Hi! Sorry for the unexpected absence yesterday. My husband and I decided to celebrate our anniversary a few days early so that we could go to our favorite restaurant: Sanctuary. We were surprised by a collaboration between the owners and my mother to arrange for her to pay for the dinner. It was really very kind of them and made our evening. 🙂
Today’s tutorial is born out of that event, and thus is why I didn’t post it yesterday. I made Earl a leather luggage tag for our anniversary. We like to give each other little gifts, and I have made it a personal challenge to stick to the traditional anniversary gift materials. It is not a necessity that I make something, but I’ve done so two out of three years so far. Year three is leather and I spent forever trying to figure out what to get him. I couldn’t afford to get him the leather satchel he wants (it’s around $600), he already has a leather wallet, a basic leather belt is a bit blah, he doesn’t write in a journal so that’s out, so on and so forth. I finally got the idea to do a luggage tag after I remembered these gorgeous tags I found when we were getting married. So, I set forth to make him a tag and here are the results! I should note that I have removed his personal details with the magic of Photoshop for privacy reasons as well as the artwork I burned and painted. I’ve added a note about that at the very end. Without further adieu… here is your tutorial! It’s super easy, so don’t hesitate to give it a try!
Time needed: About 3-4 hours
Skills: Cutting, stitching, and burning leather
1. Leather. I used a rather thick piece of scrap leather I had that originally came from a belly piece. It needs to fit about the size of an 8.5×11 if you are using my pattern, but there are 2 pieces so you can cut your pieces diagonally if need be.
2. Your pattern with markings for your text, cut marks, and punch marks. You can download a .pdf of the pattern I made here if you want. It includes both leather pieces and the text to slip inside. It’s also a form, so you can add your own text (but not graphics).
3. Heavy cardstock for your contact information.
4. Some sort of hole puncher. I used my cropodile. The snaps I bought also had a tool to punch holes through cloth that probably would have worked for leather.
5. A ball point pen.
6. Something to cut your leather with. These are my leather cutting scissors.
7. Paper cutting scissors.
8. A paint brush.
9. A sharp exacto knife with a new blade (a utility knife would work as well.
10. Leather paint. You could probably get away with acrylic.
11. Leather dye. This is optional, if you like the color of your leather as is, you don’t have to dye it.
12. Snaps or some other sort of closure. These are snaps I got from the fabric store.
13. A hot tool to burn your leather. This was a cheapo $15 wood burning tool.
14. A hammer
15. An awl and thread. As long as you have a needle and something to punch small holes in the leather, it need not be an awl. I would also suggest a heaver string that has been waxed, as it is stronger.
Step 1. Print the pattern and cut it out using your paper scissors.
Step 2. Place the pattern on the side of the leather that you don’t want to use. Using your ball point pen (or a pencil if you prefer), trace the outline of the pattern.
Step 3. Cut out your leather. I used leather scissors for this, but a new utility blade would do just as well.
Step 4. Place your pattern on your leather so that the back side of the paper is on the front side of the leather. Carefully trace over the pattern with your ballpoint pen. Make sure to get everything that you want to burn as well as all the holes that you will be stitching. When you trace the holes, only trace the sides and the bottom. You will leave the top open to put your contact information in later. Do this for both pieces. When you are done, there will be an indent where you traced your pattern. These are your guidelines for almost everything else going forward. I have left a small portion of the removed image so you can better see what I mean.
Step 5. Cut out the inner part of the smaller piece. Start by cutting a hole in the center, then following out towards the traced lines. Use those lines as your guide and cut the entire center piece out.
Step 6. Burn the outlines of your image and the fill of your text. I suggest doing a few test swipes on a scrap piece of leather to better understand how the tool works.
Step 7. Punch lightly in each of the dots to start your holes. (I did steps 6 and 7 in opposite order, hence the odd picture lineup, but this makes more sense).
Step 8. Punch all of your holes. I found it easier to punch when the leather was wet. This does stretch the leather, however, if the leather is dry it cracks when you punch. So, choose your poison. If you are really careful and practice a lot beforehand, you can probably punch the holes without stretching or cracking.
