Introduction: Customizable Bracers/Arm Guards
Bracers are a type of arm guard commonly seen in archery and made out of leather. You may also find bracers on superheros and game characters, made out of different materials like metal or plastic. For this project we’ll make one out of an easy to find and cut material like paper, foam, or felt.
This tutorial will show you how to make customized pieces that reflect your personal style, a character you like, or something completely new! We’ve provided a downloadable pdf pattern to use, in addition to step-by-step instructions on patterning your own set of bracers.
You’ll also learn tips for adjusting the pattern for a customized fit, and some ideas for ways to decorate and finish your accessories.
Check out our video on how to make a set of arm bracers and a mask from our accompanying Quick Costume Mask Instructable:
To create your own customized set of bracers you will need:
- Paper - for patterning, or printed template 8.5”x11” Letter size, 1 piece
- Bracer Printable Template
- Scrap paper for pattern adjustments or additional planning
- A material to make your costume pieces out of, some options are:
- cardstock/poster board
- thin cardboard (cereal box)
- felt or fabric
- craft foam
- rhinestones or jewels
- crayons, markers, or colored pencils
- paints or 3D paint
- felt, foam, or fabric cutouts/shapes
- embroidery thread for hand stitched details
- yarn or string
- cording or leather lacing
- lace lock to help fit the bracer
- ¼” grommets for reinforcing bracer holes on fabric projects
- Pencil or pen - chalk or a light colored pencil is best if you are using a dark fabric or material
- A measuring tape or ruler - if you don’t have a measuring device you can also use string or paper to help test fit
- A hole punch or hobby knife for creating holes in the costume pieces for lacing
- Hot glue or craft glue to help attach your decorations
Step 1: Downloadable Pattern
We’ve provided a downloadable pdf that includes 3 sizes and 3 lengths of bracer to choose from. The small fits a wrist circumference of 4.5”-6”, medium fits 6”-7”, and large fits wrists larger than 7”. To measure your wrist, you can use a measuring tape or wrap a piece of string or scrap paper around and measure against the pattern.
Choose the size on the pattern closest to your wrist size. The bracers are designed to have a gap in them that uses adjustable lacing, so the pattern doesn’t have to be the exact size of your wrist.
The next measurement, length is also marked on the pattern - with two end shapes a curve or a point. You can choose a cuff-like shorter bracer, or one that covers more of your arm. Choose the style you like best and cut at the measurement line. If you want a different shape for the end of the bracer you can draw it on or add some paper with a new shape.
The last fit measurement is the width of your forearm. This pattern already has a suggested width built in, but if you’d like to customize to be a tighter fit or more flare, you can trim or add pieces of paper along the sides to adjust to make it wider.
Step 2: Optional: Designing Your Own Pattern
If you would prefer to draw your own bracer pattern, you can use a letter size (8.5”x11”) piece of paper and a pencil to plan out your project. First, fold the paper in half vertically along the long (11”) edge to mark the center.
Measuring Wrist Size
Measure your wrist with measuring tape or thin piece of scrap paper or string/yarn to cut to size. Mark this measurement across the top of the paper across the center line. For example, if you measured a 6” wrist, mark 3” on either side of the center line. This bracer will use lacing, so the pattern doesn’t have to fit exactly around your wrist, you can mark inside your lines up to a ½” to leave room for a gap.
Next, decide how long you want your bracer to be. Measure from your wrist, up your arm where you wand the edge of the bracer to sit. You can place your arm on the paper help you decide. Mark this length on your pattern paper along the centerline.
Measuring Forearm Size
Measure around your forearm with measuring tape or thin piece of scrap paper or string/yarn to cut to size. Transfer this measurement to your pattern at the bottom of the line you marked for length. Use ruler (or edge of another sheet of paper) to draw a line from the outside of the bottom line to the outside of the wrist line on both sides - now you’ll have a trapezoid shape to customize.
Step 3: Adjusting Shape and Fit
These techniques can be used for either the downloaded pattern or one that you created yourself.
To make the bracer fit better along the curve of your arm, you can add a curve in at wrist. The downloadable pattern already includes a curve, but you can adjust it even more if you’d like. The wrist curve should bend into the main part of the bracer. You can use a round object like a cup, bowl, or plate to help start the shape, then adjust by either cutting or drawing in a parallel curve with a pencil. You can add a curve to the bottom edge of the bracer or other shapes such as a point, waves, or customized styles. The downloadable pattern includes a curved and pointed edge to choose from.
After adjusting the overall shape of your bracer, cut out along the outlines and test fit on your arm. Make any adjustments to the shape by either cutting with scissors to trim or taping or gluing extra paper on to make sections wider or add shapes.
Now that you have the shape of your pattern cut out, time plan the holes where the laces will go (these are included on the downloadable pattern). Draw a line about ½”-¾” from the edge of each side of your pattern to help guide your hole placement. If you don’t have a ruler, you can use your finger or a penny to help measure spacing.
Add markings for lacing holes about ¾” apart. If they are too close together, they could rip the paper or your material when tying the laces. You can use a hole punch, scissors, or a hobby knife to cut them out.
Step 4: Cut Out Base Material
Now that your pattern is ready, it’s time to cut out the bracer material. Trace the pattern on two pieces of your material to make two bracers. If you are tracing on a dark material, you can use chalk or a light colored pencil to help mark it. Transfer the hole pattern onto the fabric for your lacing. If you’d rather use velcro or fabric straps instead of laces, you can skip using the hole pattern.
Then cut out your pieces. For paper projects, you can use a bit of tape to reinforce the material before you cut the holes for your lacing. A hole punch works great to help you make precise holes for the laces.
Step 5: Decorate Your Bracers
Once the base material is cut out, it’s time to customize. Here are some ideas you can try:
For paper try coloring with markers or paint, using stickers or paper/foam cutouts, and maybe even folding some 3D paper shapes to add some interesting details.
For foam projects, adding another layer of foam in places can create details like 3D edges, you can also carefully carve the foam with a pencil to make some texture. To glue pieces together you can use hot glue or tacky craft glue. Make sure to test out your glue on a scrap piece of foam before using it in your final project.
You can also paint foam for some details, check out these great Instructables for more techniques:
- Craft Foam Leather - https://www.instructables.com/id/Craft-Foam-Leath...
- Painting and Finishing EVA Foam and Worbla - https://www.instructables.com/id/Painting-and-Fin...
For felt projects, you can hot glue trim details, use puffy paint, or even embroider details.
Step 6: Adding Laces
After decorating, it’s time to install the lacing. You can use ribbon, shoelaces, string or yarn to create your laces. Measure 2 pieces of lacing, each about 6 times the widest part of your bracer to give you enough length to start with. If they end up too long you can trim down later.
Starting at the wrist end, thread the ends evenly across like lacing up shoes. Keep the lacing loose for now, to leave room to put your arm in the bracer. After lacing, try on your bracer and tighten the laces to your preferred fit.
Tie in a bow and trim excess. You can tie knots in the ends to help keep the lacing from pulling through the holes when taking them off.
Some other options for securing your lacing are laces locks or beads.
If you don’t want to use a tied lacing, you can try elastic - be careful not to pull too tight on delicate pieces made of paper, it might rip.
You can also skip laces and use velcro or tie bits of ribbon at each hole to secure.
Step 7: Show Off Your Finished Bracers!
Here are some examples to inspire your project.