Every CARV bag is made by hand from start to finish using centuries-old leatherworking techniques. Below is an introduction to the key steps and you can register interest for workshops via the form at the bottom.


Step 1 - Design

The first step is the idea. This means putting pen to paper and sketching out thoughts, usually over a cup of tea.  Becky offers a bespoke service where you can bring your ideal bag to life.  Find out more here.

Handbag designer

Step 2 - Pattern

A mock up of every bag is made to test out the dimensions and refine the design before making the paper pattern with marks showing the location of details such as slots for straps and stitch lines for pockets.

Bespoke bag pattern making

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.

Bespoke leather bag

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.

Bespoke leather bag hardware

Step 5 - Mark and Cut

Once the marks are all transferred onto the leather with a scratch awl, a sharp knife and steel ruler are used to cut out the leather pieces.  Becky uses use a shoe makers knife, but you can also use a clicking knife or scalpel. Find out more about the CARV tool suppliers here.  Keeping tools sharp is essential for ensuring accuracy.

Bespoke leather bag cutting

Step 6 - 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 the CARV suppliers page here for more info.

Bespoke leather bag CARV
Bespoke leather bag emboss

Step 7 - Pierce Holes

People often ask how it is possible to hand stitch through a thick material like 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.  Holes must be made accurately to get a neat line of stitches.

Bespoke leather bag holes

Step 8 - Assemble

When the pieces are all ready they are glued 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.

Bespoke leather bag assemble

Step 9 - 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.

Bespoke leather bag hand stitching

Step 10 - 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.

Bespoke leather bag

Step 11 - 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.

Bespoke leather bag photography

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.

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