Monday, March 7, 2011

The Leather Cuff tutorial

Hello and welcome all you boy-lovers!  

While I don't have any little boys of my own to play with yet, I do have a husband and brothers and brothers-in-law to make things for.  And--truth be told--I think the boys in our lives that are over the age of twelve are the ones who are really the hardest to take care of when it comes to all things handmade.  Such was the case for me a few months ago.

My husband and I decided early on (July-ish?) that we were going to give handmade gifts to everyone on our Christmas list this past Christmas.  We spent the following months planning a variety of fun gifts for our family members.  One by one each gift was completed and ready to give.  

Except one.  Bryan's younger brother had us stumped.  What on earth do you make for a 16 year old boy?  We of course wanted to give him something that he'd like and use, but we still wanted it to be handmade by us.  We tossed around a few ideas, but finally settled on a leather cuff.  It was simple, we already had all the materials on hand, and--most importantly--we were pretty sure he'd actually like it.  (And he did!)

So today I'm going to walk you through how to make a leather cuff (or twenty) of your own.  But before we get started, here are just a few of the reasons I'm so in love with these leather cuffs:
  • They come together super quick and easy.  Reading through this tutorial will take you about ten times longer than making the actual cuff.
  • They're super sturdy.  This means they're ready to withstand the hard-working life of your man, or the ruff-and-tumble play of your little boy.
  • They're super versatile.  While this tutorial focuses on how to make a manly cuff, you can easily make a more feminine version for your the girls and women in your life. 

    Let's get started!

    Terms of use:
    -For personal use only
    -Please do not use this tutorial to make items to sell

    • a piece of leather*
    • snap pieces
    • snap attachment tools
    • hammer
    • rotary cutter and mat (optional)
    • measuring tape (optional)
     *A sturdy piece of vinyl would probably work well too.

    So you'll know what to buy, here are a couple quick close-ups of the snap tools and snap pieces I like to use:

    This is what the tools set includes.

    I really like the look of this "Antique Brass" color, but other colors are available too.
    I bought both the snap pieces and the corresponding tools at my local fabric store.

    The leather is a random scrap left over from a book binding class my sister taught last year.

    The hammer is an heirloom given to my husband by my Granddad.  It's the hammer he used to build one of the houses my mom grew up in.

    Step 1: Cut
    Most of the leather pieces I've used to make cuffs in the past have been the perfect size and shape for cuffs just as they were in their raw scrap form.  But this piece of leather started out like this:
    Not exactly the shape you want for a cuff.

    So, first I tried it on my husband's wrist just in the raw shape it came in.  This gave me an idea of how I wanted to cut the piece.

    TIP: My best advice for how to cut your own is to be creative.  Overlapping layers of different widths really have a lot more visual appeal than straight lines on top of each other.  Try to visualize what it will look like as a finished piece.  And just remember that you're making a one-of-a-kind item.  So there's really no right or wrong here.

    Also, remember that wider = masculine, skinnier = feminine.

    Then I measured around his wrist to make sure I wouldn't cut off too much when I trimmed it down.

    Keeping those measurements in mind, I started cutting.  I had a general idea of how I wanted the piece to be shaped, but--as you can see--it took me a few cuts to get it just the way I wanted it.

    This is the piece I used for the cuff.

    Step 2: Mark snap placement
    Now you've got your cuff piece ready.

    Go ahead and try it on the person you want it to fit.

    Like I said, I like the overlapping look.

    Remember, once you attach the snap, the cuff is going to look that same way every time you put it on.  You may want to shift things around a little until you get it just the way you want it to look.

    Once you've got things the way you want them, go ahead and mark your snap placement.

    To do this, grab a straight pin and poke it through the top layer of your cuff.  This will mark the spot where the top part of your snap will go.  Keeping your cuff in place on the wearer, use another straight pin to mark the spot on the bottom cuff layer, just below your first pin.

    There should now be one pin on the top cuff layer marking your snap placement, and another pin on the bottom cuff layer marking the snap attachment.

    Go ahead and unwrap the cuff from your helper's wrist.  Poke each pin all the way through the leather.

    Your cuff should now look something like this.  Impressive,  no?

    Step 3: Get to know your snap pieces and attachment tools
    For each complete snap, you'll be working with 4 pieces--two for the top of the snap, and two for the bottom of the snap.  And each one of these four pieces has a corresponding snap tool piece.  Got it?

    Top snap pieces and corresponding tool pieces

    Bottom snap pieces and corresponding tool pieces

    In addition to the pieces of tools that assist in attaching your snaps, there are also three other tool pieces you'll be using.  One of them we'll talk about in a moment.  Here are the other two:
    The black circle piece:  I'll be honest with you here and tell you that the black circle is just a piece of plastic to protect the surface of whatever you're hammering on.  So if you're going to hammer on your kitchen table, use the black circle.  If you're hammering away out on your patio (or some other surface that you don't care about and/or is really strong), don't bother with the black circle.

    The little rod piece: This piece, on the other hand, you cannot do without.  So make sure you don't lose it.  Ever.  This is what makes it possible for you to get those snap pieces through your big thick piece of leather.

    Step 4: Prepare leather
    Go ahead and take out one of your marking pins.  You should now have a nice little hole marking where you want your snap to go.

