Intro: Woven Leather Necklace Cord
Ever wanted to make a beautiful hand-woven pendant cord out of leather? It's not as hard as it looks, although it can take a while. Follow this guide to make your own personal hand-woven leather necklace that can support all sorts of pendants.
Step 1: Project Materials
For this project we will need, of course:
- Leather cord, the thickness of your choice
-A barrel clasp. The size you need will vary based on the thickness of your leather. I use 1MM leather cord and my barrel clasps, which are magnetic, are 5MM.
-Glue to secure the ends of the leather cord to the inside of the clasp. I seriously just use super glue from Dollar Tree.
- Pliers. Any size will do! These are for compressing the ends of the cord to fit inside of the barrel clasp once we're ready to finish the necklace.
- And of course, whatever it is you want to put on the necklace! Pendants with smaller holes must be added before the clasp or attached to one of the pieces of leather within the weave.
Step 2: Beginning Your Necklace...
The first thing you need to do is wrap one piece of leather cord around your finger, twice, at its center. We'll be using two pieces of leather cord of the same length. Keep in mind that because of the style of the weave, we will need several meters of cord to make even the shortest of necklaces, so cut your piece sufficiently long.
The piece should go over the top of your finger twice, but the bottom of your finger once. Pinch the loose ends at the bottom with your middle finger and thumb.
Step 3: Your Second Piece of Leather...
Run the second piece of leather cord through the loop underneath your finger until both free ends are the same length.
Next, pull each loose end of your second piece up and around the loose ends of the first piece, and then tuck them underneath the corresponding loops. Pull them both secure.
Step 4: If You Did It Correctly, It Should Look Like This.
Step 5: Finishing the First Stitch
Tighten the stitch around the top of your finger, then slide it off.
Pull the slack in the leather that had been around your finger out by tugging on all four pieces at the same time. This part can be tricky, and can mess up the entire process. If you put too much pressure on one piece over another, it won't come out in a neat square and you'll have to start over.
This technique can also be used with any string to make a perfect four-way knot with natural right angles between the strands.
Step 6: More Loops
Take two strands directly across from each other and loop them across the top of the first stitch, in the same manner you had them over your finger. It does not matter which strands you do this with as long as they are directly across from one another, so that they are on opposite sides of the square. Do not cross them over one another. Pinch the loose ends to the sides of the first stitch.
Step 7: Finishing the Second Stitch
Just like the first stitch only without a finger in the middle, pull the unlooped strands up, over the loop closest to them, and through the loop furthest from them. Make sure these strands once again do not cross over each other, only the perpendicular strands. Once again, pull all four strands tight at the same time to avoid uneven stitches.
Step 8: Keep on Going!
Repeat this last step as long as you like to get your necklace the length that you want it.
Keep in mind it can take a dozen stitches to make one inch of cord, and that each stitch can take about a minute once you get going. The process can take hours. I like to go on movie marathons while I work since this repetitive process takes little concentration once you have it down. Bare in mind that if pulled too tightly leather can break, so be careful.
Upon completion your leather cord will be very tight and stiff, but since this is leather, it will soften and stretch a bit with age. My new cords are always stiff and rigid, but once they've been worn for a month or so, they become soft and supple.
If you do split one of your strands, you can splice the leather cord back together by cutting it at a severe angle, gluing it, and using those pliers to clamp the glued section in line. I don't have a photo because I never split my strands on purpose. This repaired spot in the leather will be thicker and stiffer than the rest of your necklace, but completely unnoticeable except on close examination of your work. Try to avoid splits at all costs, but remember that if one occurs, all is not lost.
Step 9: Finishing Your Necklace
To finish the necklace, first pull the final stitch as tight as you possibly can make it, then let it sit for a few minutes before cutting off the ends of the strands as close to the last stitch as possible.
Saturate the end with glue to bind the final stitch together. This can give it a tacky, dulled appearance, but nobody is really going to see it.
Clamp the end of your cord to make sure the glue binds and to squeeze out the air between the strands. This has the effect of sort of mushing the leather into a sort of solid leather lump, making it much denser than the rest of the necklace.
Step 10: Add Your Clasp
For our barrel clasp, I clamped my end just briefly to squish it down enough to fit into my barrel clasp and get the leather saturated with the glue.
For other kinds of clasps, for example the cheaper lobster style clasps, you want to keep the end of your necklace clamped down hard until the glue dries completely, then put a hole in the solid leather wad you've created with a piece of sharpened wire through which to string a metal loop by which to attach the clasp. I don't have any of these on hand to demonstrate, though, and the magnetic barrel clasp looks far nicer.
Step 11: Add Your Chosen Pendant
If your pendant has an eye smaller than your clasp, you'll want to move this step up to before the clasp goes on, and even smaller pendants will need to be put over one or two strands while the necklace is half finished being woven, but for me? My pendant is my ocarina, so I'll be using 1mm leather strands, double looped and secured to one another in the middle by gluing and clamping it with the pliers. Since the double loop isn't directly glued to the ocarina, I can move it back and forth to accommodate putting the clasp through both sides.
Step 12: Wear It!
Since I know this will stretch by about an inch given a month or two, being leather, I made it a hair shorter than I wanted on purpose. You can literally make your necklace any length that you want to! Just make sure you have enough leather to do it with.
Step 13: Experiment
You might have noticed that this weaving pattern creates a hollow space in the middle.
Many years ago I made a bracelet using this technique for a friend, except in the center I installed a 2mm stainless steel snake chain. You can barely see the chain, but as the bracelet moves, little flashes of gleaming metal show through in the spaces. I asked him for a photo to include here.
The space in the weave can be filled with numerous different things, though bare in mind that with the center filled in this way the leather won't stretch over time. (It does get nice and soft, though)
You can install a heavy gauge aluminum wire down the middle to make it sculpt-able. You can do what I did with a snake chain for little glimmers of metal from inside the leather. You can put a piece of black rubber in the center to invisibly increase the load it can carry. I've even wondered what a strand of thread fully loaded up with rainbow glass seed beads would do in the middle... Likely reduce the flexibility, but show through little flashes of color in the black leather. The ideas are endless. And naturally, this can be done in other kinds of leather. Show me your ideas, folks!