Bespoke is an adjective for anything commissioned to a particular specification. It may be altered or tailored to the customs, tastes, or usage of an individual purchaser.
… More about that in a second.
A very young Camille
So everybody that knows me, knows that being a grandpa to five little grandsons is one of the greatest joys of my world. Yep, its all boys. We don’t have any granddaughters, officially speaking. However, we’ve been blessed to have three beautiful girls as unofficial granddaughters to light up our lives, and we certainly think of them as family. Camille, Audrey, and Hazel. Camille is now 17 years old, yikes…Where does the time go.
This summer on a camping trip, Camille and I discussed the possibility of her designing, and us making (together) a handmade leather purse. Of course I said yes. We talked design and made some cost estimates. Later Camille sent me a drawing of her design and it looked pretty cool. Maybe a little technically challenging but well within my limited capabilities. I came up with a couple of ideas to enhance the design and simplify the buckle closure, and we were on our way to a true “bespoke” heirloom quality leather purse.
Camille’s Bespoke Design
Job #1 was to make a paper pattern of the purse. Initially we’d use it to refine the shape of the purse and to estimate the size of the leather we were gonna need. Eventually we would carefully separate the pieces of the paper purse out and use it for the pattern to cut out the leather.
I used a circle template for the scallops on the flap, and tried to make them somewhat symmetrical.
Finally we set a date to go leather shopping. I tried to prepare Camille for the sticker shock of how expensive leather would be, and expected that we might pay close to $100.00 bucks just for the main piece of leather. In addition we’d need some hardware and the shoulder strap. It can add up quickly.
Imagine our delight when we found the perfect 6/7 ounce, veg tanned, shoulder cut on sale for about 1/3 of the expected price. Score!
I was excited to get going and would have started that very same day… But of course I needed to wait until Camille’s school schedule allowed her to be there to begin with me. But I did cut out and wet form the custom phone pockets a few days before the official start. That way they would be dry and ready for the dye process along with the rest of the leather pieces.
Wet molding the phone pouches
The smaller wooden blank was the size of Camille’s current phone. The other one was a bit larger. It can be used to hold a few small items but in the event that she gets a larger phone some day she can switch to the bigger pouch. The idea was to make the purse so it would be future proof. Again, truly a “bespoke” one of a kind item.
Cutting out the purse
Stamping her name in the key clip strap
Working the strap cutter
Applying the dye
So our first night was a huge success. We cut out the pieces, beveled the edges, and applied the dye. Camille stamped her name in a small leather strap that will hold a key ring clip inside the purse. We agreed that I would work on some of the stitching on my own while she was busy with school and all the other mysterious things that 17 year old girls must do.
Stitching the main part of the purse together was going to take hours sitting on the stitching pony. There would still be plenty of smaller things for Camille to practice her saddle stitch on.
I used a pricking iron to perfectly layout the holes for the thread
The two wet molded pockets stitched to the inside of the purse
The stitch groover cuts a line to allow for a clean fold in the leather
Contact cement holds the two pieces together before they are stitched
The home made stitching pony
Then it was time to climb aboard my home made stitching pony and spend a few hours running saddle stitches around the back and then the front.
And that’s where the project rested for a week until Camille and I could resume the build together.
Burnishing the edges
Our next work day and we jumped right in. Camille managed to get her hand in every part of the construction. With both of us working together it looked like we were going to finish up the purse in one final evening.
Waiting for the contact cement to dry… Yawn!
Camille making her saddle stitches
I just can’t tell you how pleased I was to spend some quality time with my dear friend Camille, and to see how proud of herself she was for what she was able to accomplish. And finally… Here is the finished purse.
Truly a bespoke, one of a kind, custom creation.
Thanks for following along, I hope you liked the project. And a special thanks to Camille for being so awesome!