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The Process of Making Leather Goods


Pfaff walking foot"Imagination mode" is my first step on the path to a new design. I listen to inspiration from dreams and the in-between stage from sleep to awake and back again for solutions. I listen in meditation after posing a question. I listen to the suggestions and desires of customers and clients. Then I visualize the "answer" to some posed desire.

I go to my drawing board and draw a sketch. I decide on dimensions. I use my draftsman training to draw the design to scale. I break it down into all its parts. I add the seam allowance and then make a paper pattern.

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inserting zipper

Every design is original, even if it looks like someone else's work. I believe that we all tap into the same Source and sometimes our designs overlap and all start to look the same. I used to feel paranoid that big design firms were "stealing" my designs. Mostly for my bags, back in the 70's and 80's. But now I know that we all drink from the same well and feed from each other, too. Namaste.

Kathleen Sweeney


Next, I make a sample out of sellable, but not premium, leather (perhaps the leather is desirable, but the color is not popular) and I make a prototype. I hope to sell the first attempt, so I do and redo what ever I need in order to make that happen. Even if it is far from the desired finished product

I learn the most from observation. In life, as well. What does making this first item tell me? What do I need to change to make it work? How much should I charge? The price is determined after I have become accustomed to the individual process of each piece. Finally, I feel comfortable about the amount of time it takes to create. Working diligently and precisely but without stress, I name a price. I try it in the market on Sunday at the Santa Barbara Sunday Beach Show. I find the lowest I am willing to sell it for. I find the reaction to my desire for what went into it, what I want for it. It is often very different. The prices reflected here are a compromise.

The second attempt is refined far enough to know that the third will be the "hard copy." When I finally get the product I am happy with, I make a pattern of rigid cardboard to be reproduced many times. At this point I feel truly grateful, realizing another creation has taken shape and is ready for introducing into my line of leather products.

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Kathleen Sweeney • 805.570.5181

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product photos by Benjamin Martinez