While everyone gets into leathercraft for different reasons, we all start with similar projects. I began with wallets, Dopp kits, and keychains. Although I don’t usually focus on small leather goods, they were invaluable projects. Each gave me plenty of helpful practice and skills I still use today.
Beginner leather projects are simple items new crafters can make as practice. Much of leather crafting is honing universal skills, and early projects offer the building blocks to succeed. By picking items to make instead of practicing on scrap, crafters are inspired to create usable goods.
Choosing the right project can help kickstart your passion for working with leather. Let’s look at some common beginner leather projects and how they can help you get started in this wonderful hobby.
What Is a Beginner Leather Project?
Beginner leather projects are entry-level items that help new crafts hone their skill while inspiring them with the possibilities of the art. Beginner projects are typically smaller and focus on the basics of the craft but should be tailored to the new crafter’s interest. Working with leather is a hobby that focuses on perfecting skills used on every project.
Cutting, sewing, and edge finishing are all key elements of leather craft that improve with every project. With beginner leather projects, new crafters will be exposed to these techniques in a fun and satisfying way. It provides them with a solid foundation for improvement and an item they can use daily. These projects include:
- Valet trays
- Much more
What We’ll Explore
- Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
- When You Might Want a Beginner Leather Project
- Beginner Leather Projects Overview Table
- Popular Beginner Leather Projects
- Common Characteristics of Beginner Leather Projects
- Pros of Beginner Leather Projects
- Cons of Beginner Leather Projects
- How To Make Beginner Leather Projects
- Tips for Choosing Beginner Leather Projects
- My Personal Research Into Beginner Leather Projects
- Helpful Beginner Leather Projects Insights
- Key Takeaways
Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions
While most leather crafters start with wallets or other small projects, a beginner leather project can be much larger. Depending on the crafter’s goal, the projects can be tailored to help them learn the skills required for their dream items. For example, If a new crafter wants to make bags, small items like wallets and keychains may not interest them.
Ideally, projects for this crafter would be tote bags, Dopp kits, or other simple bags because the most important part of a beginner leather project is not its size or difficulty. Rather, it inspires new crafters with an accessible project to teach them the basics of the hobby. Larger items make for good beginner leather projects if it is helping a crafter achieve their goal and can include:
- Dog collars
- Dopp kits
- Tote bags
When You Might Want a Beginner Leather Project
The main reason for working with a beginner leather project is as an introduction to the craft. There is no better way to learn leather crafting than diving in and working on a project. Beginner projects are perfect as they are relatively easy yet teach critical elements of the craft.
However, beginner leather projects are not just great for those new to the craft. Simple leather projects can be fun and relaxing, allowing even veterans to enjoy the craft without challenging themself too much. Similarly, these projects make for great quick gifts. Complex items may take days, if not weeks, to finish.
The beauty of beginner leather projects is they will be much more straightforward and, therefore, quick while providing a surface for an experienced crafter to expand on. Items like coasters can be taken to the next level by adding tooling, sewing, or glassy finished edges.
With beginner leather projects, new crafters will be exposed to these techniques in a fun and satisfying way.
Beginner Leather Projects Overview Table
|Keychains||Small, quick, can be made with leather scraps and requires additional hardware|
|Glasses Case||Medium-sized, moderate, requiring at least a panel of leather, can use hardware or flap for closure|
|Wallet||Small, quick cardholders can be made with scraps, but bi-folds may require a leather panel. No additional hardware is required.|
|Luggage Tag||Small, quick, can be made using leather scraps, and requires additional hardware to secure.|
|Bag||Large, time-consuming, requiring at least a shoulder of leather, and can be made with or without additional hardware.|
Popular Beginner Leather Projects
- Watch straps
- Dopp Kits
- Tote bags
- Valet Trays
Common Characteristics of Beginner Leather Projects
The common materials used for a beginner leather project are leather, thread, and sometimes hardware. Leather is necessary for every project; however, you may not need to purchase large sides to begin. Creating smaller projects with scrap leather can be perfect for many beginners.
Sewing is a critical element of leather crafting, and thread is necessary to hold the pieces together. Waxed leather thread is best for hand sewing, offering durability and ease of use.
While hardware is only used for some beginner projects, it can be quite common. Hardware refers to the metal pieces of a project, such as buckles, snaps, rivets, and others. Projects that benefit from hardware include:
- Luggage tags
The cost of every beginner leather project will be slightly different, but some universal materials are needed. Leather is the main cost for any project. It can be found at various prices from $3–$20 per square foot. Small projects may benefit from purchasing scrap leather instead of a full side. Scrap can begin at $20 and may offer more bang for your buck.
