A leather Emmaline bag (pattern from www.emmalinebags.com), made of buttery soft Italian lambskin. I bought the skin from absoluteleather on etsy, and it's so yummy to touch and squish. I really enjoyed making this bag--the pattern was great and being able to handle this gorgeous leather was a pleasure.
I hate to give this baby up; I think it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever made. But I made it for my little sister, so she will be the lucky owner. Her favorite color is purple (yes, she has the daughter named Violet!). It's such a great size--a carry-all tote that's not too big. The leather makes it nice and slouchy too.
The bag is also lined in a luxurious feeling material--a Marc Jacobs cotton sateen jacquard that I got on clearance for a few dollars per yard from FabricMartfabrics.com.
I wasn't sure if I had enough leather to make the version with handles all the way around the bag, so I used leather tabs for top handles only, inspired by one of the versions displayed in the pattern.
Despite the challenges, I have really enjoyed working with leather and I thought I would list a few tips here. These are by no means exhaustive, as I'm new to leather, but I thought they might be helpful.
1) For the home sewing machine, stick with leather that's about 1mm or less in thickness because it's much easier to work with (just make sure it's thick enough for the function of whatever project you're making; very delicate lambskin isn't likely to hold up well for a heavily used bag, for example). Thinner leather can be used in many bag patterns that are written for fabric, and therefore another advantage is that it can be sewn with the raw edges ending up inside your bag. You can leave leather edges raw when sewing, but then it is best to finish the edges with a sealer such as gum tragacanth or acrylic paint. So if you are able to sew the leather like fabric you can avoid this step.
2) It's easy to trace the outline of your pattern template on the wrong side of the leather with a ball-point pen, to make cutting easier.
3) Use a denim or leather sewing machine needle as well as a longer stitch length to accommodate for the thicker material, and use a 1/4 or 3/8 inch seam allowance. All-purpose polyester thread is fine to use; avoid cotton thread which can degrade over time from tannins in the leather.
4) Perforating too many holes can weaken the leather at the seam, so only backtack if your machine can go back over the same holes. Otherwise make a knot on the wrong side to secure the stitching.
5) Stitch slowly, especially when going over multiple layers at overlapping seams.
6) I found a walking foot absolutely necessary when sewing the back (sueded) side, i.e. when sewing the leather pieces right sides together. A regular foot can be used if sewing cloth lining to the leather; in this case sew with the cloth on top so the feed dogs can move the leather along.
7) Before stitching, hold pieces together with binder clips and/or baste with leather cement or industrial double-sided tape (Laura Bennett uses 3M 465 adhesive tape in her book Handmade Chic).
8) To get a flat seam, you can press with a regular iron and pressing cloth, but I made up my own technique: I used leather cement to glue the seam allowances flat on the reverse side, then used a roll of masking tape as a presser, rolling the tape over the seam to press it flat while the glue was still wet (make sure your roll of tape is almost new, with enough weight to act as a presser). It seemed to work well (note the nice flat seams on the body of my Emmaline bag) and I didn't have to deal with a hot iron or worry about the iron ruining the leather.
9) I found that I didn't need to buy a lot of special tools. Thinner leather can easily be cut with shears or a rotary cutter and mat. Aside from my standard sewing gear I found the following to be helpful: leather cement (I use Eco-Flo from tandyleatherfactory.com, which doesn't have noxious fumes, and is water-based) and a small awl for making holes for inserting rivets.
Some online places for buying leather:
absoluteleather on etsy
PeggySueAlso on etsy
TandyLeatherFactory.com (also has lots of leather-working supplies)
Some online places for buying bag hardware:
fashionistafabrics.com (look in the closures section)
bagpurseframes on etsy
Hope this info is helpful for anyone out there who wants to try sewing with leather. If you want to wet your feet, again I highly recommend Handmade Chic by Laura Bennett, which has some easy accessories for home sewists (ipad cases, small pouches, etc).