Introduction: How to Make a Leather Fitbit
A few months back while working outdoors my fitbit flex tore in the middle and the tracker fell out without me realizing it. Fortunately, I was able to locate the tracking piece later when I discovered it was missing. The bracelet itself however, was unusable so that's why I made this. I needed a band for my fitbit that wasn't going to tear or break. I also do some welding and a lot of stuff with fire so I needed the bracelet to burn off rather than melt and stick to me (yes that is an actual safety concern and the reason welders generally wear wool, cotton, or leather rather than synthetics). It also needed to look just as cool as the original and be just as functional if not better. What I got was everything I needed and more! In this instructable I'll be guiding you through the steps it takes to make one on your own. Make sure you watch the video, it should give you a good idea of how this works. Keep in mind that this is all customizable, you could burn designs into your leather or use a fancier stitch. It's all up to you, now let's begin!
For those of you who can't watch the embeded video then here is a Link
- The tracking piece from a fitbit flex. (This is the piece with the lights)
- 12" x 3" strip of soft leather
- Waxed leather thread
- Beeswax (recommended for defraying the thread)
- Snap button (can be sew-on or riveted, I used sew on because it's what I had on hand)
- Rotary Cutter
- Round punch
- Flat punch
- Soldering iron, wood engraver, or hot knife
Step 1: Cutting and Punching
I started by cutting an extremely thin strip from my leather so that I would have a straight edge to work from. The leather I'm using is a scrap piece of upholstery leather with a shiny side and a dull side. I've always kinda preferred the dull or soft side of leather so I'll be making this with the soft side facing out.
After I was certain my leather was straight, I placed the tracking piece from my flex in the middle on the edge and rolled it over twice so that I could mark and cut the leather to size. The result was a strip of leather 12" long and
2"- 2 1/2" wide.
Once the leather was cut I needed to form it into a sort of cavity that would hold my flex tracker. To do this I first punched 11 holes on the edge and in the center of my leather strip. I then placed my tracker in the middle of the strip and wrapped it up so that the flap with the holes was on top. That way I could mark and punch the corresponding 11 holes.
Step 2: Sewing 75% of the Band
Next it was time for the sewing. For simplicity I decided to use a running stitch throughout the entire project. For those who are wondering, a running stitch is the most basic of stitches. The needle simply goes through one hole and out the other. A few more things to note: When (not if) you are using the waxed thread and it starts to fray, just take some beeswax (a candle works) and pull the end of the thread across it. Also make sure you start your sewing on the opposite side of the leather to the side you want to face out. That way you can hide your knots and keep everything uniform.
Now to sew up the cavity I got 2 feet of thread, folded up the leather as if I had the tracker in it, and ran the running stitch from the first hole to the last. Good to note that you cannot sew it all lose and then tighten it afterwards. I tried to do that the first two times and it was an absolute mess which I had to cut out and resew.
Once I finished sewing up those first 11 holes then I wrapped the leather around my wrist with the sewn portion centered. I figured I would need slightly less than 1/2" overlap for my buttons which I then marked so that I wouldn't sew too far. Then I manipulated the leather into a sort of strap and punched several holes along the edge of the leather nearest to my previous stitch and stopped right before where the button was going to go.
When I finished stitching those then my plan was to go ahead and sew on my button since I had plenty of thread left and it would reduce the number of knots needed. Unfortunately, I sewed the button on upside down and had to make that extra knot anyway. If you have enough thread left and you are using sew-on buttons then you can go ahead and sew one on. If not, then don't worry about it and move on to the next step.
Step 3: Buttons!
When I made one of these the first time then there were no buttons. I was in a pinch and running on somewhat limited resources (I had enough leather to redo the interior of an SUV but nothing else) so I resorted to just tying it on. Now although tying the bracelet on will do in a pinch, it really isn't great for everyday use. It takes 2 min to put it on and it's always coming untied (unless you're trying to take it off in which case it stays on). Needless to say good buttons are a necessity, let's go over a few.
- Shirt buttons: These are the buttons that are on dress shirts. They are really just disk that slip through a slot and can't get back out again. My experience is these don't work well with leather or high stress situations.
- Sew-On snap buttons: These are what I ended up using. They require being sewn on and don't latch well if your thread is too thick. Benefits are that they can be hidden and are small.
- Rivet Buttons: These are the preferred choice. You can get them with cool designs and they don't require any sewing. Because of this they get a much better latch regardless of your thread size.
Regardless of what buttons you use there is one thing you should do. When you finish sewing, put the needle back through the hole before the one you just stitched through. Instead of going through all three layers of leather only go through one or two and tie your end knot (I use a simple overhand since it's small). This will completely hide your knots, especially if you use rivet buttons.
Since different brands of buttons will have their own instructions and methods of attachment I'm not going to go into depth on how I did mine. I will say make sure you don't attach the button to a strap until that strap is sewn up.
Step 4: The 25% We Still Haven't Sewn
On the second strap things are a bit different. There needs to be an opening to take the flex tracker in and out for recharge. So I started the sewing on the same edge as before but one inch away from the first stitch in the cavity. This way when you push that strap and the center part of the band towards each other then you can pull out the tracker.
Since I had eliminated an inch of stitching from this strap then I only needed 3 holes which brought me right to the beginning of the space left for the button. Now if you aren't using sew-on buttons you can just tie it off with a knot (or use the method in the last step), otherwise if you have enough thread left to sew on the buttons then go ahead and sew them on.
When both of the straps were finished and the buttons were on, I took my sewing scissors and cut rounded ends onto the straps. If you cut it just right then it will have a nice smooth transition from the side of the strap to the rounded curve. If not, don't worry... I'm about to burn it anyway :)
Step 5: Is Something Burning?
Alright at this point we have a functional fitbit again... but, we have no way of knowing how close (or far) we are from our goal. To solve this there needs to be a small slot so that we can see the progress lights.
To do this I first cut a thin piece of wood (paint stir) so that it was the same width as the tracking piece and about two inches in length. I then inserted this into the bracelet. It should protect the bracelet from getting burned and give me something firm to hang on to.
Next after I figured out where the slot needed to be I attempted to punch it out with a sharp straight punch (keep in mind these tools weren't made for leather) I say attempt because all I did was dent the leather and bend my piece of wood. So I resorted to my X-acto knife which worked perfectly. After I had a guide slit cut and all of the lead filed off of my soldering iron then I used the iron to burn out the slot.
Once the slot was the size and shape needed, then I took my iron and ran it over the ends of my straps to burn off any fray and firm em up. This pretty much completed the bracelet. All that was left was to take out the wooden piece and insert the flex tracker.
I hope you enjoyed this instructable and found it helpful. If you have any questions then please feel free to ask in the comments. Happy Making, Thanks for Reading and Watching.
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