Behind The Scenes of Making Leather Bags - Made in California (Part 2)

Posted by Lisa Ramos on

Behind the Scenes video of making crossbody bag.

It is March and I am still going strong in the studio making the 2022 handbag collection with the goal of a mid April completion. In my first article, Behind The Scenes of Making Leather Bags - Made in California (Part 1) I take readers through the process of managing a small batch one of a kind production through a journal and a variety of visual experiences making the MONOLISA tote bag collection. In this article, Behind The Scenes of Making Leather Bags - Made in California (Part 2) I continue showing readers how I hand make leather bags through a variety of photos, videos, my schedule and a few lessons learned along the way. 


Behind The Scenes of Making Leather Bags - Made in California (Part 2) - Hand Cut Italian Leather Straps for Crossbody Bags
Hand Cut Italian Leather Straps - Ready for Glue.

March 2-3, 2022: Spent the last few days working on updating the MONOLISA website, creating some behind the scenes videos and preparing for a three day road show - Marin Art & Craft Show. I am looking forward to being back in the studio making bags, but first must attend to other work commitments. 

March 4-6, 2022: Let the show begin. I spent the mornings up bright and early for the show. Each day was packed full of tasks - loading, unloading, display setup, reuniting with vendor friends and visiting with customers. 

March 7, 2022
 - I just got back from the three day show. It was a great show, but I am a bit tired. Tired and sewing don't mix well. Although, I am back to work, today's focus is reorganizing my van for the next show, doing paperwork and prepping for tomorrows handbag tasks. 

Designer Lisa Ramos: Punching a Crossbody Bag Strep

Punching the crossbody adjustable strap.

March 8, 2022 - After successfully hand cutting 50 long straps, I place the bundle of straps in paper tubes to prevent the fibers from going everywhere on me and in the studio. The end of the day is followed-up cleaning all the leather fibers sprinkled throughout my studio and prepping for tomorrows gluing tasks. The straps will be used to make the adjustable over the shoulder component. 

March 9, 2022 - Today I am gluing two leather straps together - this step is done prior to sewing each piece. The adjustable straps have two strap components - one thirty-nine inch piece and a fifteen inch piece. By the end of the day my eyes and hands are tired and ready for a good nights rest.  

Monterey, California Beach
Beautiful Monterey, California.

March 10-14, 2022: The last 8 weeks have been extremely busy making handbags.  My eyes, hands and feet need a little break. For me creating takes a tremendous amount of concentrating, especially sewing and cutting. I am heading for mini trip to Monterey, California with my husband. The memorable trip was filled with delicious food, a little rest and a wonderful visit with family. 

March 15, 2022: Spent the day doing administration work and catching up from my mini trip....still folding clothes!  

March 16, 2022 - Had to take the day off for a routine medical procedure. Looking forward to getting back to work. 

Designer Lisa Ramos: Sanding a Crossbody Bag Strep - Preparation for Edge Painting | article Behind The Scenes of Making Leather Bags - Made in California

 Sanding the crossbody strap and prepping before edge painting.

March 17-21, 2022 -  This morning I oiled the industrial sewing machine, changed the needle and adjusted the stitching for the new Crossbody bag project - steps I take for each project or after every 7-8 hours of sewing. This week, the focus is making the leather crossbody straps. After the straps are glued and dry for 24 hours the next step is sewing - followed by a four step process for treating the edges. The four step process includes lightly sanding,  liquid gum tack burnishing, heating burnishing and then black edge painting (as seen in the above video). I had to also order more hardware for a design change on the crossbody straps - using solid brass Chicago screws on the crystal stoppers instead of rivets. 

March 22, 2022
 Spent the day cutting the black Italian leather hide. Previously I only cut the leather hide for the straps and left the remainder of leather for the other parts of the bag - just incase I need more leather for straps. Today I am cutting the two patterns for the main body of the bag. 

March 23, 2022: Up early for a doctors appointment. Today I am taking part of the day off to remove a mole. Those yearly skin checks are a must!

Designer Lisa Ramos: Heating a Crossbody Bag Strep - Preparation for Edge Painting  | article Behind The Scenes of Making Leather Bags - Made in CaliforniaHeat burnishing crossbody strap and prepping before edge painting.

