I’ve always loved vintage leather cases, particularly pre-war. My Grandfathers uncle was Victorian champion live pigeon shooter before World War one. My uncle still has his shotgun with the original handmade leather case that was made by a bag maker on Chapel Street, Melbourne all the way back in 1905. A few years ago I restored the case, as the stitching had fallen apart after more than a century. The bag design gave me a lot of inspiration. The design was known as a leg of mutton design, and featured box stitching at both ends.
The other inspiration was vintage binoculars cases. Often box stitched, with a neck strap and a handle on the lid, they looked to me like with some dimension tweaking it would be a great bag design.
Design and photo gallery.
All photos by Rebecca Newman Photography
The ‘Madigan’ is made from sturdy vegetable tanned leather from a tannery in Tuscany that comes in a range of beautiful colours. It also features waxed polyester braided thread for ultimate strength and a handmade brass lock made in England.
It is entirely stitched by hand, using the saddle stitch method.
When you look at the ‘Madigan’ from the top down, the first thing you notice is the slight kidney bean profile typical of binocular cases. This adds complexity to the design, but it means that as the bag rests against your body, it sits in the slight concave recess on the rear of the bag. The lid features a stacked leather handle, which consists of multiple layers of leather stacked up and glued together, then shaved down to shape then wrapped in leather to create a beautifully comfy handle for using the bag without a shoulder strap.
The top of the lid is secured to the side using a traditional box stitch. Not used much anymore due in part to complexity, and the need for thick leather, it adds to the vintage charm of the bag.
Moving down the bag, the lid and bag body are flush, thanks to a lip lining the lid and bag body made of incredibly sturdy English bridle leather. This allows for an almost airtight fit between lid and bag body. This increases the bags resistance to the elements as well stiffening the structure of the bag. A bold statement is an embossed leather logo on the securing strap, and on the rear, a hinge made of leather secures the lid. The lock itself is handmade in England from solid brass, and comes with a key in a clochette that is removable.
The strap attachment points are oversized for strength, as well as adding structure to the bag body. The angle of attachment to the ring was chosen for when the bag is worn on the body it pulls the ring towards the rear of the bag, not directly up. The base of the bag features metal feet, to prevent wear on the base of the bag and increase the life of the bag.
The inside of the bag features a small zipped compartment on the underside of the lid, lined with pigskin. The rest of the bag is unlined. This saves weight, but adds versatility in that repairs to the bag can be done easily in the field. Also you can see that the bag is not relying on any non-leather stiffeners used by a lot of the modern bag making industry. As master leather craftsman Nigel Armitage says, a well-made bag does not need a lining.
The final piece is the shoulder strap. Cut from the same hide as the bag body, it is 40 mm wide, and moulds comfortably to your body with use. It attaches to the bag through the rings on the side and is adjusted with two large Sam Browne studs on each side.
Thanks for looking. Don't forget to leave a deposit if you want to secure one of these bags. Remember the first five bags come with a limited edition wooden storage box.