Handmade: Knitter makes transition to leatherwork

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Brenda Geiger of Dearborn had always been on the hunt for unique leather purses but was never able to find what she was looking for, so about five years ago, she took matters – and a piece of leather – into her own hands.

“On a whim, I picked up a leather hide and started experimenting, and never looked back. I was drawn to the natural edges and textures. I loved how I could use all these elements and create one-of-a-kind items,” said Geiger, a former co-owner of Neighborhood Knits, once in Dearborn. Inspired by the characteristics of the hide, it was only a matter of time before she started an online business called Brenda Geiger Designs, an impressive collection of “handcrafted leather purses, totes, wallets and accessories,” including eyeglass cases and key chains.

“When I start cutting into the hide, I can’t wait to see how the design unfolds. When I select a hide, the first thing I look at are the edges, and how I can incorporate them into the design. No two hides are alike, so no two bags are alike,” explained Geiger, who creates her pieces using “basic shapes and classic designs,” some complete with leather lacing.

Wanting to add to the uniqueness of her exquisite bags, Geiger learned metalsmithing about three years ago at Fritz and Friends in Franklin. She then began embellishing her purses with not only grommets and vintage buckles but her original handcrafted hardware. “I think I enjoy shaping metal as much as working with leather,” said the designer of beautifully handcrafted leather goods. She also makes and sells “artisan-styled” jewelry that’s sometimes combined with leather.

Geiger works out of her home studio, which is equipped with a large industrial sewing machine. “I have been a sewer for many years, and had some construction background, but leather poses some different challenges – weights, textures, etc. – but I kept at it,” she noted. “I did a lot of reading and practicing. I am forever learning and experimenting with new techniques.”

With a growing customer base, Geiger said, “The woman who carries my bags appreciates handcrafted, and is drawn to their vintage and handmade elements. More importantly, she likes that each bag is a one-of-a-kind, and that her bag is as unique as she is.”

Repeat customer Sherlda Milton of Detroit said, “Brenda Geiger Designs produces leather and metal goods that are consistently of the highest quality. I enjoy each of my many, many purchases.”

Plymouth resident Kristen Sabatina shared that “Brenda’s work is absolutely beautiful. She is extremely talented, detailed, and beyond creative in her craft. Her designs are truly one-of-a-kind, and can be used throughout any season. I love Brenda’s work, and will continue to buy her handmade purses!”

And, Anna Schmidt of Columbus, OH, who’s “in love” with Geiger’s bags and jewelry,” added, “Her packaging and hand-written notes to complete the delivery are a much-appreciated touch.”

Asked what’s her biggest selling item, Geiger said, “Last summer, I went to Santa Fe and fell in love with the natural hair-on cowhide purses I saw. I decided to make some of my own that had more of a Mid-west, urban feel. It was a risk because I didn’t see a lot of those type bags here. (Now) I can’t make them fast enough.”

Because of the time it takes to be creative and run a successful business, Geiger is a little sad that she’s no longer able to knit as much as she’d like, and connect daily with other knitters. She said, “Making my bags is one thing, but I also do my own photography, packaging, mailing, manage my website and social media. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.”

Geiger’s purses range from $45-$300, and her jewelry is priced at $25-$85. She sometimes sells her work at local art fairs, and keeps a schedule posted on her website (

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or DetroitNewsHandmade.

Contact Brenda Geiger Designs at Email: