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Common for leathercraft
A little backstory: my sister recently gave birth to a little baby girl. She also happens to be very found of horses. Tragically she lost her beloved horse last year after caring for it for 23 years. Since she now has a horse and a pony under her care, I thought to make a mobile for my niece that would represent my sister’s equine family, past and present. This is how I set out to design this horse-themed baby mobile. I chose to craft the elements of the mobiles with leather and to use cotton cord for the suspension aspect of it. It will be a great handmade gift for my sister. I hope that by sharing the tutorial and pattern to realize this baby mobile it will bring joy to your loved ones as well as it did for mines.
- 1x5mm stitching prong / 1mm hole punch
- Stitching Awl
- Scissors or X-Acto knife
- Applicator for the dye
- Edge slicker
- 2 leather stitching needles
- Hammer or mallet
- Cotton rag
Bill of Materials
- 2/3 oz veg tanned calfskin
- Leather dyes
- Leather finishing product
- Cotton cord
- 8 inches (20 cm) hoop
- Polyester stuffing
The pattern PDF is available for purchase on etsy.
Preparing the lengths of cord and wrapping the hoop
Cut the following lengths of cord:
- 1x 20 inches (50cm).
- 3x 26 inches (65cm).
- 3x 30 inches (75cm).
Make a knot close to one end of for each one of them.
Secure the cord to the hoop with a double knot and patiently loop around the entire perimeter. When you reach the end of the circle, secure the cord once again with a double knot overlapping the first one.
Printing and cutting-out the pattern
You can get the pattern here if you haven’t already.
Print it on A4 paper and cut-out the pieces of the project.
Make sure that the pattern is not resized by checking your print settings. You can check if it was printed properly by measuring the reference found at the bottom of each page.
Print on thick paper to make it easier to trace the shape on the leather. 200g/cm2 and above is ideal (as long as your printer can handle it)
Tracing the outline of the pattern onto the leather
Using an awl, trace the outline of the pattern pieces onto the leather.
Each element of the scene of the mobile is composed of two pieces of leather stitched back to back. The corresponding element of the pattern will have to be traced twice. Some elements – the stars and the moon – are symmetrical so the front and the back are identical. However for the elements that are not symmetrical – the horses and the clouds – the back is a mirrored version of the front. You will thus have to turn the pattern over to trace the pair matching the front.
Don’t forget to mark the positions of the holes that we will need to punch through later on. You can use a bit of masking tape to hold the pattern pieces in place while you are marking the points.
Checklist of all the pieces to trace:
- A x2
- B x3 regular and x3 mirrored (pattern turned over)
- C x1 regular and x1 mirrored
- D x1
- E x1
- F x2 regular and x2 mirrored
- G x2
- H x1
- I x1
- J x6
- K x6
Punching the stitching holes
Use stitching prongs or a hole punch to punch the stitching holes for all the pieces.
Cutting-out the pieces of leather
Using a pair of scissors or an X-Acto knife, cut-out all the pieces of the scene.
A reminder to make the cuts that will represent the mane of the horses.
Dyeing the leather
Dyeing can be achieved through different methods. I will refer you to this Youtube Playlist in order to learn more about the subject from much more qualified craftsmen than I am.
For this project I used different browns for the horses, trying the create a contrast between the mane, the tail and the main body.
For the clouds and the moon, I diluted white acrylic paint that I applied to that I applied to the surface of the leather.
The stars were all dyed with the same yellow
Once the leather is completely dry, apply a coat of oil to re-hydrate it and protect the dye..
Try to be swift in your motions once the oil is on the leather to avoid creating darker spots. If this happens not to worry though, just leave it half an hour under the sun (rough side up so that the top grain doesn’t tan). The heat will help the oil spread out evenly in the fibers of the leather.
Stitching it all together
You can lay down the elements of your scene beforehand to try to get an idea of how to organize everything and how high on the cord the stars ought to be stitched. You can of course choose to arrange them completely differently. It is your creation after all so enjoy and let your creativity express itself!
We will start by stitching the elements at the end of each cord: the clouds, the moon and the horses. Once this is done we can then add the stars.
Everything will be saddle-stitched although you could opt for a cross-stitch instead.
Start by stitching all around the perimeter of the clouds. Add stuffing as you stitch and enclose a bigger area.
Add the cord so that the cloud will hang straight given its centre of gravity. Secure the cord between two stitches.
To find the centre of gravity, you can balance the cloud by inserting the tip of your awl in the stitching holes.
Follow the same steps to stitch the moon.
To position the tail and the mane on the horses, use the pattern elements C and F as references.
Once again you will have to add padding as you go and secure the cord, taking into account the centre of gravity in order to position it.
Once all the clouds are stitched, you can add the corresponding stars (pattern element K) above them on their cord.
The cord passes through the star so that we can re-adjust its position later on when arranging all the elements of the scene.
Repeat the operation with the stars above the horses (pattern element J).
Burnishing the edges
Use ~200 grit sandpaper to smooth-out any irregularity from your edges, then use progressively finer grit to prepare the edges for burnishing. The finer the grit, the smoother the edges will be which will make the actual burnishing a lot easier and the result look a lot cleaner.
Dampen the edge you are working on with water before sanding. It will help you obtain a sleek result much faster than if you were working dry and it will minimize the amount of leather dust in the air.
Burnish the edges using the method of your choice. I usually apply some Tokonole to the edge and use a wood edge slicker to create the friction necessary for burnishing. You can also use a cotton rag and simply dampen the edge, it works quite well (often better than a low quality wood slicker).
Never apply too much pressure on the edge during this operation. Indeed we want to prevent any mushrooming from happening especially when the edge is damp. It’s all about speed and friction to create heat, not pressure.
Applying leather balm
Apply the conditioning product of your choice on all the leather pieces of the scene and polish them with a cotton rag.
I use a leather balm that I make by gently melting together “au bain-marie” 1 part beeswax and 6 parts olive oil. It’s great for nourishing and waterproofing.
Tying the elements of the scene to the hoop
First tie the 3 horses and their stars to the hoop, trying to make the knots equidistant from each other. Leave approximately 17 inches (45 cm) of cord above the knot.
Then tie the 3 clouds and their stars, trying once again to space them out evenly. Leave about 17 inches (45cm) of cord above the knot as well.
Bundle all the cord’s ends together (including the moon) and temporarily hang the mobile somewhere to make adjustments so that every element hangs where you want it to and checking that the hoop is balanced with all the cords it’s hanging from under tension.
Once you are satisfying, knot the bundle of cords over itself to secure it and create the loop from which the mobile will hang.
I hope you enjoyed following along this tutorial. Please consider posting a photo of your creation in the comments below. It would mean a lot to me to see my little projects out into the world as you make it your own.
Any feedback/question about this tutorial or project idea that you’d like to see posted here is and always will be more than welcome.
The following online content provided some assistance and/or inspiration during the making of this project: