Although I have plenty of experience working with leather projects, there are always projects I have never tried. I often look at social media for inspiration and quickly learn I’ve barely scratched the surface of what is possible.
Leather projects are items or artworks that use leather as a primary material in their creation. Projects can range in skill level, allowing beginners to join the fun with simple projects while learning key techniques for further success. Leather projects provide endless ideas for crafters.
While there are endless possibilities for a leather project, this article will cover some options, offering project ideas to beginners and seasoned crafters.
What Is a Leather Project?
A leather project is any item or art created using leather as one of the main materials. Leather projects start as an inspired idea or a functional need. Once a design has been selected, the project can take shape by planning its look and function. Leather will be transformed into an item, or artwork, using various specialty tools and leather-working techniques.
Often, revisions will be necessary to dial in the perfect final look. However, once completed, a crafter can step back and enjoy their vision brought to life in many different ways. Even when leather projects are similar, crafters may add their unique spin every step of the way.
What We’ll Explore
- Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
- History of Leather Projects
- Leather Project Overview Table
- Benefits of Leather Projects
- What to Consider When Choosing a Leather Project
- Leather Project Ideas
- The Best Leather Projects for Beginners
- Best Leather Projects for Intermediate Leather Crafters
- Best Leather Projects for Skilled and Expert Leather Crafters
- My Personal Research Into Leather Projects
- Helpful Leather Project Insights
- Key Takeaways
Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions
A quick search for leather projects will provide an extensive list of items that can be made from leather. While helpful, leather is not limited to projects with a function. Projects can take on a variety of visions, including artwork or activities. Leather has highly varied uses and can be transformed into many different things.
Consider using leather in a new way when looking for a new project. Wall art can be created with tooling or even marquees. Skills can be practiced with silly projects such as wet molding a rock or creating a sphere using stacked scrap leather. Working with leather has plenty of possibilities beyond making an item for use.
History of Leather Projects
Making items with leather is a long-standing process that has been used since the stone age. At this time, they would use rough bone tools to create simple pouches and garments. As history progressed, so did the leather projects involved. The craft began to expand into various industries, including blacksmithing and bookbinding.
One of the earliest mass introductions to leatherworking was in the 1950s when Tandy Leather began selling kits through the mail. These mail-order kits would give people throughout the U.S. easy access to leather working and allow them to start their own projects.
Leather Project Overview Table
|Beginner Leather Projects||Typically smaller leather goods can be created with little to no knowledge of the craft, such as key chains, watch straps, wallets, and coasters.|
|Intermediate Leather Projects||Requiring prior knowledge and more specialized tools to create. These can range in size and include dopp kits, tote bags, and watch pouches.|
|Expert Leather Projects||Focusing on the refinement of each step of leather craft, potentially creating own item designs to expand knowledge of the craft further. These can be any project a crafter wishes to specialize in.|
Benefits of Leather Projects
The most obvious benefit of creating a leather project is producing an item that can be used and enjoyed. These can be functional pieces such as belts, wallets, bags, and many others, or decorative art pieces. All leather projects make great gifts, items to sell, or can be kept for yourself.
A huge benefit of creating leather projects is being able to practice in a fun way. While creating a leather project, a crafter will hone their skills and potentially learn new ones. Over time any crafter will improve, resulting in more refined leather goods. Since many of the steps required in leather craft are similar, each project becomes better than the last.
Vasiliki Tsaknaki, Ylva Fernaeus, and Mischa Schaub from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, showed how leather could be used to create durable interactive pieces. This unique pairing demonstrates how versatile leather is, showing the material being used in ways most crafters have never considered.
What to Consider When Choosing a Leather Project
While jumping into large projects is possible, it is important to consider the suggested skill level. A small item such as a key chain or wallet may only utilize a few leather working techniques, unlike a larger object that may require dozens. To ensure a project will succeed, various skills should be honed to prepare a crafter for each step required.