    If desired, slide that little black circle under the hole on your leather piece.

    Next, grab that handy little rod piece.  You'll notice that one end is blunt and the other end curves to a point with a little circle at the tip.  Press that circle tip to your leather directly on top of your marking hole.

    Pound the blunt end of your rod tool with your hammer a few times.  Or ten.  Basically you want to keep pounding it with the hammer until you have a nice hole that goes all the way through your piece of leather.


    You should now have a tidy little hole that looks like this.

    And since leather is thick, the circle end of your little rod piece is going to be full of the leather hole you just punched.

    Use a straight pin to get the gunk out.  Otherwise you'll have a hard time making another hole.

    Go ahead and repeat this process to make a hole where your other marking pin is.  Your piece should now look like this.

    Step 5: Attach top snap pieces
    Here's what you're going to need to attach the top pieces of your snap.

    Slide the little rod ends of your snap attachment pieces into the plastic claw (for lack of a better term).

    Place the smooth top snap piece in the corresponding attachment tool.

    This smooth piece is going to be on the top (i.e. right side) of your leather piece.

    Snap the bottom part of your snap piece onto its corresponding part of the tool.

    This bottom snap piece will go on the bottom (i.e. wrong side) of your leather.

    Clamp your snap pieces on like so.

    Hold onto the outer edge of your plastic claw to keep everything in place and pound it firmly about a dozen times with your hammer.

    TIP: Be firm, but don't hammer it too hard or you could smash your snap pieces.

    Once you think it's secure, go ahead and open up the claw.  If your snap pieces still feel wiggly, re-attach the claw and continue hammering until everything is good and tight.


    Hooray!  The top of your snap is on!

    Step 6: Attach bottom snap pieces
    Just like the top part of your snap, the bottom part (the part that snaps into the top) has a top and bottom piece.  And each of those pieces have corresponding tool pieces.  Simple enough, right?

    So go ahead and put the appropriate attachment tools into the plastic claw.

    This snap piece you see with a bump on it (at the bottom of the above picture) is the piece that will actually snap into the bottom piece of your top snap.  (Oh man, I hope you followed me there.  That was a confusing sentence.)

    So before you go hammering away to attach the bottom snap pieces, make sure this bump piece is going to be on the right side of your leather so it can snap into the top snap piece.

    TIP: I like to double-check and make sure I'm putting things together right by wrapping the cuff around like it will be when someone is wearing it.  This will help you have a clear idea of which snap pieces need to be where.

    Once you've got things figured out, go ahead and slide the bottom snap piece (the one that looks like a piece of t-ball equipment) through the hole.

    The flat round part should show on the wrong side of your leather piece.

    Keeping that snap piece in place, turn your leather over so you can see the top of the t-ball stand sticking up.  (I know, such technical terms here.)

    Place the bump piece on top of the t-ball stand.

    Now you're ready to hammer this bad boy into place.

    Cover your snap pieces with their corresponding attachment tools in the plastic claw.  Hammer away until everything is good and snug.

    Top of bottom snap piece

    Bottom of bottom snap piece

    You now have a complete cuff!

    Step 7: Attach more snaps (optional)
     Adding another snap can help make your cuff look more masculine.

    To add another snap, grab the smooth top piece of your next snap and hold it on the cuff where you want your next snap to be.  Firmly push your new snap piece into the leather.  This will help mark your new snap placement.

    TIP: Make sure to leave at least 1/2" or so of space in between your snaps so things don't get bunchy.

    Pushing the snap piece into your leather should leave a nice little mark like this.

    Grab a straight pin and poke it through the middle of the circle mark you just made.  Push the pin all the way through both layers of your leather cuff.

    Follow steps 5 and 6 to attach your second set of snap pieces.

    Top of cuff with double snaps

    Bottom of cuff with double snaps
    You're finished!
    That's it!  Now you're ready to rock.

    Snap your rugged new cuff on and you're ready to go.

    For additional leather cuff eye candy inspiration, be sure to check out these posts:
    If you have any questions feel free to ask away in the comments.  And if you make one of your own please add a picture or two to the Flickr group!

    The cuff seen in this tutorial is 
    available (on sale!) HERE in the shop

    And because I know boy-friendly supplies and handmade gifts can be hard to come by, you'll find a variety of fun sewing supplies and gift items on sale in the shop this week.  Want some free shipping on top of that?  Just enter the coupon code "CELEBRATETHEBOY" at checkout.  

    Hooray for boy things!


    Lindy@Itsy Bitsy Paper said...

    This is a FANtastic Tutorial! What a great bracelet/cuff. I know you made it for your husband but I'd love to have one and put a girly twist on it

    Polly @ Pieces by Polly said...

    So cool!!!

    LisaM said...

    over from MADE. SO great!!!

    Sarah K. said...

    Very fun!

    Twins Squared said...

    Great Job! I love this idea.

    Nellica said...

    I think the technical terms for the opposite sides of snaps are "male" and "female", which is self-explanatory...except maybe to my 3 year old. I prefer "innies" and "outies", ala belly-buttons!

    Nancy said...

    Nice tutorial! It makes me appreciate the awesome cuff you made for me even more.

    seemesew84 said...

    Really cute! I'm featuring it on my blog today!