Leatherworking Diaries Part 5: Final Handmade Bags, Reflections & Program Finish

leatherworking diaries part 5 handmade leather bagthe end, but just the start

I welcome you to Part 5 of my Leatherworking Diaries.

In fact, this is the last Part of this series as my program at Scuola del Cuoio ended last week.

However this is not the end, since a new chapter of shoemaking begins on April 26!

In this article I will showcase a few more of my complete projects and talk about leatherworking.

I hope you enjoy it!

previous articles

You can find my previous leatherworking diaries here:

8 really intense weeks

It’s quite surreal that 8 weeks at Scuola del Cuoio passed already.

The leather school in Florence was expensive, intensive and full of surprises, knowledge and realizations.

Never before had I understood for real what a colossal achievement it is to produce leather goods.

From a simple wallet, all the way to a complicated bag and soon a pair of handmade shoes.

At times, it was an extremely frustrating experience for many reasons.

leather pieces for leather bag
Leatherworking Diaries Part 5: Patternmaking and cutting the pieces is a lengthy process

You have to spend a lot of downtime creating samples, mockups and cutting the patterns accurately before you even touch the leather.

Afterwards, you need to cut the exterior leather, interior lining, details and reinforcement.

Not to mention that I felt trapped and that I need a massive table to spread everything without making a mess.

You have to keep your tools extremely sharp, your workspace as clean as possible and keep track of your tools and pieces.

Let’s not speak about one simple mistake during the sewing process that has the potential to ruin everything.

Lastly, finishing the edges requires a lot of patience and is unskippable since everything needs to dry properly.

But at the end, when you finish everything and you see the end result or someone using your creation it’s magical and satisfying.

My 2 final projects

Unfortunately I don’t have something incredibly new and exciting to show you here.

I spent the last 2 weeks of the school working on the same style of bag in order to perfect it.

leatherworking diaries part 5 handmade leather bag by Kostas Mandilaris
Leatherworking Diaries Part 5: The first bag of today’s article

It was also a commission and something I had been working on to support charities.

The bag design was a bigger variation of what you saw in the last leatherworking article.

That particular one went to Ana Santos, daughter of Carlos Santos that produces some of my favorite dress shoes.

And then I worked on making a second one in green which is one of my own favorite colors.

Green Handmade Bag
Leatherworking Diaries Part 5: My 2nd Green Handmade Bag

The latter is available for sale and the money will go towards an Ukrainian Charity.

More on that later.

Reimagining the first bag

If you remember from the 4th Leatherworking Project I created a nice simple bag with side gussets.

At the end I began working on a larger variation with a curved flap.

The goal was to be more efficient this time and produce a higher quality bag with less flaws.

edge coloring leather
My edge coloring technique is improving

It would have nice ping/beige calf leather with a deerskin print on it and golden details.

Additionally, it was a great chance for me to use the remaining parts of my light blue nubuck for the lining.

The result was great in my opinion and paves the way for a specific type of bag that I want to create for women.

You can generally see how much better the stitching is, but also how much cleaner the edge coating is.

leather bag by Kostas MandilarisThe handle was also a much better rendition and accurate finish of the previous ones which originally gave me some trouble.

Overall, I am extremely happy with this bag and I hope you like it too.

Hopefully I will be taking more commissions after shoe school finishes!

go green, go bold

Emerald green and generally most variations of green are amongst my favorites.

I got my hands on a similar calf leather with an embossed deerskin patter but this time in green.

Here the goal was to be even more efficient and quick, while improving the quality of the end product even more.

Laura Puscasu Photography
Chic Lady Laura Puscasu (IG: @visualdelirium) wearing my bag

For the most part, I think I achieved that but the improvements are small things that mostly I know and understand.

I was much more capable and quick doing the cutting and general assembly for example.

Or I was able to be more independent and not as ask many questions.

Additionally I managed to sand the edges correctly and apply the edge coating in a more uniform, clean way.

bag lining
Edge coating, bag lining, all done a bit better this time

This is still a project that took a long time and from the materials and labor alone should cost over $400 when perfected.

I am very happy with both of these turned out to be especially since they were my last projects.

For charity

As of now, I am auctioning privately the green bag to the highest bidder.

I will be accepting bids of over $200 and you can declare your interest via comment or email.

All proceedings will be donated to some people that suffer in Ukraine due to Putin’s invasion.

If any of you want to give a great handmade gift to your spouse or relative, contact me!

thoughts about scuola del cuoio

In the beginning, I was a bit unsure about how necessary such intensity was in the school.

Or how ridiculous precision of 1mm leatherworking requires in the simplest of things.

Never have I ever considered 1mm important before in my life.

kostas mandilaris holding his handmade bag
Here’s a last picture of me holding my creation!

However, after experimenting on my own projects or following YouTube advice I realized that those are just baby toys.

Yes, you can make a simple project but if you want to play in the big leagues you have to develop real skill.

The amount of math, geometry and “street smart” required to imagine and complete a project is intriguing.

Or the ability you develop in order to overcome a problem or challenge is equally important.

I learned a lot these 8 weeks, but I also learned nothing.

Nothing in the sense that I am years away from becoming an expert, or that it takes just a few weeks of idling to forget what a project is like or subtle details.

One thing is for sure, after even the first apprentice part and just 2 months you will be able to make real bags and accessories.

If you can, I certainly recommend Scuola del Cuoio and Schola Academy for your studies.

It’s an expensive investment but combined with the incredible city of Florence, it’s worth every penny.

final thoughts

Thank you for reading Part 5 of my Leatherworking Diaries and the whole series.

Thinking about this journey, I haven’t even scratched the surface of leatherworking.

The task at hand with the upcoming bespoke shoemaking is daunting, exciting, riveting and action packed.

However, I am glad I took this course first because I familiarized myself with a lot of key concepts.

Sewing, machinery, tools, cutting and assembling but also problem solving.

Even if I don’t become a world famous bespoke shoemaker, I will still be able to offer you the most in-depth reviews and customer service due to my knowledge.

It will be fun and I hope you are here to experience it with me.

I will see you next week with maybe something incredibly exciting.

Thank you for reading,

Kostas Mandilaris,
Misiu Academy

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