Step 9. Dye your leather. I did not wait for my leather to dry. This did not cause any adverse effects, but I would suggest you let your leather dry first. My dye did say that it could be used while the leather was still wet with cleaner, which I didn’t use, but I figured that water would have a similar effect. Once it was all dry, the leather did seem to take the dye just fine. To dye it, use the enclosed swab, saturate it with the dye, and run it over the leather. I did this a few times, waiting for the shinyness of the leather to dull before adding additional coats. Even if your leather is not wet, it will still be darker at this stage. Only when the leather is fully dry will you see the final color. You may want to do a test dye on a scrap piece to make sure you like the color. I choose Nubuck because I wanted a light brown (but darker than the naked leather) to complement the burn and paint colors.
Step 10. Paint the insides of your design. I waited for the dye to seep in (there was no more shinyness to to leather), but not for the leather to dry. As above, your mileage may vary. Here is a small snippet of the painted image (which sits just below his name) so that you can get an idea. Try not to go over the burn marks, if you do you’ll have to touch them up later.
Step 11. Sew the piece together. If you are just using a needle and thread, use a saddle stitch to stitch it through. The directions here can be modified to use a simple needle, but I am using an awl.
Stick your needle through the first hole.
Pull enough thread through the hole to cover twice the distance you are stitching.
Pull the needle back out of the first hole, leaving the extra thread behind. Place it into the second hole, leaving a little bit of extra thread between the first and second holes on the top.
On the bottom side, make a loop using the extra thread that is from the stitch above. Pull your bottom thread through that loop.
Pull your needle up and the thread tight; repeat until you have gone through all the stitches you punched. If you need to, you can add a punch now as well. My leather pieces stretched to different sizes. I just used the same pieces, which caused one side to bunch up. I was ok with this result.
Step 12. Cut your threads and knot them securely on each side. Trim your corners if they don’t match up.
Step 13. Now we will prep our end for the snap. If you are using a fabric snap, you will need to skive your leather. This is simply thinning it with a razor blade. There is a skiving tool, but I just used a blade. Choose the spot that you will put each of the snaps and thin it to about half it’s existing width. You can place your snap ends in to make sure it is thin enough.
Step 14. Now we will add the snaps. I decided I wanted the sticky outy part near the base of the tag and the other part near the top. Since my snaps had slightly different hole sizes, I made sure that the right size was punched for each hole.
Here are the four snap parts. Each one needs to be used with a particular “head” for the plastic tool that you hammer down on, so make sure that you put them together properly. I’ll go through each side here, but your snaps should come with instructions as well.
Below is the configuration for the sticky outy part, or the smaller of the two snap pieces. Make sure you have the sticky outy part on the inside of your leather. Once you have the whole assembly together, hammer it a few times with a hammer. Hammer it a bit more if you need to.
For the other piece, make sure that the flat end is on the bottom (or the smooth side) of the leather so that it will let the sticky outy bit snap into it. Align, and hammer.
Step 15. After you’ve added your contact information, print it out on the cardstock and cut the square out. Insert this into the back of your tag and trim if needed.
And that’s it! Here are some photos of the finished product (the lighting and the color are more true on the right):
And as always, the craftermath. This one isn’t too bad. It spilled a bit onto the couch, but the pets always love to sleep on the mess. Much more than a clean couch it seems, especially the cat.
*Wait, you removed the artwork from the tag, explain please?!?! Well, as I (somewhat) often do, I found an image I liked through Google search and used that. Only when I was writing this post and looking to source the image did I realize that the creator of the image would have been very upset at my use of it. I have seen various reactions to re-use of images, and I try to avoid using images that artists explicitly request not be used (as was this case) or have watermarked. I partake in many fan bases that re-mix media often. While I have crafting ability, I’m not very good at drawing. Had I done due diligence and clicked through before using the image, I wouldn’t have used it at all. But, I can’t go back and undo what I have done. The craft has been made and the gift given. I seriously considered making an entirely new luggage tag for this tutorial, because it is a craft that I truly believe doesn’t require much knowledge of leather working. I could have even just removed all references of the image all together and used the magic of Photoshop to make it look like it had never been there (as you see above). But, I felt that would be disingenuous. So instead, I will own up to my misstep while still providing you with the above tutorial. I did choose to remove the image though, as it is the best way I can honor the originators wishes given the circumstances.