There are so many amazing jewelry projects these days and some of the coolest ones use leather elements. From simple plaited bracelets, to over the top, geometric cutout necklaces – there’s something for everyone when it comes to using leather in jewelry making.
We’re going to look at the types, tools, a few tips and tricks as well as fun projects you can try at home, all involving leather!
There are so many types of leather that can be used in jewelry making, the options are pretty much endless. You can create simple pieces or statement showstoppers, all by picking your leather style accordingly. Of course, there are faux leathers available which imitate the look of real leather, so there’s no need to miss out if you like to keep it Vegan.
This type of leather is perfect for some pretty simple jewelry projects, such as pendant necklaces, wrap bracelets and multistrand jewelry. It can be found in a range of sizes too, so it would be perfect for threading beads or charms onto.
Flat leather comes in different widths to suit a variety of jewelry makes. Thinner widths work really well for braided designs and thick flat leather makes great statement cuff bracelets or chokers. Because this type of leather is so diverse, you can choose from a multitude of textures too, from snakeskin to fluffy suede and everything in between.
Suede (or microfiber suede) Thonging
This is very similar to the flat leather, but is usually found in thinner widths – perfect for making braided bracelets or multirow designs. You might often find microfiber suede in this style too – perfect for making an animal-friendly design.
You can actually buy pre-braided leather, which is perfect if you don’t have the patience or time to sit and make a neatly woven base for your jewelry. This type of leather is super for threading large holed beads onto and for making multi-row jewelry designs. It will also make a great, simple bracelet for a guy.
Oval aka. Licorice Leather
Oval leather is kind of a tube of leather which has been sewn down the edges or folded and glued. This thick, sturdy leather is the perfect option for a simple bracelet design or for threading slider beads onto. You could even use this type of leather to create a custom dog collar for your favorite pooch!
This type is pretty self explanatory and comes in a flat sheet of leather. This can be used to cut shapes from and decorate using a leather punch or craft knife. A sheet of leather will make multiple projects, depending on the size of the sheet you buy. They also come in varying thicknesses, so you can choose which would be the most suited to your project.
If you’re not super handy with the craft knife, then you can buy pre-cut leather shapes which make gorgeous additions to mixed media designs and statement jewelry pieces. You can often find floral shapes and even animals, so the world is your oyster when it comes to using leather shapes in jewelry.
It seems the list of tools involved in leather work is rather vast, but you don’t need to rush out and buy all of these gadgets and gizmos, just stick to the ones that will help with your jewelry making projects.
For jewelry making, you’ll likely be working with leather that can be cut pretty easily, however, some leather designs may need a little more oomf than a pair of scissors.
- Fabric scissors – specially designed to cut through fabric with ease, so should take on lighter leather really easily.
- Rotary cutter – great for making your own strips of leather or cutting simple geometric shapes.
- Sharp craft knife – a good blade should be suited to thicker leather and is great for cutting more detailed and intricate shapes.
- Simple leather punch – perfect for putting holes in leather to attach fastenings or add decorative details.
- Shaped leather punch – you can actually get kits with a whole range of shapes in different sizes, which are super for adding more detail to a piece of leather.
- Awl – made to create a hole in the leather which is perfectly small enough for a needle and thread to pass through.
- Eyelets – used to make a sturdy hole in leather (and other fabrics) but can be used as decoration i.e. holding together 2 flower shapes and creating a center for the flowers. They are perfect for lace up bracelet or choker designs.
- Rivets – usually seen in jeans to help keep the pockets from ripping, rivets can add strength to a join or just be used for added embellishment.
- Studs – coming in a variety of shapes, you can use studs to dress up your jewelry designs and maybe even add some sparkle.
- Paint – acrylic paints are a great way to spruce up leather jewelry, whether you’re painting an intricate pattern or just a block color.
- Marker pens – can be used to create designs on leather surfaces, they work particularly well on the suede/textured side of leather.
- Buttons/beads – these can be glued, threaded or sewn onto leather jewelry to add pops of color or a bit of sparkle.
- Metal tube beads – usually made with a curved shape, these tubular beads are great for adding onto a round leather cord bracelet.
- Slider beads – these are beads with larger holes, made specifically for sliding onto thicker cords and leathers.