Thread is another key supply of any leather project. It can cost as little as $5 per spool, which is more than enough for a few leather projects. Hardware is an additional cost that may need to be considered when planning a beginner leather project. For example, belt buckles can cost $5 and up, while smaller items like D rings can cost $1 each.
The size of beginner leather projects can differ significantly by the item being made. Small items are the most common with projects like wallets and key chains. There are moderate-size projects like Dopp kits and large projects like tote bags.
While each project will primarily teach the same skill, a larger project will take more time and leather, hence the popularity of smaller projects. Size does not typically factor into the difficulty of a project, as small crafts can be just as complex, if not more complex, than large ones.
Pros of Beginner Leather Projects
Beginner leather projects can help ease newcomers into the leather crafting world. By providing simple and easy-to-understand projects, people can test the waters before committing to the hobby. All skills they learn while making a beginner project will also be used later in more complex projects.
With beginner leather projects being everyday items, the practice they receive will also provide them with a beloved leather good. Beginner leather projects are also a good way for veteran crafters to relax and enjoy the craft, providing quick items to churn out for sale or gifts.
Cecilia Pokua Mensah, Akwasi Yeboah, and Dickson Adom, from the Department of Education Innovations and Leadership Science, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, in Kumasi, Ghana, explored how leathercraft could be taught using a flipped teaching model. By having students focus on introductory ideas before hands-on projects at school, they saw how they excelled at learning leathercraft.
Cons of Beginner Leather Projects
While beginner leather projects are largely beneficial, there are some traps to avoid falling into. The first is picking a project that is not suited for the crafter. New crafters often ask the best way to start and get told to begin with small goods. While it is a fine place to start, the wrong project can bore those who want to make larger goods.
In this regard, it can give new crafters a bad first impression. Similarly, beginner leather projects have the possibility of developing bad habits. With each project trying to stay simple, it may use shortcuts or techniques that aren’t ideal. It is important to branch away from basic techniques to continue to develop as a crafter.
How To Make Beginner Leather Projects
Keychains are one of the simplest projects to make but can be highly customizable, including length, hardware, and stitching color. Key chains use a strip of leather sized to fit a key ring and are secured with a rivet, stitching, or snap.
A good way to see what size leather you need for your keychain is to take the length you want it to be and double it. Customizing keychains includes changing their shape, tooling the leather, or adding a decorative stitch.
Glasses case will require a little more leather than other projects; at least a 1 square foot leather panel. To determine the size of the glasses case, trace out the glasses that will be used and add 5mm to each side to create a square. Double the width of the square. Measure the thickness of the glasses and add it to the width.
In total, the case will be double the width of the glasses plus the thickness and an additional 10mm for stitching. To craft the case, fold the piece of leather in half, and sew two of the three sides, leaving the top open to insert the glasses. Once stitched, the top of the case can be cut for a more interesting design or left square.
A leather wallet is most likely the most common project in leathercraft. Wallets are great beginner projects as they use a small amount of leather and have many ways to customize them for someone’s liking. Wallets of any shape consist of two main parts; the shell and the pockets.
To find the size of the pockets place a piece of leather on top of a card and add no less than 5mm to each side for the stitching to be put in place. Once the pocket size has been determined, the shell can be found by simply arranging the pockets and adding space to fold. When folded in half, the pockets should remain flat; if they start to bend, the shell can be made larger.
In this helpful video by Weaver Leather Supply, Chuck Dorsett makes a small pouch, showcasing how it can be modified to further refine the project.
Luggage tags are similar to keychains, as they require a strap of leather to be snapped down so it can hang on the luggage and be made with scrap leather. A simple luggage tag starts by determining the size of the information card that will be inserted.
Lightly mark the card size on the leather, then use wing dividers to bring this size in by 3mm to prevent the card from falling out. Next, the window can be cut out. Glue three sides of the window to another piece of leather, and sew the same three sides, leaving one for cards to be slid in and out. On the unsewn side add an oblong to insert a small strap with a snap to wrap around luggage.
Bags are often seen as a more advanced leather project due to their size; however, simple bags like a tote can be a great starting project. To make a tote bag, a shoulder of leather is the minimum needed as they can be big projects. To start, determine how large the tote will be; length, width, and depth.
