Leather Mystery Braid

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About: I'm a hobbyist maker who is trying to pass on something of the excitement and passion for making things in the hopes of inspiring others You can catch me on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw2Og...

I was fascinated by the mystery braid leather cuffs so decided to learn how to make one.

You will need.

Materials

  • A piece of leather about 1 to 2 inches longer than your wrist. I used some veg tan shoulder.
  • A press stud or snap

Tools

  • A cutting board
  • A sharp knife
  • A metal rule or straight edge
  • A punch and setting tool for the snap

Optional

  • Leather dye / finish

Step 1: Cut a Strip of Leather

Cut a strip of leather to your desired width. I did mine at about 3/4 of an inch.

I always start with a long straight edge and create a clean edge on my leather to work from then carefully measure and cut the strip. If you have a strap cutter, that will make this even easier but if not, a knife and metal rule work just fine.

Step 2: Cut to Length and Round the Corners

You want to cut the strip to about an inch longer than you want it

Round over the ends either using a coin or metal disc to shape or an end punch if you have one.

Step 3: Cut 2 Parallel Lines

This is the step that needs the most care.

Leave about an inch at either end to set the snap / press stud and then mark out 2 parallel lines. If your strap is 3/4 of an inch, you will want to have your cuts at 1/4 of an inch in from each side.

Take your time, don't try and cut through in a singe pass.

Step 4: Punch Holes for the Snap Fasteners (Press Studs)

Find the centre of the strap and offer up the stud to get the right positioning and then punch a suitable size hole. My press studs came with a setting kit that included the punch and setting tools.

To keep things even, once I punched the fist hole, I lined up the 2 ends of the strap and marked through the 1st hole to get the positioning for the second hole.

Step 5: Braid the Leather (including the Magic Step)

Now for the interesting bit, to braid the leather.

If you've ever braided hair the process is very similar. ( Whilst I have no hair, I do have a daughter so I have some albeit very limited practice :-) )

I thought it might help to dye the leather 3 different colours so you can see what's happening. So I've dyed it with Turquiose, Tan and Orange. Actually, I quite like the effect it gave when braided.

Step 6: Braid Step 1: Bottom Under the Right Hand Strip

Pass the bottom of the band under the right hand strip (Orange)

- This step is to remove the tangle that would build up because the ends are connected

Step 7: Braid Step 2 - Left to the Middle

The blue strand goes to the middle over the brown (tan) strand.

Step 8: Braid Step 3 - Right to the Middle

The orange strand goes to the middle over the blue strand

Step 9: Braid Step 4 - Left to the Middle

The brown strand goes to the middle over the orange strand

Step 10: Braid Step 5 - Bottom Under the Left Hand Strap

I put a weight onto the braids I've already done to keep them in place, then we need to take the next detangling step.

You want to push the bottom of the strap under the left hand strip It's a bit tricky so I've tried to show lots of pictures showing where it goes.

Step 11: Braid Step 6: Right to the Middle

Bring the blue to the middle over the brown

Step 12: Braid Step 7: Left to the Middle

Move the Orange to the Middle over blue (Blue Orange Brown )

Step 13: Braid Step 8: Right to the Middle

Bring the Brown Over the Orange to the middle ( Blue Brown Orange)

Step 14: Step 6: Repeat

You should find that the "tail" is now untangled and you have your 1st braid set. For the "Mystery Braid" to work out, you have to make your braid out of a multiples of this sequence. You can repeat braid steps 1 to 8 as many times as you wish / will fit to get the braid as tight as you want it.

As I repeat, I cover my 1st braid set to help me keep track of where I'm up to.

Step 15: Step 6: Even Out the Weave

After 2 more sets, I'm happy with the number of braids I have but you can see they aren't very even.

Your next task is to work up and down the braid loosening and tightening to get an even braid.

Once you are happy that it's even rub the back of your braid over the corner of a table, this will help to flatten out the braid and make it look good.

Step 16: Step 7: Set the Snaps ( Press Studs)

To set your snaps, follow the instructions that came with your brand of snap.

Step 17: Finished! ( Optionals)

So that's it done, you've completed your mystery braid.

My suggestions for to change things up would be

  • Try different types of leather
  • Try more than 3 strands ( there are youtube videos showing braids with more than 3 strands if you need help with that)
  • Experiment with different paints and dyes. I only dyed the leather to make it easier to show what was happening for this instructable but I love the effect
  • Use the braids for other ideas. Mystery Braids can be used for Zip pulls, Belts, Bag straps and more.

I hope you've enjoyed this instructable, I've created a really short you tube video to accompany it which you can find here:-

My YouTube Channel is here.... https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw2OgUFqYdz5tFpjVm2vW7g?view_as=subscriber

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    15 Discussions

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    Alaskan Bev

    2 months ago

    I voted! Great job, thanks. We've made countless mystery braid bracelets, etc., at Boy Scout camp. It's amazing how fast those kids can do these; they'll be finishing half a dozen of them and be off doing some other project while I'm still working in my first one.

    3 replies
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    Nostalgic GuyAlaskan Bev

    Reply 2 months ago

    These were the standard woggle when I was a Scout back in the 70's, rather than one bought from a Scout shop I used to get the lads who came up from Cubs to the Scouts or kids who were joining fresh and put in my patrol to make one of their own.
    I was fortunate enough to be friendly with the local saddler who would give me all sorts of left over leather for them to use up so quite a lot of mums aunts & sisters were gifted with bangles & chokers too.

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    serhardtNostalgic Guy

    Reply 2 months ago

    Fantastic to teach young people that there are alternatives to going to the shops for something manufactured and that they can make something that they can use / wear and be proud of, often without a lot of tools or expensive materials. Even better if there is a local business willing to provide leftovers / off cuts:-)

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    serhardtAlaskan Bev

    Reply 2 months ago

    Thanks, What a great activity for scout camp!

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    midbay

    2 months ago

    Buckskin is a synthetic tear resistant paper. It's what Levi uses in place of leather waist/length patches on the back of jeans as it takes print well, is washable, and has the look and feel of leather.

    1 reply
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    serhardtmidbay

    Reply 2 months ago

    That would be interesting to try!

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    Alaskan BevAjR33

    Reply 2 months ago

    No, it's really a whole different knot from a Turk's head. I've made over a hundred of those. I used to teach them to my high school students during free time; they loved them, too.

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    serhardtAjR33

    Reply 2 months ago

    I hadn't heard of a Turks Head knot but followed your link and it definitely does.

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    just_another_maker

    2 months ago

    My Dad made me one of these out of deerskin, not as a bracelet, just as a flat braid, many, many years ago and I was fascinated by it, but was never able to duplicate it. He passed away and took the secret with him. Thanks for explaining the magic behind the braid. I just have to try this.

    1 reply
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    serhardtjust_another_maker

    Reply 2 months ago

    Glad it brought good memories of your dad, have fun having a go at making one!

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    Alex in NZ

    2 months ago

    Really nice 'Ible! I read about these in Kryten's autobiography, but despite repeated tries in paper, I never managed to get it to work. Thank you for sharing your solution :-)

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    serhardtAlex in NZ

    Reply 2 months ago

    Many thanks, took my a few dos and undos the 1st couple of times. I think dying the leather helps to see what was happening. Paper may be quite challenging as it doesn't have the strength or flexibility of leather, a scrap of fabric may be easier if you want to practice before cutting leather. Good luck !!!