I thought I would have a little experiment with leather and 'wet moulding' :)
Usually this is done with wooden moulds, but I don't do woodworking, so I wondered if I could try something similar with polymer clay. Clay is obviously not as strong as it can crack under pressure, but it worked quite successfully for this simple shaping project.
This stuffed leather ornament could be used on a keyring or as a Christmas decoration.
I hope this DIY gives you some ideas.
Step 1: What You Need
- Polymer clay: I used some Fimo Soft clay (in 'porcelain' colour), plus some scrap white Fimo clay I had.
- A piece of brown leather: You can use any leather for this, but apparently veg tanned leather holds its shape the best. I think leather more than 2mm thick, especially if it's a stiff leather, would be too tough for polymer clay to shape and could cause crackage. The leather I used was supple not stiff, and was bought as a cheap 'offcut' off Ebay.
- Ceramic tile (or a flat baking tray and some baking paper) to bake the clay on
- An awl for putting holes into the leather
- Sharp needle, preferably a leather needle
- Thread to attach the leather together and to add the cross stitch with. I used size 8 red cotton thread.
- Acrylic roller for helping to condition the clay (optional)
- Scrap cardboard
- A clamp, or vice, or anything else you have to push the 2 parts of the mould together
- A piece of plastic like a zip-loc bag or clingfilm
Step 2: Condition the Clay
Warm the polymer clay in your hands (or put in a zip-loc bag and put in warm water), and continuously work/condition the clay until it becomes softer and pliable.
If you have an acrylic roller (or even a glass jar) you can roll it out flat, then form it into a ball, and repeat those steps until the clay is easy to work with.
Best to do this on clean glass or a ceramic tile so it doesn't stick to the work surface.
Then use your hands to make the clay into a dome shape as shown. Aim for gently sloping sides, a smooth surface, and just an even shape.
Put the dome on baking paper on a baking tray, or on a ceramic tile, and put in the oven at the temperature stated on the clay packet. Bake the clay for at least the recommended time to ensure it is hard enough. Leave to cool completely.
Step 3: Make the Second Part of the Mould
Take a piece of plastic (in my case, a zip-loc bag) and place it over the baked dome shape. This is to stop the clay pieces sticking together.
Push more clay on top of the dome, pushing it down on all sides to replicate the dome shape.
If you are using stiff or relatively thick leather, you may need to make this clay section thicker to make it stronger.
The mould I made was pretty thin because I used thin and pliable leather.
Put the clay pieces into the oven to bake (on a ceramic tile or baking tray again, as before.)
Step 4: Mould the Leather
Cut out 2 identical circles of leather so they're the size of the ornament you want.
I cut mine just a little bigger than the base of the clay dome.
Soak one leather circle in water for about half an hour.
Place the leather on the centre of the dome and use your fingers (or a bone folder) to work the leather into the dome shape. Just slide your thumbs from the centre of the dome outwards and downwards. You want to try and stretch and shape the leather into the dome shape as best you can.
Put the second part of the clay mould on top of the leather and clamp the 2 clay pieces together.
Leave to dry for about a day.
Because there wasn't much room for water to escape from, I then opened the mould to allow the leather to dry thoroughly. If the leather doesn't stay in place when you do this, you'll have to put it back in the mould for longer.
Step 5: And Repeat
Repeat the steps for the other leather circle so now you have both halves of the ornament.
Step 6: Add the Holes
I then used an awl to create holes in one circle of leather. I added the holes in the pattern shown in the photo, and made sure I had some thick scrap cardboard underneath to protect the table surface.
I didn't mark the points on the leather before I created the holes, so mine were a little uneven. I therefore would recommend marking the points on the leather in pen before you start! You want all points spaced apart evenly.
Step 7: Cross Stitch
Put a knot in one end of a piece of thread, and feed the other end into the eye of a (leather) needle.
Push the needle from the back of the leather dome upwards to start making cross stitches, using the pre-made holes in the leather. I started from the bottom and worked my way upwards to form a heart shape.
Tie a knot to keep the thread in place when you finish.
Step 8: Blanket Stitch
Add blanket stitch around the outside of the leather pieces to join both sides together, back to back, in a decorative way.
When you have stitched about 2/3 of the way around, add stuffing between the leather pieces until it is as padded as you want it to be. Then finish stitching to close the gap.
The leather I used was quite soft so I was able to just push the leather needle through both pieces of leather to do the stitching, however if you are using stiffer leather you may need to use the awl again to create holes in the leather first.
Step 9: Voila!
You can then make lots and turn them into a garland, or use one for a keyring or a Christmas decoration.
This was just my first experiment in wet moulding using polymer clay, and I hope it gives you inspiration to try it yourself. I'll continue working on improving the technique for future projects.
Thanks for reading :)