Width is going to remain constant to what you set it to. Depth is how wide you want your bag to be from the profile, typically around 4 inches. Length is how tall the bag is, and it is calculated by double the length plus the depth. So if your bag were 10 inches, with a 4-inch depth, it would need a 24-inch piece of leather.
Once you’ve found the rectangle’s dimensions, cut the piece out, and find your center point on each length side. From that point, cut inwards by the depth and to both sides by half to make a square. At this point, handles can be added to the bag by being sewn or with a rivet. Fold the leather in half with the flesh side out, and sew a line down both sides.
For the square, push it together closed and sew across the tops. These stitching lines can be a bit messy since the bag will be flipped, hiding the seams. When both sides are sewn, turn the bag inside out to reveal a finished tote bag.
Tips for Choosing Beginner Leather Projects
There are a few important things to consider when picking a first leather project. The most important thing is sticking to the items you want to make. Everyone chooses to start leather crafting for different reasons, and the items that inspire them will be different. The most important part is picking projects that excite new crafters about the hobby.
Similarly, a leather project has to contain techniques someone wants to learn. Traditional leathercrafting methods, like lacing, tooling, or painting, may be insignificant to a new crafter. They may never want to learn to construct projects in a specific way, which should be considered when picking an item.
However, preferences are not the only thing to consider. Supplies are also a large part of what is possible. Bags require a lot of leather; some are not ready to invest in the craft. In those cases, smaller projects that can use scrap will be ideal.
My Personal Research Into Beginner Leather Projects
There is no better way to understand beginner leather projects than by teaching them. To research, I helped guide a friend through a more complex bag project. My goal was to understand how to simplify large projects for those less experienced.
Upon showing my friend the bag they would make, they said, “That looks complicated,” making my first goal to provide them with a pattern and a plan. The pattern was three pieces they could trace onto leather and provided marks showing where the stitching holes should go. Most beginners have a tough time with dimensions and stitch allowance. By providing it for them, the project is not held up.
Many new crafters have trouble breaking down an object into pieces they can understand. They will see an item and be overwhelmed if it looks complex. However, I planned to take that idea away, providing them with only basic steps they could follow. I had them focus on one piece at a time.
While this may be a longer workflow, they’re able to get a better understanding of what they need to do. I had them trace a piece, cut the tracing out, punch stitching holes, and burnish the edges. With these three steps, they didn’t need to understand how it would connect just yet, nor how the burnishing would help the final look.
Instead, it provides an achievable goal treating each piece of leather as an individual project rather than a puzzle piece. By the last piece, they knew exactly what to do, trace, cut, punch, and burnish.
Highlighting Key Steps
The most important unique part of this project was a turned edge, so when it was time to sew everything together, I made it a point to highlight exactly what we would be doing. I provided a detailed demonstration and had them stop to check their work as they stitched by having them flip the seam.
The point was to have them understand why we were sewing the front sides together, as most leather projects sew the flesh sides. I also wanted them to understand each piece, especially the gusset. I wanted them to see that it was much longer than the others because it had to sit around curves. To prove it lined up, I had them count the holes on one side to show how it fits in the project.
After completing this project, I better understood how to break down leather projects. While the key part of a beginner leather project is the inspiration it instills, I was able to provide helpful methods. By working slowly and through repetition, I watched as my friend began to hone the leather crafting process. In the end, they came out more inspired by having a project they saw as complex turned into steps they could accomplish.
Helpful Beginner Leather Projects Insights
What is a good first leather project?
The perfect first leather project is an item that inspires the new crafter and is straightforward to complete. This can be a keychain, wallet, bag, belt, or anything else. The key part of a first leather project is showcasing how the craft can be enjoyable and what someone is capable of. By choosing a passionate project, they will be more inclined to put their all into it.
How do I start working with leather?
Beginning to work with leather is a unique experience that requires a newcomer to just jump in. Purchase a set of basic tools and leather scraps, and start various beginner-friendly projects. Wallets, keychains, and other small goods are great places to start. Alternatively, a local leather store may provide classes to sign up for, benefiting those who perform better with guidance.
- A beginner leather project should excite the new crafter and inspire them to continue in the craft.
- Some projects may require larger leather pieces, but most can use scrap.
- Any beginner leather project will be a great way to be introduced to lifelong techniques.
Starting a new hobby is always exciting, and leather craft is no exception. With the right beginner leather project and guidance, new crafters will hopefully be able to create something that they can cherish. All while providing universal techniques they can use to further their love for this hobby.