So you’ve decided that you want to try your hand at leatherworking, eh? Glad to hear it! Part of what Voraniss is all about is crafting, and teaching other people how to make neat stuff; so we’ve compiled a little tutorial for you about how to make a pouch.
The first thing people struggle with when starting a new craft is usually figuring out what tools they need to get the job done. With leatherworking in particular, you can easily pay hundreds of dollars up front on stuff you might not even need for certain projects. Our suggestion? Buy your supplies on an as needed basis. It will likely save you money if you’re on a budget as so many of us are.
For this project, we used 3-4 ounce leather. Any thicker and you might struggle to mold it properly. We also needed shears to cut the leather (you can use heavy duty scissors if those are more accessible to you), a leather hole punch, a metal ruler, a leather needle, some waxed synthetic sinew, a bottle of Light Brown Eco-Flow leather dye (it’s less toxic and better for your skin), sand paper, a hammer, rivets, a paint brush, an exacto knife, and a sharpie.
First things first, you need to cut out the pieces of leather that your pouch will be made from. We construct ours from three separate pieces: the body (front and back) and then the sides. Using the sharpie and ruler, you should measure out and trace how long/wide you want your pouch dimensions to be. Whatever you do, do not use pen on your leather! Dye will not be able to cover up the markings and any lines that you make will be visible after the fact. Sharpie is a much safer way to go. Our pouch ended up being about 6 ½ inches wide on the body for reference, and our sides were two inches wide, and about 5 ½ inches tall. Ultimately, you’re working towards three rectangular shapes. We wanted ours to have a little bit of a rough and tumble feel, so we didn’t make them perfect rectangles. That choice is entirely up to you- the artist!
Once you’ve got your shapes all drawn out on the leather, you’re going to cut them out with the shears. Hygar prefers to rely on the tip of the shears for most of his cutting, though he’ll be the first to admit there isn’t any technical reason for this. It just feels more comfortable to him. Find out what works for you. A lot of crafting is trial and error as you learn what you like and what you don’t. Once you’ve got your three pieces all cut out, go ahead and sand paper the edges. This helps get rid of a lot of the little tiny hair-like pieces of leather shavings that might be sticking out, and helps give your project a more finished and professional look. Additionally, if you’re concerned that your leather isn’t top quality, you might want to sand any surface that you’re going to be applying dye or paint to in order to help it adhere better.
The next step is punching holes. On our handheld hole puncher, we use the smallest setting possible. Go slowly and make sure that you aren’t punching through the edge of the leather by mistake. Feel free to practice a few times on any scrap leather before you punch for real. You’ll want to evenly space out the holes to the best of your ability too. On the largest piece of leather, your body, the holes are only going to go on the long sides. Starting at the bottom and working your way up, stop punching holes about three quarters of the way. On your sides, however, you’ll want to punch holes for the entirety of the length as well as across the bottom. Ultimately your goal here is to punch holes along the body equal in length to the combined length of one of your sides. Think of it like this, if you have a side pieces that is the same as ours (2 Inches wide and 5 ½ inches tall), you would need to punch roughly 13 inches of holes on each side of the body. This makes it so that you have an equal number of holes around the side piece and on the body so when you go to assemble all your pieces they fit together nicely.
Our next step was adding belt loops to the pouch. You don’t have to do the same ones that we did, but these are the ones that we’ll teach you to make. It’s pretty easy too! All you have to do is cut out two more rectangles from your leather. Ours were about 6 inches by 1 inch. We then folded them over and punched two rivet holes through the bottom of both pieces and marked corresponding holes on the body. Once everything was lined up, we hammered quick set rivets into place and attached the loops to the back of the body. Don’t forget to sandpaper your loop edges during this process too! Paying special attention to all the individual pieces of your project will really make it pop.
For the next step of the process, get ready to play with water! You can use a plastic container or just your sink if nobody in your household needs it for anything. Fill the container or sink up with water and then submerge all the pieces of your leather. They don’t need to sit in there for long, just until the small streams of bubbles stop coming out of them. Once that happens, it indicates that your leather has moistened all the way through. Wet leather is easy to mold into shape, and it takes tooling well if you want to add any to your project. It also makes the stitches much tighter when you’re pulling them together.
After you’ve got your leather wet and kept an eye on the bubbles, you can remove it from the water and immediately start work on the next step. Fold your body piece in half and try to line up the sides where you intend for them to sit because you’re going to start stitching. Thread your needle with sinew (we always aim for about double the length of what we’re stitching as an estimate of how much material we’ll need), and push the needle through the top hole on the inside of your side and body piece (the holes closest to the top of the flap). Bring your needle back to the front and push it through the next hole in sequential order. Repeat this process and keep pulling the sinew tight as you go. When you get to a corner, you keep going. Pulling the sinew is going to start pulling the pouch into shape automatically.
Work your way down the left part of the side like you’re writing the letter U in reverse. When you get to the top holes on the right side, you make your final stitch and then you tie off your sinew. Repeat the same process on the other side of the pouch.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You’re almost done! You’re ready to move onto the dyeing portion of your project once your leather is dry. We used a paintbrush to apply the dye for this project, but we also highly suggest wool swabs. Dip your brush or swab into the dye and try to put an even coat over every leather surface. You might be tempted to go over the same area twice at first, but be warned that if you do this- your color will get darker. Make sure that is actually what you want before you proceed. Depending on what kind of dye you use it can take a few hours for things to fully dry. Make sure you’re not doing this step at the last minute unless you’re fine with dye potentially staining your skin.
Time for the grand finale! You’ve got this nice looking pouch, and now you need a way to close it. Many places sell elaborate closures you can fasten onto the front of your new pouch. We decided to try something a little different, and made what can only be described as a “belt.” We took a strap of garment grade leather and attached a buckle to it, then pulled it closed around the outside of the pouch. Do what you want with this part. It’s a fun way to customize your piece.
Hopefully you found this helpful and informative. Remember that the people that work in your leather supply stores can also be really great resources if you find yourself with a lot of questions. Good luck out there, and happy crafting!