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DIY Saddle Bags

Preface: I am not a leather worker. I have never done anything like this before. I just REALLY wanted fringe saddle bags. 


What I did: Found a pattern here. Went to the nearest leather store and asked a ton of questions. I did not know what I was getting into so this is what I wish I would have known before hand:

- Leather is really expensive and there is not really an alternative. No pleather allowed here. 

- Tanning leather is not the same as dying it

- There are numbers on the under side of leather that tell you how big and thick the hide is

- You will get blisters sewing by hand

Step 1: find your hide and cut out your pieces

Ask about the different hides, depending on what part of the animal it is will depend on the thickness as well. Thickness is important because it depends on what you are trying to make. Also it takes heavy duty scissors to cut through leather or you will have to exacto-knife it. I had no idea what I was looking for those workers had to educate me on everything. When you find the hide that you want, go through each hide and inspect it. They are obviously all different but you are looking for leather that is consistent all across it. Flip it over and make sure there are no weak spots that could tear. They call the smooth side_____ and the grain side _____. Plan on spending around 100$ for a full hide, they were having a sale at the time and I spent 50$.  

Step 2: dye your leather

Ok. I had no idea how hard this was. I thought it was just a "paint in the lines" type of thing. If you want a really good dye job, I would take it to someone especially if you are looking for a lighter dye. If you are looking to learn and do it yourself, here's what I did:

- Buy some daubers which look like these guys. Dye will stain your hands for a week so definitely use these

- Put the piece of leather under water (you could use oil too), this makes it so the dye blends better

- Dye dries super fast and it is really streaky, if you go back over it then the color becomes darker. 

- Go in a circular motion and dip in the dye regularly

I was not stoked the first time these came out, they were really streaky and I wanted it a lighter brown. I put them under water again then buffed it with an old t-shirt. I let them dry in the sun to wear them in and then called it a day. After you put a conditioner on them and start beating up your leather, it won't really make a difference so don't lose sleep on the color you are going for. 

Step 3: hammer your sewing holes and start threading your lace through

This will take some time. Get a tool that has multiple pegs to it, check this out and you will know what I am talking about. I used a waxed canvas thread and had bigger needles. I realized very soon I needed to wear gloves, your fingers will become raw. 


Step 4: condition the leather afterwards

This really helps take care of your leather. I used this Aussie Leather Conditioner and I always re-apply after using any of my leather goods. You can just use an old t-shirt to apply it. 


  • It's really satisfying to learn something new

  • Now I know why leather goods are so expensive, the time spent on this I would have to charge a pretty penny to make it worth it

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