March 24, 2022: At noon I headed to Concord to setup for the  Walnut Creek Bead and Design Show that is starting tomorrow. Normally I do my booth set-ups the morning of each show, but knew my leg would be a bit soar from the stitches and slow me down from yesterdays doctor appointment. Prepping the day before the show will allow me some extra time the morning of the event - always a treat!

March 25-27, 2022: Let the show begin. The show is really close to my home, so thankful I don't have to drive far. Typically I am in the car 1-2 hours each way for a show. Today it is only 20 minutes. 

March 28, 2022: Working on after show tasks - paperwork, washing display table cloths and cleaning the van. 

March 29-30, 2022: Love being back in the studio creating. I am working on sewing the main body of the bag over the course of few weeks. 

Designer Lisa Ramos: Sewing a Crossbody Bag Strep - Preparation for Edge Painting  | article Behind The Scenes of Making Leather Bags - Made in California

Sewing the crossbody 39" bag strap.

March 30, 2022:
 Packing and packing - focus for the day. Tomorrow I am heading to a show in Monterey. I have to double check my van for all the essential show supplies and get the MONOLISA collection ready for the road. 

April 2-3, 2022: Arrived in beautiful Monterey. The weather was perfect for the outdoor show - minimal wind, lots of sun and even temperatures - I couldn't ask for anything more. I enjoy doing shows, but I am looking forward to getting home to start on a busy week in the studio. 

Designer Lisa Ramos at the Monterey Show
At the Monterey Show.

April 4, 2022: Worked on applying to a holiday show. Many of the shows require long applications - writing and photos. This application is going to take sometime. I better get more coffee. 

April 5-7, 2022: This week I am working towards completing the crossbody bag collection - still a ways to go. I have a lot of shows coming up and need to start designing jewelry pieces. The last thing I want is present my work at a show and not have enough or the right inventory. For me it is a balancing act, creating the pieces and traveling to the shows. To keep focused and organized I stick with a busy and detailed schedule. This results in completing all my tasks and reducing anxiety. I try and avoid those middle of the night worries about forgetting to do something. I write everything down - love those checklists. 

April 8, 2022: Taking the day off to visit mom and a half day a the salon. Then off to an evening of scooter riding. 

Lisa Ramos Scooter Riding
Ending the day with a fun scooter ride. 

April 9-10, 2022: This weekend I am shifting back to working on the crossbody bags straps. Although I finished edge painting them over a week ago, I still need to assemble the hardware - buckle, belt stoppers and lobster claws. Today I worked on launching some of the new handbag collection online - take pictures and create product pages. 

New Italian Leather Crossbody Bag with Fancy Crystals - MONOLISA Bags Made in California
2022 MONOLISA Italian Leather Crossbody Bag with Fancy Crystals.

April 11-12, 2022: Finished completing the crossbody bag collection, followed by photographing the bags and adding the pieces online. The last minute handbag design idea mentioned in my article Part 1 - creating a small tote bag with a shimmering crystal closure element and beautifully designed textured Argentium silver hardware handles unfortunately has to wait until later this year or next. I have lots of upcoming shows and need to shift my focus to making new jewelry pieces - sculpted rings, earrings and pearl pieces. I am looking forward to diving back into sculpting metals, soldering and stone setting some new gorgeous gemstones. Wish me luck!

Lessons Learned Making Handbags

After completing the bag collection each year I reflect on how the design to development process went for the season, followed by how to improve next years process - through a series of detailed notes and ideas. A few lessons I learned this year making leather handbags - order the bag hardware earlier in the year, preventing unforeseen delays. This year having to wait for hardware only created delays in finishing projects and simply made me frustrated. Another note, start exploring new adhesives which are more environmentally friendly that still deliver great leather bonding. It would be a dream to glue without the smell. I am determined to find a glue that works for all of my leather projects - just keep it. Another idea for improving production -  consider cutting the leather bag patterns towards the end of each year. This would give me a jump start on the production side and alleviate some stress regarding tight deadlines. Working on leather bags from December - March may be more ideal and free up a month for jewelry design. This would require planning and purchasing raw materials in August and September. I am sure a few more ideas and thoughts will come to mind, but for now thats all folks! 

Handbag & Jewelry Designer, Lisa Ramos
This blog post is written by California Handbag Designer, Lisa Ramos who has featured her handmade MONOLISA collection at over 100 events in California.

Read about how Lisa started her business later in life - Starting a Business at 50

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