Introduction: NO-SEW LEATHER KIPPAH OR (Yamulkah)

About: Britex Fabrics is an amazing, family-run, 4-story fabric store in San Francisco. Britex sells a selection of our fabrics and notions online, and blogs about textiles at
Just in time for Hanukkah, here are directions for a beauteous no-sew leather kippah  (yamulkah ). Make kippot as gifts…and then later fry latkes and sing "S'vivon Sov Sov Sov".

Read Me First!
The leather or suede should be 2-4 oz./sq. ft. or 1-3 mm thick. It should be fairly stiff, such as the type used for wallets, handbags, and bookbinding. Garment and glove leathers, such as cow split, lamb, and deer, are much stretchier and don't hold shape well. Upholstery vinyls and leather substitutes without fabric backings; flexible long-fiber heavy papers such as cotton and mulberry; even fiber-supported plastics such as Tyvektm, will also work.  Materials thicker than 2-4 oz. or 1-3mm are too difficult to cut without special shears. Fabric backings fray. Garment PVC isn't stiff enough. Texture or design should be 2" or less, to fit on panels. Additional leather area will be needed if the design will be matched or centered.
Contact cement is available in both petrochemical and water-soluble latex variations. Use either with plenty of ventilation. Neither sticks well to dirty, greasy, or shiny surfaces. Cement should be flexible when set, and not dissolve the coloring or substance of the kippah.
Cut patterns and parts with craft shears, or a razor craft knife. A roller razor knife (such as an Olfatm) isn't practical, due to the many small radius curves.  Professional leather workers use a clicker die and mechanical press - similar to a heavy-duty steel cookie-cutter - to rapidly cut large numbers of identical small pieces. This isn't financially practical for fewer than several hundred items. A plastic or metal flat pattern as described here is good for dozens of uses, but of course each has to be positioned, marked, and cut individually.
These directions and patterns won't work with woven fabrics. Fabric kippot need to be sewn and lined, allowing for fabric bias.
Some Jews avoid hides from non-kosher animals (pigskin, snake, lizard, ostrich, amphibians) or fish (shark, ray, eel). 

Step 1: Materials and Tools

  • Leather 7" x 7" - preferably 2-4 oz. calf, goatskin, suede, or equivalent. Design repeat less than 2".
  • Contact cement
  • Pattern material - cardstock, thin plastic, or an aluminum beverage can
  • Kippah Patterns (Half and Quarter) .pdf
  • Work surface - cardboard, section of newspaper, or cutting board
  • Craft scissors or razor knife
  • Ballpoint pen
  • Optional: waterproof marker - same color as leather background shade

Step 2: Kippah Pattern Pdf

The kippah is 6" in diameter. The curve of each circumference piece is a quarter of this 6" circle. The curve of the diameter is 16".

An additional straight leather strip or strips, 1/2" wide by a total of 14" long, are necessary to join the kippah parts together. No pattern given; measure and cut from any available scrap.

Step 3: Kippah Pattern Cut Out and Positioned on Thin Plastic Pattern Material (a Salad Box Lid)

Use the paper pattern if making only one kippah. Trace around the paper pattern, firmly marking with a ballpoint pen. Even if the ink doesn't mark the plastic or thin aluminum, it will leave a perceptible track. You can also lightly glue the paper pattern to the plastic or metal, and cut it out directly.

Cut with scissors, rather than a razor knife, due to the curves. The cylindrical sides of a thin aluminum beverage can cut easily with craft scissors. If your leather pieces are very small or have irregular edges and holes, use the quarter panel pattern. It's difficult to perfectly align such small pieces; more trimming is required after assembly than a kippah made in halves. Mark the circumference on the non-show side of each quarter, indicating which edges NOT to cement together.

Step 4: Plastic Pattern Positioned on a Directional Design Leather Scrap

The see-through pattern eases placing a symmetrical, or other attractive layout, on designed or textured leather. Cut inside the pen tracing. Otherwise, the marks will show on the finished kippah seams. If the design doesn't matter, trace on the non-show side of the leather.

Step 5: Applying Cement (darker Areas) Along Diameter and Dart Edges

Both sides of the kippah, plus two 1/2" strips for reinforcing the seams. The strips aren't perceptible when the kippah is worn, and don't need to match the show side. Strips a little narrower (3/8") or wider (5/8") are also fine. These were cut by eye, not with a ruler.

If the cut edges of the leather are a different color than the show side, use a permanent marker in a similar color to dye the cut edges. The seams will be less visible, and the circumference look more finished, if similar in shade to the background color of the show side. (The demonstration kippah has a white background and white cut edges.)

Apply a 1/4" band of cement, brushing from the center of each large piece towards the diameter and dart edges only - not along the circumference.

Extra glue will help the kippah stay in place when worn, but it looks sloppy. Follow manufacturer's directions for contact cement; use wet, allow to become tacky, or set until dry, before assembly.

Step 6: Attaching the Strip Along the Diameter of the First Side of the Kippah

Position the strip parallel to the diameter edge, from the show side of the finished kippah.

When assembling quarters, first make one half, and then the other, of the kippah. Then join the two halves with the same methods as a two-piece kippah.

Step 7: Reinforcing Strip Cemented to the First Side of the Kippah

The leather half and strip are flat, but cemented along a curve, the side of the kippah is transformed into a semi-hemisphere. 3-D from 2-D!

Step 8: Beginning to Attach the 2nd Side of the Kippah Via the Seam Reinforcing Strip Under the Diameter Edges

Work from the show side of the kippah. Start from the center (peak) of a kippah with a designed leather print, being careful to match the angles where the symmetrical sides join. Butt the edges tightly together to hide the seam as much as possible; the cut thickness shouldn't be visible, just a hairline.

Step 9: Cementing the Reinforcing Strip Along the First Dart, Seen From the Inside

The sides of the darts are slight convex curves, so attaching the strip will force the dart into a 3-dimensional shape, just as cementing the strip did along the diameter.

Trim the end of the first dart strip if necessary, so the remainder can be used on the second dart.

Step 10: Cementing the Reinforcing Strip Along the Second Dart, Seen From the Outside

Trim irregularities in the circumference with scissors. Any extra glue can be rubbed off smooth leather with fingers, or with a large eraser.

Contact cement doesn't remove from suede, or rough textures, very well.

Step 11: Smoothing the Seams Using the Curved Edge of the Scissors Grip, (or Any Other Smooth, Hard Object)

Try not to distort the kippah out of shape; only pull/smooth along the reinforced seams. Don't pull across the unreinforced, stretchier areas.

The idea is to make the kippah curve smoothly, rather than have facets remaining from its flat origin.

Step 12: The Finished Kippah

The symmetrical design joins in the Glen plaid print are clearly visible. And you have made a truly classy kippah!

Step 13: A Collection of Kippot

All of these were fashioned from leather bought at Britex Fabrics in San Francisco!

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    3 Discussions


    6 years ago

    nice kippot. original. mazeltov