Sunday, November 6, 2011

Episode 2 Technical Notes

So I have to admit...I did a little prep before this week's episode. I had seen the preview which showed that the challenge involved shoes and crystals so the first thing I did was head on up to the Tandy Leather Factory store in Shoreline, WA.

After explaining what I was doing (which always makes me feel a bit silly), Store Manager Andy Stasiak made me his apprentice for the next hour. 

The first thing Andy showed me was how easy it is to form leather. Simply spray it with water and its ready to go. He did a simple fold-form, very similar to metal fold-forming, and then showed me how much flexibility leather can have if its soaked for a bit...a face...formed in leather (below). Amazing.

He then reviewed the use of all the tools of the trade, from snaps and rivets and tools to set them, to lacing and texture punches, glues, threads and shears. The cost of the materials I bought for this project were:

Leather $29.99 - I have lots left
Snaps - $3.99
Rivets - $3.99
Snap/rivet setting tool set - $19.99
Eyelets - $3.99
Eyelet setting tool - $8.99
Texture tool - $7.99
Lacing punch - $9.99
Waxed Linen - $4.99
Eco Weld Glue - $7.99
Shears - $44.99 ( the most expensive thing I bought...these were a really good pair of shears, although it is likely my metal shears would have worked)

Combined with a set of 9 hollow punches I bought at Harbor Freight for $7.99, that makes it about $150 set up cost to work with leather - but that will give you lots of supplies to play with. And, since most of the cost is tools, consider sharing those expenses with a friend.

So how do you "play" with leather?

As I mentioned, simply spray with water, and the vegetable tanned leather becomes extremely malleable. I put it to the test using my regular metal forming tools. My favorite result was putting the leather in a dapping block. The leather was positioned face down over the block and two concave impressions were dapped 1.25" from each other. I then punched between them in a row above and below. I would spray as I went and every 4-6 daps, I would redap the last few daps and then would use my embossing heat gun to dry the leather, keeping the impression from collapsing. It took less than 30 minutes to form the bracelet! I painted the leather (after slightly rewetting it) with acrylic paint to match the shoes after I used hole punch pliers to make holes to stitch the crystals into. I screwed it to a piece of heat formed Faux Bone so it would remain a solid cuff.

During the process, I also tested Adirondach alcohol inks (which work great as long as you do not use the metallic additive) and Gilder's Paste (which was hard to apply evenly without getting it so thick it would flake). The acrylic paint far outperformed both. I did read after the fact that it is best to rewet the leather with diluted paint to get more of the paint to soak into the leather before putting on an undiluted top coat of paint.

I loved working with leather so much that I made a bracelet the next day to go with the necklace I made in the first challenge. And here I am, wearing both at the 7th anniversary party for (14 years for the store...congrats everyone there!) ...just to prove, its not trick photography. What I am making is wearable. 

But now to my favorite part...the shoes. Or rather, shoe. I learned so much during the 12 hour process of making a shoe. I can't wait to make its mate...or another pair that I would wear! Because there was so much learning, I wrote up a tutorial which you can find in the links section of my website. Knock yourself out...make a shoe, just be sure to send me a photo!

Have you worked with leather? Send me a photo of anything you've made in leather or suede (even leather cords/lacing counts) and I'll enter your name in a drawing for a $10 Tandy Leather gift certificate, winner to be announced in the next Technical blog.

Thanks for stopping by...and create recklessly this week!


  1. Oh I think I'd get in trouble at the Tandy store, I've been wanting to try to use some of my big components on wide leather bracelets. Putting texture on them would even be cooler!! I love that bracelet, I have to say I love it even more in it's natural state. Put some turquoise in there instead of crystals, to die for!! Thanks for sharing Melissa!

  2. Melissa, please please please teach a leather class. I will take it. Puh-leeeeeez.

  3. Hi Melissa, I found your blog Saturday afternoon, then met you Saturday night at the Fusion Beads anniversary party.

    Love your blog and can't wait to see what you come up with each week. I've worked with leather in the long, long ago, almost forgotten past. This makes me almost want to pull it back out again to play.



  4. Ha! I love that you are actually wearing your creations. That bracelet idea is killer, Miss Melissa. Looks like some alien pod come to life! I have never worked with leather, but I have some leather flowers that I might try some tricks on!
    Enjoy the day!

  5. You continue to amaze me! Shoes made of faux bone, jaw dropping!! I agree that you should try out for the next season of project accessory.

  6. Makes me really want to try leather! It looks so organic. I love your fearlessness!