Introduction: Creating Leather Fringe

The unique structural qualities of leather make it ideal for creating all kinds of interesting textural design details. Because leather doesn't fray like fabric it can be cut and manipulated without worrying about finished edges. One especially fun decorative leather treatment, that also happens to be a popular fashion statement right now, is fringe. Leather fringe has a very specific aesthetic that can come across as cliche, but you can also use this basic technique to create all kinds of other interesting and creative designs. I'll show you the basics of creating fringe, and then you'll have the option to add it to your bag.

In this lesson I'll be using:

  • scrap leather for testing
  • x-acto knife
  • fringe cutter
  • clear and metal rulers
  • awl
  • mallet
  • cutting mat
  • strong sharp scissors
  • thick waxed thread
  • stitching chisels
  • quartz slab and poundo board
  • double sided tape
  • scotch tape
  • leather needles
  • pattern pieces for the fringed bag
  • Step 1: Cutting Fringe by Hand

    Making fringe from raw leather is really quite simple. Basically all you do is cut slashes in a piece of leather in order to create a series of parallel strips that are connected on one end, and free on the other end (though I have also seen some interesting designs made with fringe that was left connected on both ends). Fringe works best in leather that is not too thick or stiff, something flexible that will have a lot of movement is ideal.

    Before you start cutting, you just have to decide how long you want the fringe, or if you want it to vary in length, how wide the whole section of fringe needs to be, and how wide you want to make each individual strip. The width of the strips depends a little on the scale of your project, but somewhere between 1/8" and 3/8" is a good range. Any thinner than 1/8" is too thin to cut by hand, and wider than 3/8" tends to look like a cheap costume.

    You can create a pattern for your fringe piece, or just measure and mark the strips on your leather itself with a clear ruler. You don't need to mark each line, just mark the ends of the lines with your awl. If you are creating fringe to use as a trim, leave an uncut band about 1/4" to 1/2" at the top of the fringe depending on how you are going to attach it to the rest of your design. Fringe can also be incorporated directly into another pattern piece so it doesn't need to be attached separately.

    Once you've marked the position of your cuts, use a metal ruler and an x-acto knife to cut each line, separating out the fringe pieces. You made fringe!

    Step 2: Cutting Fringe With the Fringe Cutter

    If you want a slightly more efficient way to create fringe you can invest in a fringe cutter. The fringe cutter is a very analog machine that lets you set the spacing of a series of razor blades to cut many strands of fringe at once. It can also be used to cut straps and wider leather strips. It's a little annoying to set up, but if you are planning to cut a lot of fringe the same size, it can be worth the effort.

    To set it up, unscrew the set of black and white spacer bars and take them off the rest of the base.

    Use the different sized spacers to position the razor blades at the appropriate distance by nesting them in the slots on each spacer.

    When you have it all assembled, clamp it onto the edge of a table or bench. Since my bench was too thick for the clamp, I clamped onto my quartz slab at the edge of a counter.

    Open the lever and push your leather down over the razors at the top of the fringe. Then close the lever so it presses your leather flat against the base, but still lets you pull it through.

    Grabbing your leather on both sides, pull it slowly and evenly towards you so the razors cut the fringe as you pull.

    Try to cut the entire piece in one motion to avoid jagged cuts. It's also very important that you pull the piece straight through, or you will cut weirdly curved for uneven fringe and ruin your leather. When you're done, trim off one end so the fringe hangs freely.

    Step 3: Fringe Quiz

    {
        "id": "quiz-1",
        "question": "The best tool for hand cutting fringe is:",
        "answers": [
            {
                "title": "a cutting wheel",
                "correct": false
            },
            {
                "title": "an x-acto knife",
                "correct": true
            },
    	{
                "title": "scissors",
                "correct": false
            }
        ],
        "correctNotice": "Yes!",
        "incorrectNotice": "Nope. Try again."
    }
    
    {
        "id": "quiz-2",
        "question": "Leather can be easily cut to to create details because it doesn't:",
        "answers": [
            {
                "title": "melt",
                "correct": false
            },
            {
                "title": "bend",
                "correct": false
            },
    	{
                "title": "fray",
                "correct": true
            }
        ],
        "correctNotice": "Good call!",
        "incorrectNotice": "Sorry, take another guess."
    }
    
    {
        "id": "quiz-3",
        "question": "A good width for individual fringe strips is:",
        "answers": [
            {
                "title": "between 1/8 inch and 3/8 inch",
                "correct": true
            },
            {
                "title": "between 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch",
                "correct": false
            },
    	{
                "title": "less than 1/8 inch",
                "correct": false
            }
        ],
        "correctNotice": "Yes!",
        "incorrectNotice": "Nope. Guess again."
    }
    

    Step 4: Add a Fringe Detail to Your Bag Design

    Now that you've seen a few options for creating fringe, you could use these techniques to add a fringe detail to your bag, if you like.

