How to Make a Fortuny Gladstone Bag, Part 1
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.
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.
Chipboard was used to stiffen the bag’s sides.
Dissecting this bag clarified how it went together.
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.
Chipboard in the gussets gave stiffness to the bag ends.
The frame was covered with leather.
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.
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.
After taking apart the lining, I made posterboard pattern pieces for all the bag’s pieces.
The body sides:
Since Fortuny fabric is a lightweight cotton twill, it needed some reinforcement to make it suitable for use as handbag material.
I discovered that fusing it to canvas (the black fabric shown), made it strong and stiff enough to make a bag.
I cut the fabric with 1-1/2-inch seam allowances. I pressed under the allowances along the sides.
I tested thread and needle size and stitch length on the folded fabric and leather. Here’s my test swatch, fabric side.
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.
I used fusible web to hold the seam allowances in place.
The base of the bag was cut from a snakeskin-embossed leather.
I used painter’s masking tape to hold the pieces together. This didn’t mar any of the surfaces.
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.
I adhered the chipboard to the leather with contact cement. This formed a solid base for the bag.
Next, I punched holes into the base and installed the feet.
The bag base was finished.
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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