Tutorial: Leather envelope Macbook Air case with tapestry insert
This is my first attempt at making this project, as well as my first time sewing leather. But, I’ve always thought that sharing about things when you’re new at them is never a bad idea since what you’ll have to share about the process is more true to what other newbies will be experiencing and need tips on. In other words I made a lot of mistakes and therefore learned a lot too, so I think my tips can help you avoid the same issues. In theory this a very simple project, but I learned that making it look really polished is where it gets tricky. So even though it’s a simple design I thought a quick tutorial was in order so I could talk a little about troubleshooting. With any luck yours will turn out a lot nicer than mine. At the bottom of this post is a reminder roundup of all the the Do’s and Don’ts that I mention throughout the tutorial.
The gist of the design is one piece of leather wrapped around your laptop with a flap to close it, just like an envelope. Another piece of leather, the size of the back of your laptop is sewn in (and optional) for additional padding and to create a smoother inside since the back of your tapestry would be there otherwise.
What you will need:
-Fabric scissors, or preferably a rotary cutter, ruler and cutting mat.
-Leather. For a 13″ Macbook Air you will need two pieces: one 14″ X 26″ and one 14″ X 9.5″. (For other, less thin computers the width will most likely have to be at least 2 inches wider than the width of your computer. The length will vary.)
-Sewing machine with needle for leather
-Thread that matches leather
-paper, enough for about the size of your tapestry insert.
-scissors for paper
Step one: Cut your leather.
You will need to cut two pieces of leather: One that measures 14″ X 26″ and another that measures 14″ X 9.5″. In the below photo the small piece is stacked on the larger one.
TIP: Your project will look worlds better if you cut your leather with a rotary cutter. Because leather is thick you can really see any flaws in your cutting, as well as the three-dimensionality of the leather when you cut into it with scissors. At the very least use large fabric scissors. The least amount of cuts necessary the better.
TIP: Since you will be folding it you want your edges to line up perfectly. So, make sure your leather pieces are cut symmetrically in both directions. Especially the large piece. Mine was symmetrical….eventually.
Step two: Make a smaller paper template of your tapestry.
Make a paper template of your tapestry insert as it will appear on your case. In this step you are essentially designing the hole that you will cut into your leather, so it will have to measure about half an inch smaller width and length-wise than the tapestry itself so that there is overlap to sew into. My tapestry was 5.25 X 4.75 inches, so my paper template measured 4.25 X 3.75 inches.
Step three: Orient your tapestry template and cut into the leather.
On the large piece of leather, decide where your tapestry insert will go and cut the hole out. To begin with fold the large piece of leather around your computer, just enough so the bottom flap folds up to cover your computer completely. Then flip the top flap of leather over that to create the envelope effect. You will get an idea of what the front side of your case will look like. Then flip the whole thing over to see the backside and place your paper template on top in various places to decide where it will go. Once you find the sweet spot trace around your template on your leather with pencil and then cut out that hole. Now you can place your tapestry behind your leather see what it will look like. Like so:
Step four: Sew your insert into the leather.
Use tape on the inside of your leather to tack your tapestry to it while you sew. Sew as close as 2mm away from the edge of the leather for a clean look. When you are done sewing it in remove the tape.
TIP: Tape it well or it will pucker like mine did (mine was made with super fine wool and synthetic warp though, so it was a harder thing to sew anyways)
TIP: Do not use tape on the outside (nice side) of your leather. It will mark your leather and maybe even take a layer off. I learned this the hard way on the next step.
TIP: Don’t sew with tiny stitches, this could perforate your leather too densely, making it rip easily. Any size in the middle to large range of your sewing machine’s stitch dial will do.
TIP: My sewing machine’s foot left marks and grabbed and scratched my leather, so I researched it and discovered that you should use a Telfon foot or put some tape on your existing foot to avoid this.
Step five: Prepare for sewing the envelope closed
Begin this step by placing the small piece of leather on top of the large one 7″ from the top of the large one.
As a precaution you can place your laptop on this same spot and make sure that the bottom part of the large piece can be folded over to cover your laptop completely. You can fiddle around with this part, moving the small leather up or down until the flap does cover the laptop correctly.
Now, take the laptop out and fold the bottom flap over to meet the top of the small piece of leather. In preparation for sewing use small paperclip clamps to keep the three layers of leather from moving while you sew.
Step 6: Sew the envelope closed
To sew the edges shut you will be sewing through the three layers of leather on both sides. Begin at the fold, sewing up toward the top of the case, removing the clamps as you draw near to them. Also, be sure to reverse your stitches for about 1/8th of an inch at the beginning and end of your lines in order to secure the ends. This assures your stitches won’t become lose or eventually come out with wear.
Step 7: Taper your flap.
To taper your flap, on both sides of you flap mark your leather one inch in the from the edge. Draw a line from this mark to the opening of the bag and cut on this line.
With all the DOs and Don’ts that I’ve learned in this process I’ll definitely be doing this again when I get my hands on some more leather. Here’s the TIPS list:
-DO use a rotary cutter and not scissors
-DO make sure your fabric is symmetrical in both directions
-DO secure your tapestry well with tape before sewing it. (only use tape on the backside of your leather remember!)
-DO use a needle for leather in your sewing machine
-DO Use a Telfon foot or put some tape on your existing foot to avoid grabbing and scratches on your leather
-DON’T use tape on the front of your leather to tack it down while sewing (what was I thinking?!). Use clamps, like these ones.
-DON’T sew with tiny stitches, this could perforate your leather too densely, making it tear on the sewn line. Any medium to large size stitch will do.