So I've come to fancy the type of artwork my ancestors would've mastered in their time. In an effort to connect to my culture I've tried to learn how to reproduce some of this art and I've had a great time throughout this learning process.
I am a descendant of native americans or American Indians whichever you prefer and this has impacted my life greater than anything else. One practice, which I will demonstrate, is beading. It is one that requires A LOT of patience but if you're willing to put in the time I think it produces a beautiful result.
Why I chose to bead a watch? Because I needed something to match my handmade moccasins! Plus I love watches.
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Step 1: Choose a Design
The resulting design you see in the pictures was not stumbled upon by accident. It took planning and thought and I hope you consider doing something like this when you try it out for youself. So as I mentioned before I am native american and specifically from the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. I knew I wanted to do tribal print but the kind you find at the mall plastered onto every t-shirt didn't seem authentic or quite suited for what I wanted to do so I dug deeper for inspiration. I researched pictures of members of my tribe from way back in the day and looked at the the styles found on their moccasins and leggings headbands dresses and everything. After I got a clear idea of what my tribe's tribal style was (very floral-like, organic, and just an earthy feel to it) I crafted my own designs from this idea, taking inspiration - but not copying all together.
The resulting design was the fruit of my extensive research and development process.
Step 2: Gather Materials
Leather of the right/ preferred weight (weight determines thickness)
Leather sheers or large scizzors
11/0 Beads of the desired colors
Artificial sinew (wax thread)
Needles (large to pierce leather and extremely thin to bead)
Burnishing equipment (at the time of documenting I was a poor man's leather crafter so I used a dremel I had with a sanding drum and a dowel I put a notch in. Suffice it to say it turned out okay but I later went back with actual burnishing and beveling equipment and it looks pretty good!)
Leather finish (I prefer a rub on beeswax sealer)
and of course a watch
Step 3: Disassemble Watch
This is the first watch I disassembled so if it looks amateur, that's because it is.
Begin by putting the watch on and measure the distance from the watch case to the edge of the buckle, this doesn't need to be exact. Then mark this measurement from the otherside (this mark should be on top of the buckle-less strap). Cut the remaining length off of the strap to reveal two equal spaces between the watch case and the first obstacle it hits- this will be your canvas space and the equal sides are key to ensure you utilize the entire space without covering any of your valuable work.
Now remove the watch and measure the open space between the watch case and the securing bands on the buckled strap, this will be your final dimensions for work space and should be marked on the templates.
Step 4: Making Templates
Analyze how much material was used to make the existing watch band and create a template from that. In my case it was double sided so I traced it and flipped it while lining it up end to end. The pictures should give enough explanation.
Step 5: Prepping Leather
Trace the patterns on the leather and cut it out.
Like I said before, when I made this I was a poor man's leather crafter so I didn't have the proper tools such a stitch groove or hole chisels so I improvised with homemade tools. I cut the shape of a stitch groover into a plastic spoon and I used a small fork to lay out my holes and punch them with an awl... you can use anything if you try hard enough! :)
Once your leather is cut out and the holes are punched, you can apply any leather stain you'd like to use (I chose not to because I like the way the tanned leather looks with a little bit of wear and dirt to it) and then you are ready to make it look fancy!
Step 6: Transfer Design to Leather
My design was done in a few shapes so all I had to do was cut those out and lightly sketch over the leather as I traced them.
Step 7: Beading
Beading is fairly straightforward and easy to learn it is just tedious and time consuming. To begin, you will take one of your larger needles and pierce the leather where you'd like to start the strand of beads. For 11/0 seed beads, I offset my center line from the edge of my design by a millimeter to a millimeter and half so the edge of the bead lines up with the edge of my design.
String no more than 4 beads on a split strand of artificial sinew. Lay the beads flat on the leather in the path you'd like the beads to take. Poke a hole in the leather at the end of the strand and feed the sinew through. Next find the center of the path along the leather (it should be between the second and third beads)
And poke a hole through the leather here. Bring the sinew up through this hole and run it through the last two beads, this secures the entire line and allows it to hold it's shape and gives it structure.
The sinew should be coming out of the last bead at this point. You can continue from here by adding 4 more beads and repeating the process or you can switch directions as I did in this case.
To switch directions you will need to bring the sinew through the existing hole in the leather. Poke a hole where you'd like the new strand to start and string the sinew through to the top of the leather. Load up more beads and repeat the process until your entire design is complete.
**there may be times when 4 beads is not ideal, for example the second strand I did only had 3, and some will require 5, but I generally like to double strand no less than 2 beads and on strands of 5 I find doubling up on 3 beads works best.**
Once you're design is complete, you might want to run a very thin strand of sinew through all the beads. This will help make them more uniform and make for a better looking design. There is no need to weave in and out of the leather on this pass, a straight shot through all the beads works fine. (This is one of the reasons beading is so stressful because they may break if you aren't careful while doubling the sinew, some will be getting their third strand and this will leave little room in the bead and risk breaking.. so just take your time and be careful!
Step 8: Constructing the Bands
Figure out which areas will need skiving, or thinning out. Use a razor blade to carefully trim the leather away.
Take some kind of contact cement or fabric glue and cover the fleshy side of the leather with it. Fold the leather to align it correctly.
Take a long strand of sinew with large needles on either side and begin to stitch the band together. Send both needles through the same hole just going in at opposite directions. When they meet at the end tie them so that the knot is on the back side of the strap.
Repeat for the other strap.
Step 9: Treating the Edges
In a perfect world I would've taken an edge beveler and then a burnishing tool to the edges however that was not case. I used a dremel tool and a homemade burnishing stick. It worked okay but I would for sure recommend the actual tools.
Step 10: Replace the Hardware
Put in the pins and the buckle, it's pretty simple but it would help to have a little bit of a nail to catch the springs. Then attach the bands to the case.
Slide the watch on and mark where to punch a hole for the buckle pin. Do a few extra around it too for extra options.. but really why would you let anyone else wear this artwork?!
Step 12: Securing Band
This step is very simple so I didn't document it. You need to cut a strip of leather about a quarter inch long and wrap it around the two straps, cut so the two ends butt up against each other. Secure the ends with contact cement and put a stitch or two in to secure it. One securing band is all you need for this watch band.
Step 13: Finish Leather
Use whichever leather finisher you have, I used beeswax and it just rubs right in.
Step 14: Final Thoughts
Now go show off your work! And if you're up to it it really completes an outfit to have it match another article of clothing. I made this watch to match a pair of moccasins I made a while back and people seem to love when I pair them. But hey if that's not for you a fancy watch is still nice!
Participated in the
Tandy Leather Contest 2016