Leather Pouch Tutorial & Intro to Basic Leather Working




About: Chief Project Manager and Fabricator. I make all sorts of props and costumes from scratch on very low budgets for fun. anything from star wars to steam punk i always like to challenge myself with builds and ...

Good evening ladies and gents. In this fine Instructable I will be showing you how to create your own leather pouches! This is also a great introductory in basic leather working.

If you have any questions regarding the tutorial, making of your own cosplay/costume or just want to say hi please send me a message on my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ToweringProps). Its much easier and faster to get back to you there. :)

Over the several steps listed here ill demonstrate a handful of good techniques while working with leather for either new or experienced cosplayers and costume enthusiasts. Ill be demonstrating cutting, shaping, gluing, applying dye and conditioner and a few other tricks. I learn better ways and new techniques every time I do a costume so check back often for improved or new tricks and more examples.

Here's what you'll need:

4-5 oz leather single shoulder (4 - 5 sq. feet)

Leather contact cement

Waterstain leather dye (I used dark brown)

Leather finish (I used Gloss)

High density sponge

Leather Groover

Sharp scissors or angled box cutter

Pencil and Pen

Your choice of button: Magnetic bag snaps, Sam Brown button etc

Palm sander



Black acrylic paint

Small paintbrush

Rivet gun


Metal spring clip

so lets get started!

Step 1: Finding Materials and Tools

The most daunting part of leather working is where to even start looking for materials and tools. Thankfully there are a number of great websites where you can find what you need at an affordable price.

The site TandyLeather offers everything listed previously on the intro step all at a decent price. This is where I buy all my leather as i cant seem to beat the prices. They also have several outlets around the U.S where you can find nearly there entire inventory. However they're tool prices can be a bit high if your on a budget. When buying leathers keep in mind what your looking to make with it. Pouches are made best with 4-5 oz shoulders while armors are made best with 6-7 oz or higher.

Tandy Leather is where i buy all my dyes, conditioners and cements. When purchasing dyes the best and most user friendly are the waterstain dyes and conditioners. They are easily applied with high density sponges. If you want the highest strength bond when gluing your best bet is Leather Contact Cement, don't confuse it with rubber cement. Barge cement is also a popular choice but I find it harder to work with since it doesn't come with a brush.

Ebay is a great alternative if you want to save some money and find some leather tools. You can get all the leather working tools on Ebay from various sources for a great price, you'll be able to save some money versus Tandy leather. Tools that are a must own are "Leather grooving tool" "Leather strap cutter" "Leather hole punch tool".

You'll save a lot of money cutting your own straps versus buying them precut.

The leather hole punch is the only way to get clean holes punched into your leather and the Leather grooving tool allows you to create detail line and groove for folding.

Step 2: Creating Templates, Transferring and Cutting Them Out

You can either create your own templates or find some online and print them off. If you create your own templates youll need three measurements to make a pouch. You'll need the width, height and depth.

The template listed above is Jango Fetts pouch template from the dentedhelmet.com. Its a great example of a round bottom pouch while the other is a example of a square pouch template. Its good to print off a random template if your stuck trying to make your own, that way you can work off the existing template.

When creating your templates youll need to keep in mine the depth of the pouch if you layer detail onto the pouch. Too much layering can make the front pouch not fit correctly and come up short.

Transferring the templates is easy, simply take a ball point pen and trace around it on the rough side of the leather. Do not transfer it to the clean, working side of the leather. Be sure to transfer the fold lines as well.

Once all your templates are traced take a sharp pair of scissors and cut out the leather. Keep in mind if your leather is thicker then 4 - 5 oz you'll need to cut it with an angled box cutter.

Step 3: Creating the Block Forms

The block forms are the best way to get the shape you want out of your leather. The finished block forms reflect the size and shape of your final pouches and will be used as a form to shape the leather.

Using the measurements you made the templates (hight, Width and depth) Create the blocks out of wood. I used MDF board as it came in the exact width I chose for my pouches (.75") and is easily shaped. Feel free to use any wood you prefer but for this tutorial ill be demonstrating using MDF.

