Introduction: Leather Luggage Tags

About: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a BFA in product design from Parsons School of Design in NYC. Since then I've done work for Martha…

If you're like me, and thousands of others who have a nondescript black suitcase that is always a trick to pick out of a conveyor belt crowd, this leather luggage tag Instructable is for you!

Step 1: The Goods

Here's what you need to make these time saving and good looking travel accessories:

  1. a thick rubber leather punch surface (a piece of wood will work too!)
  2. a cutting mat
  3. regular hammer
  4. letter punch set (I got mine at a flea market, but ebay has oodles to choose from)
  5. craft scissors
  6. exacto knife
  7. small cookie cutter circles
  8. tag pattern pdf*
  9. pencil
  10. 24" metal ruler
  11. Oops! an extra number. Please ignore.
  12. 3mm veg leather (un-tanned leather) with one side at least 20" long
  13. leather multi-hole punch
  14. 60mm rotary cutter (great for thick leather and multiple layers of thinner fabric)
  15. thick ruler or metal piece for stamping with
  16. box cutter, only if you don't have a rotary cutter
  17. bowl of water and a sponge

*I included an .eps file of the tag pattern if you'd prefer to laser cut your pieces out.

NOTE: Anything made from a hard material will stamp well into the leather, so feel free to play around with different objects, shapes and patterns!!

Step 2: Cut Out Your Tags

Using your craft scissors, cut out your printed tag pattern.

Use the pattern as a template to cut around using your ruler and rotary cutter. Cut out one or two more tags than you need just in case you make any stamping mistakes.

Step 3: Punch Your Hole

Use a sharp pencil to press & mark the center of the hole onto all your tags. Then use the largest hole setting on your leather hole puncher to create the tag's 'string' holes.

When using the hole punch, be sure to just squeeze hard and not to twist the puncher. Twisting will distort the hole.

Step 4: Preparing Your Surface for Stamping

In order to make stamping your leather easy and permanent, use a sponge to moisten the back of the tags until the water has soaked through to the front and wetted the entire front surface. Do all your tags and set aside.

Step 5: Playing With Pattern

Wet a couple of test pieces and try out all your stamps until you find patterns that you'd like to use on the finished tags.

Step 6: Pattern Examples & Techniques

Some tips for successful leather stamping or 'tooling':

  1. Where you can, use your hammer to tap your stamp firmly into the leather. This works well for the letter stamps and metal pieces.
  2. If your improvised stamps are too delicate for the hammer, just press firmly and evenly using your body weight.
  3. If you'd like a pattern to be in a straight line, lay a ruler parallel to the tag edge and use that as a guide for your stamping.
  4. If you'd like a distressed/worn surface, use the scrubby side of the sponge and wipe it along the tag in one direction. (like pictured)

There's really no limit to all the different ways you can dress up your tags. If you're not the type that enjoys 'winging it', print out multiples of the tag pattern and sketch out what you'd like to do ahead of time.

Either way, have fun exploring!

Step 7: Drying & Flattening

Once you've finished all your stamping, lay the tags flat on a hard surface to dry overnight.

During the drying process, they may curl and bend a bit, but that's A-OK. All you have to do is manipulate the leather, rolling and bending it in your hands to get it back to being soft and flat.

Step 8: String Them Along

For your tag strings, you can either use shoe laces (pictured) or you can cut thin strips of your leather. Whatever you decide to use, make sure to cut them into 20" long pieces so that you have enough length to tie your knot and still have 6" of space between your tag and the knot.

Step 9: Leather Strings

If you decide to go with the leather strings, use your ruler and rotary cutter to cut thin strips that are 20" long and at least 3/8" wide and no wider than 1/4 ".

Try and tie your knots so that the two ends lay neatly on top of each other. To secure the knot, dip it in water and pull tightly. Once dried, the leather will stay put and not slip.

Step 10: Mine, Mine, Mine!

Now you can elegantly tell the world (and yourself at baggage claim) which stuff is YOURS!

Bon voyage!

*If you have a go at making these little beauties, please click on the 'I Made It!' button and post a picture in the comments section below!! Thanks and happy making!