Leather Bag Making Retreat

The Black Swan, 21 High Street, Marton,
Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, DN21 5AH

21st – 23rd June, 2024

26th – 28th July, 2024

Near Gainsborough, Lincolnshire

If you want to bag-make with genuine leather but are nervous of trying it, this weekend is ideal for you. It will give you the confidence to make your own leather bags at home and you’ll make some fab friends along the way!

VERY IMPORTANT! Before booking, please check that your machine can cope with sewing at least 6 layers of faux leather or vinyl. Flat sewing is fine – if the machine can do that, we can manage lumps and bumps!  

**This retreat is a little different from many others in that making a bag isn’t the point of the weekend, although you will indeed make one. The focus is on learning new transferable techniques and skills that you will be able to use on so many bags you make in the future.

We have our own ‘Retreat Suite’ of rooms, including a spacious, light and airy sewing room which is equipped with a display screen so everyone can easily see demonstrations from a working viewpoint. We also have our own bathroom and kitchen facilities. If you wish, you are free to continue work after dinner and until as late (or early!) as you like.

You will need to bring your own sewing machine, fabric scissors and any other favourite sewing tools, but everything else is provided.

We’ll have a good selection of fabrics, vinyls and leather for you to browse and purchase if you wish, at retreat-only prices. 

Come and join us in the exclusive Facebook group Bag Makers Retreat at https://www.facebook.com/groups/bagmakersretreat/ for all the latest retreat info, chat, gossip and more, plus a chance to meet other like-minded folks. 

If you have dietary requirements, please tell me before you book, so I can be sure we can meet your needs.

All meal main courses are included in the retreat fee, as are Saturday and Sunday lunches and breakfasts. Starters, desserts and drinks with meals are not included but the meals are so huge you probably won’t want starters and desserts anyway!! Tea and coffee is available whenever you need, but you do have to make it yourself! 

If you’d like to stay an extra night or two, maybe to arrive on Thursday or leave on Monday if you have a long drive, let me know and I’ll check availability with our host.

If you’d prefer to travel by train, we are happy to ferry you to and from the station, just ask.

Please aim to arrive no later than 2pm as we have a lot of pattern cutting and fabric choosing to get through on Friday!


The fun starts here as you arrive at your weekend home-from-home – a beautifully refurbished, 4-star 18th century coaching inn with all the comforts you would expect. You’ll have time to settle into your own delightfully comfortable en-suite room which has all the anticipated little luxuries,  before an introductory get-together with me and your companions in the sewing room at 2pm.

You’ll be given your own copy of the bag pattern, which is very beginner- and strong domestic machine-friendly (see note in bold at the top of the page), but which will incorporate a lot of features and techniques that are also in much more complex designs, making this an excellent springboard to any leather or other bag you want to make.

Then you can wallow in the plentiful stash of leathers and fabrics to choose from.  All the leather, fabrics, interfacing, stabiliser, threads and bag hardware you need are supplied. As soon as you’re ready, you can start preparing and cutting out your pattern and some of the bag pieces so we can hit the ground running in the morning.

After a superbly-cooked and substantial evening meal at around 6pm or so, you are welcome to continue working in the sewing room or to simply relax and chat there before bed.


After an excellent breakfast, we can really start work learning some new skills and beginning work on construction. You’ll work at your own pace from around 9am with no pressure – I want your weekend to be fun and not stressful! We will walk through the techniques together and I will be there the whole time to answer questions and troubleshoot any tricky bits.

You’ll also have the chance to try sewing with faux leather , if you haven’t already, and we’ll explore ways and techniques to use and apply rivets. 

Refreshments are freely available all day and you can take a break whenever you wish. A light lunch (with homemade cake!!) is also provided and we’ll have a short break in the middle of the day.

The rest of the day will be similar to Friday – sewing, dinner at 6ish and more sewing if you wish to before bed. Do feel free to have a walk or just sit outside for a breather if the weather is kind.


How can it be Sunday already??

Breakfast over, we’ll get back to work. You will need to allow a few minutes to pack and check out of your room, as it has to be made ready for Monday’s guests. Apart from that, it’s uninterrupted sewing (with refreshments and lunch breaks!) until your bag is finished. We’ll be heading off for a lightish lunch at 12.30pm or so. We have the sewing room for the rest of the day.  If you don’t quite get done, there’s absolutely no need to worry as you’ll easily be able to complete your bag at home. If you finish earlier feel free to head home whenever you’re ready.

Amongst loads of other hints and tips, you’ll learn  –

  • Choosing and handling leather
  • How to make professional quality rolled handles
  • Creating and applying custom bag feet
  • How to create a zipped pocket the pro way
  • How to use edge paint and get a professional finish with it
  • Sewing the bag together and topstitching
  • Reducing bulk with leather
  • A sneaky way of getting your bag right-sides-out without ugly seams!
  • An easy way to add a zipper pull without tools
  • Working with different types of rivet machine

and loads more.

You’ll have an exclusive pattern, created just for the Retreats, which includes comprehensive mini-tutorials and full instructions.

And I hope you have a lot of fun and make new friends while you learn!! 

I never abandon my students at the end of the course so if you get stuck on anything at home, you are welcome to give me a shout on Messenger and we’ll sort out your problem together.

The not-so-small print

Book your place using the simple booking system below – just click on your choice of dates and go from there. The full price is £465.00. The deposit of £65 is non-refundable if you cancel but can, however, be credited towards a future retreat booked within the next 6 months. It is completely refundable if I or the venue cancel. The booking page only shows the Friday, but the course is running until Sunday.

The balance of £400.00 is payable by approx 6 weeks before the retreat date and payment instructions will be sent to you in good time. Cancellations 4 weeks or less before the retreat date can only be refunded if someone on the waiting list can come instead.

If you book, pay and attend without pre-checking that your machine can sew the required thicknesses, as detailed in the note at the top of the page, I’m afraid no refunds will be given if it proves that your machine can’t cope during the Retreat. I may have a machine available to lend, but can’t promise one.

*Don’t worry that your booking confirmation may be headed Unicorn Studios –  it’s just the site that I’ve run my booking system from for years… it’s not a scam!! *

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