This can be done by creating smaller or simpler goods before attempting larger, more challenging projects. However, it is not necessary. While practicing will produce the best final product, ambitious crafters may attempt any project without prior knowledge despite the disadvantages.
Projects can range in skill level, allowing beginners to join the fun with simple projects while learning key techniques for further success.
An important part of any leatherworking project is choosing the right leather. When possible, buy leather after finalizing the details of any project. Color, texture, and finish may often be straightforward, but there are more considerations. Leather thickness, flexibility, and durability are all key things to consider.
Using the right leather for a project makes the process easier, potentially reducing the steps required, such as dyeing, stiffening, or skiving. A 4oz–5oz leather is a good universal size for wallets after skiving, which can also be glued together for a thicker project such as a belt or sheath.
In this helpful video by Weaver Leather Supply, Chuck Dorsett and Loni Menuez cover various simple projects that can be used with scrap leather, showing how to use a material that would otherwise get thrown away.
A common concern for those new to leather crafting is the tools they may need. I am happy to say that most projects can be completed with limited equipment. A lot of tools used in leather craft can be substituted for a more budget-friendly option, but the key tool for any leather project is stitching chisels.
This specialty tool makes the sewing holes used for leather craft, keeping the sewing line straight while adding a signature slant. When starting any leather project, it is best to write down the step-by-step building process. This will show exactly what tools are needed and what can be skipped to help save money. Most other tools do not have to be expensive to get the job done and can include:
- Stitching chisel
- Hole punches
- Sewing supplies
As leather crafters, we often make items with deadlines for other people. Whether it be for a commission or holiday gift, the time it takes to craft a leather project should be considered. While everyone works at a different speed, no project should ever be rushed. Ideally, it is best to work slowly to address all the details in the craft.
A small project, such as a key chain or wallet, can take a few hours. However, as projects scale in size, be prepared to spend much more time. A large leather project can easily take 10+ hours for a basic finish. With more sewing and larger edges to finish, each project step adds time.
Since leather crafting is a hobby for most people, a 10-hour project might be split up into multiple days. When preparing for a project, try to plan each step, breaking it up into work sessions. Once a plan is made, add extra time in case of mistakes or missteps.
Leather Project Ideas
- Key chain
- Passport holder
- Valet tray
- Watch strap
- Glasses case
- Coaster set
- Tool roll
- Travel pouch
The Best Leather Projects for Beginners
The ideal beginner leather project inspires a new crafter and does not require many specialty techniques or tools. Typically, those who try leather crafting will start with a small project such as a wallet, keychain, or watch strap.
These make great choices as they are common functional items but are small enough to avoid large investment costs. All three of these can be made using scrap leather. New crafters can work on honing their skills by purchasing remnants without fearing wasting expensive materials.
Another benefit of these small leather projects is their ability to be customized. A key chain, for example, can be as complex or simple as someone wants to make it. This puts full control in the new crafter’s hand, allowing them to refine each attempt while also challenging themselves by incorporating new techniques. The best beginner leather projects can include:
- Key fob
Best Leather Projects for Intermediate Leather Crafters
When crafters reach an intermediate level, they can progress in two main ways: with bigger or smaller items. Most crafters will have spent some time working on wallets, coasters, and other small projects. Breaking out of this comfort zone in a big way can help show intermediate crafters what they are capable of.
Backpacks, handbags, and other large projects will teach new construction methods and how to plan leather projects. On the other end, doing smaller leather projects can also prove helpful. Watch straps, in particular, can push a crafter to new heights.
The key when making smaller goods is refinement — making small items with total attention to detail and no mistakes. This tests crafters by forcing them to slow down and focus on precision. Great skills that can be applied to any level of the craft. The best leather project for intermediate leathercrafters can include:
- Tote bags
- Watch straps
- Journal cover
- Phone case
Best Leather Projects for Skilled and Expert Leather Crafters
Once someone has become skilled, they have most likely found what they enjoy most in the craft. While there are always ways to improve, the best projects for a crafter are typically what they enjoy most.