Measure out the blocks you need and draw out the cut lines on the wood. I had a total of 5 pouches and 3 different sizes so in order to save time I made all 5 blocks. Once you cut out the block you can shape the bottom to the curve you desire or just leave them flat.

Take the mouse sander and remove the splinters and burs from the edges of the blocks. Use several grits to get the MDF smooth again. Be sure to wear a respirator or at the least a dust mask as MDF has traces of formaldehyde in it.

Once its cut it'll need to be sealed. MDF is pretty much done for if its exposed to water and for our purposes it will be submerged in it. To seal the MDF I used fiberglass resin, its cheap and does the job very well in only 2 coats. Make sure to coat the entire block in resin. This way theres no chance of water damage. Once its dry it becomes rock hard and is a incredibly strong material.

Step 4: Grooving

To groove your leather you'll need a leather groover or stitching groover. This tool is typically used to create detail lines and lines for stitching the leather. For our purposes well be using it to create fold lines for shaping.

For the width pieces you'll need to transfer the fold lines from the blocks. Do this simply with a pen then cut a small 45 degree triangle in the bottom. This will allow the pieces to fold together properly.

Ones you have your transfer lines ready use a straight edge ruler as a guide for straight lines and free hand the rounded parts on the rough side of the leather. Three runs with the stitcher should be enough to visibly see where the fold line is on the clean side of the leather.

After you have evenly grooved the leather use the modeling spoon to separate the leather to create a wider groove.

Step 5: Shaping/Forming

This step is pretty straight forward. Fill up a sink in your bath room about 1/3 full, then pour a half cup (give or take) of isopropyl alcohol 70%. I got mine at Walmart on the cheap. Turn your bathroom fan on because the fumes can be a bit harsh from the rubbing alcohol.

The water acts as a hardener while the alcohol softens and stretch the leather allowing it to form easier. Run the piece of leather through the water allowing to darken evenly. Once its soaked wrap it around the block and fix it with rubber bands. Be sure to have the clean working side of the leather towards you and the rough side touching the blocks. For the side pieces wrap a couple rubber bands around the sides so they form a good 90 degree angle. (demonstrated in picture 2).

Don't tie the rubber bands too tight as they may leave pressure lines in the leather. You just want the band to keep the leather firm against the blocks nice and even. Let it dry for about a day and you'll be ready for the next step.

Step 6: Roughing

Roughing is the technique of creating an area for the glue to bond too. Leather contact cement works best when both surfaces are roughed.

Take your sander or high grit Dremmel bit and rough the areas that will be glued. Simple!

Optionally you can take your sander and rough the entire piece up if you wish to weather the pouches making them look older.

Step 7: Bonding/Glueing

To create a solid bond between two pieces of leather youll need leather contact cement but first I like to prep hard to glue areas. I use a tab of hot glue on the inside to attach the two ends of the sides together for the side pieces as shown in picture 1.

Once you've prepped for glueing use the contact cement and apply it to both sides. Let it dry to a tacky feel, touch it with your finger till the glue doesn't come off on your finger. Be sure to apply it to the entirety of both pieces and get it straight up to the edges. The two pieces are ready to be attached and be sure to align it correctly the first time as its a permanent bond. Once its placed apply pressure to the two pieces to solidify the bond.

Left over glue can be rubbed or sanded off fairly easily as it acts just like rubber cement. If your going for pristine pouches versus the weathered look you can tape off the area you don't want the cement to touch. The curing time for the cement is around 30 seconds so you should be able to get right to the next step after removing excess glue.

Step 8: Attaching Your Snaps

This step will very slightly depending on what button or snap you go with.

To attach a magnetic bag snap like shown above simple take some scrap leather and using a xacto blade cut holes in the leather for the prongs to go through. Fold the prongs outward around the backing and apply cement to the back of the pouch flap and the snap. Attach the two pieces and use them to align the other half of the snap. You can hide the snap in the detail leather by cutting out a hole big enough for the snap. Again use a xacto blade to cut the slits for the snap to go through in the leather and attach the backing.

If your using a screw back button or Sam Brown button simply use your leather punch tool and make two one smaller then the ball on the button and one big enough for the screw of rivet to go through.

Step 9: Dying and Finishing

You can either dye or paint leather but dying is the proffered method and is just as easy as painting.

