Today’s DIY is a little specific: bag linings. Bag linings in bucket bags, to be specific. Since reading Dana Thomas’s Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, I’ve been thinking a lot about handmade construction and what constitutes a luxury item. It was her description of Hermès Birkin bag that really stood out.
With its mythically long waiting list and five-digit price tag, Thomas refers to the Birkin as “possibly the last true luxury item.” But reading her description of the labor process, suddenly that astronomical price tag doesn’t seem so arbitrary. After an intricate process of cutting a blemish-free piece of alligator or crocodile leather, one artist sews the entire bag by hand using a continuous thread to prevent knots. The entire bag is made of leather, and no glue is used. No detail is spared in construction.
A lot of luxury goods on the market can’t truly be classified as luxury goods anymore. Despite their labels, many luxury brands now outsource their production to mass production in factories in developing countries. Especially hand bags, which are often someone’s true introduction to a brand. Fashion is a multi-billion dollar business, with many of its profits coming from handbag sales. And it is truly a business – since the globalization of the fashion industry pushed profits over quality, it makes sense that they would maximize profits by saving on production while still expecting the consumer to shell out big money.
I was thinking of the intricate craftsmanship of the Birkin while updating leather bucket bag was given to me by a friend who owns a vintage shop. It was in terrible condition – the leather needed to be re-conditioned, and the lining looked like it had been ripped apart by apart by a tiger.
But it had promise. I sewed on a patch that I found in the scrap pile and ripped the original seams. Thankfully it had no glue. The existing perforations in the leather made hand-sewing the new lining a breeze.
The shape of bucket bags in particular makes it easy to replace a lining. Most bucket bags keep the lining in place with a top seam that’s been folded over. By using your old lining as a pattern, giving it a new look is super easy.
What you’ll need
- Seam ripper
- Half yard of lining fabric
- Matching thread
- Straight pins
- Tailor’s chalk
- 5″ zipper
- Zipper foot
1 | Detach the old lining and rip apart the seams. This is going to be your pattern. When disassembling the old lining, make notes on any important features – where the side seams line up with the bag, where you’d like to install any pockets, etc. Use tailor’s chalk and mark it on the old lining.
2 | Trace one inch seam difference around the old bag lining and cut. If you choose to install a zipper pocket, this is where you’ll be installing it.
3 | With the right sides facing, pin and sew the two side pieces of the lining together and trim and finish the seams.
4 | Pin and sew the side pieces to the bottom of the lining and trim and finish the seams.
5 | Finish the top edges to prevent them from fraying with an overlock stitch.
6 | Drop your new lining in the bag with wrong sides facing each other. Pin into place, and stitch around the edges.