Remnant Leather Tote Bag / by Katie Turner

This semester I'm taking a class called Nature and Environmentalism in US Culture. It's probably my favorite class I've taken at Columbia yet because it pushes me to critically analyze topics of environmentalism and what "nature" really means. Recently we've been talking a lot about waste, and the impact it has on the planet. For my final paper, I chose the topic of the Ethicality and Sustainability of Vegan vs. Real Leather. Choosing between real leather compared to unsustainably made faux leather has always troubled the vegetarian environmentalist in me. There are a lot of factors that go into it, and I don't have an answer for you to which is better -- it's all about personal values and what you deem to be the most important. Luckily, there are more and more sustainably made vegan leather options coming into play, and although they aren't as widely used, they're a top contender in my book. For my paper, though, I'm just strictly writing a comparative piece on unethically sourced real and vegan leathers. 

I also love to make my own things. I've been wanting to make my own leather tote for a couple of years now, and seeing that my final paper requires a visual artistic component, I figured now was the best time to do it! 

To satisfy my want to create with leather products, I now buy real remnant leather from a local fabric store. The leather is rolled up into small bundles priced at either $10, $15, or $20 of leather that was cut away, or not used, typically when upholstering furniture. If these leather scraps weren't sold, they would probably have been discarded and ended up in a landfill. I made the fringe keychain and zippered pouch using the same leather. The pouch is from a couple of years ago, and so is the design for the keychain (I've modified it since, this one I made today). Because I used real leather, I'm hoping this bag holds up for a while. My clutch has lasted two years now of almost daily use and it's only a tad discolored! Admittedly, I didn't use the strongest thread for the tote, I just used what I had. The design is simple, clean and super easy. 

I didn't write this post as a How-To, but I just wanted to share my new project! Each piece is pretty self explanatory, but if anyone has questions don't hesitate to ask me. I'm even thinking about selling a few totes and keychains down the line and I'd love to hear if anyone would be interested in purchasing one. There's no doubt I need to refine my craft a bit, but for a first try and being sewn on my dinky home machine, I'm pretty proud. Let me know what you think in the comments below! 

All photos taken on my iPhone 6, edited in vsco.