As we strive for high-end quality, craftsmanship is one of the key pillars that Karu is firmly placed upon. We have chosen to keep the entire process in-house. All our bags and accessories are made entirely by hand in our own atelier, from the very first drawings and concepts, to the hand-stitched, finished product, ready to be united with its new owner.
By keeping the whole process in-house, we can guarantee consistent quality, and make sure that our production line is as sustainable as possible. When crafting our products, we use traditional French and Italian methods that have been used in saddlery and bag making for centuries. These techniques are very time consuming, as it takes anywhere from 6 to 32 hours to make our different types of bags. The resulting aesthetics, quality, and durability, however, are unparalleled, which makes it all worth it a 100 times over. In fact, we believe in these methods so much that all our products come with a life-time warranty!
All the steps add up to quite a significant amount of hours.
Below is an outline of our production process:
1. Selecting leather and cutting pieces
Firstly we select the best possible leather for the specific item that we are going to craft. Here we look at the tensile strength, temper, colour and general appeal. After the right leather has been selected, each piece is cut out by hand with special knives and scalpels.
For intricate patterns we might use a paper template. Larger pieces are cut out free-hand or with a ruler. When all individual pieces have been cut out, we glue the full-grain leather pieces directly on the the soft lining leather with eco-friendly glues. This creates highly durable leather panels that serve as both the outside, and inside of your bag.
When the panels are ready, some of the edges have to be painted (up to 8 layers!) as they would be unreachable after the bag has been assembled. After this step we hot-stamp our logo into the leather, either with silver foil, or regularly embossed.
2. Perforating individual panels for stitching
To be able to stitch the bag by hand, each of the individual components needs to have every single stitch hole perforated before the assembly process begins. For this we use a line groover to line out where the punctures have to be, and a pricking iron to make them. This tool has 1-6 sharp prongs in a row and can be punched through leather with a rubber mallet. This creates an even line of diamond shaped holes. depending on the size of the project, the number of holes that need to be perforated can be well into the thousands.
3. Assembly (Saddle-stitch)
When all the panels have been perforated, it is time to ensemble them together. Unlike most contemporary brands, we do not use a sewing machine! To do this we use a traditional saddle stitch. This particular way of stitching bags is done entirely by hand, and has been used in the craft of saddlery and bag making for centuries. This technique, however time consuming, results into a stitch-line that is unrivalled by a sewing machine in terms of both durability, and aesthetics. Depending on the intricacy of the design this means that our products have anywhere from a hundred stitches, to many thousands of stitches, all done by hand.
4. Edge coating and finishing
Once the product has been stitched together, there is still a lot of work to do. Firstly we sand all of the edges, to make sure they are smooth, and as even as possible. After this, we use an eco-friendly edge paint which we apply by hand with an edge paint roller. Once the first layer has naturally dried, the edge glazed with a hot iron and is then lightly sanded again, and another layer is added on top. Depending on how many layers of leather are stitched on top of each other, this process needs to be repeated, anywhere from 3 to 8 times, or until the desired edge is achieved.
When we are satisfied that the edge has enough coatings, we use a special heating tool to glaze all the edges one last time . This ensures that all separate coats bond to each other, and to the leather edge. After the heat glazing, beeswax is applied to all the edges and burnished. A small amount of natural wax polish is used, and the bag is buffed. The bag now has perfectly smooth, shiny edges, and is ready for its final inspection, where after it is packaged.
Hope this blog post taught you a little bit more about what it means to craft a bag with traditional techniques. Keep an eye on this space for our next blog post. But for now, have a great day!