One of best things about being a saddler is making beautiful items from sumptuous materials that will last and last, and be loved by their owners.
Recently I was asked if I could do something about a bag that appeared to be at the end of its useful life. It may have been easier to just get a new bag, but it was a favourite, used day after day. It showed a life well lived, and the basic structure was still obvious.
The bag had been overloaded, thrown around and used and abused in all conditions and previous repairs had been done poorly, and were now failing.
What a lovely project to work on, I started by assessing the bag. Stitching had unravelled, the lining was badly torn, the lock was coming off, the leather was dry and in need of nourishment, the strap was disintegrating, and the area the straps attached to had started to come away from the body.
First I removed the damaged lining, this gave me access to repair the stitching that was failing. A new lining would be created later.
I removed the panels that the straps attached to. To be honest it didn’t take much as the stitching was going. I cleaned and fed the leather before going any further. I then glued some English Bridle leather to the rear of the panels that held the strap, and gave it some much needed strength and support so that they were up to carrying a fully loaded bag.
Lots of hand-stitching with waxed linen thread later and the body of the bag was getting stronger. A new strap was fitted to the newly reinforced panels, which were then stitched back into place.
With the help of a local shoe repairer (thanks Callis of Crouch End) the rivets on the lock were replaced.
Final step was to create a new lining – this was a branded bag, so in a nod to the branding, the pocket containing the brand logo was re-used in the new lining.
The new lining was fitted, the bag received a final nourishing feed, and the bag was ready to hand back to the owner.
Some people will treat a bag with respect and love, too much in fact, and want to protect it from the bumps and scrapes that come with general life, so keep it for best. Other people will just use the bag and being leather the bag will come to life, gaining a patina that speaks of an item well loved. Neither approach is better than the other, just a different approach to life.
A well designed and constructed bag will take a lot of punishment. English bridle leather is strong and robust. If hand-stitched it will stay together, and take a lot of punishment before it starts to need attention.
Yes it may pick up a few marks but the patina it acquires as it is used just adds to the character of the bag. The quality will shine through.
A well loved quality bag is worthy of repair.