Crafters at this level will most likely refine their skills with various leather projects and should focus on making their favorite items flawlessly. Expert crafters will understand the ins and outs of the craft and be able to incorporate different techniques depending on what they are making.
In addition, these leather crafters should create their own projects and experiment with designs. Expert crafters can create unique signature pieces by challenging themselves to reinvent their favorite projects, further setting themselves apart from other leather crafters. The best leather projects for expert crafters can include:
My Personal Research Into Leather Projects
Once someone gets hooked on creating leather goods, they may want to improve their craft to create bigger and better projects. Practice is the key to this, but it may not be obvious how to improve for some. For my research, I accumulated practice advice from other crafters and my own to help guide others through the levels of leather craft.
Identifying Areas of Improvement
The first step in improving leather crafting skills is pointing out parts of a leather project that can be better. There is a hard balance between being proud of your products yet constructively critical. Those who feel they have mastered the craft will not be open to learning more that could improve their projects.
This idea was first presented to me in a podcast by Phillip from Leathercraft Masterclass. He described the mentality as a block for improvement. A goal can be set by identifying where a project can be refined, creating a path for mindfully improving any part of the craft.
Focus on the Process
From the outside, most people will never be able to tell the little mistakes made throughout a leather project. For many craters finishing is the most important part. While looking for tips on improving, however, fellow crafters recommend focusing on each step.
In practice, this means giving all your attention to every aspect of the craft as if it would be judged alone. Too often, I see crafters speeding through areas that will never be seen. While this can help make a project quicker or easier, it eliminates practice opportunities.
Areas that aren’t seen can be a great place to experiment or practice with. If hand sewing is difficult for someone, they can use a hidden seam to improve it without harming the final project. Treating each step as the most important will help the final product become better in every way.
Buy Quality Materials
This tip comes from Leodis Leather, in which those confident in their leather work should not purchase cheap material. Instead, he says the time invested in any project will be the same regardless, and working with budget leather will only make the final product look worse.
Expanding on this, a budget leather will likely be more challenging to work with. The leather may stretch, have unsightly marks to work around, or have a fuzzy flesh side that is difficult to bevel. The technique is often the most important when trying to improve in leather craft.
However, the leather may interfere with proper technique in some cases and should be replaced. If budget is still a concern, scrap leather can be purchased as a testing ground for your leather skill.
There are many ways to improve in leather craft, with many tips and learning sources readily available. I provided some of my favorites that have helped me out the most. Another option for improvement is asking questions in a forum or studying the information provided online. The key to progress, however, is the effort to practice the craft often.
Helpful Leather Project Insights
What are some leather projects for beginners?
Common leather projects for beginners are small items that require less time, and equipment. These include wallets, key chains, coasters, and more. Ideally, leather projects should be inspiring for a new crafter to try. It is most important that they enjoy what they are making to help them become invested in the hobby.
What leather to use for projects?
Picking leather is an important part of any leather project and should be done carefully. Ask yourself questions about the project and how it will be used. Go into as much detail as possible, including thickness, flexibility, color, texture, wear resistance, and every other element that comes to mind. The more in-depth the details are, the better choice will be made when purchasing the perfect leather for a project.
What are Cricut leather projects?
A Cricut is a material cutting machine that can be used with thin leather to create different projects. Since the cutting area is limited, Cricut projects are typically smaller. A template will be designed and sent to the machine, automatically cutting out the leather in the required shape. Cricut cutters may also be used to emboss leather with an additional add-on purchased separately.
- There is a leather project for every skill level to challenge crafters continuously.
- Mindful practice and project variation are key to improve in leathercraft.
- Materials, time, and technique required are all things to consider when choosing a leather craft project.
A wonderful thing about leather craft is that projects are limitless — from smaller projects like wallets or keychains to large ones like bags or sheaths; each will teach new skills and help refine common ones. This makes leather craft a hobby with plenty of ways to master. The variety in leather projects means there is something to do for any skill level.
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