Every CARV bag is made by hand from start to finish using centuries-old leatherworking techniques. Wondering how your bag is made? Learn about the key steps below and register your interest for workshops (which we will be offering very soon) via the form at the bottom of the page,
Step 1 - Design
The first step is to come up with an idea. This means putting pen to paper and sketching out thoughts, and it usually happens over a cup of tea or on the tube. We also offer a bespoke service where we can work with you to make your idea come alive. Find out more about the CARV custom service here.
Step 2 - Pattern
Once the idea is ready, we make a mock up of the bag in card to test out the dimensions and refine the design. When we're happy with the mock up a paper pattern is made for each of the pieces, with marks showing the location of details such as slots for straps and stitch lines for pockets.
Step 3 - leather
Choosing the right leather is an art - you want it to look beautiful while being functional. Leather comes in many different forms - it can be stiff or soft, smooth or raised grain, different thicknesses, and different colours. We often use contrasting colour with bright linings as a lovely surprise when the bag is opened. All CARV bags are made using veg tan leather sourced in the UK. Vegetable tanning is a traditional chemical-free process which uses natural products such as bark to create leather. Find out more about traditional leather production here.
Step 4 - hardware
Beautiful hardware such as buckles, studs and feet can make all the difference in the styling of a bag. We love brass and gold because it looks great against the tan and black coloured leathers. Find out about CARV's hardware suppliers here.
Step 5 - mark
the next step is to use the pattern as a template to mark the bag pieces on the chosen leather. Marks are made using a small hand tool called a scratch awl. It's important to be accurate with the marking so that the pieces fit together perfectly once assembled.
Step 6 - Cut
Once the marks are all transferred onto the leather, a sharp knife and steel ruler are used to cut out the leather pieces. We use a shoe makers knife, but you can also use a clicking knife or scalpel. find out more about our tool suppliers here. It's important to keep the knife sharp to get a nice clean cut along the edge of the leather.
Step 7 - Emboss
The CARV logo is embossed on the leather using a one tonne arbor press, customised for use in leatherwork by Nick at Artisans - check out our suppliers page here for more info.
Step 8 - Pierce Holes
We are often asked how you hand stitch through a material as thick as leather. This is possible because you use a tool rather than the needle to pierce the holes. Before stitching holes are made in the leather, one by one, using a diamond awl tool. It's vital that the holes are made accurately to make sure you get a neat line of stitches.
Step 9 - Assemble
When the pieces are all ready we glue them together using leather PVA, held in place by bulldog clips. Any smooth edges are roughened up with sand paper before the glue is applied to give a firm bond.
Step 10 - Stitch
The quality of hand stitching is key to the finish of bespoke leather bags. A beautiful stitch is a real sign of genuine craftsmanship that you can't get using a machine. hand stitching involves threading two needles on a waxed length of thread and then running the thread through the pre-pierced holes to secure the stitch.
Step 11 - Finish
After stitching the final touches can be made. This could include adding studs to secure straps, smoothing edges, or sealing edges using a technique called burnishing. The edges of CARV bags are often left intentionally raw - this gives a unique modern finish and showcases the natural beauty of the leather. Take a look at our finished products here.
Step 12 - Photograph
When the bags are ready, our expert photographer Olivier Barjolle comes in to shoot beautiful photographs. Check out Olivier's work and contact him here.
Coming soon - CARV will be offering workshops where you can learn the basics of leatherworking and make your very own purse or card holder. register your interest by completing the form below.