Introduction: Leather and Felt Trinket Dish

These little felt-lined leather dishes are perfect for keeping cufflinks, earrings, buttons, beads, paperclips, wrapped sweets and suchlike in. They can be made with however many sides and to whatever size you like – see Step 4 for how to draw a bespoke pattern – but the template provided in Step 1 is for a dish that is about 10cm (4”) diameter and 4cm (1½”) high. For that, you will need the following:

  • Leather, a circle of diameter 16cm (6”), no more than 1mm thick (2½ oz)
  • Craft felt in a contrasting colour, the same size as the leather
  • Sewing thread to match the felt
  • Glue – PVA and spray adhesive are both suitable
  • A sewing machine fitted with a leather needle or …
  • … an awl and a hand sewing needle
  • Scissors or a sharp knife, a steel ruler and a cutting mat
  • A paper template – download the PDF in Step 1 or use Step 4 to make your own
  • Sticky tape

Step 1: Laminating the Leather and Felt

Start by printing off the PDF paper template and cutting it out. Find something circular, like a plate, that is a little bigger than the template. Draw around it on the wrong side of both the leather and the felt and then cut out each circle.

Glue the wrong sides of these disks together. You don’t need to bother about lining up the edges perfectly, because you will be cutting the dish shape out of this circle of laminated leather/felt.

If you are using a spray-on contact adhesive, follow the instructions on the can and allow sufficient drying time before pressing the two pieces together, being careful that there are no creases or wrinkles in the felt.

If you are using PVA, paint it evenly onto the wrong side of the leather over the whole surface, then place the felt disk onto it, press down and leave it under a heavy book overnight to dry thoroughly.

Step 2: Cutting Out the Shape

When the glue is completely dry, stick the paper template onto the felt side of the disk using small pieces of sticky tape on the outer edges. Then cut around the shape using sharp scissors or a sharp knife and a cutting mat, cutting against a steel ruler. Start by cutting out all the Vs then cut the outer edges, leaving those with sticky tape on them until last.

Remove the template when you have finished but save the scraps of laminated leather/felt from around the edge. Try stitching two of them together on your sewing machine. If it isn’t powerful enough, you will need to hand sew the seams of the dish, in which case mark hole positions on the paper template evenly along the 12 V-shaped indents, 2mm (3/16") from the edge. Then place the template on the leather side of the piece you have cut out and use an awl to make sewing holes.

Step 3: Sewing

Without creasing the leather, bring the two sides of one of the Vs together, felt side inwards. Sew carefully by machine from the outer edge towards the centre, taking a 2mm (3/16") seam. Practise on scraps first to get the seam allowance the correct size and the stitching neat, because stitching in leather cannot be undone without leaving permanent holes. If you find the feed dogs are leaving marks on the leather, place a piece of tissue paper under your work - just sew through it and then tear it away afterwards.

Sew all 12 seams and then finish off the thread ends neatly - you could make horizontal stitches at the ends of each seam, like in the photo.

If you don’t have a sewing machine or it isn’t powerful enough for this project, then you will need to sew the seams by hand. The best way to do this is to start at the bottom of the V, hiding the knot between the two layers. Work a running stitch in the holes you have punched. When you get to the top edge of the dish, work back down in the same holes to give a continuous line of stitching.

That's it. Fill your dish with whatever you like.

The next step explains how to design a dish to suit your needs.

Step 4: Design Your Own Dish

This dish has three variables: diameter, height and number of seams. You can make one to your own design by doing a little maths.

Decide on the size of the circular base of the dish. We'll call this radius r.

Choose how tall the dish sides will be. This dimension, when added to r, gives the radius of a larger, concentric circle that will be used in the construction. We'll call the larger radius R. You’ll need enough leather and felt to cut a circle of radius R from each.

(Be aware that the actual diameter and height of the finished dish will not be exactly 2r and R-r respectively, because the base curves a little.)

Decide how many seams the dish will have, N. To get an approximately circular shape, larger dishes will need more seams than smaller ones, but polygonal dishes look OK too. A dish with a 13cm (5”) diameter base (r = 6.5cm / 2.5”) needs 12 seams to be reasonably circular.

For the sides of the dish to be vertical, the top edge of the dish must be the same length as the circumference of the base of the dish, which is 2πr. This is achieved by removing wedge shaped cut-outs as shown in the picture. A seam allowance S must be included in the calculation. Thicker felts and leathers may need a larger seam allowance than 2mm.

Each seam joins two pieces of material, therefore the curved side of each removed wedge needs to measure

   2π(R-r) - 2S       Let's call this length L.
        N

(There’s no reason why you can’t make a dish with an opening that is wider or narrower than the base if you wish. Just make L longer or shorter than the length given by the above equation.)

Now all we have to do is draw out the paper pattern. Either do this using a graphics package such as SketchUp, or by hand with paper, pencil, ruler, protractor and compasses as follows:

  1. Draw a circle of radius r.
  2. Draw a larger, concentric circle of radius R.
  3. Divide up the circles into N segments by drawing equally spaced diameters. For example, if N = 8, each segment has an angle of (360/8)°, or 45°. (There are 360° in a full circle.)
  4. Work out the angle subtended at the centre of the circles by L. It will be
      L x 360°
      2πR
  5. Placing the protractor in the centre of the circles, work round each of the diameter lines in one half of the pattern in turn, marking where a further diameter needs to be drawn that is the requisite angle beyond the line in question. Then draw these extra N/2 diameters. The ends of each of these new lines, when paired with the adjacent original diameter, define the outer corners of the wedge cut-out.
  6. To get the third (inner) corner of each wedge, bisect the arc of the circle of radius r that lies between the pair of diameters. Draw in the N wedges and shade or crosshatch them to indicate that they will be cut away.

The template that results will produce a dish that has a scalloped top edge. If you'd rather it had a straight edge like the one I made, then square off each of the "teeth" as shown in the hand-drawn picture.

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Bio: I like making things - anything and everything - and figuring out how to do things by myself. I blog about it as YorkshireCrafter on Wordpress.com. More »
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