Close your eyes and picture your favorite bags, wallets, and shoes. Are they made from leather? There’s a good chance they are, or from a similar faux-leather material. Leather is classic and durable, but it’s not always the cheapest, so you’ll be happy to learn that you can learn to make many leather items yourself. With the right tools and preparation, you can fashion your own wallets, bags, and yes, even sandals and jackets from leather. Read on to learn more about how to start leatherworking.

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What Is Leatherworking?

Leatherworking is the art and craft of taking a plain piece of leather and turning it into a usable object or wearable item. It involves cutting, stitching, gluing, and sometimes embossing (or printing patterns into the surface of) the leather. 

Leatherworking isn’t the process of preparing a raw leather hide for use—that’s called leather tanning, and it’s usually done professionally. 

You don’t have to be a “professional” to make items from leather, though. If you’ve sewn with fabric, then the general process of leatherworking may be familiar. Some of the same techniques, such as sewing and following a pattern, are used. However, leather is thicker than most types of fabric, so you will need some special leatherworking tools and leatherworking equipment.

Leatherworking for Beginners

Leatherworking Supplies

leather working supplies
Some basic leatherworking supplies.

Different leatherworking projects require slightly different leatherworking equipment and supplies—for example, some require strong glue to bond leather pieces together, while others are only stitched. If you’re making a large, complex item like a leather jacket or sandals, you’ll also need more leather than for a keychain or wallet.

The following is a list of standard leatherworking supplies. If you have these items ready in your toolkit, then you’ll be prepared for most leatherworking projects, from beginner to advanced level.

  • Leather
  • Template/pattern
  • Precision knife and utility knife
  • Metal ruler
  • Cutting board
  • Rotary hole punch
  • Scratch awl
  • Leather needle (spear-shaped)
  • Polyester/nylon thread
  • Leather edge beveling kit
  • Leather rivet setting kit
  • Nylon mallet (preferably one with interchangeable heads)
  • Rivets
  • Laces/straps (leather or another material)
  • Leather glue/contact cement.
  • Sand paper

Leatherworking Classes 

cutting leather
Take a leatherworking class to learn the basics.

Taking a leatherworking class is a great way to learn about the material—including its advantages and limitations—and to get inspiration for projects. If you have no prior experience, then start with a beginner-friendly class that makes something small and simple. That way, if things don’t turn out exactly as planned, you won’t have wasted very much leather. Work your way up to intermediate and advanced classes as your skills and confidence grow.

Beginner Leatherworking Classes

Beginner leatherworking classes introduce you to the most important tools and techniques. Skillshare instructor Tim Ung teaches how to make a simple leather tray suitable for holding keys and cell phones in his class How to Make a Minimal Leather Valet Tray

Similarly, Auke & Jildou teach a class that doesn’t require professional leatherworking tools as they show you alternatives you probably already have at home: How to Make a Leather Pocket Wallet – Leatherworking Crafts Hand Stitching – No Special Tools Needed.

Intermediate Leatherworking Classes

Want to make something a little larger and more ambitious and learn some new leatherworking techniques in the process? David Gonzalez teaches a Skillshare class that involves stitching several pieces of leather together to create a beautiful whole: How to Make Your Own Handmade Leather Bucket

Advanced Leatherworking Classes

So you’ve done some smaller, simpler leather crafting projects and want to level up? Learn to make your own leather sandals or leather jacket, and you’ll never have to buy these wardrobe staples again. Skillshare instructor Timur K. teaches DIY Leather Crafting: Make Your Own Leather Sandals. Jeff C-etcetera teaches Making a Leather Jacket: How to Design and Sew Your “Dream” Jacket.

What Can You Make From Leather?

There are many things you can make from leather at home, even without industrial-scale tools and equipment. Take a look at the following examples for inspiration.

Leather Card Holder

leather wallet
Learn how to do leatherworking by starting with simple projects.

Keep your essential credit and business cards safe in a streamlined leather holder.

Leather Wallet

red leather wallet
Make a stylish leather wallet.

Replace your tatty old canvas wallet with a stylish leather version.

Leather Valet Tray

brown leather tray
Make a simple leather valet tray.

Instead of scrambling to find your keys every day, throw them into a handmade leather valet tray when you get home.

Leather Shopping Bag

brown leather tote
Make a simple but stylish leather shopping bag.

A simple leather shopping bag can be made to your style and preferences, especially if you choose a color you like.

Leather Laptop Sleeve

brown leather satchel
Keep your laptop safe in a leather sleeve.

Leather is durable and generally water-resistant: ideal for keeping your laptop safe.

Leather Pen Holder

leather pen holder
Keep your favorite pen safe in a leather pen holder.

Leather pen holders make great gifts.

Leather Belt

pink leather belt
Find a belt that fits by making your own.

Craft a leather belt that fits you perfectly.

Leather Toiletry Bag

Leather toiletry bags can be made roomy enough to fit all of your hair and skincare bottles.

Leather Bucket

brown leather bucket
Stitch together straps of leather to make a storage bucket.

Practice more advanced leatherworking skills while making a practical storage bucket.

Leather Pouch Bag

brown leather pouch
Straps and drawstrings give shape to this pouch bag.

Pouch bags have more shape than a simple shopping bag.

Leather Baby Shoes

brown little baby shoes
Make miniature leather shoes for babies.

Start your leather shoe-making journey with a miniature pair of baby shoes.

Leather Sandals

brown leather sandals
Wear your own handmade leather sandals.

Feeling ambitious? Make your own pair of leather sandals.

Leather Jacket

A leather jacket is the ultimate fashion accessory. Why not have a go at making your own?

Wear Your Leather Crafts

leather sandals
Customize your leather items to suit your own style.

Leather items aren’t just for display; they’re made to be worn, used, and loved. One of the great qualities of leather is that it’s durable. If you get the foundations of leatherworking right—all the stitching, gluing, and pattern-following—you can make leather items that are as long-lasting as anything you’ll find in stores. Plus, leather tends to get softer and more comfortable with age. Learn leather crafting now, and you’ll set yourself up with a hobby that will last you for many years. Have fun!

Step Out in Style

DIY Leather Crafting: Make Your Own Leather Sandals