    I chose to create a larger bag in black leather and add fringe to the pocket and back seam. I'll show you how to do that in the next few steps. Another good option here would be to add fringe to the bottom of the small bag by creating a separate fringed piece and sewing it into the back seam. Or you could come up with another idea that I haven't thought of!

    Step 5: Making Fringed Pattern Pieces

    If you want to add fringe to a bag, you have two basic options of how to attach it, you can create a separate piece of fringe that you attach like trim, or you can incorporate the fringe into one of your pattern pieces. On the fringed version of my bag, I did both.

    I think adding more than one layer of fringe tends to look nice because it gives the fringe more dynamic texture and depth. I decided add fringe along the bottom back seam of my bag, and to the bottom of the front pocket. To create the design of this bag I took the pattern I had created for the small bag in Illustrator scaled it up, and created a pattern draft with fringe details to see how long I wanted to make the two layers of fringe. Then I extracted new pattern pieces for the fringed pocket and the fringed trim to add to the back seam.

    On the front pocket of bag, I simply extended the main section of the pocket down into a pointed shape that will be cut into fringe. I cut this pattern piece out like I would any other, but made sure to mark the top and bottom of each fringe cut-line with my awl first.

    It is usually easier to incorporate the fringe into a pattern piece like this if you can, but sometimes it doesn't work. For example, on the back seam of my bag, if I had just extended the back of the bag down to make fringe, the flesh side of the fringe would have ended up facing forward, and that wasn't the look I wanted. This is why I had to create a separate piece of fringe that would be sewn into the back seam. I cut this piece out the same way as the pocket piece, marking the ends of the fringe cuts with an awl.

    When I had both pieces cut out, I used a metal ruler and an x-acto knife to cut the fringe following the marks I had made with my awl on the leather.

    Step 6: Punching and Sewing the Fringed Pocket

    To attach the fringed pocket, first fold it as you did on the other version. If you are using thin leather, you may not need to gouge the folds before pounding them. You should always be careful gouging thin leather because you can tear through it very easily.

    Once you have folded the pocket, tape it down to the front of the bag with double sided tape, and punch the sewing holes in the sides and the base (above the line of fringe) just as you did in the basic folded pocket.

    Sew the pocket on with a saddle stitch using either the one or two needle method.

    Step 7: Prepping the Fringed Trim for Sewing

    Once the front turned edge seam of my bag had been sewn and I had finished the top edge with an edge binding, I attached the second area of fringe by sewing it into the back seam.

    In order to sew the fringe into the seam, you need to punch a line of sewing holes along the top that will line up with the holes on the other pieces. Make sure you use a stitch punch with the same prong spacing as the other pieces.

    Now line the fringed piece up on the flesh side of the back piece of the bag, with the sewing lines on top of each other. Hold the fringe in place with some double sided tape on the ends and center. Stick your awl through both layers of holes at each and and in the center to make sure they are lining up properly before you tape them together.

    We are going to wait until the next lesson to sew in this back section of fringe because we will also be attaching a braided strap with that seam.

    Step 8: What We Learned

    As you can see, making leather fringe is a really easy way to create some interesting details. With a little variation you can use fringe to create some quite unique looks. Layering, cutting fringe at different angles, varying the size and color of the fringe... there are many possibilities. If you've added a fringed detail to your design, or done some interesting fringe cutting experimentation, feel free to share a photo it in the discussion section below.

    In the next lesson we'll learn how to take fringed leather in yet another direction by using it to create braids!

    About This Instructable

    1,746views

    0favorites

    License:

    Bio: Costume and experimental fashion designer and artist. Maker of clothing and accessories for time traveling cyborg superheroes, and lucid dreamers. Interested in fusing couture design ... More »
    More by MikaelaHolmes:Leather Pocket BeltsCustom Printed Moth Wing CapeMaking Braided Leather
    Add instructable to: