamlined his design to its essence.
He was a very laidback teacher, being patiently supportive of my rookie hands. Stay tuned for future hands-on workshops offered to the public – not only is it satisfying to get your hands “dirty” and make something of your own, but you’ll love your bag that much more, knowing it has your personal touch.
Thank you to Lincoln for this experience and for revealing the magic that goes on behind-the-scenes. I will cherish my clutch always.