Repaired and Restored – A Mulberry Bag

Occasionally visitors come to the Walsall Leather Museum, where I and a demonstrator on Tuesdays, with leather possessions that require some kind of repair or restoration.  The projects have been very varied and perhaps I should write a blog about all of the interesting repairs and restorations I have done.

A few months ago a lady named Irene from Birmingham, visited the Museum seeking help with a Mulberry bag she bought about 12 years ago.  Unfortunately she visited on a day other than Tuesday and she left with my telephone number.  After a telephone conversation I agreed to carry out the repairs.  She was obviously very fond of the bag and yearned to use it again.  It was a Mulberry bag that she hadn’t used for some years due to the a joint in the strap coming apart.

After mulling over the possible methods of repair I decided to plunge in and dismantle the joint with the view of putting it back together in a stronger way.  Irene informed me that she her bag sometimes carried some weight so there was no point putting the strap back together in the original way.  The photographs below show some of the stages and the end result.

When doing a repair quite a lot of factors need to be taken into consideration.  In this case there were three major considerations.  The edges had to be blended in so that they matched the rest of the edges.  The joint had to not only be put together seamlessly but also with additional strength.  And the thread and stitching had to be matched so that it blended in well.  Since it was a well used bag there were lots of signs of wear which makes it harder to blend in repairs.  Furthermore black is a tricky colour to match.

In a nutshell the repair entailed the removal and replacement of the filling material, reattachment of the two ends of the strap and then the stitching and edge finishing to match the rest of the strap.  To improve the strength of the joint the ends of the strap were overlapped and glued instead of being butted together and stitched.  This means that the weight is distributed over leather longitudinally rather than directly on stitching sitting between to ends.

The bag is to be returned shortly to the owner who is clearly looking forward to making use of it again after so many years.  It is a great pleasure to successfully complete a repair where there is some sentimental value or attachment.  These projects are often tedious and time consuming and sometimes not worth doing due to the expense.  However a lot of the time everything comes together perfectly to lead to a positive outcome.

In this day and age it is easy to throw away and buy new and it is nice to think that I contributed, albeit  in an insignificant way, to the reuse of leather goods.  Less and less people want to repair or restore old items.  Museum visitors occasionally comment on how difficult it is to find people to do repairs and restorations and the few people who can do leather repairs often refuse to do so in many cases.  This makes it even more satisfying to complete a repair or restoration.

The repair to this Mulberry bag will last for a long time.  With stronger filler material and two hand stitching (saddle stitch), this bag will go on serving its owner and giving her pleasure for a long time to come.