A few weeks ago I posted this tutorial as a guest post on my friend Jessica’s blog over at Cutesy Crafts. She is an amazing blogger, and a wonderful host, so you should all go check her out. I realize that I haven’t been around here much (with the exception of the link party), and for that I apologize. I’ll be posting a ramblings post to let you all know what’s up. And I assure you, though I haven’t been blogging much, I have been crafting. So I’ve got a few things in the wings that I just need to get written up for you all. Today though, I wanted to share the tutorial I wrote for Jessica with all of you in case you didn’t see it before!
There aren’t too many materials you need for this project, and some of these are optional. Here is what I used:
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- Embossing Machine (I used my *Vagabond)
- 8-9 oz Leather at least 12″x8″ (see below, I usually buy my leather at Tandy Leather)
- Embossing Folders (I used Tim Holtz *Airmail & Compass, *Clock & Steampunk, and *Eiffel Tower & French Script folders)
- Fiebings Leather Dye (*British Tan) – optional
- *Neatsfoot Oil – optional
- *Fiebings Leather Sheen – optional but recommended
- A paintbrush – optional
- Cotton swabs
- Cutting mat (Here’s the set of mat, ruler, and cutter I have)
- Straight Edge
- Rotary cutter
For the leather, I used some left over from a half hide I had on hand. I usually pick up single shoulder pieces or belly cuts on special from Tandy. I was able to get 3 sets of 6 coasters out of the remainder I had on hand, which I previously used to make my Mal pistol holster. You could also use a piece of thinner tooling leather. What you want to avoid, though, is the soft pliable leather I see at Joann’s and Micheals will carry. It won’t take the embossing, so make sure you have a piece of stiff leather. Leather is typically graded by oz per square foot, since the thickness is rarely even throughout. I suggest an 8-9oz (~3.2-3.6mm thick) leather for this project unless you want to add a secondary backing such as cork or stiffened felt.
Step 1: Cut the Leather
To cut the leather, I simply used my rotary blade along with my cutting mat and straight edge to cut 6 squares that were 4×4. You could use a pair of sharp scissors if you didn’t have a rotary blade. Leather is tough on scissors, so know that you’ll be wearing through them pretty quickly.
Step 2: Wet the leather
Once you’ve cut your pieces of leather, you’ll want to wet it so that the emboss gives a crisp image and holds the image. This is known as casing the leather. I didn’t do an overly thorough casing here. I found that, for this project, running the leather under water and embossing the leather while it’s still wet provides enough elasticity and staying power. I also did this with some pre-dyed leather, and while the emboss wasn’t as crisp as the vegan tanned leather, it was still usable. In the image below, you can see the leather at 3 different stages of wetness. You want your leather to look like it does on the left.
Step 3: Emboss the leather
Now that the leather is wet, it’s time to run it through the embossing machine. I’ve been casing two coasters and running them through, and then moving onto the next two to keep them at the proper wetness.
IMPORTANT: Make sure to check the thickness of the leather with the thickness the machine can handle so that your sandwich isn’t too thick! With the Sizzix Vagabond, I used the Solo Thin Die Adapter, the leather + embossing folder, and 1 cutting pad on top. Note that I did not use both cutting pads!! If you don’t check this ahead of time, you can break your machine, or at the very least your folder and adapters.
Once your leather has run through the machine, you’ll be able to see the pattern. In the images below, you can see the difference between two pieces of leather: one that went through wet (on the left), and one that I let dry out a little bit (on the right). You’ll notice that the one on the right lost some detail on the bottom hand side near the plane emblem and the postal hand.
Step 4: Dye your leather (optional)
If you want to dye your leather, now is the time to do that. I finished my coasters in 3 different ways. The fastest way was to just skip the dye all together. The leather will darken up you a little bit if you treat it with neatsfoot oil, but it will keep close to the natural color of the leather. The second way I finished them was to apply a single color dye. For these, I applied a single heavy coat of Buckskin colored dye. Finally, I used a paintbrush to apply British Tan dye just to the impressed area, leaving the top color more natural. The dual toned coasters were my favorites. The images below are without neatsfoot oil or leather sheen. The contrast doesn’t stay as stark after those treatments are applied.
While painting the dye on the background was very time consuming (anywhere between 20 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes depending on the design and my precision), it was by far my favorite method. I liked the final outcome best, and it’s a bit relaxing to sit and paint like this. I used a 00 sized brush. The biggest issue was that I couldn’t get a consistent weight of the color, but I like the weathered look that gives.
Step 5: Finishing the leather.
To finish the leather, I first put on a light coat of Neatsfoot oil and then a coat of Leather Sheen on top. These help seal in the stain and protect the leather from wear. Since I’m using them as coasters, the extra protection from the sheen was important to me. Make sure to let the dye dry fully before adding the neatsfoot oil, and the neatsfoot oil to dry fully before the coat of sheen. Drying times will vary depending on humidity and heat, but if the leather feels cold to the touch it’s not dry yet.
That’s it! It’s a pretty simple project that you can do quickly (by skipping the dying part and just applying the sheen) or spend a lot of time getting creative with the dye job. Here’s a picture of one of my sets of 6!
The next thing to add to these is a finish for the side, which I haven’t done here. I’m looking forward to extending my skills to edge finishing leather next. Also (as a teaser), I might just have some of these for sale as the holiday season closes in on us. Let me know what your favorite colors and design aesthetics are in the comments, and you might see some designs with those in mind!
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