Patchwork Leather Top With Grommets




About: I've been posting Instructables since the site's inception, and now build other things at Autodesk. Follow me for food and more!

Go dancing in custom leather for cheap.

Step 1: Acquire Scrap Leather

I found mine at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in Berkeley in the form of an old belt (pink), an old skirt (green), and some furniture cover samples/scraps. Other good sites for scrap leather acquisition: Dollar-A-Pound in Cambridge, MA; yard sales; Goodwill; your grandmother's attic; butcher shops for the real DIYer.

Fake fur makes an especially tasteful accent; be creative.

Step 2: Make a Bikini: Pattern

The most careful work must go into creating a bikini-style base for your top, as it's the most difficult to fit. If the Instructable for bra making had been up at this point, I'd have followed it; as it was, I made a bad pattern from one of mine.

Trace the pattern onto the leather, making sure you mark the orientation properly. Add fake fur to the top, as this will (partially) help cover up the fact you've used a crappy pattern.

Step 3: Measure Twice, Cut and Sew

Get a friend to help you with this one. Hold the two cups of the bikini top where you actually want them to sit, then measure what size connector you'll need.

Trace and cut out a pattern, double-check it, then actually cut your leather and sew the thing together.

Check again, just to make sure, as this is the most squirrelly piece to fit.

Step 4: Add More Leather Pieces

Now that you've got the basic bikini top done, cut and add more pieces as you like to make a patchwork front. Scotch tape is useful here: you can use it to hold pieces together and even sew right over it, then pull it off when you're done. Don't use pins, as they would leave holes.

Things to think about: how long/wide do I want this thing to be? Which piece of leather should I place against my skin when I overlap edges? How much overlap do these pieces need? What shapes do I want to cut? Do I need reinforcing stitches at any of the overlap points? Do I really want to put pink, red, and burgundy leather on the same top? Have I left good, strong places to place my grommets? Is this going to make me look like I'm fluent in Klingon?

Step 5: Grommet Grommet

Acquire a home grommet kit. They're readily available at any hardware store and most craft stores. You can get the smash-with-a-hammer variety or the big-hole-puncher-thingy. I'm cheap and so get to use my rubber mallet.

Mark your grommet sites on the front and back pieces of your top, then get to work.

First, use the punch tool to make a grommet-sized hole in your leather. Next, pop the grommet bottom (the larger piece with a long neck) under your leather with the neck sticking up through the hole. Place the grommet top (small ring) over the neck, sandwiching the leather piece, concave side down. Place the reinforcing base underneath the whole mess, making sure the grommet bottom is fitted smoothly into the matching groove in the base. Next, take the setting tool (solid metal pencil-looking thing) and insert the tip into the top of the assembled grommet. Place the assembly on top of a piece of wood to dampen vibrations.

Hammer until the upper side of the grommet has folded over, pinning the top tightly against the leather. The top should not spin or wiggle; if it does, hammer more. The amount of smashing required will depend on the thickness of the leather you're trying to pinch inside the grommet.

Step 6: Tie It on and Go Out Dancing

Purchase lots of leather thong from a craft store. Round leather thong can be softer on the skin, but is more prone to untie during a long night of dancing, so select your laces carefully. Also be sure to tie the lacing quite tightly, as leather (both the laces and the top) will loosen up a bit when you get all properly hot and sweaty from dancing. I would recommend tying lots of separate pieces instead of continuous lacing up the sides, as the failure mode is less severe with multiple independent connections.

Finally, you'll need to find a cute boy to lace you into this construction and keep you company while out dancing. Warn them in advance that this may take a while, and that they have to dress in complementary fashion. My boy looks pretty hot in his leather pants and shiny silver shirt (see silver shirt instructable); your mileage may vary.



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    13 Discussions


    6 years ago on Step 2

    label it a try or just an idea:
    "we" leatherworkers use profiles to shape leather. Such as clay, sand or gypsum. So i'd suggest get a basin to contain sum gypsum and a quite heavy ball. Sink the ball half-way into the gypsum, let it dry. Put sum warm water in a sink and add your leather. Leave it there for maybe 5 mins, then put the leather in the mold, put the ball on top of it and let the leather dry for a day.
    This way the leather should become more round, though you might have to run several tries to get the "perfect" curve.


    6 years ago on Step 5

    ...make sure, after hammering, that the grommets grip and don't move anymore, otherwise they can rip off later.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    its really creative.....but my dad will kill me 1st b4 he allows me wear it out of the house....


    9 years ago on Step 6

     This is downright attractive, and incredibly unique! Awesome!


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Ewilhelm would be my guess, seeing how he has a silver shirt Instructable...


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Say, instead of mailing it, keep it, hopefully future me will turn up in a day or two!


    12 years ago on Step 6

    are you at burning man in that last picture? is also a really cool instructable that when I actually have my sewing machine again I'll have to do..but I was also curious..

    1 reply

    Reply 12 years ago on Step 6

    You got it. Those pictures were taken at Burning Man 2005 in front of the giant LED wall at the IGS camp. Surprisingly, the leather top survived a trip through the washing machine, and is now playa-dust free.


    12 years ago

    Very nice. I like it. I often use black shoelaces for lacings on similar projects. I hate coming undone suddenly, and the shoelaces hold really well.