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How-to

How to Make a Fortuny Gladstone Bag, Part 1

Nov 18, 2015
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Here is the bag before I before I began the deconstruction process.

Recently, a friend gave me a beat-up old Gladstone bag that he’d found at an estate sale. I’ve liked the Gladstone bag style in the past, and this was an opportunity to make one for myself. I decided to use Fortuny fabric, as it’s so beautiful.

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

Here is the bag before I before I began the deconstruction process.

After cutting off the frame, I removed the lining to learn how this bag was put together and what structure was inside. I saw chipboard (thick paper) for stiffening, and spring bones (called a facile spring because it has a curve lengthwise instead of being flat, like a fin from Levolor-brand blinds) in the sides to provide structure. 

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

Chipboard was used to stiffen the bag’s sides.

Dissecting this bag clarified how it went together. 

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

The gussets on the end were sewn to a straight strip of leather, and then the leather strip was sewn onto the bag.

Here are the main parts of the bag after the seams were opened. 

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1


Chipboard in the gussets gave stiffness to the bag ends.

The frame was covered with leather.

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

I needed to remove the hardware from the frame and polish it. It turned out to be nickel and polished up beautifully!

My plan was to cover the frame with the fabric. 

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

When removing the leather, I saw that it was adhered to cardboard before being attached to the frame.

This is the frame with the leather cover removed. 

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

After taking apart the lining, I made posterboard pattern pieces for all the bag’s pieces.

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

The body sides:

Since Fortuny fabric is a lightweight cotton twill, it needed some reinforcement to make it suitable for use as handbag material.

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1


I discovered that fusing it to canvas (the black fabric shown), made it strong and stiff enough to make a bag.

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

I cut the fabric with 1-1/2-inch seam allowances. I pressed under the allowances along the sides.

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

I tested thread and needle size and stitch length on the folded fabric and leather. Here’s my test swatch, fabric side.

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

Here is the leather side of the test swatch. The verdict: A size 110/18 leather needle with Gutermann polyester topstitching thread did the job well.

I needed to make a muslin casing for the spring bones on the bag sides. I couldn’t pin the muslin down because of the stiffness of the canvas, so masking tape served to hold it. After sewing the casings for the sides, I slipped the bones into the casings, and folded the seam allowances back in place.

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1


I used fusible web to hold the seam allowances in place.

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

The base of the bag was cut from a snakeskin-embossed leather.

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

I used painter’s masking tape to hold the pieces together. This didn’t mar any of the surfaces.

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

Here’ s the seam joining the base to the bag side.

After the base was sewn to the sides, I cut a piece of thick chipboard, 3/8 inch smaller on all sides than the cut edges of the leather. 

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

I adhered the chipboard to the leather with contact cement. This formed a solid base for the bag.

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

Next, I punched holes into the base and installed the feet.

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

The bag base was finished.

make a fortuny gladstone bag part 1

The body was done, too, and ready for the gussets along the sides.

In Part 2 of this three-part Fortuny Gladstone bag construction series, I’ll demonstrate how to make the end gussets and complete the bag body. Stay tuned.

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  1. User avater LebecEgirl May 21st

    Do you have a source for the hardware (long metal closure) for the Gladstone style bag)? Would love to make a bag like this.

  2. deWeerd March 21st

    oh ... so nice to have found this site !! In the Netherlands, where I live are still made a lot of bags by hand, but really craft like here on this site, you almost do not find here. I would also like to make a Galdstone bag and teach here a lot !! Thanks for that !! After a long search, I have found a place where different types and kinds of Gladstone bag frames are sold. I think you can find these at Ohio travelbag. But for me, easier, and more choice to buy them in the Netherlands :-) Who is intrested, or for bags automakers in Europe is the web address www.emezzuhandbaghardware.com.
    With greetings from the Netherlands

    p.s. how can I get a patern?

  3. User avater KennethDKing January 27th

    Sadly there's no place that I know of for a pattern. I used the dissected bag for mine...

  4. user-2011587 January 12th

    Hi,
    I love this bag!
    Is there a place I can get this pattern? I would like to make one while u do yours.
    Thank you,
    Sheryl

  5. User avater KennethDKing November 29th

    To Gailete: I'm glad you find the posts interesting! Just because one won't have use for some of what I make, that doesn't mean one can't enjoy acquiring knowledge just for its own sake. It makes life far more interesting.

  6. gailete November 27th

    Kudos to you for even attempting this sort of project! I'm always amazed when people take on something like this.

    I appreciate your many projects that I have seen you do throughout the years. As someone that usually spends most of my time home and in my nightgown due to poor health, I don't have much call for what you make, but my brain NEEDS the stimulation, so thank you!

  7. User avater KennethDKing November 25th

    To AterlierDesigns: I ourchased them at Pacific Trimmings in New York (http://www.pacifictrimming.com). They have a good range of things.

    As for hand saddle stitching, there is a "starter kit" at Tandy leather, that has the book and the essential tools needed to learn. That's how I did...

  8. AtelierDesigns November 24th

    After a recent visit to the School of Leatherworking in Florence, I'm fascinated with the construction of handbags. I'm most interested in learning hand saddle stitching and plan to give it a go. You gave some great tips for construction. I'm looking to source the metal feet you used. Would you mind sharing your resources. Thank you.

  9. User avater KennethDKing November 19th

    Thanks for the kind words!

    If you'd like to see the finished bag, you can follow me on Instagram (kennethdking), as I have photos there...

  10. User avater LuvThreadsMagazine November 18th

    Senor King,

    You never cease to demonstrate that anything can be de-created and re-created - on behalf of my fellow Threads readers, thank you for that.

    Your taste in hides and patterns proves flawless. While still in pieces, what you have constructed conveys the double-distilled elegance found among a select group who have the means for anything, but discerningly choose only timeless statement pieces.

    Eagerly awaiting the rest of the series!

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