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Leather Weaving – Exploring the Best Methods and Techniques

Sometimes I want to create a piece that has a unique look to it, while still being strong and durable. Over time, I discovered how weaving leather can be both functional and visually appealing. Here is what I have learned about leather weaving.

Leather weaving is the act of intertwining multiple strands of leather into an intricate and uniform pattern. The strands can be of varied shape and thickness, providing useful for many types of leather goods. leather weaving is most often used for personal accessories and home furnishings.

If you’re looking to add some style to a project while making an item that can be durable, useful, and strong, leather weaving can be an excellent technique to use. Let’s explore more about when to choose it, and which methods and techniques can work best.

Can Leather Be Woven?

Yes, leather can be woven. Many types and thicknesses of leather can be transformed into strips of various widths to create a symmetrical pattern similar to wicker.  Thin strips can be woven to create tightly woven patterns, where wide strips can be woven together covering large areas easily.

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Woven leather belt

What Is Leather Weaving?

Leather weaving is the process of intertwining multiple strands of leather in a symmetrical manner to create a unique pattern used in home furnishing and artistic segments. It can be done in various ways to create intricate and varying visual patterns. Leather weaving can be done using strands of various shapes and thicknesses.

Characteristics of Woven Leather

Woven leather typically consists of multiple lengths of leather of the same weight and thickness.  Woven leather, depending on how it is finished, can be waterproof, patina with age, alternate light and dark color strips, taut or provide shock absorption (as in seating surfaces), and long lasting if cared for properly.

Thin strips can be woven to create tightly woven patterns, where wide strips can be woven together covering large areas easily.

Leather Weaving Tools

Most leather weaving is done without tools; only using one’s hands overlaying and intertwining leather strips.  If one is introducing leather strips into a solid piece of leather to create a weave, there are several tools that will be useful to create a uniform look.  For adding a woven edge to a belt, one would use a Weaving Slot Punch tool.  Slot punches come in various widths, depending on the size of the weave desired.  Common sizes are 7mm, 8mm, 9mm, 10mm, and 11mm.  One would also need to either purchase the strips of leather or use a version of a strap cutter to create them.  Other tools available for weaving leather, similar to a basket weave, are Strait Blades, Eye Caning Needle, and Bent Strait Blade.  

Leather Weaving Machines

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Leather weaving machines are generally referred to as looms.  Looms are a mechanical method of semi-automatically placing the strips in their location horizontally interlacing them with other strips being held in place vertically.  There are also automatic looms where an operator simply keeps a loom loaded with raw materials.  The machine will place and interlace the pieces automatically, creating the weave.  

There are also semi-automated spiral cutters to create long, thin strips of leather that can be used for weaving.

Leather Weaving Strips

Leather weaving strips are entwined with other strips of similar or varying widths.  These strips can range from a few millimeters to a few inches in width.  These leather strips can range in thickness from 1oz to 5-6oz leather.  Multiple types of tanned leather can be used to create these strips; from chrome tanned to veg tanned.  These strips can be dyed any number of colors, or left natural.  Typically there is a finish applied to the outer layer to protect from moisture.

Leather Weaving Techniques

There are many styles of leather weaving that can be used to create end products with different visual styles. These can be utilized to create stylistic differences, and in some cases can also relate to the strength of the finished item. Let’s take a look at some of the common leather weaving techniques.

Leather Plaiting

Leather plaiting is very similar to braiding.  3 to as many as 8 single strands of leather, typically the same width and length, are woven together very tightly.  These plaited leather pieces are ideal for bracelets, necklaces, animal leashes, straps, or bag handles.

Loose End Weaving

Loose end weaving involves many single strips of leather that are interwoven to create a unique pattern.  The loose ends are then fastened to a sort of finished edge that would encompass all the ends.  This technique is used for furniture, baskets, and other similar home furnishing items.

Finished End Weaving

Finished end weaving requires the strips be cut into a strap, running parallel with each other along length of strap, leaving the strap ends uncut.  These strips within the strap are then twisted together by bringing the end of the strap between the strips to create a pattern.  This style of weaving is typically called a “mystery braid”.

Embedded Leather Weave

Embedded leather weave involves making small slits in a larger piece of leather and inserting strips into the slits creating a weave look.  This style of weave is used on wallet surfaces, belts, straps, and some seating surfaces.

Here is an insightful video that demonstrates a leather basket weaving process:

Types of Leather Weaving

We can find leather weaving used in the production of many popular and useful items. If you’re considering making a project using this method, here are a few examples of the most popular types of goods that are made with leather weaving.

Leather Weave Chair Seats

Leather weave chair seats are typically fastened to a wood or metal frame using rivets or Chicago screws.  The strips used can vary in width from fractions of an inch to upwards of three inches in width.  Leather woven chair seats offer very comfortable seating as it has some give to it due to the stretch found in leather.  

Leather Basket Weaving

Leather basket weaving, traditionally, involves two leather strips being placed horizontally, and two strips vertically, repeating so each two strips cross over two strips.  Leather baskets can be very decorative, but do not have the rigidity of wicker or other more substantive materials.  The basket weave pattern is used more for flat, decorative pieces or soft sided items, like purses. 

Leather Weave Bracelets

Leather weave bracelets are normally plaited or finished end weaves.  Finished end woven bracelets typically terminate with a snap or magnetic device attached to each end.  Plaited bracelets normally have the ends glued and pressed into a paired fitting used for connecting the ends together.

Here is a helpful video on how to make a leather woven bifold wallet.

Leather Weaving Patterns

Twill

Twill weave pattern is a loose end weave style.  This pattern involves an even number of same length strips. Half of the strips are placed on a flat surface.  These strips are placed parallel to each other and ends are on left and right sides.  The other half of the strips are used to weave through those on the flat surface. 

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On the far left side, place the first piece perpendicular to those on flat surface, weaving over first two, then under two, continuing to the end. The second perpendicular piece is woven under first strip, then over two, under two, until reaching end.  The third perpendicular piece is woven under first two strips, then over two, until reaching end. Repeat cycle for all pieces.

Plain Weave

Plain weave simply has strips of same length and width half running perpendicular to the other half.  Place half of strips on flat surface running horizontal. Each vertical strip is woven through the horizontal strips over one, under one.  If the first vertical strip is woven over the first horizontal strip, the second strip will alternate.  Continue this pattern for all strips to the end.

Rib Weave

Rib weave is similar to plain weave except those strips placed horizontal are wider than those placed vertically, therefore there will be less vertical leather strips visible.  

Basket Weave

Basket weave is similar to plain weave except two vertical strands are woven over and under two horizontal strands and repeated.  

It take a little bit of practice to get the hang of it, though after some weaving it becomes a very enjoyable and unique technique to use in leather crafting. And best of all, leather-woven items look beautiful and can last for years with proper care.

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