This is a guest post from an expert on all things art and crafts Melanie Falick*
I have always loved the rustic elegance of Elke Belgeron’s Metallic Leather Bracelets and I’m so glad I finally made time to take her class on making them. Although Elke explains every step in this quick (16-minute) video, it took me a little longer than I anticipated to get comfortable with the tools. But now that I’ve had some practice and have completed a few bracelets, I’m on a roll and I feel excited about making more and trying some other leather classes. I hope you will join me on this adventure.
Here are some tips based on my experience (as well as a consultation with Elke):
The materials list calls for a few items you may not have on hand or be familiar with, such as a strap cutter, natural veg (short for vegetable)-tanned leather, a button stud closure, an edge beveler, and a leather punch. I initially bought all of these supplies except for the leather punch (which I already owned) on the website tandyleather.com. If I lived near a leather-craft supply store, that would have been a better option for me since I like to see what I’m getting and then ask a lot of questions.
The supplies for this project aren’t cheap. The strap cutter I bought was $34.99 and the leather was $19.99; the rest of the items were less. To make this project more economical, I suggest you find a friend to do it with and share the expense (and the learning and the fun). Or ask around and maybe you’ll find someone in your community who already has these tools.
Definitely gather some scrap leather to practice on before you start cutting, beveling, and making holes in your new leather. Try an old belt you don’t care about from your closet or one you pick up at a thrift shop. Choose one that is similar in weight, texture, and thickness to the new leather you purchase for the bracelets.
The most convenient way to buy the leather for this project is as a belting strip. I bought a 50-inch long, 2-inch-wide piece of 8-10 ounce leather, which makes quite a few bracelets (if made exactly as instructed, each one is about ¼-inch wide and approximately 27 inches long). As it turned out, my leather was a bit thicker and stiffer than expected, which created some challenges for me. Since leather is a natural product, every piece you buy—even if labeled the same—can be a little different. If you shop in person, you will obviously have more control than if you shop online.
The strap cutter is used to cut the belting strip into narrower, bracelet-sized strips. It needs to be adjusted to accommodate the thickness of the leather and the width to which you want to cut it. Elke explains how to adjust the width in the class. I needed some help adjusting for the thickness and for working with the strap cutter in general, so she kindly created this video for me (and you!).
Because my leather was so thick, the button stud Elke uses in the class, the smallest size offered on the Tandy site, didn’t work; the neck wasn’t long enough. I spoke to Elke and she recommended this less expensive collar button from buckleguy.com as a replacement; in this case, you buy the button head and the back/post separately according to the length needed. The backs/posts cost under a dime each, so I bought three different lengths (3/8”, 5/16”, and 9/32”) just to be sure and they all worked, though I liked 9/32” the best since it was just long enough and didn’t create any uncomfortable bulk around my wrist. As an added bonus, I liked the look of both the round button side and the flat back side of this closure and ended up varying which side I made public on my finished bracelets.
After the bracelets are cut and beveled, Elke paints her bracelet with one color of metallic craft paint. I tried that but I wasn’t happy with my color so I ended up going back to the store (just a local craft chain) and buying a few different colors—a red, a blue, and three different metallics—and mixing them. This was a lot of fun and I am quite happy with the results. If you like to play with color, I recommend this option.
After painting the leather and letting it dry, I started making my holes. Because my leather was thick and a little stiff and because I was having some trouble getting the punch through it, I decided to treat it with leather conditioner to make it more pliable, and this made the process easier for me.
To punch the holes— a round hole at one end for the button stud and an oval one on the other end for the button to slip through when you put it on—I used a leather punch that I had purchased a few years ago to make an extra hole in a shoe strap. It came with 6 interchangeable punches ranging in size from 1.5 to 5mm. Elke says to use a punch that is slightly smaller than your button closure, but keep in mind that if your leather punch expands in diameter from the tip (as mine does), once you hammer it down into the leather, the hole gets bigger. In my first few attempts I used a punch that was too big and the hole ended up going beyond the edge of the leather strip, ruining the hole. Fortunately, at that point, my leather was still longer than it needed to be to go around my wrist, so I just cut off the end with the mistake and tried again. After all of my experimenting and practicing I ended up with a nice assortment of one-wrap, two-wrap, and three-wrap bracelets and I love them all.
Just as I was finishing, Anna Joyce, who also teaches on Creativebug, came to visit me. Anna really liked the bracelets so I gave her one to keep. I’ve already ordered more leather and a new leather punch (the same one that Elke uses), so there are definitely more bracelets—and gifts for friends—in my future.
Thank you, Elke, for teaching this fun class!
*Melanie Falick is a creative consultant and freelance editor and writer. She is the former publishing director of STC Craft, an imprint of Abrams. She also teaches several Creativebug classes, including Leather Wrap Bracelets. Connect with her on social media, as follows:
Instagram, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook: melaniefalick