Introduction: How to Make a Vambrace When You Don’t Know How to Sew or Work Leather

Here's a few notes before we get started:

1.) For instructions on how to pick good fabric, see the beginning of my How to Make a Brigandine article. I used leftover fabric from my brigandine, so the two would match.

2.) The costume I was working on only needed one vambrace. If you want a pair, double all the materials and the project time. Also, make sure to take the measurements for both vambraces at the same time.

Step 1: What You'll Need:

Skill level: Very easy

Total Project Time: 2½ hours

Total Project Cost: $19

• 8 pairs of small D-ring buckles, $3 for 6 pairs
• 1 bag of 1 inch brass fasteners, $3
• 1 roll Scotch tape, $2
• 1 roll of Duct Tape, $4
• 1/3 yard of fabric, about $4
• Measuring tape or long ribbon
• Pen
• Scissors

Step 2: Assembling the Main Section:

1.) Measure along the inside of your forearm, from your wrist to wherever you want the top of the vambrace to be. The top of the vambrace needs to be near the widest section of your forearm, or else the vambrace won’t buckle properly.

2.) Mark this height on the back side of your fabric.

Step 3:

3.) Measure the width of your forearm at its widest point, and mark this width at the top of the height mark. Add some extra room to your measurement to allow for the edges of the fabric to be folded over later.

*Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of too big. You can always cinch up a vambrace that’s too big, but if it’s too small you’ll have to start over.

Step 4:

4.) Measure the width of your wrist, and write this length down/mark it on your ribbon. Again, allow extra space so you can fold the edges of the fabric over.

Step 5:

5.) Find the center of the width-line for the top of the vambrace. Draw a straight line down from this point to the bottom of the vambrace, and make a dot. Use this dot to center the wrist-width line.

6.) Draw lines connecting the outer edges of the top and bottom width-lines.

7.) To make the point at the top of the vambrace, draw a line from the center dot you made in the top width-line to the line connecting the top and bottom width-lines. You may have to do this a couple time to get an angle that you like.

8.) You should have a shape like the one above.

Step 6:

9.) Cut along ONE side of the shape, whichever looks better.

10.) Fold the shape in half, and use the Scotch tape to LIGHTLY tape the edge down.

Step 7:

11.) Cut out the other side and remove the Scotch tape.

Step 8:

12.) Fold over all the edges and duct tape them down. Be sure the duct tape doesn’t wrap around to the front side of your vambrace. This will make the fabric look thick, like real leather. And remember, you can never use too much duct tape, but you can certainly use too little.      

13.) Wrap the vambrace around your forearm to make sure it fits. The edges should overlap, at least a little. If they don’t, you can un-tape the folds and clean off the duct tape gunk to make your vambrace a little wider, though this will ruin the thick-leather look. If even that isn’t enough to make the edges overlap, you’ll have to start over.

Step 9: Making the Buckles:

You can put as many buckles as you want on the vambrace, but I recommend three. This should be enough to keep the top, bottom, and the center of the vambrace closed. Not to mention the fact that three buckles just look really cool. You’ll need three individual D-rings for each buckle.

1.) Measure the width of the D-ring, and double this to get the width of your thick straps. You’ll need one thick strap per buckle.

2.) Use the exact width of the D-rings to get the width of your thin straps. You’ll need one thin strap per buckle.

3.) The thin straps are what you’re going to use to anchor the D-rings to your vambrace. They need to be long enough to loop around a pair of D-rings and accommodate the head of one of the brass fasteners, as seen above. 

Step 10:

4.) Cut out your thin straps and loop them through a pair of D-rings. Take the edges and poke the smallest possible hole in each corner. If the hole cuts to the edge of the fabric, you’ll have to make a new strap.

5.) Thread a fastener through the two left holes. Leave the arms of the fastener closed for now. Do the same thing for the two right holes.

6.) Repeat this for your remaining buckles.

Step 11:

7.) Wrap the main part of the vambrace around your arm, and measure the distance you want your buckles to cover. I find that longer buckles look more impressive, and that you need to attach the buckles at least an inch from the edge to get the vambrace to close properly. This length will be half the length of your thick straps.

8.) Cut out your thick straps.

9.) Fold the two long edges of the thick strap so that they meet in the center, with the front side of the fabric facing out. Duct tape the edges into place, making sure the duct tape doesn’t wrap around to the other side of the strap. I know this sounds bad, but the duct tape won’t be visible when you’re wearing the vambrace.

10.) Poke the smallest possible hole at the end of one side of the thick strap. Thread a fastener through the hole, with the head on the duct-taped side. Leave the arms of the fastener closed for now.

11.) Repeat steps 9 and 10 for your remaining thick straps.

Step 12: Attaching the Buckles:

You’re almost done now! You’ve made it through the hard part. The rest is easy.

1.) Decide where you want the buckles to attach to your vambrace. Again, I recommend you attach them at least an inch from the edges.

2.) First, we’ll attach the thin straps. Lay your thin straps on the vambrace where you want them to attach, so you can see where the fasteners will be. Mark these spots carefully.

3.) Cut the smallest possible hole at each of the spots you marked. If you accidently make the hole too big, you can cover it by scooting the buckle farther away from the edge.

4.) Thread the fasteners through the holes and open the arms.

5.) Lay the thick straps on the vambrace where you want them to attach. Carefully mark the positions of the fasteners.

6.) Cut the smallest possible hole at each of the marks.

7.) Slightly open the arms of the fastener on the thick strap, and close them around a single D-ring so that the ring loops over the strap.

8.) Thread the fasteners through the holes in the vambrace and open the arms all the way.

Step 13:

9.) Check to make sure the vambrace fits.

10.) If it fits, duct tape the arms of the fasteners to the inside of the vambrace. If it is too big, move the thin straps back a little. If it is too small, move the thick straps forward a little.

Congratulations! You are now the owner of a truly awesome vambrace. Wear, flaunt, and enjoy.