Searching for an easy project to help you get started in leathercraft? This project could be exactly what you're looking for.
In this project, you will learn the basics of the craft and at the same time create a present that can be personalised to taste.
Step 1: Tools & Materials
- Leather mallet
- Stitching Irons
- Leather needles x2
- Sharp knife
- Metal Ruler
- Thread Snips
- Burnishing tool
- Metal wing divider
- Arbor press (optional)
- Brass stamp (optional)
- Thin vegetable tanned leather 1mm a minimum of 40x80mm
- Bonded nylon thread (or any thread suitable for stitching leather)
- Gum tragacanth
- Rare earth magnet
Step 2: Preparation
- Download and print the pattern provided, for best results print on card or photo paper. As this is a small project a good idea is to print it on 6x4 photo paper as this will offer you more support when you come to cut the pattern out of leather.
Cut the pattern out ensuring to use a sharp knife as this could lead to an accident or an error in cutting your pattern.
You will notice the pattern has two lines, both solid and a dotted line. The solid line is your cutting line and the dotted line is your stitching reference, which we will use later on in this project.
Step 3: Cutting Out the Pattern
Once your pattern has been cut you are ready to transfer this onto your chosen leather. In this example, we are using 1mm vegetable tanned leather. Ideally, you need to keep the thickness of your leather down to 1-1.5mm.
- Place the pattern on top of your leather and draw around it with a silver pen (leather pen).
- Using a sharp knife follow the line ensuring to keep the blade straight to avoid any wonky edges
- Remove the cut-out and dispose of the remaining leather.
Step 4: Punching Stitching Holes
Once you have your pattern cut out of your selected leather it's now time to mark and punch your stitching holes. Notice that on the photos above I am only punching holes in one half of the pattern, we do this because it will ensure a cleaner alignment of the holes at a later stage.
- Adjust your wing dividers to 3mm as shown above.
- Using the edge of the leather as a guide to make a line 3mm from the edge. (Only mark one half of the leather not the full piece as shown)
- Using your stitching irons punch holes on the line marked. You will find it easier to use both a two tooth iron and a multi-tooth iron to get a consistent result.
Step 5: (Optional) Emboss Leather
This step is optional however for me it is the step that makes this product unique. With the use of a brass stamp, you are able to emboss custom text or images onto your product. In the example below I have used heat and pressure to emboss the leather, however, In the header images, I have used the same technique however added in a little colour with the use of gold foil. I will talk you through both process bellow and allow you to decide which way you wish to take it.
You can order brass stamps though many websites or even make your own if you have the skills (I wouldn't recommend this tho) I am happy to offer you advice on where to purchase these if needed.
Embossed - This works best for vegetable tanned leather
- Place your leather on a strong board.
- Heat your stamp using a heat gun until its hot to the touch (be careful not to burn yourself!)
- Using gloves and pliers place the stamp in the centre of the leather.
- Using a 1ton Arbour press place the leather under and apply pressure. You will need to hold this pressure for up to 30 seconds, however, the amount of time will be determined by the type of leather you are using.
- Remove the stamp using gloves and check to ensure a consistent result.
Hot Foil - Works on all leather
The use of a hot foil machine is best for this, however, you may still be able to achieve a good result without some practice. The steps below will try and explain what's required to achieve a good result without a machine. I would recommend practising on multiple scraps of the same leather to gain a better idea of the heat/pressure/time combination required.
- Place your leather on a strong board and place it in position under your arbour press.
- Place your foil face up on the leather ensuring to mark the location of where you wish to stamp.
- Heat your stamp so it's very hot to the touch. You could try and use a laser thermometer to gain an idea of the ideal temperature.
- Place the stamp on top of the foil.
- Using your Arbour press apply pressure you will need to experiment with different durations/heat/pressure combinations to get the perfect result. (make notes)
- Once you have a good stamp move to your master pattern and repeat the above steps.
Step 6: Sticking It All Together
There are many different types of glue on the market that aim to be stronger or better than all the others, but the fact of the matter is to find something works for you and stick with it. (pun intended). In this example I have used a bonding glue from my local hardware store, however, a water-based leather glue would have worked just as well. Just remember if you're working with a chemical based glue to use the correct safety equipment.
- Using a glue spreader apply an even amount of glue to the whole piece
- Leave until tacky
- Place the magnet in the centre of one half
- Fold and align edges
- Press firmly and allow to set
Step 7: Stitching Preparation
You are now ready to punch your stitching holes through the other side of the leather.
- Using your irons place them in the holes you already punched
- Using your hammer carefully punch around your piece, ensuring you keep the irons at a 90-degree angle at all times.
Step 8: Stitching It Together
We are going to use a process called saddle stitching to secure the two sides together, this is a traditional technique which results in a very strong stitch that will last.
Threading the needle
- Measure your thread around the outside of your leather, take that measurement and x4.
- Cut your thread at this length
- Place your thread through the eye of the needle
- Pull through enough length to reach the top of the needle
- Using the point of the needle pierce the thread
- Pull the thread down over the needle and pull tight until it creates a knot
- Repeat this for both needles, one each end of the thread
Saddle Stitching (BASICS)
- Insert the needle at the back of the leather
- On the other side create a cross by placing the needle on top of the other
- Pull the thread partly through
- Pull both ends of the thread towards you
- Insert the other needle through the same hole
- Pull the needle through the hole
- Pull both threads tight at an angle
- Once you reach the end you will need to do the same but back one stitch
- Cut the thread
If you are struggling with my basic instructions you can find plenty of videos online that will help you gain a better understanding.
Step 9: Sand & Polish Edges
Once you have stitched your magnet you will need to finish the edges to give a professional feel. You can finish the edges of leather in many ways but as we are working with a vegetable tanned leather in this project we will be using a process called burnishing to give it a polished look.
- Sand your edges using a high and low grit paper to ensure a smooth edge with no bumps.
- Using Gum Tragacanth apply a small amount to your finger and rub along the edges. Be careful not to use too much and mark your leather.
- Use a burnishing tool to rub your edges the heat and friction will cause it to create a gloss effect.
- Repeat until you are satisfied.
- For a bonus, you could add some Beeswax at this point to seal the edges