Camp craft: DIY stitched leather bracelets
As a teenager, I was jealous of my brothers who got to do leather crafts at Boy Scout camp, while we at girls camp never did. So I was determined to teach these girls a leather project this year. We ended up doing two leather projects. This stitched leather bracelet is the first. We just used multicolored thread, but you can go crazy with your designs by adding ribbon, beads, buttons, etc. (This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, I may earn a small commission. You can read my full disclosure here.)
(I know. I still owe you lots of tutorials from my craft room and dining room makeovers. Oh, and the paper lantern tutorial too. I’ll get to them. Girls camp crafts come first because they seem more timely. And fun.)
This bracelet was inspired by a souvenir my friend Kristi brought home from Mexico. Essentially, it’s a strip of soft, thin leather that’s folded, glued, punched, and sewn. The girls loved it. You should have heard the racket when all 12 hammers were going to town on those punches! They came up with some super creative designs. I wish I was able to take pictures of all of them.
The picture above is our Craft Shack where we did all our crafting. This year, the quonset hut was covered in a gray tarp, which was a definite improvement over last year’s green-tinted experience.
I couldn’t have done it without Amy Beth at Tandy Leather. I basically took the souvenir bracelet to her and asked what I needed to make one. She pointed me to the right kinds of leather, punches, and glue. And because I was on a tight budget, she also suggested cheaper alternatives to Tandy’s hammers and cutting boards. Thanks, Amy Beth!
Funny story. I bought mini Styrofoam plates for each girl to put her own supply of glue. Don’t ask me why I bought Styrofoam plates. I don’t even believe in buying Styrofoam. It was a last-minute harebrained decision. Anyway, we quickly discovered that rubber cement disintegrates Styrofoam. In about 15 minutes, the plates were a mess of goo. We used up all the paper plates for painting earlier in the week, so we switched to what I had left: plastic cups. Those disintegrated too. But at least it took an hour for that to happen. So disaster was not averted, just postponed. Moral of the story: Use paper, not plastic.
How to make a stitched leather bracelet
2 pieces of thin leather (we used a finished upholstery split that I found on clearance at Tandy Leather. For smaller pieces, check for remnants):
- 2-1/2- x 7-inch rectangle
- 3/16- x 10-inch strip
rubber cement that’s made for leather (I also found this highly-rated leathercraft cement on Amazon. It might be worth a try.)
newsprint or scrap paper
rubber, wooden, or plastic mallet (check dollar stores)
round metal punches (we used size 0, 2 and 4)
poly cutting board (check dollar stores)
tapestry needle (we also liked Singer’s large eye hand needles)
rotary mat and cutter
metal straight edge or drywall T-square
1. Using a ruler, straight edge, cutting mat and rotary cutter, measure and cut a 2½- x 7-inch piece of leather to start with. Wrap the piece of leather around your wrist. The ends should be about ½-inch from touching each other. Trim to the desired length. Then cut the narrow strip of leather to use as a lace.
2. Protect your work surface with newsprint, and flip your leather over so the back side is facing up.
3. Apply a thin layer of rubber cement to the entire back side of the leather. Wait five minutes.
Note: The rubber cement has a brush attached to the lid, so a separate brush and paper plate is not necessary. I bought one large quart container of glue, so plates and brushes for each girl made sharing easier.
4. Fold lengthwise so that the sides meet in the middle. Press flat with your fingers. Rub off the excess glue when it dries. The bracelet should now be about 1-1/4 inches wide.
5. Place your leather front-side-up on the cutting board. Hammer the open tip of the punch into the leather to create your desired pattern. This is the fun part! I used punch size 4 in the center and size 0 on the outside of this design.
Tip: Use a toothpick to clear out the pieces of leather that get jammed in the punch.
6. It looks better to double the thread for this project. Here’s an fast, easy solution: Cut a piece of thread a few feet long. Fold it in half, then thread the loop through the eye of the needle. Pull it through so that the looped side is longer than the tails side. Sew up through any hole in the back of the leather, down through an adjacent hole, then through the loop of thread. This anchors the thread so you can keep sewing without having to tie a knot.
7. Keep sewing the rest of the pattern. When you get to the end of each color, tie a knot by stitching under one of your last stitches, then through the loop. Repeat. Cut the thread. Go back to step 6 to thread the next color and continue. The back should look almost as clean as the front when you are finished.
8. Round off the corners with a sharp pair of scissors. Punch two holes at each end of the bracelet with the ⅛-inch punch.
9. Thread the leather strip through the holes as shown to lace the bracelet together.
Tip: First trim one or both ends of the lace to feed it through the holes more easily.
10. Tie a knot at each end, and trim the tips straight across again.
11. Tuck the ends underneath the loops. Adjust the length as necessary for your wrist. Slide onto your wrist. Trim the lace if needed. You’re done!
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Made this project? Email your photo(s) to monica (at) craftynest (dot) com, and I’ll share your version here!
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