- Stamping/embossing – create unique designs in the leather itself using embossing stamps. They come in a heap of different styles, from letters to little pictures – a great way to personalize jewelry.
Fastenings for Leather Jewelry
- Snaps – great for closing choker or bracelet jewelry.
- Buttons – creating a leather loop to wrap around a button is a fab way to close a wrap bracelet.
- Magnets – usually sized for different thicknesses of cord, these magnetic fastenings just need to be glued onto each end of your leather.
- Buckles – more suited to simple leather designs like bracelets or chokers.
- Regular jewelry fastenings – if you attach the correct endings onto your leather, you can use jump rings to attach the usual jewelry closures e.g. lobster claw, toggle bar or bolt rings.
- Strong needle – fine for slightly thinner leather, but if you want to sew leather pieces together, you may want to puncture holes first with an awl.
- Strong thread – this needs to be a little thicker than your standard thread, often a waxed thread is used for extra sturdiness.
- Glue – If you are creating a multi-layered look, for example a flower design, you may want to use glue instead of sewing the pieces together. Glue is also necessary for attaching cord ends or fastenings to your leather jewelry.
- Cord ends – these come in a multitude of shapes, types and sizes to suit various leather cords/strips. Many will have some form of grips, but gluing them on adds some extra security.
Leather Jewelry Style Inspo
There are so many neat jewelry designs that involve leather in some way, whether it is the main focus, or just a base for a different form of intricate design. Just looking at this list is tempting us to get our jewelry design caps on!
- Knotted – You can create some gorgeous, simple knotted designs using different types of leather cord. These are perfect for an understated, bohemian bracelet or for a more masculine design.
- Braided – Again, this is a simple way to make understated leather jewelry.
- Flat shapes – Cutting out flat shapes from a sheet of leather can be really effective. Tough leather could be used to make a unique pendant, especially if you can add embossed detailing. Softer leather could be overlapped to create a textured finish, or a funky, colorful geometric design.
- Cuff bracelets – These are super simple to make using oval, flat or sheet leather and can be decorated in any way you see fit. Use sturdy snaps to fasten them.
- Fringed – Fringing is a beautiful way to manipulate leather and suede, as you can create soft finishes. Imagine feather earrings or a stunning fringed pendant.
- Tasseled – Using the same technique as fringing, you can create tassels super easily. Just create a fringed strip and then roll it up and glue into a cord end or tassel topper. Tassels on their own will make a fun pair of earrings!
- Folded leather – Strips of leather can be folded and pleated into beautiful designs and beads are a great addition to help keep things evenly spaced.
- Leather wrap – Use thinner, round leather and beads to create a bohemian wrap bracelet or keep things ultra-simple by just using a flat leather cord.
- Collar-style necklace – Sheets of leather are so versatile as you can cut whatever shapes you wish. Simple triangles or semi-circles can be turned into a cute collar-style necklace.
- Bows – They may not technically be jewelry, but they’re still a really fun accessory. Making neat bows out of leather is pretty simple and the finish is very effective. You could create bows on a smaller scale to glue onto your jewelry designs.
Tips & Tricks
When working with leather, you might want to take these little tips and tricks into account:
- Use handy-dandy Mod-Podge to seal and smooth raw leather edges.
- Make sure to check your leather for any imperfections before cutting it – you don’t want to waste any.
- When cutting thicker cords, use sharp scissors or a precision cutter to avoid squashing the leather.
- Make sure you get your measurements correct before cutting any cords or leather – account for attaching fastenings or knots you might include.
- If slider beads won’t stay in place, you could use colorful rubber bands to keep them in place. If you don’t like the look of that, you can always use glue, just remember to be as neat as possible.
- If you want to change up the color of a few pieces of leather jewelry at once, try spray painting them.
- Use up scraps of leather cut-offs to make funky mosaic style jewelry.
- Glue gems onto your leather designs to add mega-sparkles and lots of glam – this is great for statement cuff bracelets.
- Update old jewelry by weaving leather through chain and add in beads along the way if you fancy!
- Snake knots are great for round leather cord and create a look that mimics a bead.
- Use your seed bead weaving talents to create your own slider beads for leather cords.
- Weave suede thonging through multiple bangles to make a statement cuff style bracelet.
We’d love to see your leather-inspired jewelry designs, so don’t forget to tag us on Twitter with your stunning creations!