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Working with Leather

Source: Martha Stewart Living, May 2006


Cutting and Sewing
For almost any project, start by cutting a paper pattern in the shape you need. Adhere it to the good side of the leather, avoiding imperfections or very thin areas, with bits of tape -- not pins. Trace the pattern with a ballpoint pen, and then cut it out using scissors for curves and a rotary cutter and ruler for straight lines.

Thin leather can be sewn on a home machine; use a needle and settings for heavy fabric. Be careful not to stretch or pull the leather as you sew. Instead of ironing seams open, smooth flaps with a bone folder and secure with leather adhesive.

Creating impressions in leather requires a few tools from a leather-crafts specialist or a crafts store: an awl to mark patterns, a metal stamping tool (there are hundreds to choose from), and a mallet. Thick leather such as cowhide will take the pattern best.

Practice on a scrap first to get a feel for the technique, then work on your design: Lay your piece of leather, good side up, on a cutting mat. Use a ruler and the awl to lightly "draw" your pattern. Follow these tracings with your stamping tool and mallet, holding the stamp against the leather and striking it in firmly with the mallet for a sharp impression.

We use leather glue for most smaller projects, but we recommend contact cement for the larger ones, such as the headboard and armoire front. Measure and cut your leather carefully to fit your intended surface.

After cutting your pieces, brush adhesive evenly onto the surface you're covering. Then carefully lay the leather on top, and smooth into place with your hands; you might want to use a bone folder to ease the leather into any corners you're working with. Cut off excess leather with a utility knife, or wrap and glue your leather around any contours. The glue will set in about 5 minutes.

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