Using your high density sponge pour a little dye in a paper bowl and rotate the sponge in the dye to evenly soak it up. Once the sponge has dye in it apply it to the leather in a circular motion. If one area looks too dark simply rub it across the leather using a swiping motion. Waterstain dye dries evenly so you wont see much difference between darker areas and lighter ones.

If the gaps between to pieces are to small for the sponge you can use a disposable paint brush to apply the dye and wipe it clean with the sponge.

Areas failing to dye are because of the cement. If you your going for the weather look or a cell shaded look you can use a fine tip paintbrush and some acrylic paint (black paint for dark brown dye, dark brown paint for brown dye... etc) and apply them to the cemented areas and outline the detail leather.

Once you've dyed the leather and optionally applied the acrylic paint you can continue to finishing the leather.

Finisher "Brightens" the dye by pulling the true color of the dye out. So if it appears to dark it'll pull the brown out more. Comparing the last two photos together you can see it adds a shine as well.

Using the same circular motion techniques the dye apply the finisher. The finisher goes on much easier and you need dramatically less so don't pour very much in the paper bowl.

Step 10: Belt Clip or Strap

You can use either metal spring clips that you attach to the pouches with rivets or you can cut and attach belt loops with scrap leather. It all comes down to what you like most.

Attaching the metal spring clip is self explanatory simple get a rivet and a rivet gun and punch or carefully drill a whole on the leather then rivet in the spring to the leather. Be sure to put a washer on the opposite side.

To make a basic belt loop cut a slit in the leather, then cut a scrap piece of leather to fit in side it. rough up the top piece of the leather and the bottom of the pouch. Cement the two pieces together and viola. Be sure to leave extra space between the two cemented areas so it'll fit with a belt through it.

For a not so permanent bond you can add button snaps to the bottom or use a Sam Brown Button and make a hole. this way you can slide it over and snap the pouch on the belt.

Step 11: Finished Product

And thats it! Not so hard is it? Leather is a great material for costumes and they bring a professional level to your cosplays. Using the information in this instructable you can create all sorts of leather goods such as boot covers and even armor with practice!

Hope you enjoyed reading and hope this instructable gives you the confidence to make your first costume or ideas for your next project! Feel free to visit Towering Props on facebook and send me pictures of what you've completed using this tutorial. I love seeing the feedback from you guys!


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    19 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago on Step 2

    I looked at the template, but it gave me dimensions that seemed improportionate to the product shown. Could you help me understand the proper dimentions/provide a link to the specific project on the prop making website?


    3 years ago

    They are really beautiful pieces of work! I work with leather a bit and I plan to give it a go. Thank you for sharing!

    1 reply

    4 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for this tutorial it has given me the confidence and instruction I needed to make a couple things. I have been trying to sell about 40 large pieces of leather for a long time now but after reading this I will give it a shot and maybe sell an actual product instead. Great job on writing this instruction.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    Are you still selling the leather?


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I am a crafter of many projects and materials. I have looked everywhere to

    find out if "you can stretch a leather strap bracelet".

    I have one I reworked, new rivets, etc. but did not like ouitcome. So...I reordered

    bracelet online. I wonder if I wet it, put it on my large bracelwet mandrel,

    can it be pushed down to make bigger?My son wants an extra inch!

    Thanks, Help!

    1 reply

    So Sorry for the delay! You can try wetting it and that might do the trick. Alcohol allows the leather to be much more relaxed and that might be a better option. I use 90% isopropyl alcohol for my leather work and mix it 1 part alcohol and 2 parts water.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    i've been looking for a leather pouch to fit my compass when i hike...this might just do the trick!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Leather is a material that is not that easy to work with and as for me, has been a tough challenge for a long period of time. I have not been able to produce results which I have expected to come up with as leather, though quite tough, seems to be fragile as I was working with it. I remember I used to want to fix a high-quality leather piece onto my storage drawer as the table top but the edges are flimsy and are almost dropping off every single second I was trying to fix it together with adhesives. I will try again with these steps given here.


    5 years ago

    Great tutorial, thanks for sharing!


    5 years ago

    Those look good!


    5 years ago

    Well, well! Learned a trick or two, thanks for posting! Very nice!